IMPRIMATUR Hic Liber (cui Titulus, The True Liberty and Dominion of Con­science, &c.)

Guil. Sill, R. P. D. Hen. Episc. Lond. à Sac. Dom.

THE TRUE Liberty & Dominion OF Conscience Vindicated, from the USURPATIONS & ABUSES OF OPINION, AND Persuasion.

Prov. xx. ver. 27.

The Spirit of a Man is the Candle of the Lord.

In the SAVOY, Printed by Tho: Newcomb, for Jonathan Edwin, at the Three Roses in Ludgate-street. 1677.

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The CONTENTS.

CHAP. I.
The Introduction. Pag. 1
CHAP. II.
Of the Reason why there are so many Preten­ders to Conscience; and of the Advantages they make of it, to promote their Interest, and favour their Designs. Pag. 7
CHAP. III.
Of the great Influence, which true Conscience has upon all the Affairs of Humane Life; and therefore the great necessity there is, that all men should be rightly informed concerning it. Pag. 13
CHAP. IV.
Some necessary and universal Principles laid down, upon which Conscience depends, and according to which it acts. Pag. 23
CHAP. V.
Of Conscience, its Description, what is its pro­per Employment; and the manner of its Ope­ration. Pag. 28
CHAP. VI.
The occasion of those Differences amongst us, about matters of Conscience, proceeds from the mistake of Opinion, and private Persuasion for Conscience. What Opinion is, and what Persuasion? and how they differ from Con­science? Pag. 44
CHAP. VII.
How far Men are obliged by Opinion, or pri­vate Persuasion; and what influence these have upon Humane Affairs. Pag. 55
CHAP. VIII.
The Differences betwixt the Church of England, and all Dissenters, brought into Examination, by the forementioned Rules of Conscience, Opinion and Persuasion. Pag. 60
CHAP. IX.
The pretences of Dissenters, that their ways of Government are the best, and to be preferred before Episcopacy, examined and tried by the same Rules abovementioned concerning indif­ferent Things and Actions. Pag. 74
CHAP. X.
Of the manner and circumstances of Divine Wor­ship; and how from being indifferent, they may become necessary to be done, and obliging to Conscience. Pag. 87
CHAP. XI.
Of the Way whereby indifferent things become obligatory to Conscience, not only upon a Mans private Persuasion, from the forementioned Rules, but so as to oblige all persons who live under Government, viz. by the Determinati­ons, and Commands of Lawful Authority. Pag. 98
CHAP. XII.
Some Considerations, shewing the unreasonable­ness, [Page]and impracticableness, of the desires of those persons, who, under pretence of Con­science, are for erecting new wayes of Church-Government, or for Toleration or Liberty of Conscience. Pag. 117
CHAP. XIII.
A vindication of what is before laid down as a fundamental Principle in this Discourse: viz. That God Almighty made Mankind for an ex­cellent End; that is, his Glory; and in order thereunto, by obedience to his Commands, their own happiness both here in this Life, and hereafter in the Life of Immortality. Pag. 125
CHAP. XIV.
Some necessary Corollaries from the former Dis­course; with the Conclusion, to all Men to en­deavor after Peace and Ʋnity. Pag. 135

THE TRƲE LIBERTY AND DOMINION OF Conscience.

CHAP. I. The Introduction.

IT is the Excellency of humane Nature, that all its Actions are the Effects of Choice, and not of Chance: and there­fore they are con­stantly addressed to some determinate End; this End is alwayes Happiness, [Page 2]either Real, or at least that which Men believe to be so. Now for the more certain attainment of whatsoever kind or degree of Happiness Men desire, they alwayes propose to themselves, some Way or Rule, by which, they may di­rect and steer the course of their Acti­ons, and Endeavours; which otherwise (like a Vessel in the midst of the main Ocean without Charts and Compass,) must be left to the mercy of all Acci­dents, and have only the bare possibili­ty of uncertain Hazard, to conduct them to their wished Port. From hence it is, that there is no Art nor Science, Li­beral nor Mechanical, but in the first place proposes necessary Rules, for the direction of those who are to be gui­ded, or instructed therein, in order to the accomplishment, or attainment of their designed End. Now wherever there is such a Rule, in regard there are many wayes of Error, though, but one of Truth, and that nothing is more Natural than for Men to Err;Huma­num est errare. by not attending to, or acting according to the Rule; there is a necessity of some Su­preme Judge, who, by an impartial de­termination, shall judge all humane [Page 3]Actions, whether they are according to the command and direction of the Rule; and, by consequence, whether they are right or wrong, in order to the End which is proposed and designed. This Judge in the Affairs of the World, such as are Life, Honour, Riches, Fame, &c. is the determination of Reason, accord­ing to the best of every Mans know­ledge and understanding. In the Con­cerns of Religion, it is called Conscience. This is that universal Monarch, whose Ubiquitary Throne is establish'd in eve­ry mortal Breast. To this the ancient Heathens owe all that little sence they had of Religion and Virtue. 'Tis this that makes the zealous Mussleman adore the false Arabian, and his ridicu­lous Alchoran. 'Tis this, has raised the Roman Mitre to its Triple height; and in short 'tis Conscience, that has rent so many puissant Crowns, from his pre­tended Universal and Infallible Chair. Not that all these powerful Effects, have proceeded from a Conscience rightly informed, but on the contrary, many of them from a most barbarous and stupid Ignorance of the best Rule, by which Conscience ought to judge, and Men to act.

However, this does most manifestly demonstrate, the Sovereign and Impe­rial sway, which even a pretended and imaginary Conscience challenges in the management of all Humane Affairs.

It is beyond my Province as much as it surpasses either my power or hopes, in the following Papers, to think of regulating those mighty Evils, which from the want of a right measure of what is matter of Conscience, and what not, have overspread the face of the whole Earth: and I shall arrive at the most happy period of my design, if I can do so charitable a Subject as this is, so much reason, as to inform some, and convince others of my dear Countrey­men, that hitherto, they have laboured under some dangerous mistakes, in this great concern of Conscience: the fatal effects of which misunderstandings, we have by the most deplorable experience been too deeply sensible of already; and still lie under just apprehensions, by reason of the great divisions and distractions of mind, which daily pre­vail and increase amongst us, that the same, or (if possible) a worse Iliad of Tragical Miseries may be repeated over again.

Happy were that Moses, who could stand in this gap; and by seasonably interposing his charitable endeavours, successfully repair those dismal breaches in our Holy Church, which threaten that glorious Fabrick (and with it the State, which are embarqued in one common bottom) with Ruine and Sub­version.

The Sincerity of my Intention, free from Passion and Animosity, as from In­terest and Partiality; the Excellency of the Design, which is the Publick, and by consequence the particular good of every Person; the pressing Necessity of our present Affairs; and the incompa­rable, and almost incredible advantages which may succeed; as they gave the first motion to my thoughts, so they still give me encouragement to hope the best, and that our wound is not incura­ble. Certainly, if there be any Balm in Gilead, to heal the ulcerated Sores of the miserable People of these Nations, it must be such a Medicine, as will unite us into one common Principle, whereby those mistakes, and misunderstandings, the principal occasion of all our dif­ferences, may be removed for the [Page 6]present, and prevented for the fu­ture.

As for those Persons, whose Religion is their Interest; Zeal, Malice; and Gain, Godliness; those Proselytes of Demetrius; I am not over-confident, that this will be accepted of by them, as a Bill of Divorce, between them and those gainful Persuasions, which they have so unluckily espoused: however, Truth will prevail, and may convince, where it cannot convert.

But if they be resolved to raise Up­roars for their dear Diana, they are out of my Sphere; and must be left to the Town-Clerk, the Secular Power to ap­pease, and convince with such coercive Arguments, as indeed are more fit for them, because more powerful than any that can be drawn out of all the Arce­nals of Truth or Reason.

CHAP. II.

Of the Reason why there are so many Pretenders to Conscience, and of the Advantages they make of it, to pro­mote their Interest, and favour their Designs.

THere has nothing made a greater noise for some Years past, in this our little English World, than loud Cla­mors about Matters of Conscience, for Liberty of Conscience, Toleration and Indulgence to Tender Consciences. Nor is it less obvious, how grosly and notoriously Conscience has, by some People, been abused. There will appear no occasion for wonder at all this, to any person who does but consider, what incredible advantages have been made of that single Word. I will not recount the prosperous Wickednesses of the late unhappy Times, in which the prin­cipal Actors and Contrivers, were obli­ged to that great Name, for the most of their Victories, Glory, Fame and Riches, and all those unhappy Triumphs and Trophies which they did erect upon [Page 8]the woful Ruines both of Church and State: but let us consider the present advantages which are made of Con­science.

First, Conscience is a keen and two-edged Sword; a Weapon both offen­sive and defensive; and indeed nothing cuts so deep in vulgar minds, who are most apt to be afrighted with awful ap­prehensions of what they least under­stand. With this Weapon it is, that all Dissenting Parties in their Religious Wars, arm and fortifie themselves one against another: with this resistless Sword, they make no more to untie the most solid Arguments from Scripture or Reason, than once 'tis said the young Alexander did of the famous Gordian Knot; who untyed that with his Scy­miter, which he could not effect with all his Curiosity. 'Tis with this victo­rious Sword they conquer and subdue; and 'tis with this they do preserve their conquered Proselytes. I mean onely the Name.

Secondly, Conscience is a most in­vincible shield, a sure defence against all the blows of Adversaries: so that though Nature, Art, Eloquence, nay, [Page 9]and Scripture too, do all conspire to bring the most combined Demonstra­tion of Truth and Reason against them, the mighty blow shall be prevented from doing execution, and be re­ceived upon this Aes triplex, this in­vulnerable Target; and 'tis no more but saying, It may be so as you say; but it is against my Conscience, and therefore I cannot believe or do as you would per­suade me.

Thirdly, Conscience is a certain Asylum, an impregnable Sanctuary and defence against all accidents. Hither, as to their last refuge, all Dissenters retreat securely, and are at as much ease, and in as undoubted safety, as if both Heaven and Earth were entred into the strictest League, Offensive and Defensive (as they think they are bound to do) to protect and defend them.

Lastly, This is a never failing Cordi­al in times of suffering; and has a se­cret virtue to sweeten that, which of it self is most bitter, and insupportable to all the world. Thus an Opinion that it is for Conscience, can make the justest and severest of humane punish­ments, [Page 10]to pass over the pallate, with the sugar'd rellish of Persecution for the Gospels sake: Thus Death, though the deserved merit of Rebellion and Treason, has, by some, been styled Mar­tyrdom; and the suffering Persecu­tion or Death thought meritorious both here and hereafter. Nay, so strangely have some men been blinded with the opinion of acting for and by Conscience, as to pronounce Divine Vengeance,Ireton. Mercy; so that a villanous Contriver and Acter of Murder and Rebellion,O. Crom­wel. and an infamous Regicide and Usurper, though one taken away by the immediate stroke of God, the Sword of the destroying Angel; and the other dying with all the agonies of Mind and Body, shall yet be said to be gone to God, and taken away from the evil to come; and, which exceeds all belief, by the blasphemous Rheto­rick of a Posthumous flattery, shall be affirmed, to rival the most glorious Je­sus, and be set on the right hand of the Majesty on high.

For these and such like reasons it is, that all Parties, of whatsoever persua­sion, pretend to so great a share and [Page 11]interest in Conscience. Upon this foun­dation, as they persuade themselves, they build the Pile of all their Religi­on; and from the Dictates of this sup­posed infallible Guide, it is that they receive their Principles, and to which they conform their Practise. Ask a Quaker, why he will shew no respect or reverence to his Superiors? Why he will not take a lawful Oath before a lawful Magistrate, though for the manifestation of truth, the end of strife, or the vindication of injur'd inno­cence? Why he admits of no Sacra­metns? or about any other of his Te­nents. Demand of an Anabaptist, why he will not allow Infants under the Go­spel the same priviledge they did enjoy under the Law, though he must ac­knowledge the Gospel a better Cove­nant? Inquire of a Presbyterian, why he starts at the Surplice and Ceremo­nies? and any Sect, why they separate from the Communion of the Church of England? Shew them all the advanta­ges of Union, both as to Religion and Policy; demonstrate all the dangers and inconveniences of separation: and yet for all you can say, after all their [Page 12]wild, roving, and unconcluding Dis­courses, Objections, Scruples, and Al­legations, to winde themselves off from the main point; when they find them­selves forced from one of their strong holds to another, and at last straitned by the prevailing strength of unavoi­dable and Dilemmatical Reason; the result of all shall be, that they are not satisfied in Conscience; or that their Conscience will not give them leave, to believe or do this or that to which you would persuade them. Though after all this, I doubt not to make it appear, that the greatest part of those who talk so loud about Conscience, I mean the Vulgar, who have little to say for themselves besides that, do scarcely understand the Word, and are absolute strangers to the true sense and meaning of the thing.

That such therefore as are not re­solved to be wilful, may be unde­ceived; and that they may not give to this pretended Conscience a greater So­vereignty, than ever God almighty did design the true one, by setting it up as an Omnipotent Idol in their hearts, I offer this following Discourse; which [Page 13]if perused, with that sobriety and impartiality of consideration, as be­comes a Concern of so great mo­ment, may, I hope, conduce much to the present satisfaction of many, and the publick advantage of my Native Countrey; by removing the occasion of so many heats and animosities, se­parations and divisions, as draw their original principally from these mistakes about matters of Conscience.

CHAP. III.

Of the great Influence which the true Con­science has upon all the affairs of Hu­mane Life; and therefore the great necessity there is, that all men should be rightly informed concerning it,

HAving now shewn the great power of a pretended Consci­ence; before we proceed any further, it will be requisite to shew, of what concern it is for all men rightly to understand themselves in this affair of Conscience: which cannot be better done, than by displaying the power­ful Influence, which Conscience chal­lenges in the management of all Hu­mane Actions. We will therefore brief­ly trace it, through its vast Dominions of Oeconomicks, Ethicks, Politicks, and Divinity.

We will begin then with private Families, and there we shall find Con­science to be the onely bond of Uni­on, the onely maintainer and pre­server of those respective Duties, which are owing from one to another, [Page 15]in those little primitive Societies of Mankind: And therefore we see where this bears the sway, there is always the most Domestick peace, concord, and tranquillity; on the contrary, where this Principle is wanting, neither the obligations of Nature, Education, or Reason, are powerful enough to keep men within the limits of their Duty: but Cain shall imbrue his hands in the inno­cent blood of his onely Brother Abel: Amnon shall commit a Rape upon his beautiful Sister Tamar: Absalom shall rebel against, and endeavour to depose his Father: in short, without a sense of the Obligations of Conscience, the Master of the Family will be unkind to the Wife of his bosome, cruel to his Children, tyrannical to his Servants: The Wife will be false and treache­rous; the Children will be undutiful and unnatural; the Servants will be negligent, faithless, and disobedient; and all extremely vitious: And, in a word, there will be neither Order, Government, Peace, nor any kind of happiness, in these little Communities, without Conscience.

