A DISCOURSE Concerning the Queries proposed by the House of Commons to the Assembly of Divines; about the divine right of Church Government in answer to two main Questions.

First, whether it be expedient to the State and Church, that the Assembly of Divines should answer those Questions yea or no?

Secondly, in case it be expedient; How they should be answered satisfactorily both to the conscionable and unconscionable Disputer of the matter.


First, the necessity of giving an Answerr.

Secondly, some necessary Requisites to make that Answer satisfactory to all, and without exception.

Written for the private satisfaction of a friend, Anno Dom. 1646.

And now published for more common use, by an unpartiall Lover of TRUTH and PEACE.

LONDON, Printed for Richard Wodenothe at the signe of the Star neer Saint Peters Church in Cornhill, 1648.

The Publisher to the impartiall READER.


THis Discourse, gentle and im­partiall Reader, was written long agoe, that is, soon after the Queries were proposed to the Assembly of Divines by the House of Commons. And the reason why then it was not put forth by him to whom it was written, was perhaps the same which occasioned the stopping of the Answer which the Assem­bly of Divines was then preparing to the Queries; namely, an Order of the House sent to the Assembly, bidding them forth­with [Page] [...] [Page] [...] [Page]to proceed to the Confession of Faith and Catechisme, till they should finish the same. It seemed by the Order that the Di­vines were taken off from answering those Queries, and it is likely that thereupon the Authors friend to whom this Discourse was sent thought it needlesse to publish it to the world.

But I having lately seen it; and knowing the Order (that an Answer should be gi­ven to the Queries) to be renewed; because I thought the Discourse worthy of the consi­deration of all that lay the Queries to heart, have used means to advance it to the Presse. My designe is chiefly to provoke such as are in love with Truth, to follow the temper of this mans Spirit in the search thereof. And then also to call upon the Author himselfe, who hath offered these Advices unto others, that seeing he hath convincingly shewed that [Page]a setled rule and method of interpretation is so necessary to find out the true sense of the Scriptures, that therefore hee would (if he hath any Talent in this kind) discharg his conscience by holding forth unto the chil­dren of Truth, that which he perhaps doth further know or hath elaborated concern­ing that Rule and Method then any other, it being a thing so far beyond either the thought or hope of most men. And cer­tainly nothing can be more usefull to the composure of our Scriptural controversies then this Rule, if it can be gained. There­fore such as know the Author, and have any interest in him, should presse him to enlarge himselfe upon this Subject; but especially in my humble opinion the hono rable house it self should be moved in some particular manner by their call to set him apart, and to enjoyn him thereunto, and give him all possible encouragement for [Page]the perfecting of it, as a thing of great concernment, wherein he is a debtor to the Church of God, and to Them, and to the publike course of spiritual Learning.

W. H.


John Downame.


Pag. 1. line 17. Universall r. Universall, p. 5. l. 2. of those truths, r. of those main truths, p. 6. l. 31. be bound r. bound, p. 7. ancienst r. ancient, l. 22. and answer, r. an answer, p. 8. l. 7. faith. r. belief, l. 11. which be proposed, r. which shall be pro­posed, p. 9. l. 24. entrance r. envy, p. 10. which they proceed to discover, r. they discover Truths, l. 29. held forth, r. hold forth. p. 11. l. 25. proceed universally sit, r. proceed would be universally fit. p. 12. l. 14. from these, r. them. l. 33. answera­bly, r. answerable, p. 13. l 4 so different r. so many different, l. 27. who were, r. that are, l. 28. doubts in, r. doubt an, l. 28, 29. by which men, r. by which all men l. 30. my decision, r. any decision. l. 33. particular. r. particulars. p. 14. l. 10. sim­ple, r. single. l. 11. as that, r. as the, l. 20. of the one, r. in the one, l. 21. in their, r. by their.

A DISCOVRSE Concerning the QUERIES proposed by the House of COMMONS, to the Assembly of Divines.