If we step out of private Doors into [Page 16]the wider World, we shall find, that without the ties of Conscience, to oblige men to their several and re­spective Duties, there would be no such thing as Virtue to be found in all Humane Race: and one might as suc­cessfully seek, and, it may be, more probably find, Temperance, Chastity, Justice, Fortitude, Prudence, Magna­nimity, Fidelity, and Gratitude, a­mongst the savage Inhabitants of the Woods and Desarts. Without this, men resign themselves up so wholly to the conduct of their blind Passions of Lust, Hatred, Anger, Jealousie, Fear and Despair, that they seem not onely divested of all Morality, but even of Humanity it self. Let the late disco­vered Inhabitants of the Western World attest this truth; amongst whom, for want of this, there was so little to be found of Morality, that had it not been for Humane shape, and, amongst some of them, the name of Religion, it had been impossible to distinguish them from the so nearly related Brutes; some of which want­ed little advantage of them, but a Language to express themselves in, so as to be understood.

But leaving these barbarous Regi­ons, if we come where Morality has civilized, and common necessity has united men into Combinations and Societies; where there is the best establish'd Government, the most pru­dent and excellent Laws, for the pro­moting the common good, and secu­ring every mans particular Interest and Property: yet still the great Obliga­tion to these Laws, and this Govern­ment, must be Conscience: which seems to have been the Reason, why all the antient Lawgivers, in imitation of Mo­ses, have pretended a familiarity, and frequent intercourse with the Divi­nity; and therefore proposed their Laws to the People, as the will of the Gods, as being well assured, that no other Principle was capable of laying such a powerful Obligation to Duty and Obedience upon the minds of men, as such a belief. For all Obedience must be resolved into one of these Principles, Hope of Advantage, Fear of Punishment, or Conscience of Duty to God. Now if either Hopes of Ad­vantage, or Fear of Punishment, are the onely Inducements to Order and [Page 16] [...] [Page 17] [...] [Page 18]Obedience; less degrees of this Fear, or however a belief that they are out of the reach of punishment; or greater, though onely hopes of private advan­tage, shall cancel all the Obligation to Humane Laws, and the publick advan­tage; and, like an impetuous Torrent, shall violently break all the banks of Laws and Government, and tear up the foundations of whatever does oppose its furious rage. Nor was there ever any popular Insurrection, Disor­der, or Rebellion, in any Nation, but took its original from one of these tempestuous Principles. Whereas on the contrary, no hopes of Impunity from Humane Laws, no private Inte­rest or Ambition, can persuade a man from that Duty which he ows to Laws and Government, upon the account of Conscience; nay, we have further seen, that Cruelty it self, with all its terrors and tormentors, has not been able to shake men off from this firm and solid foundation of fixed Obe­dience.

Thus we see Conscience the best preservative against the threatning dangers of Intestine Mischiefs; nor is [Page 19]it less available against Foreign Force. For unity of mind, which is the ge­nuine and natural effect of Conscience, is certainly the greatest policy, as well as strength, of any People; whereas Discords, Divisions, and mutual Dis­sentions, give all the hopes and en­couragements to a Foreign Power to invade, and all the helps and advan­tages to subdue. This made the Ro­man Eagles stretch their victorious Pi­nions over the greatest part of the World; the civil Dissentions of their Neighbours amongst themselves, made many potent, and otherwise invinci­ble People, become an easie Quarry to their ambitious Arms: And whilst, with a shew of Justice, they pretended to espouse the Quarrel of the weaker part, by overpoising of the Ballance, both sides, at last, became their prey, and thrust their own necks under the fatal yoke, which, by unity, they might easily have avoided. It is to this the Ottomans owe the prodigious suc­cesses of their prevailing Crescents, which had either never been so, or had long since been in their Wain again, if the Divisions amongst the Christian [Page 20]Princes had not given them those great advantages against themselves. And if we consult the Histories of all Times, Places, and Nations, we shall find, that no People can bid fairer for their own ruine, or give a stronger invitation to their Enemies, than by their own Divisions and Dissentions. Nor did any Government suffer a dissolution, without these foregoing, and too often fatal Prognosticks, of its approaching Fall; In se magna ruunt

Now there is nothing can beget, maintain, and preserve this necessary Unity, like the Principles of Con­science. This is that which cements mens Souls together with so close and indissoluble an union, as nothing is able to divorce them from, but what separates the Soul and Body. This be­gets true Love, and real Friendships, Knots never to be loosed, but with that of Life.

Lastly, Let us take a short turn with­in the Confines of Divinity, and there we shall find, that the Consciousness which men have to themselves, that they owe an indispensible duty to God, as their Great and Almighty Sovereign [Page 21]and Creator; and to all Mankind, as their common Brethren, is the onely true foundation of all the Religion in the World. Without a due sense of the first of these, men are Atheists; without the second, they are worse than Beasts; without them both, they would be worse than Devils, who be­lieve, though it makes them tremble.

So that it appears, that without this inward Principle of Conscience, there would be neither Honesty, Fidelity, Justice, Civility, Morality, Policy, Go­vernment, or Divinity in the World, this being indeed the Foundation-principle of all these; and all other things without, but inducements, and persuasives to Goodness; which men may resist, and (though not without difficulty) overcome; but till they can flie from themselves, they shall never be able wholely to subdue, and conquer all the power and influence of Conscience: or though they may be so hardy to rebel against it, yet can they never be able to escape its Tortures and Punishments, but that of the Poet will be an universal truth, [Page 22]

  • —Hostu
  • Evasisse putes;
    Juvenal. Sat. 13. prope fi­nem.
    quos diri Conscia facti
  • Mens habet attonitos, & surdo verbere caedit
  • Occultum quatiente animo tortore fla­gellum?
  • Poena autem vehemens, ac multo sae­vior illis
  • Quas & Caeditius gravis invenit & Rhadamanthus,
  • Nocte, diéque suum gestare in pe­ctore testèm.

Well rendred into English in those few words of the wisest King Solomon, A wounded Conscience who is able to bear? Prov. 18.14. For let men say or do what they please, this Imperial Principle will rule in the minds of men, either with the Golden Sceptre, or the Iron Rod.

CHAP. IV.

Some necessary and universal Principles laid down, upon which Conscience de­pends, and according to which it acts.

PHilosophy tells us, Corruptio opti­mi est pessima; the best things abused, become the worst: there is no poison so invincible, as that which comes compounded with a Cordial, which by its treacherous agreeable­ness to the deluded palate, obtains an easie admission, and a speedy passage to the vital Spirits. It is therefore the common Interest of all Mankind, to endeavour after a true and right un­derstanding of this Principle, which does so universally influence all their Lives and Actions. That we may there­fore take a true measure of it, it is requisite that we consider of some common Principles, which are to be found in the minds of men; whether innate or traditional, it matters not; for from these, Conscience derives its Original: upon the belief of these it [Page 24]does depend: and according to these, if it be permitted its native liberty and freedom, it always acts.

The first of these is, That there is one Supreme Being, which is the first cause of all other Beings in the World. And this is that which under various names and notions, has yet in all Ages, and amongst all Nations, past for the most blessed, eternal, and by all to be adored Deity.

Secondly, That this Supreme Being is of a most perfect and excellent Na­ture, infinitely happy in Himself, so as nothing can add to, or diminish his absolute and eternal Felicity. This was the Antient and Universal belief of the World concerning the Divine Nature; Nay, Lucretius, a man not over kind to that which he calls Gravis Religio, endeavours to establish his Demi-Atheism upon this foundation: that the Divine Nature being transcendently happy within it self, since it could re­ceive neither addition, nor diminu­tion, therefore did not concern it self with the management of the affairs of the World; as appears by those well known, and too much abused Verses of his [Page 25]

Omnis enim per se Divûm Natura necesse est
Immortali aevo summâ cum pace fruatur
Semota a nostris rebus, sejunciáque longè:
Nam privata dolore omni, privata perîelis,
Ipsa suis pollens opibus, nil indiga nostri
Nec bene pro meritis capitur, nec tangitur irâ.

Thirdly, That according to the ex­cellency of his Nature, his Wisdom, Power and Goodness, he made all things, and Mankind especially for a most excellent End.

Fourthly, That this End was prima­rily the manifestation of his own Glory, in his Wisdom, Power, and Goodness. Secondarily, and in order thereunto, the Happiness of all his Creatures, ac­cording to their several capacities, ei­ther only here in this World, or if they be capable of it, both here and hereaf­ter in a future state.

Fifthly, That therefore there is a fu­ture state after this life.

Lastly, That in that future state, there are Rewards and Punishments.

These several Positions, have a natu­ral dependency and connexion one up­on another, and are such, as have gene­rally, if not universally been believed [Page 26]in the world, or at least by the far greatest part, best and most understand­ing of men: and indeed they are such Truths, as no man can deny any one of them, without the manifest danger of ruining all the rest.

Now from these common Notions, these necessary Consequences follow.

First, That all the Creation, and es­pecially the Nobler parts of it, and par­ticularly Mankind, owe, unto this most excellent Being, all Duty and Obedi­ence, and such service as they are capa­ble of and he requires.

Secondly, It follows that all the whole Creation, and particularly Man­kind, ought, according to their capaci­ty and ability, to promote the great Ends of the Creation, which are the praise and glory of the great, good, and wise Creator, and the happiness and well-being of the whole, and every part: And for this, Man may go to School to the inanimate Creatures, who all perform their obedient service, with the most punctual and exact decency and order, both for his praise, their own preservation, and the happiness of the Universe: according to that of the [Page 27]Royal Psalmist, Fire and Hail, Psal. 148.8. Snow and Vapors, Stormy Winds fulfill his Word, and praise his Name; strictly observing those Laws which at first he did impose upon them.

Lastly, it follows from the justice and power of this excellent Nature, that those parts of the Creation, which do, in obedience to his Will, endeavour to promote those excellent Ends and De­signs of his Glory in the happiness of the Creation, shall, as the Reward from his Bounty upon their Obedience, be made partakers of that happiness they are capable of, and which, in his wisdom, he sees best for them both here and hereafter: And that those parts of the Creation, who, in opposition or con­tempt of so great goodness, excellency and power, endeavor to cross, hinder and obstruct these great Ends of the Creation, shall therefore be miserable, both here and hereafter, by the want of that happiness; as also, by such other penalties as the greatness of their Crimes deserves, and their Natures are capable of.

CHAP. V.

Of Conscience, its Description, what is its proper Employment; and the man­ner of its Operation.

HAving shewn what Principles are the foundation of Conscience, viz. a sence of that Duty which we owe to God, and to one another. The next inquiry must of necessity be, how these Duties are to be performed, so as they may be agreeable and acceptable to those to whom we are to pay them. And herein common Reason obliges us to believe, that we are bound to follow the directions of the Supreme Being, so far as he has been pleased to manifest his Will and Pleasure to us. Amongst Chri­stians, the Canon of the Holy Scripture, has alwayes been taken for this Rule of Direction, as being the Divine Revela­tion of the Will of GOD. And who­soever does seriously and attentively consider the scope of those Sacred Writings, must of necessity confess them to owe their Original to the Divine Nature, supposing it such as has before [Page 29]been described, and universally believ­ed: for all their Commands, Instructi­ons, and Exhortations, are directly level'd at these great and glorious de­signs of the most excellent Spirit, by promoting his Glory, and the happiness of Mankind, both here in this life, and hereafter in the life to come. So that now having found we owe a Duty, and having likewise found a Rule for our direction, how we ought to perform this Duty, there will be no great diffi­culty to find what Conscience is; for it is no other thing than that Principle which judges whether we have dis­charged our Duty according to this Rule, and these Directions.

I do purposely avoid the Niceties of the Schools, as too full of Curiosity, and not at all conducing to my design, which is to avoid all intricacy and per­plexedness, and to give such an easie, proper, and natural description, and notion of Conscience, that every man may find it in his own breast.

Conscience therefore, is that Power which every Man hath within his own mind of judging all his thoughts, words and actions, whether they are agreeable [Page 30]to that which is the best Rule, by which they ought to be directed. Thus from a belief that there is a GOD, and from the commands in Scripture to worship Him, and Him onely, my Con­science, or Power that I have of judg­ing my self, immediately informs me, that I ought not to neglect his Worship, or to give it to any Creature: If there­fore I do either wholly, or in part omit it, or misplace my Worship, my Conscience tells me, I have done amiss, because I have not followed the direction of the Rule. Thus from the belief, that I ought to contribute all I can, to the accomplishment of the great and good design of the Almighty Being, in promoting the happiness of all the parts of the Creation, my Con­science presently informs me, that I ought to do all the good I can in all senses unto all Men: And on the con­trary, that therefore I must be careful to avoid doing any wilful injury to my self, or to any other person, whereby their present happiness may be impai­red, or their future lessened or prevent­ed; because in so doing, I follow the directions of the Rule, which only is [Page 31]satisfactory to Conscience; whose office is to accuse me, if I do wrong; to en­courage and acquit me, if I do what is right, and what I ought to do. So that to make up Conscience, there must be first, a true and exact Rule for all our actions, which we take the Scriptures to be, as being, as St. Paul saith, sufficient to make the man of God wise unto salvation, which I think is a sufficiency for a Rule beyond all exceptions; and they who expect a better Rule, certainly expect another End, better, I am sure, it is im­possible: And, as before was intimated, if there were a necessity, it were no hard task to prove the Scriptures, in all particulars, the most excellent Rule for the management of all humane Actions, in order to the forementioned Ends of Gods Glory, and the Happiness of the Universe.

Secondly, There must be a true knowledge of this Rule, Scientia before Conscientia; which Preposition denotes only the private application of this knowledge to particular persons and things: for this is most clear and evi­dent, that I must first know this or that is to be believed, or done, and after this [Page 32]or that manner, before I can believe it to be my Duty, or be able to pass a judgment upon my self, that I have done well, or ill, in believing, or not be­lieving, doing, or not doing any thing, or not doing it as I ought, according to the direction of my Rule.

Lastly, there must be an impartial and true judgment of my actions, by this Rule, that is, whether they have been according to the directions of the Rule, which is the proper employment of Conscience, whose work is to measure my thoughts, words, and actions, and to try whether they are conformable to the Rule by which I am bound to act, and according to that judgment either to absolve or condemn me for them.

So that Conscience, thus properly ta­ken, can only be exercised about such things as are certainly known, and by consequence, absolutely necessary to be done, for such are all and only the commands and directions of the Rule, according to that remarkable place of St. Paul, Acts 24.16. concerning his own practice, which ought to be a pattern to all men. And herein do I exercise my self, to have a Conscience void of offence to­wards [Page 33]God, and towards Men. That is, the proper and peculiar Employ of Conscience, is to judge and determine, whether I do my Duty to God and my Neighbour, according to what I know is his Will revealed in his holy Word.

Now in regard, that upon this true Notion of Conscience, there lies a great deal of weight; and it being the com­mon mistake amongst weak minds, to take every thing which is offer'd to them as such, without a due examina­tion, for a matter of Conscience in the strictest sence: I will endeavor to clear this Point, and make it appear, that Conscience is only directly concerned about such things as are certainly known, and therefore absolutely neces­sary to be believed and done, or not done.

First therefore we will inquire into the Nature, and, as I may call it, the Essence of Conscience.

Secondly, we will examine and con­sider its manner of operation and act­ing in all men.

Now the very Essence of Conscience is Knowledge, for no man can have a Conscience to himself of any thing [Page 34]which he does not know, nor of any thing further than he does know it. For Example, I know that GOD is, and that He is to be worshipped; and there­fore my Conscience tells me, I am obli­ged to act according to that knowledge, and that I ought to adore him. I know that no Creature is to be worshipped with Divine Adoration, and therefore my Conscience tells me I sin against knowledge, if I give Adoration, by worshipping either Men or Angels, much more if I bestow it upon the more ignoble parts of the Creation, Gold, Silver, Wood, Stone, Creeping Things, Birds, or Four-footed Beasts. I do not certainly know whether Saints depart­ed this Life can hear my Prayers, though made to them in the most modest sence, and in the same nature as I would do, if they were alive, beg of them to pray or intercede for me; and therefore, if I do not pray to them to pray for me, my Conscience does not accuse me of having neglected a Duty which I ought to have done, or sinning against my knowledge: So that it is clear, that to Know is of the Essence of Conscience, so that there can be no Conscience [Page 35]without it. Now Scientia est de certis & indubitatis, all knowledge is of cer­tain and undoubted things; and this certainty, which is the foundation of knowledge, is grounded either upon the demonstration of Sence, Reason, or Di­vine Revelation; and whatever I know, it is because I have a certainty that it is such in its own nature; either from the evidence of Sence, which cannot de­ceive me, or from clear and plain Rea­son, or else from a positive Divine Re­velation; which proceeds from him who therefore will not, because he can­not, deceive me, being Truth it self: And therefore if the things I would know, be either in their own nature un­certain, as are all future contingencies, and many past actions of former Ages, about which I want sufficient means of a certain information, I can have no knowledge of them; and by conse­quence, no obligation upon my mind, to believe them, or act according to them. But wheresoever there is a cer­tainty of knowledge, either from Sence, Reason, or Divine Revelation, there my mind is not left at liberty; but has an obligation laid upon it, to act, or not [Page 36]to act, according to the commands of that knowledge. And that this is not my private opinion, but agreeable to the greatest Truth, let the most learned Apostle St. Paul give his testimony, in that well known place,Rom. 14. ult. Whatsoever is not of Faith, is Sin. For by Faith there cannot be meant that supernatural Gift and Grace of believing to salvation, because every thing to be known or done, is not the object of that Faith: and therefore, as appears by the fifth Verse, by Faith, there he understands that [...], that full assurance of a mans own mind, which is no other thing but the result of a certainty of know­ledge of what he ought to do, or not to do, and is properly opposed to that doubting and wavering of a mans mind, occasioned by the want of know­ledge; and therefore he tells us, it is a damnable sin to do that which I doubt I ought not; For, saith he, he that doubt­eth is damned if he eat, because it is not of Faith; that is, of a full assurance of knowledge, that what he does is law­ful: for to such a person, till he have a full assurance from a certain knowledge that it is not, it is sin, because for ought [Page 37]he knows it may be so; and the Rule tells him he is to abstain from the very appearance of evil; and Reason tells him, Tutum est errare à dextra, it is the best to err on the right hand, by ab­staining from that, which I am not fully assured of, but it may be sinful: and for this very reason the same Apostle tells us, that the occasion of those mistakes in the Church, about eating things of­fered in sacrifice to Idols, proceeded from a want of this knowledge: How­beit, saith he, there is not in every man this knowledge; and for want of this, he tells them, their Consciences were weak; that is, their minds were doubtful, and some were of one persuasion, others of another about it.

So that knowledge being of the Es­sence of Conscience, and certainty be­ing of the Essence of knowledge, it fol­lows, that Conscience properly so cal­led, cannot be exercised, but about such things as are certainly known, and therefore absolutely necessary to be be­lieved or done; which plainly shews the unwarrantable doctrine and pra­ctice of some men, who impose many things upon People as indispensible mat­ter [Page 38]of Conscience, which in their own nature admit of the greatest doubt and uncertainty, and which they have no lawful authority to establish, as obliga­tory to the Minds and Consciences of Men.

But to confirm this, Secondly, let us examine the manner of operation and acting of Conscience in all Men: Now the exercise of Conscience, consists in these two things: First, I inquire with my self whether I have done what I ought, or abstained from what I ought? Secondly, I inquire, If I have done or abstained as I ought, whether I have done it after that manner, and with those due circumstances as I ought? Now in both these operations, the necessity of them is the Rule, and the foundation of that necessity, is my certain know­ledge that they are so: for thus I judge, I have done this, because I certainly know in obedience to the Rule, I ought to do it: I have abstained from that, because I certainly know, that I ought of necessity not to do it: I have done it after this manner, because I am cer­tainly assured that this was according to the way directed by my Rule; there­fore [Page 39]my Conscience, that is my power of judging my self, pronounces for me, that I have done right and well: and then my Mind or Conscience being satisfied, I am at ease and quiet within my self; and this is called a good Conscience, or peace of Conscience. On the contrary, when I have done either what I certainly know I ought not, or but doubt I ought not to have done; or omitted what I am assured I ought to have done; or where I have not done what I ought to do, according as I ought to have done it, for the manner of performance, with all due circumstances; my Conscience tells me, I have not done well, or accord­ing to my knowledge, and therefore my mind is unquiet and unsatisfied, haunt­ed with guilt of the evil, and terrified with the fearful expectation of punish­ment; and this is called an evil Con­science, or to speak more properly, a Con­science of evil. But if there be no com­mand to act, or to abstain, nor any di­rections for the manner and circumstan­ces of my Actions, I find no certainty of knowledge, and so no absolute necessi­ty within my self to act, or not to act; to abstain, or not to abstain; or if I do [Page 40]any such action where I am left at liber­ty, I find no necessity of doing it this way, or the other, but am left to my own freedom, because I have no cer­tainty of knowledge from the Rule to determine me: so that if I do it, my Conscience does not accuse me; if I do it not, I find no uneasie guilt to sit heavy upon my mind for the neglect; and what way soever I perform it, still my mind is at peace and quiet with it self; and all because there is no certainty of knowledge from the Rule, and there­fore no necessity or determination, and so by plain consequence, no part of the dominion of Conscience, for this neces­sity of knowledge is the Law of Con­science, and where there is no Law, Rom. 4.15. there can be no transgression, no obligation, nor afflicting guilt.

Let not any person now think, that I have straitned the Diocess of this Uni­versal Bishop, or, to speak without of­fence, this Overseer of the World; for thus far his proper and absolute Juris­diction does extend it self: But Con­science has likewise a collateral domi­nion over all indifferent Actions, which is thus. All our Actions which may be [Page 41]done, or not done, without sin on either part, are called Indifferent: As for example, If for my health or plea­sure I design to take the Air, it is in­different whether I ride, or walk, or whether I go into that fair Field, or this fresh Meadow. Now all these acti­ons, though in their own Nature free and indifferent, have yet this necessity upon them, that they ought to carry a respect to the forementioned great designs of God's glory, and the happi­ness of the Universe, and therefore ought to be addressed to those ends, and managed accordingly: and if any indifferent action does not in some measure contribute to these ends, I am bound in conscience not to do it: Which seems to be the reason of the great severity our Saviour pronounces against idle words,S Matth, 12.36. not onely such as are contrary to those ends, but such as by their being uncapable of contri­buting to those great designs, are therefore sinful and unlawful, because useless and unprofitable. Thus for me to ride or walk to take the benefit of the fresh and free air, though in its own nature free, and left to my choice; [Page 42]yet I have this obligation upon me, that I ought to chuse that part, which either from my own, or better judg­ments, may be thought most proper, and conducive to my health, that so I may be in a better capacity to praise and glorifie my Creator, for, and by the advantage of health, strength, vi­gour, and alacrity of Mind and Body; and that by these I may be enabled, both for my own part, to participate of the bountiful happiness, which kind Heaven has so plentifully bestowed upon this life; and also, that I may be in a better capacity to promote and advance the happiness of my fellow Creatures, so far as my power does ex­tend it self: and therefore in order to this, I am not to be injurious to any person, nor in taking the Air, to ride or walk over the eared Corn, or full grown Meadows; and all this, not onely out of an obligation to Humane Laws, or for fear of an Action of Tres­pass, a Clausum fregit, or Pedibus am­bulando; but for Conscience sake, because I am bound by the Rule, to do good to all, but injury to none. And this truly explains the meaning of [Page 43]St. Paul, in those two places,1 Cor. 10.31. Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, let all be done for the glory of God. And, Whatsoever is not of faith, is sin: Rom. 14. ult. that is, Whatsoever indifferent action I do, I ought to have a full assurance, that it is not contrary, but conducive to this great design of the glory of God, in the happiness of the Creation.

CHAP. VI.

The occasion of those Differences amongst us, about matters of Conscience, pro­ceeds from the mistake of Opinion, and private persuasion for Conscience. What Opinion is, and what Persua­sion? and how they differ from Con­science?

THus far I think it is clear what Conscience is, and how far its proper Dominion does extend. Now that Conscience thus rightly under­stood, does universally and absolutely oblige all men, I cannot think there are any will make the least scruple; unless it be such, whose Consciences are seared with an hot Iron, and given up to that unthinking sense, which the Apostle speaks of; and to those who are past feeling, I do not address my self, or this Discourse. But the mis­fortune of our Age does not lie in this particular; we may have some of those who have no Conscience; but we have multitudes of others, who are so far from having none, that they are all [Page 45]Conscience, who strain at every Gnat, and make every thing a scru­ple and matter of Conscience in the strictest sense: I do heartily wish, whilst they do so, that they do not swallow many a Camel, and in the end make shipwrack of true Faith, Cha­rity, and, by consequence, of a good Conscience. For such as these are, were these Papers intended, with all Christian tenderness and compassion; if possible to give them a right un­derstanding of what is so infinite dear and tender to them. For to my certain knowledge, as by much experience, and frequent conferences with many of them, I am able to affirm, most of this sort of People, who pretend to be acted by Conscience in every thing, are not yet able to give a tollerable account what Conscience is: 'Tis something within them, but they know not what: some of them, I am con­fident, are so stupid, as to believe it to be some living thing within them, distinct from both Soul and Body. And I remember a Quaker, to whom I put the Question a little hastily, What was Conscience? after he had [Page 46]shewn his great surprize and ignorance, by being in every joynt a Quaker, and the first that ever I saw do the trick, he very confidently, as well as blasphe­mously told me, it was the Spirit of the Lord. I demanded if he meant the Ho­ly Ghost, the Third Person in the Bles­sed Trinity? To which he answered, Yea. Which makes me fear, that more, who are not of his persuasion, yet may be of his sense, and believe what they call Conscience within them, to be some Omnipotent thing, to which every thing ought to bow and obey.

There have been, and will be in all Ages, some men who do ill, with a design and knowledge of doing ill: others there are, who do ill, with a design of doing well: to both these it is, that we may ascribe those unhappy divisions amongst us, under the pre­tence of Conscience. And had they taken half that pains and care rightly to instruct People what Conscience is, that they have done, positively to tell them, This is matter of Conscience, and that no man can do with a safe Conscience; whilst in truth, they were either not matter of Conscience, in a [Page 47]strict and proper sense; or if they were, they were such matter of Con­science, as all people were obliged to act in, contrary to both their Do­ctrine and Practise: I say, had they done this which was their duty, they might have done God good service, and promoted our common happiness, by Peace, Unity, and Charity: which now, to the great dishonour and de­cay of Christian Religion and true Pie­ty, and irreparable mischiefs in our Politick capacities, are almost grown strangers amongst us. For whosoever shall, without partiality, consider the affairs of these Nations, for this last Century, shall find, That Liberty of Conscience has introduced amongst us the Synagogue of the Libertines, which now has more Votaries than the true Religion, and all others put toge­ther.

There are two things which of late have been obtruded upon us, (whe­ther ignorantly or maliciously, God he knows) under the specious name of Conscience; and these are, Opinion and Persuasion: To this luckless Mother, and fatal Daughter, we owe all those [Page 48]divisions, that strife, those bitter en­vyings, debate, variance, and, in truth, all those intollerable mischiefs, under which, both Church and State have, for many years, so heavily groan'd, and so deeply suffer'd. Some men, it is to be feared, out of Pride, Avarice, Ambition, or desire of Novelty, having embraced such Opinions, as were most suitable to their private Interest or Designs, presently usurp Heaven's Royal Prerogative, and stamp these courser Metalls with the Divine Im­press of Conscience; which immediately makes them currant Coin amongst vul­gar and undistinguishing Judgments. These Opinions, countenanced by the success of numerous Disciples, and warranted by zealous Defenders, and over-eager Promoters, grew amongst many into firm Perswasions; and ha­ving been rooted by long continuance, and naturalized by Custom, then they must be matters of Conscience, then they must be obliging to all, and give indispensible Laws to all: then they are to be defended, and maintained with Life and Fortune, and supported with no less rigorous Penalties than [Page 49] Eternal Damnation, to all those who will not fall down and worship this golden Image of Conscience.

I will therefore endeavor to shew, what Opinion, and what Persuasion are; and how they differ from Con­science; how far they do oblige; and wherein their lawful right and domi­nion, in the management of humane Actions do consist.

Let us act like Men and Christians, with prudence and justice; let us ren­der to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to GOD the things which are GODS; let us not blindly, injuri­ously, and dangerously, transfer the Title, Dignity, Power, and Supremacy of Conscience, the immediate Vicegerent of our Almighty Sovereign, unto these two Ʋsurpers, who, in reality, are but his Sub­jects.

I will begin therefore with Opinion, as being the elder of the two: And that you may know, that it is far infe­rior unto Conscience, this is the descri­ption which the learned Aquinas gives of it, Opinio est dispositio ad Scientiam, it is a disposition to Knowledge; that is, Opinion is an imperfect degree of [Page 50]Knowledge, where still there is a liberty to doubt or suspect that this or that Opinion, may not be exactly true: As for Example, that the Sun shines at high Noon, this is demonstrative knowledge; but because the Sun when it shines, does communicate both light and heat; that therefore the Sun is a vast Globe of Fire, this is but Opinion; because it may be so, and it may not be so. Or that the Moon is peopled with Inhabitants, is but Opinion, because being capable of doubt; I can have no way to ascertain my self, of the truth of either of these, whether in reality, the Sun be a Ball of Flame, or the Moon another habitable Region: so that Opinion is that private judgment which a Man makes of things or actions which are of an indifferent nature, without any certainty of know­ledge, where he wants the assistance of some rule or way, and means, to attain to such a certainty. And that I may not give only instances of Philosophy; thus, that there is such a place as Hell, the residence of the damned, is a mat­ter of knowledge, as being of Divine Revelation, besides that it is founded upon the reason of rewards and punish­ments [Page 51]in a future estate: But whether the Fire of Hell be material, or sigura­tive, or both, these are matters of Opi­nion; and it is indifferent to believe ei­ther or both, because I am not positive­ly directed to believe either of them, more than the other; neither if I do believe one of them, rather than the other, is any other Man obliged to be­lieve it, upon my affirmation of one part to be my Opinion; but is still left at his liberty, so he believe any, to follow that part of the Opinion, which to him ap­pears most robable; and the reason is, because I want a certain Rule to de­termine me, there being no Divine Re­velation of it, nor any way or means to attain to a demonstrative knowledge of it; and further, in its own nature it appears indifferent, whether those in­fernal Flames be material, or figurative, or both; since whatsoever they are, God Almighty is thereby able to accom­plish his design, which is the punishment of the fallen Angels, and such of Man­kind, as must there be eternally misera­ble and tormented, because they would not accept of happiness upon Gods terms and conditions.