WOrthy Sir, This State would be happy, if all that manage publike affairs did minde the true interest thereof with zeale and simplicity, as you doe. The great cause of our misery is, that men of publike em­ployments have no publike spirits, few there are that walk in the light openly, according to the Royall Law of Li­berty; for almost all are snared in holes, and hid in prison houses. The holes are their private Interests, and Ends, without which, nothing, almost, is done for the Publike by any body, and the prison houses are the Parties to which they are engaged, for most men act by the rule of prejudice, rather to crosse an opposite party, then to ad­vance the Universall good of all. Therfore matters which are named publike, are carryed rather by strife and debate then in a peaceable way, and destruction is found to be the path of many, rather then edification in love. But seeing you are enabled to raise your minde above the thoughts of such, as are led by the sense of their flesh to run into parties, and do not enquire so much after the miscarriages of others, to lay them open, and to clamour against them before the World; as after the wayes of righteousnesse, whereby all may come unto the acknowledgement and [Page] [...] [Page 1] [...] [Page 2]apprehension of that truth which is after godliness, seeing, I say, this is your commendable endeavour and study, I thinke it my duty to contribute what I can to your fur­therance therein; and for this cause, shall be at this time, willing to let you know my true sense of the doubts which you make; concerning the Questions which are offered by the Parliament unto the Assembly of Divines to be resolved.

The Queries whereunto you seeke an impartiall An­swer, are two.

First, Whether, yea or no, it be expedient for the Church and State, that the Divines of the Assembly should answer these Questions.

Secondly, If it be expedient that an Answer should be given thereunto, then your further Question is, of the man­ner how that Answer should be made: Namely, what must be intended to make it such, as will give to those who doubt of the matter, conscionably just satisfaction; and will take a­way from others who desire no satisfaction, but rather pre­tences of cavilling, all just occasion of contradiction, and of multiplying new Questions in infinitum? For you doe prudently and justly conceive that no answer will be bet­ter then one that is not satisfactory, because it may be the end of some Statists and Lawyers is, to make the Question endlesse: for seeing they have not been able to gain either the whole power over the Church, therein to rule all at their own will; or the priviledge to be exempt from all rule of the Church, by an expresse Ordinance of Parlia­ment; it is not unlikely that they will endeavour to gain it some other way, namely, by the unsettlement of all, and by Argument; in denying to the Church that which is due to it: and this perhaps they will attempt by some endlesse dispute about the points of right, to make the [Page 3]Civill and Ecclesiasticall pretences of Right unto power, clash together irreconciliably. For so long as the matter is not decided, they will pretend to a liberty to doe what they list; and without controule will cast the cords of Christ from them, which is all the World aims at in this controversie, as is cleere by Psal. 2.3.

Now then although this inconvenience may seeme unavoydable as matters now stand with us; and although the remedy which you enquire after is somewhat difficult to be found; yet I shall briefly open my thoughts thereof unto you, if perhaps somthing from hence may be hinted to your selfe, or others for the facilitating of the worke.

Therefore to the first Question I say, that it will be ve­ry expedient for the Divines to Answer the Question pro­posed unto them for these three principall causes. 1 Be­cause the matter is of such consequence in respect of Christ and his Kingdom, that in conscience they are bound to give a resolution thereof so far as they are able. 2 Because the constitution of this State and Church, is such at this time, that except this matter be satisfactorily decided, there is no settlement at all to be expected therein; and the whole guilt of our publike confusions will be imputed unto the Divines. 3 Because their call and engagement to give an Answer, is so publike and Obliga­tory, that if they decline to doe their duty, they will not onely lose their reputation in this Cause, and most of their Authority in the Ministry, and give their Adversaries matter of triumph over them; but they will prejudge ex­treamly the Rights of all the best reformed Churches to their disadvantage.

If these Reasons be well considered, it will appeare not onely expedient, but even necessary, that an Answer be given to the Questions which I shall briefly endeavour to let you see.

First, The Importance of the matter is such that to the fundamentall constitution and compleat being of a true Church nothing is more necessary then to know by what Right the Officers thereof stand in their Charges; and how they are authorized to execute the government and judi­catures belonging thereunto. And if the Royalty of Christ power in government and in Spirituall Judicatures, is so highly concerned in this matter; that except this plea be maintained, his prerogative over the soules of men will be disclaimed, and given up to the will of worldlings; then certainly no faithfull Minister, who doth beleeve him to be the only King of souls, can with a good Conscience be silent when this his right is called into Question: for see­ing their calling is to beare witnesse unto him; their silence in such a matter would be a great breach of trust. And if Christ in that good confession which he made before Pon­tius Pilate Joh. 18.35, 36, 37. Did professe that he was in­deed a King, but that his Kingdome was not of this world: how can any of his Officers in that Kingdome be counted faithfull unto him, if they suffer the world to incroach up­on the Rights of his Jurisdiction? For if they are not of the world; they cannot be given up unto the world: for the Rule is; give unto Caesar what is Caesars, and unto God what is Gods. Therefore if the Divines of the Assembly lay this matter to heart, as believing it to concerne mainly Christs Royall Prerogative; I cannot see how their Con­science will suffer them to be silent in the vindication of his Right: for Christ when he himselfe was questioned before a worldly judge concerning the point of Right to his Kingdome; attested the Truth thereof although it was laid to his charge as a matter of high treason. And having plainly declared that he was a King; he doth adde imme­diately these words. To this end was I borne; and for this [Page 5]cause came I into the world, that I should beare witnesse unto the Truth: thereby intimating that this was one of those Truths which he was to manifest unto the world, although it might be with the perill of his life: and if this was of such importance for him to declare; sure it is of no lesse importance for us to know, and in Case of doubt to be re­solved of. For as it doth concerne on the one side: the Right which Christ hath to his Spirituall Crowne that his Title may be cleered; and all worldly pretences of power over it taken away: so on the other side it doth concerne our Consciences to be informed under whom they must stand in point of Judicature; and what Christs will and appointment is (who is the undoubted King of souls) for the settlement of the same in doubtfull matters.

And as the matter is thus important in respect of Christ, of his Kingdome, and of our Conscience in order to him; So it is of that Consequence to this Church and State; that it brings with it no lesse then the to tall dissolution, or happy establishment thereof. For if this matter be cleerly determined according to the Word God; then the Churches of this Kingdome may be ordered and settled in Peace; and by this meanes the foundation of the State will be setled also, which now is shaken by reason of this un-settlement: for it is Christ, that doth beare up the pil­lars of the earth, Psal. 75.3. And to him is the gathering of the people, Gen. 49.10. (now they cannot be gathered to him without a government, nor can the pillars of the earth stand without order) and if the matter be not deter­mined one way or other, nothing can possibly ensue but endlesse continuance of divisions and strife, which being remedilesse without the decision of these doubts; will at last produce inevitable ruine both to Church and State, and the reason of this is cleer; because the relations which [Page 6]men have unto God in respect of Conscience; not being settled, all other relations will be dissolved, for if Christs will be not knowne or regarded in his government of spi­rits, no mans spirit will regard the will of any other govern­ment and power, further then he is either by feare constrai­ned, or for his owne ends, he thinkes good to comply with others to serve his own turne of them: for naturally thus farre, and no further one man doth yield unto ano­ther. So that for want of that Rule whereby mens Con­sciences may be wrought upon, and spirits directed in the concernment of Religion, to prevent or remedy Scan­dals: all other Rules will be broken and cast off; because every man being left to his own arbitrement to doe with­out the controulement of true spirituall government what­soever he pleaseth in matters of Conscience; will frame his Conscience to his own will, and intending only to please himselfe, will not regard any other, by any other Rule, then that of his own conveniencie: and if in the greatest matters, the spirits of men will be let loose, thus to run riot; what shall restraine or direct them in matters of lesser concernment? Thus till the Higher Sphere of Government relating the Worship of God, be in a right frame, all the lower relating the Outward Man in Civill conversation will be out of order: and where no Order is setled in worldly matters; there naturally every one wil or­der himself, according to his strength and other advantages to the prejuduce; and in the end, to the oppression of his neighbor. For naturally he that is strongest wil make use of his strength to over rule the weaker and subject him in all things to his own will; except his Conscience be over­awed by the Rules of Religion, and be bonnd up thereby, and made willing to deny himselfe. For where this is not inwardly, and no Government setled outwardly, there [Page 7]every one will be oppressed by his neighbour; Isa 3.5. and the child will behave himselfe proudly against the ancienst, and the base against the Honourable. Therefore seeing the setlement of this higher Sphere of Government cannot be brought to passe, in this State, at this time without the determination of these Questions; the guilt of all the evils that will ensue upon our continued un-setlement; will lye at the Doore of the Divines of the Assembly if they decline to give their Answer so farre as they are able thereunto.