Come we now from Opinion, to Per­suasion; which, as before was said, is the Child of Opinion: and is nothing more but that belief, which a Man embraces of any Opinion in indifferent things or actions, which are undetermined, by any certain way, or rule of knowledge, where the mind follows that part which appears most probable and likely to be true; so that in Persuasion, as well as Opinion, there is no absolute certainty of knowledge to determine the mind, only Men sit down with that as a deter­mination for the present, which carries the fairest appearance of Truth, and with that rest satisfied; though still they reserve to themselves a liberty to change their Judgment and Persuasion, so soon as a clearer evidence, or better way to find out the Truth about which they are uncertain, offers it self unto them. Thus to one Man, the flames of Hell appear most probably to be mate­rial sire, because the Bodies of the damn­ed, as well as their Souls, must be there most exquisitely tormented, and for that purpose, he thinks this sort of sire most proper; and therefore that part of the Opinion, passes with him into his Per­suasion. [Page 53]To another, who considers that the condemned Spirits, and Souls of Men which are of an immaterial sub­stance, must there be punished as well as their Bodies, a figurative Fire appears most probable, and that is his Persuasion. To a third, who considers, that both Souls, Bodies, and the wicked Spirits, must have their share of pain and tor­ment, both a sigurative and material Fire seem most agreeable to the de­sign, and therefore that is his Persua­sion.

So that the difference between Opi­nion and Persuasion, seems to be no more than this, whil'st I embrace, with an equal indifference, either part of a doubtful thing, it is but Opinion. When from the greater probability, I pass to a determination of my mind, then it is my particular Persuasion.

The difference between matter of Conscience, and matter of Opinion, or Persuasion, is, That what is matter of Conscience, is alwayes certainly known, and therefore absolutely necessary to be believed or done, or abstained from. What is matter of Opinion, or Persua­sion, [Page 54]is not clearly and certainly known, but admits of doubting, and therefore is not absolutely necessary, but in its own nature indifferent to be believed or done.

CHAP. VII.

How far Men are obliged by Opinion, or private Persuasion; and what in­fluence these have upon Humane Af­fairs.

HAving now shewn what Conscience, Opinion, and Persuasion are, and how they differ one from another; it follows in the next place, that we shew how far these two last do oblige any person in the management of humane Actions relating to Divinity.

First therefore, every Man is obliged by his private Opinion or Persuasion, on­ly in things indifferent in their own na­ture, and undetermined; which is the proper sphere of their activity, to act, or not to act; to believe, or not to believe; so far as in acting or believing, he does not contradict a known Rule of Con­science, which is an absolutely necessary Duty. Now the great and general Rule of all our Faith and Actions, being Gods Glory, and, in order to that, by our Obedience to his Commands to that purpose, to promote the happiness of [Page 56]the Universe, both here and hereafter, it is very easie for any person, in any part of his Belief, or in any of his Actions, to see whether they have a respect to these ends; for if they have not, they certainly cross the great design and in­tention of our Almighty Creator, to whose Will we owe all ready Obedi­ence; and then, by necessary conse­quence, they become absolutely unlaw­ful. Thus suppose I am of Opinion, for very good and religious considerations, that I ought to keep one day in the week a voluntary day of Fasting or Ab­stinence, and I choose Monday as an in­different day; I am obliged by my own private Persuasion to keep that day so; but neither my Persuasion, nor Example, can have any influence to oblige others to do so, who are not of the same Per­suasion with me: But if either a Com­mand from my lawful Superiors forbid me Abstinence on that day, or enjoin it to be observed as a Festival; or if I find, that by Fasting I impair my health or strength, I am then obliged to observe it no longer as a day of Fasting, because then my private Persuasion would cross a certain known Rule of Conscience, by [Page 57]disobedience to lawful Authority. And I should also be injurious, both to my self, and, it may be, to many others, who may have a dependance upon my life and well-being; whereby I should act con­trary to the Will of God, who would have me, by all lawful and prudent wayes and means, to promote my own happiness even in this life; and all theirs, with whom I have a Concern, so far as I am able by just and honest en­deavors.

Secondly, every Mans private Opi­nion and Persuasion obliges him so far, as in the determination of his Belief, and Actions, it follows the better, more sure, and warrantable part. Now the better, and more warrantable part of our judgment and determination in in­different things and actions, is first, that which has the Consent, Judgment, Ap­probation, Example, or Practice of the best Men, in all Ages, as nearest to the necessary Rule of Life and Actions. But because this cannot so easily be known, or found out, especially by the unlearn­ed and ordinary sort of People, who have neither opportunity nor ability to discover what the Judgment and Pra­ctice [Page 58]of the best Men in forepast Ages has been, by searching the Histories and ancient Records of former Times; therefore secondly, that is the better, more sure, and warrantable part of our judgment, in indifferent matters of Opi­nion or Persuasion, which follows the judgment of Charity, Peace, Ʋnity, and, by so doing, contributes most to Gods glory, by promoting the happiness of all Men, both here and hereafter: for these are universal Rules, and known Commands, and therefore necessary to be observed, being given us for the gui­dance and management of our Actions in general. Now there is no Man that has the free use of his Reason, and will make use of it, but may easily discover, whether any of his Actions are agree­able, or contrary to these Rules, and this great End.

So that it appears plainly, how dif­ferent the Obligation of Conscience is, from that of Opinion, or Private Per­suasion. Conscience obliges all Men, al­wayes, at all times, and in all places, uni­versally and absolutely, they being known, evident, and certain Duties, which are thereby commanded. Opinion [Page 59]and Persuasion, oblige only some private Persons, in some Cases, and at some Times, and never further than they have a just respect to some general Rules of Conscience, in regard they are not so certainly known, but that they may ad­mit of Doubt, and have a possibility of being other than they appear, or are thought to be.

CHAP. VIII.

The Differences betwixt the Church of England, and all Dissenters, brought into Examination, by the forementio­ned Rules of Conscience, Opinion and Persuasion.

IT is a Divine, as well as Mathemati­cal Truth, Rectum est mensura sui & obliqui, a right Line shews both its own straightness, and the crookedness of that which is oblique: Having therefore shewn this Rule of Truth, and which I have not in the least endeavoured to warp or bend, so as to sit any private or sinister design of my own, or of any Party; let us now lay it to the Work, and it will quickly discover, who are the Workmen that need not be ashamed, 2 Tim. 2.15. 1 Cor. 3.12, 13, 15. who have rightly divided the Word of Truth; and have built upon that good foundation, Gold, Silver, precious Stones, in beauty far superior to the polished cor­ners of the Temple: And who are they, that have built Straw, Hay, and Stub­ble, such combustible stuff, as has set the glorious Fabrick of the Church into [Page 61]flames of Contention, and which to the loss of the Builders, must be burnt up; though they themselves may be saved, so as by fire, provided they did it igno­rantly, and not of malicious wicked­ness, yet their work must perish.

We will therefore consider the most material, and chief things, which are in difference amongst us, and, by an impar­tial applying of this Golden Rule of Con­science, see who come nearest the Truth and Right.

I do purposely avoid the knotty Questions of Divinity, and the different Opinions about them, in regard, that these may be diversly believed and maintained without breach of Commu­nion; and I know there are, and have been many eminent Men in the Church of God, who have wholly differ'd in their judgments, about some abstruse Points of Divinity, without prejudicing the Peace and Ʋnity either of the Church or State: in regard they defended them only as their private Persuasions, and were both too modest, prudent, and charitably honest, to disturb the Peace and Quiet of the Church or State, by en­deavouring to impose their particular [Page 62]judgments in things not clear and evi­dent, as necessary Doctrines of Faith, or Practice, upon the Consciences of all other Men.

The main and grand Differences be­tween the Church of England, and all those who have separated themselves from her Communion, so far as I am able to discover by the Writings of the seve­ral Parties, are either about the Go­vernment it self, or about the circum­stances and manner of Worship.

That there ought to be Government in the Church, I suppose all Parties will readily acknowledge, because a great Apostle tells us, God is the God of Or­der, and not of Confusion, 1 Cor. 14.33, 39. in all the Chur­ches of God; by which it is plain, that that is no Church of God, which is not under Government; or which counte­nances Confusion; and therefore the same Apostle absolutely commands, That all things be done decently, and with Or­der. The thing that is complained of, is, That this way of Government, by the Episcopal Hierarchie, being no where in plain, and positive Words, and Com­mands, thus set down, ordered, and established in Scripture, which is the [Page 63] Rule of Conscience, therefore it ought not to be imposed tyrannically and im­periously, upon Men of weak and ten­der Consciences; especially, when an­other, and better way of Government, more agreeable to the Scriptures, and Primitive Simplicity of the Gospel, is now found out, and discovered. For though Government in its own Nature be absolutely necessary, yet where God does not interpose any positive Com­mand, or Directions, as he did concern­ing the Jewish Church, there this or that Government are equally indifferent, and the best is to be chosen and preferred before the rest.

How weak a Plea and Refuge this is, to call for and expect plain and express Words, Commands, or Directions from Scripture for every thing we do or be­lieve, every Man must acknowledge who does but consider, that we owe even the Belief of some of the Articles of our Faith to consequences from Scripture, and not to plain, positive, and express words: As for Example, that of the Mystery of the Glorious Trinity in Ʋnity, three Persons, but one God; which words are not to be found in all the [Page 64] Holy Canon. How much more unrea­sonable is it then, to expect express Words and Commands of Scripture for Government in the Church, which is of a far more inferior Concern than Faith? And how dangerous a matter it is, to admit of this Proposition, That nothing is to be believed or done, for which there cannot be brought a clear and positive place of Scripture, let all Christians judge: And whether, if it were as heartily pra­ctised, as it is by some Men vigorously prest, it would not root out the very foundation of all Religion?

But we will join issue with them up­on the Point, and give them a fair tryal at the Bar of Conscience, their own Judge, upon their own Assertion: If therefore Government, being undeter­mined by Scripture, be indifferent whe­ther this or that; and the best to be preferred; How shall it be determined, and by what Authority, which way of Government in the Church is the best? For till there be such a determination, as before has been made appear, it can be no more than Private Opinion, and therefore can lay no more Obligation up­on any Mans Conscience to yield Obe­dience [Page 65]to it, than any other particular Persuasion does, which can only oblige those who are of the same Persuasion, and only so long as they continue so, and no longer, nor any others who are not so persuaded; and therefore by the Rule of Liberty of Conscience, are free, and ought not to be imposed upon, for fear of wounding their tender Con­sciences; which is the direct and ready way to have as many several Govern­ments and distinct Churches, as there are Men of several Minds and Persuasions about which is the best; it being certain that if Men be left to their liberty, eve­ry Man abounding in his own sence, will esteem best of his own way, and accor­ding to the Proverb, Every Crow will think his own Bird fairest; which, in plain English, at last must amount to Anarchy, instead of Ʋnity; and Confu­sion, in the room of that Decency and Order which God expects and requires in all his Churches. For the Scriptures leave it in suspence, and at least are si­lent as to most particularities of Go­vernment, there being no more plain and express words for any sort of Go­vernment, which any of the Dissenters [Page 66]would establish, than there are for that against which they contend; and all Parties will plead the Scriptures, speak as much, or more, for their way of Go­vernment, than for any other.

Let us therefore try who will have the advantage, and bid fairest for such a determination, as shall oblige all mens Consciences, according to the foremen­tioned Rules, how any indifferent matters of Opinion or Persuasion (such as the Question in dispute must be, according as they have stated it) be­come necessary and obligatory to all mens Consciences.

First therefore, we have reason to believe, that the way of Government now establish'd in the Church of Eng­land, is the best, because we find it does not contradict any known Rule or positive Command of Scripture; but, on the contrary, all its Commands, Di­rections, Doctrine, and Practise, are founded upon, and derived, if not from plain words, (as most of them are) yet from most evident sense, and con­sequences of Scripture; which, as before was intimated concerning the Articles of Faith, are as obliga­tory [Page 67]to Conscience, as Scripture it self.

Secondly, This way of Government, as it is now established, appears to fol­low the better, more sure and warran­table part of our Judgment, in indiffe­rent things, so as to make them become obliging, and that in both its branches; viz. First, it is agreeable to the Judg­ment, Approbation, Example, and Practise of the best men in all Ages, from the Apostolick times, as will be evident to all, who shall, without par­tiality, peruse the Scriptures them­selves, where there are many not im­perfect traces and footsteps of this way of Government, so far established, as the Powers of the Heathen Govern­ments, who then had all the Civil and Temporal Jurisdiction, would permit. But there is a whole Cloud of Witnesses for it, in the universal consent, pra­ctise, approbation, and defence, of all those holy men from the Apostles times; who though not divinely inspired, yet were men of such eminent Inte­grity and Piety, as would not permit them to write any thing directly con­trary to the Primitive truth, which some of them did immediately re­ceive [Page 68]from the mouths of the Apostles and Disciples of our Lord; and many of them were such, as by Martyrdom did, with their dearest bloud, set their Seals to the testimony of Jesus. Such who lived in those Ages, before Rome and her Bishops ever thought of usurping the Title of Ʋniversal, and therefore cannot be thought guilty of any combination with them, in erect­ing or imposing this way of Govern­ment upon the Christian World. Se­condly, The Determination of the Judgment, that this way of Govern­ment is the best, follows the better, more sure and warrantable part, viz. the Judgment of Charity, Peace, and Unity: Charity, with the first, best, and past Ages of the Church, who all lived and died under obedience to this way of Government; of all which glorious Martyrs, Saints and Con­fessors, it were the most uncharitable opinion to judge and condemn them, as being guilty of living and dying in, defending, maintaining, and practising a way of Government, altogether un­agreeable and contrary to the Word and Will of God; as all Dissenters [Page 69]would persuade the World, whilst they tell them, this Government is un­lawful and Antichristian. It follows likewise Peace and Unity, both with that part of the Church which is now Triumphant, and with the Universal Church Militant, over all the World, who, except some few of the Disciples of Calvin, all agree in this way of Go­vernment.

Lastly, We have reason to believe this way of Government to be the best, in regard that it does more, than any other whatsoever, promote the great designs of the glory of Almighty God, and the happiness of mankind, here, by Piety, Peace, Justice, and Unity, in order to their eternal happiness hereafter; following herein the Do­ctrine, Commands, and Example of the blessed Jesus, and his holy Apo­stles, without turning to the right hand or to the left.

Besides, We have other very strong inducements to persuade us, that this Government in the Church is the best, as being that which by Gods own ap­pointment and approbation, was esta­blished in the very infancy of the [Page 70]Church, by the Divinely inspired Apostles; and for this belief, these, amongst many others, are very proba­ble and persuasive Reasons.

First, The great blessings which God has imparted to the World under this way of Government by Episcopacy; for it is notoriously known, that all the World, which did embrace the Christian Faith, received it with, and from this Government.

Secondly, which is very remarkable, and a confirmation of the former; It is impossible to find any Church, which wears an antient Name, and pretends to be of Primitive Conversion to the Faith of Christ, but how much soever they may have degenerated in other things, yet still they retain this way of Government: witness the Roman, Greek, Armenian, and even the barba­rous Russian and Aethiopian Churches, who though in other matters they differ as wide in Opinion, as in Cli­mate, which, according to the Adage, is toto Coelo; yet in this they do all most harmoniously agree, retaining both the Name, Dignity, and Office of Bishops, as the Governours of the [Page 71]Church amongst them: And I do not know any one thing, excepting the Canon of the Holy Writings, which contain the Fundamentals of our Faith, which Heaven has appeared so solicitous to preserve unaltered and uncorrupted, as this way of Govern­ment in the whole Christian World.

Lastly, This very argument, which with so much pomp and triumphant solemnity, is perpetually, by all Dis­senters, urged as invincible and un­answerable, if it be well examined, will depose plainly for Episcopacy, and that there is no positive Rule or Com­mand in Scripture for it, is a [...] strong, and, it may be, a more powerful ar­gument for it, than they who make use of it are aware of. And the true Rea­son why in Scripture there is no more said to justifie it, with the highest pro­bability, may be believed to be, be­cause with a Nemine contradicente, it was by an unquestioned consent ac­knowledged by all those, who did embrace the Christian Faith; and there were none found then, nor in many Ages after, so impious or audacious to oppose or contradict it. And had there [Page 72]been any thing in the Government, either unreasonable, or contrary to the will of God, the Jews and Hea­thens, whose hatred made them curi­ously inquisitive into whatsoever might appear a defect in Christian Religion, would certainly, with their quick­sighted malice, have discovered it, the discovery of which would have im­ported as much as they did desire, that was the subversion of the Church from the very foundation. But so great was the Unity of the Christians in this point, and so excellent and ir­reprehensible did the Government ap­pear, that in all the opposition Re­ligion met withall, though not an Article of the Faith could escape their censures, we do not meet with any thing against this way of Government; and well it was there was then such Unity: for could those Enemies of our Religion have met with half those divisions, which now Christians have made amongst themselves, they would certainly (without the assistance of a Miracle to preserve it) have improved them to the utter ruine of the Church, to which there is no Road leads so [Page 73]directly, as that which undermines the Goverment. In short, I do heartily wish, that all those who are so zealously, it were well if I might not say furi­ously, bent and opposite against Root and Branch of Episcopacy, would consider seriously at what they strike, and whether they do not really af­front him, who, as the Root of it, is by St. Peter styled, the great Shepherd and Bishop of our Souls. 1 Pet. 2.25.

CHAP. IX.

The pretences of Dissenters, that their ways of Government are the best, and to be preferred before Episcopacy, ex­amined and tried by the same Rules above-mentioned concerning indiffe­rent Things and Actions.

LEt us now see any other form of Government in the Church, which can make so fair, so true, so just a plea for it self as Episcopacy has done; whether Presbyterian, Independant, Anabaptist, Quaker, or any other of what name or distinction soever, who dissent from the Church of England, and flie from her Communion, upon the account of the present Govern­ment by Bishops.

First, There is not any of these that can shew express words, or commands of Scripture, for that way of Govern­ment, which they would introduce: And therefore they are unjust to us, whilst they cry up their own way, and endeavour to impose it upon the world, as matter of Conscience; since, [Page 75]as before has been proved, nothing can be so in its own nature, for which there is not a plain and positive command, or a natural and true consequence, from Scripture the Rule of Conscience.

Or admitting their Proposition, That all Governments being in their own nature indifferent, and the best to be preferred; how does theirs appear to be the best? I hope they are better re­conciled to common Sense, Reason, and Custom, than to think their own As­sertion or Testimony sufficient to con­vince us that it is so; since the Son of God, who was Truth it self, yet tells us, If I bear witness of my self, my witness is not true; that is,Joh. 5.31. if he had no other witness: And therefore he re­fers the unbelieving Jews to John, whom all men accounted a Prophet; to the Scriptures, which he bids them search; to Moses, in whom they trust­ed; and, in another place, to his Mi­racles and wonderful works, which they saw with their own eyes.

Come we therefore to the common Rule; and it is no more but just, that they should receive the same mea­sure, and stand to the determination [Page 76]of the same Judge, to whom they have made their Appeal.

In the second place therefore, Eve­ry one of these ways of Government which they would establish, with the ruine of the present, contradict a known Rule, nay, many plain Com­mands of Scripture; for whilst they go about to overthrow the old Go­vernment, and introduce a new One, they are disobedient to those that have the rule over them, both in Church and State, whom they found vested with that Authority, and which, for any thing they are able to prove to the contrary, was of Gods own appoint­ment, for so saith St. Paul, The powers that be are ordained of God; even those Heathen and truly Antichristian Powers: how much more then the Supporters and Defenders of the Chri­stian Faith? They resist an Authority, warranted with long succession, sup­ported with many prudent and antient Laws; Laws to which they themselves, and their Ancestors, by their free Re­presentatives in Parliament, had given their Vote and Suffrage; and therefore, by their own voluntary Act and Deed, [Page 77](and some of them by the stricter ob­ligations of most Sacred and repeated Oaths) they were bound with the strongest ties of Conscience to live un­der, in all dutiful obedience; which St. Paul enjoyns under the pain of Damnation, the severest of all the pe­nalties God Almighty can inflict up­on Mankind: and therefore he tells them, they must needs be subject for Con­science sake.

Thirdly, in their determination, that their way or form of Church Govern­ment is the best, they do not follow the better, more sure and warrantable part of judgment in indifferent things. Let them shew us in all Antiquity, (except some mistranslated places in the English New Testament, where Presbyters are falsly rendred Elders) the least foot­steps, approbation, defence, or practice of any other manner of Government in the Church for this Sixteen hundred years and upwards, besides the Episco­pal; if they can do this, then they may lawfully pretend, they do not over­throw the Old, but revive it, by over­throwing the New Model of Govern­ment; but if they cannot, as I am sure [Page 78]if it could have been done, we had heard it on both sides of our ears long before this; let them dread the fearful doom which the wise Solomon pronoun­ces against those who remove the an­cient Land-marks, Prov. 24.22. and are given to change; for their calamity shall come sud­denly, and who knoweth the ruine of them both? Both of those who fear not God, because they fear not their lawful King his Vicegerent; but are given to change, delighted with Novelties and Innova­tions.

Lastly, this their determination is far from the judgment of Charity, Peace, and Unity, either with the past or pre­sent Ages; and much further from pro­moting the great designs of Gods glo­ry, and the happiness of Mankind either here or hereafter. Let all Europe wit­ness this sad Truth; and particularly these British Isles, which by this best way of Government, of ancient Albion, White and Happy, was changed into Aceldama, a dismal Field of Blood; it were endless to recount what Wars, Ra­pine, Sacriledge, Desolation and Confu­sion, Bloodshed, and most unparallel'd Solemn Murder of Majesty, the most sa­cred [Page 79]thing on earth; have been the ef­fects of endeavouring to set up, and establish these new wayes of Church Government. And wherever any of these new Disciplines did prevail, they quickly verified the Advice of young Rhehoboam's hot-headed Counsellors, making their little Fingers, heavier than the Loins of Episcopacy: and chang­ing the Whips, with which those Reve­rend Fathers chastised such as really de­served it, into Scorpions, Axes and Hal­ters; nor did they spare either Life or Fortune that stood in their way, or durst oppose them: And this was the true reason, why even those persons, who were so violent against Root and Branch of Episcopacy, notwithstanding their Solemn League and Covenant, yet their Wisdom, Fear, or Policy, would never give them leave to establish Pres­bytery, which they found a Government so imperious, absolute, and insupporta­ble.

Nor is this fair and honest dealing, in Dissenters; to pretend that because all sorts of Government are indisserent, therefore why should not theirs be cho­sen which is the best? when by expe­rience [Page 80]we have found the contrary, and in the mean time not to allow ours a bare indifferency: but to persuade their credulous Followers, with the greatest confidence, That our way of Govern­ment by Bishops, is Popish, Ʋnlawful, and Antichristian, contrary to the Scri­ptures; and that their own way is agree­able to them, and the Primitive Discip­line of the Church; and therefore as a matter of Conscience, and the main mat­ter too, the one to be avoided, and the other to be embraced by all those who hope for Salvation of their Souls. That Cause (though it be the Good Old Cause) betrays it self to be very weak, which is to be supported by such un­worthy, feeble, and Corner Arts and Ar­guments, as Pagans, and Heathen Phi­losophers would blush to have been found guilty of.

As for that common objection of theirs against Lord Bishops; we will easily grant them, that the Primitive Clergy did not abound in Tempora­lities; but then, they had such advan­tages, as, I believe, none of these Peo­ple will be willing to gratifie the most beloved of their Pastors withall, when [Page 81] they who had possessions sold them, and laid down the price at the feet of the Apostles, Acts 4, 34. to dispose of as to them seemed most sit. This would be a hard saying, who would bear it? nor indeed could it be conve­nient, as the affairs of the World stand at present. But these Honours which the present Clergy do enjoy, being Tempo­ral, are not by us believed to be at all essential to the Office of a Bishop, and are only annexed by the bounty of Princes, as are also their Estates, for the necessa­ry support of the Rank they are in, for the encouragement of Learning and Pie­ty, and for the advantage of the Pub­lick, as it is a Politick Society of Men. And they may as well maintain a Level­ling Principle, and quarel with all Ho­nours and Estates that are above theirs, as with these; for if any Temporal Estate or Dignity may, by free Gift or Succes­sion, divolve upon a Church-man, why not these? And that this may happen without offence or scandal, besides the experience we have had in an Illustri­ous Peer of this Nation, who,Earl of Kent. not ma­ny years ago, from a private Priest, by succession, came to the Honour of one of the first Earls in England. I appeal to themselves, who would think it [Page 82]the greatest injustice, upon the ac­count of their being Churchmen, to lose a good Temporal Estate from their Ancestors, or a Barony, either by Descent, or Royal Bounty. Besides, let all men judge, if this would not be the way to furnish us with Jero­boam's Priests, of the meanest and lowest of the People, not onely for Birth, but Learning, Parts, and Abi­lity: And what a discouragement it would be to the Gentry and Nobi­lity, who, by their Generous Birth, Advantageous Education, Noble Al­liances, and many other Excellent Circumstances and qualifications, are fitted by the great influence they may have both upon the Prince and Peo­ple, to do both the Church and Sate the most considerable Honour and Service? I am afraid few of them would addict themselves to the more serious and painful Studies of Divinity, if by their devoting themselves to an immediate attendance upon God's Altar, they must cast off the Entail of Temporal Honours and Estates from themselves. Nor does this derogate a little from the superlative Bounty and [Page 83]Goodness of the Divine Nature, to think, that he who does so plentifully, frequently, and freely bestow these Honours and Estates, as blessings, up­on all other Conditions of men, should prohibit and deny them to those, who have voluntarily obliged themselves to his peculiar Service, and upon whom he is pleased to confer the excellent Title of his Ambassadors; 2 Cor. 5.20. and therefore most certainly does allow them honorably, so as to be able to sup­port the Dignity of so high a Chara­cter: especially since they have his Royal word and promise for it,1 Sam. 2.30. Them that honour me, I will honour. Prince and Priest, were not by God thought in­consistent under the Law, in that Go­vernment, which he himself constitu­ted and establish'd. And therefore one word in the Hebrew Language sig­nisies both. [...] And till such time as he is pleased to declare his mind to the contrary, I know not upon what pre­tence any man should divorce those two, which he had once made one. Neither by virtue of these Lordships, do Bishops Lord it over Christs Flock, as by the scoffing wantonness of some [Page 84]men (who should be more serious, than to be witty at the expence of Scri­pture) they are said to do: since it is clear, that their Temporal Baronies give them not the least influence upon Church affairs, more than they give unto the other Noble Peerage of the Realm. And the Jurisdiction of a Bi­shop, as a Bishop, and a Bishop as a Baron, are as wholly distinct, as that of a Lord of a Manor, or any other Lord is from the power of a Bishop in his Diocess.1 Tim. 3.2.

In a word, A Bishop must be given to Hospitality; how shall he be able to do that without an Estate? If he must have an Estate, he must be Lord of it, for so is every man of what he does possess: and if it shall be thought fit by Royal Authority, the Fountain of Honour, to add to that common Right, a more particular and distin­guishing Title of Honour, that may offend some mens Ambition or Envy, but can never be found to be either diadvantageous to the [...]hurch or State, or contrary to the Scripture, the Rule of Conscience.

From what hath been said, it ap­pears, [Page 85]that no other way of Govern­ment in the Church can really pretend to those advantages, which may make an indifferent thing become necessa­ry and obliging to Conscience, ex­cept the Episcopal; by which it fol­lows, that to submit to this Form of Government, as it is now establish'd in the Church, is so far from being against a good Conscience, that no man can resist it, without sinning against Conscience, since it has all the qualisications which are necessary, for the making an indifferent thing be­come obligatory to every mans Con­science, which all the other pretenders want: viz. It comes nearest to the Rule of Scripture, it follows the better, more sure and warrantable part of our judgment; it answers all the ends of Government, by promoting the Glo­ry of God, and contributing to the happiness of mankind here, by pro­curing Peace, Unity, and Concord; and hereafter, by teaching, commanding, and practising true Piety and Holiness. And it is evident, that to dissent from this Government, can never be the ef­fect of Conscience, but of Opinion or [Page 86] Persuasion, neither of which can lay any obligation upon mens minds, which is absolute and indispensible, as before has been made most evidently appear.

I wish that all Dissenters would seriously reflect with themselves, whilst they do so violently cry up Consci­ence, and pretend it for their seperati­on, whether they have not abused themselves and the World, in mistaking Opinion and Persuasion for it? of which they may easily be satisfied, by an im­partial application of what has before been said of this particular.

After all this, we shall difficultly be persuaded to relinquish the Plea of a Divine Right in Episcopacy, for which so much reason has been, and may be brought to prove it; and upon which we shall have occasion briefly to touch hereafter.

CHAP. X.

Of the manner and circumstances of Di­vine Worship; and how from being in­different, they may become necessary to be done, and obliging to Conscience.

THus have we seen, that though private and false Opinion, or pre­judiced and mistaken Persuasion, and, it may be, malicious Design and Inte­rest, combined with discontented En­vy, may be loud and clamorous against this Government of the Church, by the excellent and antient way of Epis­copacy; yet Conscience is so far from being against it, that it is wholly and clearly for it. Let us now come to ex­amine the manner of performance of Divine Worship, which has occasioned no small stirs, tumults, and divisions amongst us.