Thirdly, Their engagement is such, that except an An­swer be given they will deservedly lose their credit in the losse of the Cause, and that to the prejudice of all the Reformed Churches of Europe.

For seeing the Divines have declared by their Petition to the Houses that the Judicature of Scandals, is intrin­lecall to the Church residing in the Officers thereof by Divine Right: and this Declaration not being believed, but a proof thereof demanded, and to make the proof more full and satisfactory, Questions being framed to state the point of doubt rightly, and they called upon and re­quired by the Parliament to give and Answer thereunto from the Word of God: seeing I say upon their Petition the matter is come to this issue; their credit will be lost if they shew not the grounds of their judgment: for they are accused to affect an Arbitrary Power of Judicature; and if they make it not apparent that the Judicature which they challenge is not Arbitrary but Subordinate and Legall in the Kingdome of Christ; they shall justly fall before their Accusers; and may be counted Presump­tuous and Tyrannicall in their places; and consequently, lose the Right whereunto they pretend.

And although they had not by any Declaration thus [Page 8]engaged themselves in the Cause: yet the Supream Ma­gistrates call, by whose Authority they sit; and the end wherefore they are called together, doth fully obliege and necessitate them to give an Answer. For they are comand­ed by God to be ready to give an Answer to every one that doth aske a reason of them of their hope, 1 Pet. 3.15. And if of their Hope then also of their Faith and judgment, whereof they have declared this to be a part.

And if to every one then far more to their Magistrate, who hath set them apart, and authorized them to declare their judgement in matters which be proposed unto them. It is then a cleer and undoubted duty, whereunto they are bound in Conscience to apply themselves: and if they should decline it, it would not only open the mouthes of all their Adversaries, who already begin to give out that they cannot Answer the Questions, and therefore have quitted the plea of a Jus Divinum: but pre-judge all the Protestant Churches Rights, which else where they en­joy under their Civill Magistrates without controule, which by this occasion would become doubtfull and questionable. And finally this silence, as it would betray the cause of the Church to the world, and involue all into confusion; so it would no doubt bring some exemplary judgement both upon these that decline so necessary a du­ty in such a time of Reformation; and upon the whole Ministery of this land, which justly would become for this cause more contemptible, then any in al the world besides.

For these Reasons I conceive it not only expedient, but even necessary that the Divines of the Assembly should set themselves as one man to Answer the Questions satis­factorily, so farre as God shall enable them.

But now to speake to the second Question, how this may be done both satisfactorily to the conscionable, and [Page 9]also fully to the unconscionable, so as to prevent cavilling and multiplying of new Questions, is a matter of no small difficulty to determine: yet let us try what may be said unto it.

I suppose then to resolve any doubt satisfactorily, two things are requisite. First, the minde must be free from all prejudicate opinions. Secondly, some evident and un­denyable rules must be known and followed, by which the matter in doubt may be determined. For if the minde be not free from prejudice, it is not capable of any rule, and although it be free from prejudice, if it want a sure rule to walke by in the search of truths, it will never be satisfactorily resolved of doubts: but if both it be free from all forestallment and partiality: and hath also a sure directory to lead it unto the discovery of hidden matters then it may be able both to find out and hold forth the resolution of doubts demonstratively: for to prevent Ca­villing it is necessary, both that the way of finding out and of holding forth Truth be Demonstrative.

If therefore the Divines being free from all partiality, and minding nothing but the simple manifestation of the truth in their heart (as I am perswaded they will doe ac­cording to the Protestation which they made at their en­trance into the Assembly) can shew an undenyable Rule by which the truth of doubtfull matters in Divinity may certainly be found out, and can make it apparent; that in the search of a Resolution to these Questions they have followed that rule without wavering from it: then I sup­pose, that the thing which you require to be done, may be effected; namely, that the conscionable will be satisfi­ed, the unconscionable cut off from cavilling pretences, because all matters of doubt (if they hold fast received Principles, and wil not fall to Scepticisme) will be redu­ced [Page 10]to these two neads: namely, to the sufficiencie of the rules by which they proceed to discover Truths; or to the right application of those rules, unto the Questions to be resolved, for if no exception can be made, neither against the Rules of the discovery of Truth in themselves, nor at the use which is made of them, for the determination of matters in hand; then I suppose all Objections will be prevented.

Therefore if I might have my wish, I could desire that all Divines or conscionable men, before they set upon any Questions, to resolve them in particular: would set down the Rules by which they doe order themselves in their meditations, for the impartiall decision of Scripturall doubts. This I would have them to doe, that they may be able to make it appear upon due search, that their way in answering doubts is cleere before them; that they are not swayed by any interest of their own, or by any fore­stallment of received opinions from other men of their own side, or by any other thing in the course of Humane Learning, which might have any influence upon them to byas their thoughts, and take them off from the simpli­city of the Gospel; but that their light doth come cleerly from the Word it selfe alone, by a Scientificall way of truth, demonstrable unto all men of capacity to be such, and rising from such undenyable principles of interpreta­tion, which all understanding Christians do acknowledge and receive as undoubted, for when men can give an ac­count unto themselves, by a search of their own intelle­ctuall proceedings; that the light which they held forth from the Word unto others is thus begotten in them; they need not feare to be much contradicted, if they can but make themselves to be understood in what they hold forth; or seriously minded and considered in the way by [Page 11]which they hold it forth in doubtfull cases. And truly, because the way of Scripturall interpretation is not agreed upon amongst Divines, therefore most men are led rather by opinion to deliver the meaning of the Text conjectu­rally, then by Scientificall grounds demonstratively: But if the Christian World could once be made so happy, as to be taught a cleere and plain rule of Scripturall interpre­tation, and a method to apply plain Scripturall truths unto doubtfull cases of conscience, for the resolution of the same, and if these two things should be published to the Christian World, and made upon sufficient tryall demon­strable to all men of capacity; then a ground would be laid for a greater matter then the resolution of these Par­liamentary Questions, namely, for the ending of all vain janglings and confused disputes about matters Doctrinall and Practicall in Divinity.

For if these two Rules can be found out and made use of in these Queries, not onely all obloquie would be pre­vented in this matter; but a Way found to direct all men that are impartially rationall, to enlarge the knowledge of Scripturall truths from the Scripture it selfe, and Scrip­turall grounds; so as to avoid the intanglements of meer humane and Philosophicall notions; and the deceits of a Science salfly so called, because the Rules, by which they in this matter should proceed, universally sit to de­termine other doubts of the same kinde, so far as by the opening of the sense of holy Scriptures, and by the appli­cation thereof unto humane cases, they are determinable. And that some such Rules may be found; and must be fought after, if ever we should receive satisfaction in Scripturall doubts, may thus be made apparent. First, we all confesse that nothing is to be received as a Divine Truth, but that which is attested by the Word, or conso­nant [Page 12]unto the Testimonies thereof. Now it is cleer that the Word cannot be said properly to attest any thing to us, except we understand the meaning thereof. Nor can we be said to understand the meaning thereof, except we know a reason why we cōceive it to be so as we apprehend it to be, and not otherwise; nor can such a reason be knowne without some Rules of Interpretation and Meditation, which are demonstrable to lead the mindes of those that use the same, into Truth. Nor can these Rules be de­monstrable, except they arise from such Common and undeniable Principles which all Rationall men in matters of that kind do take as granted, seeing I say these things are so; it followeth that if there be such Principles, then from these Rules may be taken to lead the doubting mind unto the apprehension of Truth: and if such Rules may be had they should be held forth: for if they can not be held forth, no reason can be given of any Scripturall inter­pretation; and all interpretations are alike to be received; but this being absurd and destructive to all common Prin­ciples and to the Analogy of Faith, it followeth evidently that Rules may be had, and must be sought after and knowne and received before any Scripturall doubts and disputable matters can be resolved satisfactorily.