And here likewise I suppose, that all Parties do thus far agree, that there ought to be some Modes and Circum­stances in the Worship and Service of God; that is, some Time, some Place, some Words, Gestures, Postures, and [Page 88]Habits, for the performance both of Publick and Private Worship, which Conscience tells us we are bound to pay unto Almighty God. Herein likewise I suppose, that all Parties are agreed, that these things, or however, such of them as are in controversie amongst us, are, in their own natures, indifferent; and therefore properly the subject of Opinion or Persuasion: and were there no determination on either side, pro­vided the Duty of Worship were per­formed, it might be done this way or the other: And from hence likewise it appears, that no Circumstance of Religious Worship, is in its own na­ture simply unlawful, because no where in Scripture prohibited, either in direct words, or by necessary conse­quence: so that no mans Conscience can be justly offended by the perfor­mance of any of them, since where there is no Law, there can be no transgression. Let any Dissenters therefore shew, either a positive command, or a plain consequence from Scripture, why I should not serve God in a set form of Prayers and Praises? or why I, or any other persons, should not perform all [Page 89]the several Offices in the Book of Di­vine Service mentioned? Why such Gestures, Habits, or Signs should not be made use of? And then something is said to make them unlawful; then every man, in point of Conscience, would be obliged to abstain from them: but till that be done, they will remain in their own natures simply in­different, and so far lawful. And so long as they are so, which will be to the Worlds end, they act falsly and un­justly, who endeavour to persuade weak minds, (and such as are not able to Judge) that these Circumstances of Religious Worship, now in use in the Church of England, are absolutely un­lawful, and that they ought neither to use them, nor to have any commu­nion with those who do use them; which is the true reason and founda­tion of their separation. And that the treacherous dealers deal thus trea­cherously with us, is plain; for that the Ignorant and Vulgar always make this their Plea, for their forsaking our Communion, that their Consciences will not give them leave to joyn with us in our unlawful Ceremonies, as, in [Page 90]derision, they call all the Service of the Church. And this they must needs have from their Teachers, who either ought not to have been Teachers, if they themselves were not come to the knowledge of the Truth; or if they were, they ought to have taught them the Truth; and that these Modes, or Circumstances of Religion, being in their own natures indifferent, were onely matters of Opinion, and not of Conscience, until such time as they were, some way or other, lawfully de­termined. And to prove that this they ought to have done, and more than this, have taught their Hearers, That they ought to have submitted to such determinations, I will endeavour to make it plainly appear, by shewing how indifferent Circumstances of Di­vine Worship become obligatory to Conscience, and so necessary to be per­formed.

Now all indifferent Circumstances in Religious Worship become neces­sary, if in general they answer the great Design of God's glory, and the Happiness of Mankind, both here and hereafter: it were enough therefore [Page 91]to demand, which of all these indiffe­rent things are contrary to these great Designs, and wherein? which I am sure it is impossible for them to make appear. But for the satisfaction of some, who may retain their prejudices, for want of a better information, I will shew more fully and distinctly, how indifferent things become necessary; with some short reflections upon such of them, as in the Ceremonies and Ser­vice of the Church of England are most objected against.

First therefore, an indifferent Cir­cumstance in Religious Worship be­comes necessary, if in general it con­duces to the advancement of Piety and Holiness; because whatsoever does so, is absolutely necessary to be done; and it is every man's duty, to endeavour to promote goodness, by all lawful ways and means. Thus therefore, set and appointed times for Publick Wor­ship and Service of God become ne­cessary; such are the Lords Day, and all other holy Fasts and Festivals, in which People assemble together to call upon and praise God, and to give him that devout Worship, and humble [Page 92]Adoration, which in duty they are bound to do; where sin is reproved, the ignorant are instructed, the weak are confirmed and strengthned, the Holy Sacraments, those Pledges of God's Love, and Seals of our Inheri­tance with the Saints in Light, are ce­lebrated; and all people are exhort­ed, directed, persuaded, and encou­raged to the performance of their re­spective duties, towards God and all men. And that such set times are ne­cessary, will appear, because, were men left to their own liberty, when and where to perform these Duties of pub­lick Worship, such is the treachery and backwardness of mens natures, that if they were not determined by a necessity, they would generally neglect the Service of God, and find out per­petual excuses and evasions to delay the performance of it, to the great de­cay of Piety and Religion, and the great hazard of the salvation of their Souls. For this purpose also, publick Places of Assemblies, decent and con­venient for those uses, become neces­sary: and by such Dedication, and so­lemn setting apart to the Service of [Page 93]God, they become his Houses, and cease to be common, or indifferent, by obtaining a Relative Holiness;Exod. 3.5. Ezek. 42.13, 14. and 44.19. such as did the ground about the burning Bush, the Temple and its Vessels, the Vestments and Chambers of the Priests; all which are called Holy: And there­fore the Royal Psalmist does propheti­cally tell us,Psal. 93. ult. Holiness becometh thy House for ever; which must either be false, or else be understood of Christian Temples.

Secondly, Indifferent things and Circumstances in Divine Worship, be­come necessary, if they promote Peace, Ʋnity, and Charity, according to those great and necessary Rules of the Gos­pel, Live in peace, if it be possible; 2 Cor. 13.11. Heb. 12.14. 2 Cor. 13.2. Coloss. 3.14. Ephes. 4.3. 1 Cor. 13.13. as much as in you lies, follow peace with all men. Finally, brethren, be of one mind. Above all things put on charity, which is the bond of persectness. Keep the unity of the spi­rit in the bond of peace. Now remaineth Faith, Hope, and Charity, but the greatest of these is Charity. Now that one set and prescribed form of Publick Wor­ship, Administration of the Sacraments, and other Religious Duties, doth ex­tremely promote all these, nothing can [Page 94]be more plain: for where men are left to their own liberty, one likes this way of performance, another likes and pre­fers another way; from hence imme­diately arises a breach of Unity, from thence men come to Disputations and Controversies, which is the best way. And whilst each party is equally ob­stinate in the defence of their own Opinion, many heats of passion happen, which vent themselves in bitter words; from thence men come to variance, division, and separation; from thence to hatred; and then the door is set wide open to violence, force, confusi­on, war, and all the innumerable mis­chiefs, which are its dreadful conse­quents, and constant companions. That these are sad and experimented truths, I appeal to all sober and considera­tive men: but lest their Judgment should not be satisfactory, let us hear the judgment of an Apostle, who was guided in what he writ by an infalli­ble Spirit;Jam. 3.14. But if ye have bitter envy­ings and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wis­dom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devillish: for where [Page 95]envying and strife is, there is confusion, and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easie to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits; without partiality, and without hypocrisie: and the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace. Nor is it possible to find out any way to make peace, and bring men to unity and charity, but by some determination of these indifferent things; which is not onely my sense and opinion, but that of all dissenting Parties, who therefore propose the determination of them, by the establishment of their way, as the onely expedient to obtain these excel­lent ends.

Thirdly, Indifferent things become necessary, if they promote Decency and Order, because so they are agreeable to St. Paul's general Rule,1 Cor. 14.40. Let all things be done decently and in order. Thus, that all should kneel at the Prayers where it is appointed; besides, that it is a posture of supplicating, humility, and devout adoration; That they should stand up at the rehearsal of the [Page 96]Articles of our Christian Faith, and at the Hymns, Psalms, and Praises, are all matters of great decency and or­der. Whereas that one should sit, another stand, a third lean, a fourth lie along at his ease, are no less in­decent and irreverend, than disor­derly and confused. Thus, that Church-men should wear distinct Habits, both when they celebrate the Divine Service, and at other times, such as may shew gravity, sobriety, purity, innocence, or distinction of degrees, are all decent and orderly, and so far therefore necessary.

Lastly, Indifferent things become necessary, if they be significantly expressive of our inward profession. Thus the Cross after Baptism, the Ring in Marriage, the Surplice and other Vestments, Postures and Ge­stures, having all their outward sig­nifications of the inward profession of our minds, are necessary for those ends. I should speak more fully of these things, had not the Learned Mr. Falkner taken such pains about them, and sifted them so narrowly, [Page 97]as not to leave any just pretence of a quarrel against them; to which in­comparable Discourse I therefore re­fer the Reader, for an ample satisfa­ction in all these particulars.

CHAP. XI.

Of the Way whereby indifferent things become obligatory to Conscience, not on­ly upon a Mans private Persuasion, from the forementioned Rules, but so as to oblige all persons who live under Go­vernment, viz. by the Determinations, and Commands of Lawful Autho­rity.

THus far I have shewn the chief, among many Considerations, whereby any indifferent thing may be­come necessary: so that if any person finds these or any other indifferent things in the Worship or Service of God, conduces to these Ends, he is ob­liged in Conscience to the performance of them; but this layes only a private obligation, and the same that it does upon all other indifferent things and actions, which yet remain so, by being undertermined. But now in regard some of these things, though innocent and indifferent in their own Natures, may, to some Mens Opinions and Persuasions, appear very conducive to the before­mentioned [Page 99]Ends; others may appear more effectual to some other Persons: lest from divers Opinions, about these Circumstantials of Religion, which are best, most decent, orderly, and edifying, there should arise division, distraction, and confusion in the Service of God, as by miserable experience we daily find there does; it is requisite that we seek for some stronger obligation whereby those things which are indifferent may become necessary to all; and this must be, by the determination, and com­mands of a lawful Authority, which has power to judge, which amongst all in­different circumstances of Divine Wor­ship, conduce most to Gods glory, and the good of Mankind, especially those under their charge and jurisdiction, by promoting and maintaining Peace, Uni­ty, Concord, and Piety: and after such judgment, to pass a final determination, which shall lay the double obligation, both of a prudent and necessary Law, and also of Conscience upon all who live under their Government, and expect the advantages of it, and therefore owe Obedience to it. For otherwise dis­putes and differences must be endless, if [Page 100]Men will not refer themselves to some Umpires and Arbitrators to decide them; which must (after Men have tyred themselves to find out what these Arbitrators must be?) at the last be lawful Authority. Now that all Dissen­ters are of the same judgment with us in this Point, and believe that a lawful Authority has this decisive Power, it is most plain, from the frequent instances, and repeated importunities which they make to the Supreme Authority, to make Alterations in the present, or to establish another manner or form of Worship according to their way: or however, if they cannot hope for such Concessions, yet they will Petition, that Authority will not interpose it self in these Religious Affairs, but leave them to their freedom in the manner of the exercise of their Religion; and this is, if I mistake them not, that which they call Liberty of Conscience: And they must either be the greatest Dissemblers and Hypocrites in Nature, by begging that from Authority, which they believe it has no real Power over; or else it plainly implies, That it is in the Power of a lawful Authority to determine that [Page 101]Liberty, in indifferent things, which concern the circumstances of Divine Worship. This therefore being acknow­ledged, we have nothing to do but to prove, That the Authority which has de­termined these indifferent things, and by consequence now made them neces­sary to be done, and matter of Con­science, had a just Right and Power, as well as wise and prudent Reasons and Considerations so to do, as being a law­ful Authority.

We must therefore consider and ex­amine what is requisite to make an Au­thority so lawful, as that it may of Right challenge such a decisive and determi­native Power, as that all Persons who live under it, shall be obliged in Point of Conscience, to submit to its definitive Sentence, and take it for a finalis Con­cordia, in all indifferent things; and to which no Man can be disobedient, with­out a manifest and wilful sin against Conscience, in the breach of those known commands, Obey them that have the Rule over you. Rom. 13.1. And let every Soul be subject to the higher Powers.

First therefore, that Authority which is of Gods appointment, is, without con­troversie, [Page 102] a lawful Authority, as plead­ing a Divine Right from him by whom Kings reign. Such was the Authority of Moses, Aaron, Samuel, and the Judges; and even of Saul, a wicked and tyran­nous Prince, of whom therefore David said to Abishai, 1 Sam. 26.9. Destroy him not, for who can lift up his hand against the Lords Anointed, and be guiltless? And it was well for him that he fell into the hands of a Man who was after Gods own heart. We have seen some, whom a les­ser interest than Davids in his death, would have tempted to serve him as Epominondas did his sleeping Centinel; had they found him sleeping, they would have been of Abishai's judgment, and have left him sleeping his last.

But to proceed, secondly, That Au­thority is lawful, which is warranted by long Succession: Prescription is account­ed a good and safe Plea and Title, for all other Men for their Estates and Pos­sessions; certainly much more for the Crowns of Sovereign Princes: for here­by their Title passes into Inheritance, which is a Right which no Man can vi­olate or invade, without being guilty of the breach of that positive and [Page 103]known Command, Thou shalt not covet.

Lastly, That Authority is lawful, which by Choice, and common Consent, for their mutual benefit and advantage, Men agree to, and by lawful wayes sti­pulate, and oblige themselves, one or more to govern, and rule, and the rest to obey: for this is founded upon the Law of Nature and Nations, which teaches all People, that Faith in solemn, deliberate and lawful Contracts, such as this is, is most sacredly to be kept invio­lated; otherwise there could not be any Society, Government, Law or Li­ving in the World. And the Holy Wri­tings confirm the same, when they tell us, our solemn Compacts and Contracts are to be observed, though to our loss and detriment, or else we must never expect to ascend the holy and heavenly hill;Psal. 15.4. except we be such as though we swear, that is, make a solemn lawful Contract, though to our own prejudice in the event, and yet nevertheless change not, but stand firm to our promise and ob­ligation.

Now all these several wayes of any Authorities becoming lawful, so as to [Page 104]have a just Power and Dominion in making Laws for the determination of indifferent things, which, amongst ma­ny, are most conducive to Gods glory, and the Publick advantage of those under their Dominion, both in Civil and Religious Affairs, are most eminent­ly to be found in the present Authority of these Nations.

First, there is Divine Appointment and Ordination, whether we respect Monarchy or Episcopacy? And if we can prove there were Kings and Bishops in the World, when St. Paul wirt his Epi­stles, I think, notwithstanding what ma­ny have said against it, the Case will be clear;Rom. 13.1. For, saith he, there is no Power but of God; that is, lawful Powers, such as the then Roman Emperors, who by succession became lawful; for we can­not imagine he meant to countenance unlawful and usurping Powers: and therefore he adds, the Powers that be, that is, the present Roman Emperors, and their subordinate Magistrates and Ministers, are ordained of God, whoso­ever therefore resisteth the Power, resisteth the Ordinance of God; and they that re­sist, shall receive damnation. Now that [Page 105]there were Kings when he writ, is plain from that place, where he commands, That first of all Supplications, Prayers, Intercessions, and giving of Thanks, be made for all Men, for Kings, 1 Tim. 2.1. and all that are in Authority. If St. Paul's Writings were a Rule for those Ages, they are likewise a Rule for us, and for all Peo­ple to the Worlds end, and then the Argument will hold good, If Kings in St. Paul's time had a Divine Right to their Crowns, they have so still, or else what was Scripture then, is not so now; the danger of which consequence is so apparent, that I cannot imagine there will be found any that will venture to own it.

The great question will be, Whether there were Bishops then? For if there were, they likewise, by the Apostles Rule, were ordained of God, or else they had no Power. That there were Bishops, it is plain, for we have the Name very frequent in Scripture, Christ himself, from whom the rest so often mentioned derived their Office and Authority as before we took notice, being called the great Bishop, as well as Pastor of our Souls.