Therefore the onely true Meanes to prevent contradi­ctions and endlesse debates, will be to shew the method of intellectuall proceedings, unpartially regulated towards the decision of doubts, and sufficiently fitted without all exception, to discover and finde out truths, as well in these as in all other doubts of the same kinde, for except the Rules and method be universall to hold in all, it can­not be trusted in any particulars, for we know that it is the ordinary course of most men in controversall points: first, to conceive a position answerably to their capacity [Page 13]and interest; and then to seeke out places of Scripture by which it may be made good. This is to build the wall first, and then to fit the Rule unto it; whence it is that the Scripture is made to speake so different senses, as men for the maintaining of their severall Opinions can probably wrest it unto. But if we would know the truth indeed; we should look upon our own opinions as doubtfull matters; and having no ayme but to examine them by the Word; we should come to the meditation of the word by a cleer Rule; and having found the truth attested by the Word it should be made a line and plummer, by which all particu­lar opinions in debate should be squared; for in so doing the wall would be fitted to the Rule. And except men be willing to lay down the love of their own tenents, and to suspect themselves that they may be led out of the way by their own forestallments; or fail to enter rightly upon the way, or stray from it after they are entred, for want of constant and sufficient light; except I say they will suspect that they may erre some of these or all these wayes; they will never be carefull to prevent the deceits of their own thoughts unto which men are liable; and if they be not carefull of this they will never be sure that they have found the Truth.

Therefore in this doubtfull matter which is of such main concernment, as that unto this particular Church and State I know nothing of greater or equall importance at this time; I could wish that amongst those who were in doubts, in agreement were made of the Rule; by which men should proceed to Answer doubtfull Questions satis­factorily, and before my decision should be given to any Queries or cases of Conscience, I would have them always to declare their whole Method of proceeding by way of Prolegomenon or Preface. And if in these particular my ad­vice [Page 14]could be taken; the Method should be this; first to collect out of the whole Scripture, but chiefly out of the New Testament, all the places of Scripture which speake cleerly of the Church of Christ and of the Government thereof. These places they should Analyse each by them­selves to finde the true sense thereof, and demonstrate the the same by a Rule of Interpretation, which should be un­deniable.

Having found the sense of every place, they should cast the matter of Truth gathered from them into so many sim­ple or compound Propositions as that matter wil conveni­ently afford, distinguishing them into severall heads. These Propositions should be set a part as Rules fit to be made use of for the determination of the doubts proposed. Ha­ving found all the Rules, which the Scripture doth yield; they should Analyse the Questions also and shew the point of doubt distinctly which should be determined; then they should proceed to compare the matter questionable with that which the Scripture hath already determined, and from the proportion which shall be found of the one to the other, in their Agreement or Disagreement, a conclusion will result to determine the whole matter: and to shew that the inference of the conclusion is according to truth, the Reason of the Method of the Application might be declared; That when it shall appeare that nothing is done Magisterially; but by a Rule, directing the mind unto the the discovery of Truth; all exceptions may be cut off: for in case no fault can be found, neither in the Rules of pro­ceeding: nor in the proceedings according to Rules, cavil­ling will be prevented, and the danger of endlesse debates incident to these and all other matters, will be taken away, which I beseech the Lord at last to bring to passe for his own name sake. Amen.


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