And that these Bishops had a Power and Authority in the Church, and exer­cised the same office in the Government of the Church as the present Bishops do, is no less evident; and that in this very Point of determining indifferent things in Divine Worship: Thus St. Paul takes upon him to order the Church of the Corinthians, about the Celebration of the Lords Supper; and after that done, tells them, If there were any other thing in difference or disorder, the rest will I set in order when I come. 1 Cor. 11.34. And that he did this by virtue of his Office, and by a Power derived from Christ, the first and great Bishop, he tells them, That he re­ceived of the Lord, that which he deli­vered unto them: Ver. 23. And wherever he is positive in giving any Rules or Directi­ons of Government, Decency, or Or­der, we may assure our selves he does it by virtue of this Power of his Office; for otherwise he would tell us, it is but his private Judgment or Persuasion, which he would not impose upon Chri­stians, though he had a fair pretence so to do, as appears by that place concern­ing Virginity and Marriag: 2 Cor. 7.25. Now con­cerning Virgins, I have no Commandment [Page 107]of the Lord; yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy to be faith­ful. But if any Person shall pretend he did this by virtue of his Apostolical Of­fice, which was an immediate Commissi­on from the mouth of Christ at his mi­raculous Conversion; to convince them that a Bishop, who was no Apostle, had the same Power, and exercised the same Office, there is nothing more plain, than that place in his Epistle to Titus: For this purpose left I thee in Crete,Tit. 1.5. that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain Elders in every City; in which place I think our Eng­lish Translation has not rightly expressed the meaning of the Original Greek. And this seems to be the proper sense of the words; that St. Paul having been him­self in Crete, The word [...] translated Ordain, signifies to consti­tute and appoint a person over a certain place and employ­ment. and set many things in or­der, he left Titus there, to place such Priests as he before had Ordained, in the several Cities of that Island; and put them into the Power and Office of Bishops, which he had not done, as may appear by the following description of a Bishop, what manner of Man he ought to be; and for the word [...], which is Translated Elders, it signifies [Page 108]in all Antiquity, (the best Expositor of the Idiom of words) Priests who were therefore so called, because always cho­sen out of the ancientest Converts to Christianity, and the longest standers in Religion; and the Rule held good, con­cerning Priests as well as Bishops; that in their Elections, they should not choose a Novice; that is, one lately converted, lest wanting the ballast of age, experience and discretion; the height of so honorable an office should puff up such an one with pride, and so he fall into the condemnation of the Devil. And that Titus, who was the first or chief Bishop in Crete, as well in order of place as time,1 Tim. 3.6. and so had ma­ny inferior Bishops under him, we have the Postscript, or rather Superscription of the Epistle, which for any thing can be proved to the contrary, may be as an­cient as the Epistle; besides, that he was the first Bishop in order of time, we have the testimony of all Antiquity, who never once doubted the truth of it.

So that Monarchy, and Episcopacy, be­ing then Powers in the World; and the Powers that then were, being ordained of God: it follows plainly, that they [Page 109]have a just and warrantable, if not an undeniable Plea to a Divine Right.

Secondly, There is long succession of both: of this very Race of Kings for above 600 years: and long may their Imperial Crown and Royal Dignity flourish and increase; even so long as the Sun and the Moon endure: And for the succession of Bishops, it is of much an ancienter date; and though the time be not certain, yet that the Britains did very early receive the Christian Faith, and with it Episcopal Government, is a thing not to be doubted, if we will give any credit to the ancient Histori­ans, some of which would persuade us, that Britain was Christian as soon, or even before Rome it self.

Lastly, there is Choice, and a freedom of Election in the House of Commons, which represents the gross Body of the Nation; and is one part of the Authori­ty thereof: as for the Interest which the rest of the most Honourable Peerage have in the management of Publick Af­fairs, it being one of the dear bought Fundamentals of the Magna Charta, it was a thing never disputed till the late dayes of Confusion, when the very foun­dations [Page 110]were violently torn up by the roots, with the Tempest, or rather Hur­ricane of Religious Rebellion; and I hope it will never come to a second Vote, that the House of Peers is useless to this Nation, or a Government with­out them.

So that here is whatsoever is requi­site to make any Authority lawful, so as to have a just Right and Dominion over all those who live under it, for the final determination and conclusi­on of all indifferent things, both in Religious and Civil Affairs.

That this may appear plain to every apprehension, we will give an instance in a point controverted amongst us. Prayer is an immediate act of Divine Worship, and of it self absolutely ne­cessary to be performed to God,Psal. 65.2. Matth. 21.13. who is the God of all flesh, and therefore unto him shall all flesh come; because he hear­eth prayers, and his house is the house of prayer for all Nations. But to pray in a set and prescribed form of words, or to pray as a mans abilities give him leave, or as it is called, by Extempore prayer, according as the present occa­sion may seem to require, are in their [Page 111]own natures indifferent: and I doubt not, but if either be done with all due circumstances, they may be acce­ptable to God. But now one man is persuaded, that set forms in the pub­lick service of God are the best, an­other thinks, Extempore prayer the best way. So long as this is undetermined by a Lawful Authority, every man is obliged to follow his private Opinion, because Conscience obliges him to fol­low that determination of his judg­ment in indifferent things, which he is fully persuaded is the best, and con­duces most effectually to God's glory, and the promoting of Piety. But be­cause diversity of Opinion, Persuasion, and Practice in this Duty, is apt to breed Division and Dissention; and to prejudice, if not ruine that Unity, Peace, Charity, and Order, which ought to be preserved inviolate a­mongst all men, especially Christians; therefore that Authority, which has a just power over us, as being of God's appointment, of long succession, and of our own choice; to prevent these dis­orders, and the confusion and dangers which may ensue upon divisions of [Page 112]Mind, and difference of Practice, inter­poseth it self: and considering, that our great Lord and Saviour, who tells us, he was to be our Example, pre­scribed a set form of Prayer, and posi­tively commanded his Disciples so to pray,Luke 11.2. When ye pray, say, Our Father, &c. That both the Antient and Modern Churches did, and do use and approve set Forms of Prayer in Publick Wor­ship, that hereby, rash and inconside­rate men, shall not have liberty to utter any thing before God;Mat. 6.7. nor to use vain repetitions, as the Heathen did; nor (which is much worse than they were guilty of in their much speaking, for which they thought to be heard) non­sense, indecent or irreverend expres­sions: that men of greater abilities should not be puft up, and those who have not that freedom and fluency of utterance, should not be despised, in regard for their Piety, soundness of Judgment, integrity of Life, or ability to Govern, they may be of as great use in the Church as others. That hereby the ignorant and unlearned shall be better able to joyn with him that Ministreth, knowing what he is to [Page 113]say, than if they did not; and with a safe Conscience may say Amen, which I am sure to every Ex tempore Prayer they cannot; and that all men may, by Uniformity, be brought to Unity, that so necessary Bond of perfection, both as to Religion and Civil Policy. For these, and many other necessary and prudent considerations, this Lawful Authority judges it most conducive to God's Glory, most agreeable to his Will, and most effectual to procure the happiness of those under their Au­thority, both here and hereafter, to prescribe and command a set Form of Prayer, in the Publick Worship of Al­mighty God.

And now that which before was in­different, becomes necessary in point of Conscience: because the Scripture is clear in the case, that Lawful Autho­rity is to be obey'd, in whatsoever it commands, that is not simply and absolutely unlawful, and that for Conscience sake; and the obligation which before I might have from my private Opinion or Persuasion, ought, in Modesty, as well as Duty and Charity, to give way to the Determinations of [Page 114]my Lawful Superiors, in all indiffe­rent things.

And therefore they who, now it is determined, either despise it, or re­fuse to use it, or to joyn with those who do use it, sin against Conscience, because against many plain and posi­tive commands of Scripture before men­tioned, and for which St. Paul seems extremely solicitous, as well knowing Pride and Disobedience to be the most natural sins: and therefore commands, that men be put in mind (as being apt to forget their Duty) that they be sub­ject to Principalities and Powers, Tit. 3.1. to obey Magistrates.

The very same may be said of any of the rest of those things which are enjoyned, by the present Authori­ty of this Nation, which, by being commanded, from indifferent become necessary, and with such a dreadful necessity, that whosoever resisteth a Lawful Power, if St. Paul be to be cre­dited, shall receive to themselves dam­nation.

And let them seriously take notice of it, how light a matter soever it may be made, there is no man who does [Page 115]thus wilfully resist and disobey Autho­rity, that can hope for Salvation. As for those who do it in ignorance, I will not determine how indulgent God may be to them. But they must know, that though God may have winked at their former ignorance, yet now he commands them, and all men, every where to repent. And they will be inexcusable, if they be ignorant, be­cause they will be so. It is their duty therefore, to look for a better Infor­mation of their minds; and laying aside all partiality and prejudice, to submit to the truth, how contrary so­ever it may be to their Opinions, which, by long continuance in, are be­come very strong and habitual to them: for without Repentance and Reforma­tion, there can be no Pardon.

I cannot, without amazement, see some men, who appear in other things most nicely Conscientious, yet make so slight a matter of this; nay, many of them, the greatest and onely diffe­rencing part of their Religion, them­selves to disobey Lawful Authority, and by their Example and Practise, if not Doctrine, at least in private, to [Page 116]teach others to do the same. I wish they would consider, what dangerous influences such Practises have had, and still have, upon their Bodies, Souls, Re­putation, and Estates, and indeed up­on every thing that ought to be dear and tender to them. Besides, the most fatal, mischievous, and dangerous con­sequences they have had, and, if pur­sued, will have still upon the safety and well-being of the Community in which they live: which, by their dis­obedience to Laws, the onely Fences of Religion, Life, Right, and Property, those Deliciae Humanae generis, the Dar­lings of all Mankind, they do as much as in them lies to ruine and destroy.

CHAP. XII.

Some Considerations, shewing the unrea­sonableness, and impracticableness, of the desires of those persons, who, under pretence of Conscience, are for erecting of new ways of Church-government, or for Toleration or Liberty of Con­science.

TO shew the great unreasonable­ness and impracticableness of the desires of all Dissenters, there need no more to be said, than to make them this Proposal, which I dare say may most safely be done, That so soon as they shall unanimously have agreed in all particulars, and so as to reconcile all Interests, and satisfie all Parties, what way of Government they would have established, they shall receive a gratification of their desires; pro­vided in the mean time they submit, as becomes good Subjects and Chri­stians, to the present. And if they shall, in answer to the offer, say, That it is impossible to find out such a way of Government, as shall please all [Page 118]Men, Interests, and Parties; would it not be the highest frenzie imaginable, by removing the present Government, of the goodness of which we have had so long experience, to introduce any other, which can gratifie but one, and, it may be, an inconsiderable Party; and, in recompence, disoblige all the rest; and, for any thing we know, even those who so eagerly desire it, as soon as any others, since having never yet made a full trial of it, though it may look bravely, like Saul's Armour upon David, 1 Sam. 17.39. it may not prove so easie or convenient, but, with him, they may be willing to put it off again, and stick to the old and plain Episcopal Armour of the Shepherds Staff and Sling.

Besides, this way of Government in the Church, is so curiously twisted and interwoven with the Politick Govern­ment in the State, that it is impossible to pick out this part, without spoiling the Beauty, and unravelling the whole Web and Frame of the Government; it is one of the main Pillars, upon which this weighty and well-built Fabrick stands; and cannot be taken away, but it must endanger the fall and ruine [Page 119]of the whole Building: and they must be as full of revenge, and as blind as Sampson, who would, by pulling down this Pillar, bring the House about their own heads; since it is odds, but, with him, they must perish in the common ruine; and I hope, what ever will they may have, their Hair will never be suffered to grow so long again, as to recover their Sampson's strength, so as to be able to effect it. It was this consideration which made as wise and learned a Prince, as ever swayed the British Sceptre, so frequently tell the Dissenters of his Age, No Bishop, no King: which by the most deplorable experience, was verified in his Suc­cessor. Nor did the fatal consequence end there; but after, No Bishop, no King, came marching up a dreadful Army of Negatives, No House of Peers; No free, no full House of Commons; No Law, no Justice, unless it were the High Court so called; No liberty, no property, no safety, no security, and, at last, nothing but consusion; all admirable effects of changing that Government, which be­fore was most safe and easie, into that which was most Arbitrary, Tyran­nical, [Page 120]and insupportable. If experience be not sufficiently convincing in this particular, I know not what new School of Fools, or rather Mad-men, we must seek for, to persuade us to the belief of these Truths.

But further, I wish that all Dissen­ters would consider with themselves, whether this will lead them, and what must be the end of it. For a Tolerati­on of Disobedience to the Commands of a Lawful Authority, is a Principle destructive of all Government, of all Religion, and even of that which these men would endeavour to establish: for we will suppose what they desire, that that way of Government, which they are so fond of, were, by the Autho­rity, in favour of them, established and setled as firmly and strongly, as the present Church-Government is; it is impossible that it should please all peo­ple, nay, it is most certain, it would displease all other Parties, whose way was either abrogated to make room for the new one, or theirs which was rejected, and in probability therefore, the greatest part of the Nation: and there would not want those, who [Page 121]would be able to raise and manage more forcible Objections and Argu­ments against their way, than any they can bring against what is now in be­ing. Now they must be unreasonable in the highest measure, if they would not grant the same liberty to others, who dissent from them and their way, which now they desire for themselves; since it is not to be doubted, but they would have the same (and possibly a juster) plea of Conscience for them­selves, which these now make, and therefore ought to have Indulgence and Toleration: and I would gladly know whether that can be called a Government, or onely an Image of it, and an empty name, where men have liberty to obey it, if they please, or may be disobedient to it by its own con­sent, if they so please?

But further, what reason can they have to expect any other, having shewn them the way to change, but that the Authority should still make trial of new Governments, and not confine all their kindness to them, but still gra­tifie and oblige, first, one Party, and then another, according as the per­sons, [Page 122]who compose that Authority, may be favourably inclined to one persuasion or another? I hope they would not complain of Injustice in the Lex Talionis, or grumble to resign that Power, which, for their sakes, others before them were obliged to do. And should the Wheel turn thus round, they must with their way expect to be laid in the dust. And what strange Alterations, Revolutions, Settlements, and Unsettlements must there be? What face of Government, or rather what Confusion, must of necessity fol­low the Practise of this Principle?

And that these are the natural ef­fects of Disobedience to Lawful Go­vernment, let us but turn our eyes a little backward, and we shall plainly see: And these Dissenters, however they seem to have forgot it, may re­member they have seen the days, when the Presbyterian was in favour, and full of hopes, having troden upon the neck of dismounted Episcopacy, to ad­vance into the Chariot of Govern­ment: but the crafty Independent coming slily behind him, whipt up his heels, and laid him in the dirt; and [Page 123]was just going himself to take possessi­on of the vacant seat, when the surly Anabaptist, Quaker, Leveller, and seve­ral others, rushing in all at once upon him, told him, with the Hand all the while upon the Hilts, that they had as just a right as he, and that they would not part with it, without a fair Trial of skill, who had the longest Sword? And there was nothing gave the late Ʋsurper more trouble, than the impor­tunities of these several Interests, which he kept from falling foul one upon an­other, by tollerating all for the pre­sent; and cajolling the Heads of the Parties with Protestations and Assu­rances, that in his heart he was of their persuasion, and, in time, would declare himself to be so: though for the pre­sent, in regard of the Malignant Party, it did not stand with his Interest, nor theirs, so to do, till they were more fully assured against the common Ene­my: though at last they all found him to be a meer Proteus, or Polypus in Re­ligion, and that he could change him­self into the shape and colour of that Party which was nearest to him.

Lastly, Let them consider, That this [Page 124]Principle must give increase, growth, and encouragement to all Sects and Heresies; since all pretend Conscience, and plead for Toleration. And if this Liberty of Conscience be granted them, there must of necessity follow infinite and unavoidable Divisions, Separation upon Separation, Confusion, and at last Atheism; since amongst so many pre­tenders to the true Religion, all will at last come to be suspected to be false.

These are certainly the necessary ef­fects, and inevitable consequences, of unsetling the present Government in the Church, either by changing it for a new one, or permitting Toleration, or what men call, Liberty of Conscience: And we must either believe, that these Dissenters do not foresee, or under­stand the danger of this Precipice, to which they make such haste; or if they do, that they are the most malici­ous of Mankind, since they would sa­crisice all Law, Government, Liberty, Property, and Religion, to their own private Opinions and Persuasion.

CHAP. XIII.

A vindication of what is before laid down as a fundamental Principle in this Discourse: viz. That God Almighty made Mankind for an excellent End; that is, his Glory; and in order there­unto, by obedience to his Commands, their own happiness both here in this Life, and hereafter in the Life of Im­mortality.

THus far I have endeavoured to follow the Clue of Truth and Reason; which if others would like­wise do, I doubt not, but it would bring them out of those Mazes and La­byrinths of doubts, which perplex their minds, and make their Lives so un­easie both to themselves and others, by making many things matters and scruples of Conscience, when in truth they were not such. And not onely so, but likewise it would conduce much to the calming of those storms and tempests, which are gathering from so many several Quarters, and seem to threaten both Church and [Page 126]State, if not with Shipwrack, yet with most violent agitations and commo­tions.

But before I conclude, there is one thing which I have laid down as a fun­damental Principle in this Discourse, and upon which a great part of this weighty building of Conscience does depend, as upon a main Pillar; which I think it will be necessary to make clear and evident. And that is, That the great Creator, out of the Excel­lency of his Nature made the World, and particularly Mankind, for a most excellent End; viz. his own Glory, and, in order thereunto, the happiness of Mankind here in this Life, as a pre­parative to Eternal happiness here­after.

That this is a most certain and un­deniable Truth, (however some nar­row-spirited men, who would engross all the Bounty of Heaven to themselves, may think otherwise, by taking such low measures of the Divine Goodness and Beneficence, as may be proportio­nable to the Stature of their own un­derstandings, though far short of In­finite, which is the onely true measure [Page 127]of the Deity) I doubt not but to make it most evidently plain and apparent, to all those who do not wilfully close their eyes against the brightest beams of Truth, Reason, and Scripture.

First therefore, we must consider the Incomparable Excellency of this Infi­nite Being, who is the Author of all things; for he himself tells us,Psal. 57.10. that his mercy reacheth unto the Clouds, and his goodness far above these visible Heavens; and that it is over all his works. And lest we should be mistaken, by judging him according to our selves, he gives us to know,Isa. 55.7, 8, 9. that his thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor his ways like our ways; low, narrow, and short: But as the heavens are high above the earth, so are his ways and thoughts high above our ways. A comparison large and wide enough, to shew us the vast dispropor­tion betwixt Finite and Infinite Good­ness. Now there can be nothing more suitable and agreeable to the Good­ness, Bounty, Wisdom, Power, and Justice of his Essence, which is Infinite, than a Design, that all his Creatures should be happy according to their se­veral capacities, which he, who made [Page 128]nothing in vain, created them with. And on the contrary, to suppose he made any thing with a capacity of en­joying any degree of Happiness, as its ultimate End, and chief Good; and yet with an intention and design, not onely of not attaining it, but of being for ever miserable, is so far from mag­nifying his Goodness or Justice, that it would argue him of such a cruel na­ture, as were the highest derogation, and most proper blasphemy, to believe it of him. And that his Justice will be glorified in the punishment and misery of some of his Creatures, even of the Noblest Rank, he assures us with the highest protestation imaginable, is far from being an effect of his Will, and is perfectly occasioned by their own choice, and wilful folly. As I live, saith the Lord; Ezek. 33.11. that is, as surely as I am, I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but had rather that he should turn and live. Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die? And if he has no pleasure in his death, a smaller punishment, undoubtedly not in his Eternal Damnation, the greatest of all miseries.

But secondly, let us consider, That [Page 129]the scope of all Religion, and the Commands of God in Scripture, all aim directly at this White; viz. the happiness of all Mankind, even here in this Life, in order to an Eternal Hap­piness hereafter, in the Life of Immor­tality and Glory: and therefore does so frequently promise to the Obedi­ent all those things, which may com­pose the happiness even of this Life; the Bona Corporis Animi & Fortunae, all the good things of Body, and Mind, and Estate; according to that saying of the Apostle,1 Tim. 6.6. 1 Tim. 4.8. Godliness with content­ment (which it onely can give) is great gain, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. Now the means which God commands us to use, and the means which he directs, are the most certain Rule for us to make a Judgment, what is the End at which he would have us arrive. For God is true, and cannot lie, though all men may be liars, and therefore we are bound to believe him; and that he cannot tell us one thing, when he means another directly contrary to it: as some men, who call themselves Di­vines, have both by Word and Wri­ting [Page 130]publickly avowed, and publish'd to the World.

If we look upon the Commands of the Law, such as were not onely par­ticular to the Jewish Nation in their Typical Service, but common to all the children of Abraham by Faith; we shall find, that they all aim at this: And the Two Tables, written with the Divine Characters, by the immediate Finger of God, direct, first, his Wor­ship; secondly, man's happiness, by obedience to Superiours, in the first Commandment with promise; by Ju­stice, Chastity, Temperance, Truth, and Honesty, and all other Virtues, which conduce to our happiness here in this Life: and by making us par­takers of the Divine Nature, fitting and preparing us for the enjoyment of Hea­ven and Happiness hereafter.

And if we examine either the Do­ctrine or Practise of all holy Men, so far as their Practise is recorded for our example, we shall find, that they have all a tendency to these very Ends.

If we come to look into that Royal Law of Liberty, the Gospel, we shall find, that all its Commands and Di­rections, [Page 131]lead us to our own happi­ness: witness that Golden, and, even by Heathens, much celebrated Rule, of our blessed Jesus, To do to all men, Matth. 7.12. as we would that they should do unto us. A Rule to make all the World happy, and a Rule which, I am sure, no Dis­senter dare abide by, and which sur­passeth all that ever went before it, and is the highest exaltation of Humane Nature, even to such a degree, as brings it to a near affinity and resem­blance of the blessed Divinity,Matth. 5.44, ad fi­nem. who makes his Sun to shine upon the just and unjust. To love our enemies. To bless those that curse us, to do good to them that hate us, and to pray for them that de­spitefully use us and persecute us.

And the Disciples spake the same Language of their great Lord and Ma­ster, who left his Peace, and command of Unity, to love one another, as a Le­gacy among them; and enforces it upon them with the most powerful persuasive, If ye love me, keep my com­mandments; Joh. 14.15. telling them, this love and unity should be the badge and distinction of their profession,Joh. 13.35. By this shall all men know that you are my Dis­ciples, [Page 132]if ye love one another. Thus there fore they command Piety and Unity, Peace and Charity, Love unfeigned, Obedience to Magistrates and Ministers; that Duty, Honour, and Respect, which is due to any, to be given unto them: to live Justly, Soberly, Religiously in this present World; in all Honesty, Qui­etness, Humility, Chastity, Temperance, and all other Virtues and Goodness, one toward another, and as we have opportunity to do good unto all. Let any man judge, if these Rules were ex­actly followed, if the Golden Age would not return, and all men be as happy as heart can wish. The Effects which they would produce, plainly demonstrate the Ends for which they were designed.

Besides, all agree to this, That the great design of the Creation was the glory of the Creator; now the same thing which glorifies the Creator, does also make the Creature happy; and that is, Obedience to his Will, Laws, and Commands. And that the Will of God is to be glorified by the Obedi­ence, and not Punishment of his Crea­tures, as his first design in their Crea­tion [Page 133]has already, from his own protesta­tion, been shewn. And the Apostle is as plain as positive in this point, That God would have all men to be saved, 1 Tim. 3.3,4. ver. 6. by coming to the knowledge of the truth. And for this purpose, that Christ gave himself a ransome for all.

And whosoever does peruse the holy Gospel, shall be forced to acknow­ledge, that the whole design of it is, That all men, by the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ, might come to yield obedience to his holy Laws and Directions; and that by follow­ing them,2 Pet. 1.2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. they might escape the polluti­ons and corruptions that is in the world through lust; and be made partakers of the Divine Nature, by living justly, righteously, and Godlike, blameless and harmless, as the Sons of God here in this world: that so through the all-sufficient merits and satisfaction of the onely Son of God, they may, as the end of their Faith, Hope, Charity, and Constancy, be made partakers of that glorious Life and Immortality, which he has purchased for them with his most precious Bloud.

So that as nothing can be more su­table [Page 134]to the excellency of the Divine Being, than a design in their Creation, that they should all be happy accor­ding to their several Capacities; so nothing is more clear, from the unani­mous consent and design of the Holy Scriptures, which contain the Will of God, than that this was the great and ultimate End of the Omnipotent Crea­tor, in the framing the World, and par­ticularly in the Creation of Mankind, to be happy both here and hereafter in a future state.

CHAP. XIV.

Some necessary Corollaries from the for­mer Discourse; with the Conclusion, to all men to endeavour after Peace and Ʋnity.

FRom what has before been said, we may draw these necessary and practical Consequences and Conclu­sions.

First, That every man is obliged to yield obedience to Conscience, upon pain of Eternal Damnation: because every man is obliged, under that pe­nalty, to walk according to the Scri­pture Rule, which is that by which Conscience judges every man, whe­ther he does right or wrong: accor­ding to what St. John tells us,1 Joh. 3.5. If our heart, that is, our Conscience, condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things, and most certainly will condemn us in that great and fear­ful Judgment-day. And whosoever vi­olates a known command of Scripture, however he may colour it over with the fair pretence of Religion, yet, as [Page 136]St. Paul saith,Rom. 3.7. Though the truth of God should abound, through my lie, unto his glory, yet I shall be also judged as a sinner. And so shall all those, who with pre­tence of advancing God's glory and the truth, act contrary to the Rule of Truth and Righteousness. But if at the last it shall be found, that they have not been managed by Conscience, but Opinion and Persuasion, what can they expect, but the greatest severities, and insufferable torments and agonies of Conscience, the worm that never dies? which should put all men upon a strict examination of themselves, especially those who pretend to be so much man­aged by Conscience; whether it be a true and good Conscience, or onely these Deceivers and Usurpers, Opinion and Persuasion.

Secondly, it follows, That Indiffe­rent things in Religious Worship, lay­ing no further Obligation upon mens Consciences, than as they conduce to God's glory, and the happiness of the Universe; and a Lawful Authority having a Power to put a final deter­mination upon every man's private Judgment and Opinion, by declaring [Page 137]which of all these indifferent things they judge most conducive to God's glory, and the happiness of all those under their Jurisdiction, by promoting and preserving Peace, Unity, and Cha­rity. Therefore that all persons who live under their Authority, are bound in Conscience to submit to those De­terminations: and from thence-for­ward to esteem that, which before was in its own nature indifferent, to be­come necessary: because hereby many known Duties, and particularly that of Obedience to Magistrates (without which, there can be no happiness on Earth) are performed, to the satisfa­ction of an absolute and indispensible Obligation of Conscience.

Lastly, it follows, That all men are bound in Conscience to promote and endeavour the well-being of the Law­ful Government under which they live; and, as much as in them lies, the happi­ness of all Mankind even here in this life. Nor can they follow the Dictates of true Religion or Conscience, what­ever they may pretend or imagine, who for their private Opinions, make Parties, break Laws, despise Govern­ments, [Page 138]give disturbances to the Peace and Security of their Native Countrey at home, and by promoting Faction, Dissention, and Division, give encou­ragement to our Enemies abroad. And by too just fears, from what has been, of what may be again, by the same ways and artifices, to make mens minds uneasie, and their lives unhappy. And should their Designs succeed a second time, to involve so many millions in the calamities of War, Confusion, Ru­ine, and Desolation.

These have been, and are the proper effects of Disobedience to Laws and Lawful Authority: and let all Dissen­ters look well to it, for they will find, here is no Conscience, no Religion to be found in such ways and ends, to which their Separation and Division do most infallibly lead them.

I wish I could conclude this Dis­course with the most persuasive Argu­ments, and irresistable Reason. That all Christian People, and especially those Dissenters of these Nations, would se­riously consider with themselves, whe­ther these Discords and Differences about Religious affairs will in the end [Page 139]lead them; and in time turn back again, before they come to the dismal brink of those Precipices, Misery here, and Damnation hereafter; which when by a too late Repentance they would avoid, they will not be able.

I wish they would no longer abuse that glorious name of Conscience, to countenance those Irreligious practises, of Disobedience, Uncharitableness, Dis­sention and Separation.

Let them consider, what it is in this World that is most desirable; and whe­ther they do not act point blank con­trary to their own Interest and Happi­ness, both here and hereafter; and di­rectly against the publick Good of the Community of which they are Mem­bers; and whether they may not justly fear, that by these dangerous and un­lawful practices, they should so far ex­asperate Authority, as to exercise its utmostrigors and severities upon them, as being out of all hopes to reclaim them by gentle means, and justly jea­lous of their malicious, secret, and ill designs, in reality against the State, though the pretence be onely against the present Church and its Govern­ment.

Let them consider, that if they de­sire to have peace within their private Walls, and plenteousness within their stately Palaces; if they desire to enjoy quiet of mind at home, tranquility, peace, and unity one amongst another; that Justice should run down as a River, and Righteousness us a mighty Stream. That Truth should spring out of the Earth, and Righteousness look down from Hea­ven. That Mercy and Truth should meet together, Righteousness and Peace should kiss each other; and that glory may dwell in our Land. If they desire to be safe from intestine and domestick troubles, secure from Forreign force and invasi­on: to be loved, respected, and ho­noured by their Friends and Allies; dreaded by their greatest Enemies; to be great in Riches, great in Fame, and greater in all Goodness and Virtue, to be the joy and glory of all Lands. If they desire these, there is no way to obtain them, but by uniting our selves with this common Bond, and indisso­luble Chain of a good Conscience, to­wards God and all men: which will teach every man his duty; keep every man quietly, peaceably, and contented­ly [Page 141]in his place and station; and secure unto us all those dear Delights of Hu­mane Nature, Peace, Property, and Religion. If they desire these, thus must they endeavour after them; and if they will not endeavour after them, we cannot but judge, that they do not de­sire them. And I am sure, if they do not desire these blessings, both for themselves and all others, they neither deserve them, nor any love, pity, fa­vour, countenance or kindness; but ought to be look'd upon, not as men, but fierce and savage Beasts, Wolves, Tigers, and Bears, given to Prey, Ra­pine, and Ravage; and they may easily ghess what will follow, if once they come to be look'd upon and esteemed such.

Lastly, if they have any love or kind­ness for their Souls, or ever hope for eternal Salvation, it must not be expect­ed without obedience to God, obedi­ence to Government, and obedience to Conscience.

After all this I will hope that those happy days will shine upon us,Psal. 122, 3. in which we may say, Our Jerusalem is built as a City that is compact, or at unity with it [Page 142]self: And that we shall be able to sing that glorious and triumphant Song of Praise and Thanksgiving,Psal. 48.1. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the City of our God, in the mountain of his ho­liness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion on the sides of the North the City of the great King. God is well known in her Pa­laces as a sure Refuge.

To hasten which blessed and happy Age, let every good Christian lay to his helping hand, and his pray­ing heart, by endeavouring to fol­low the example of the great A­postle St. Paul, which is the great Concern and Interest of every Man, both in reference to Happi­ness here and hereafter, Keeping alwayes a Conscience void of of­fence towards God, and towards all Men.

FINIS.

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