Page images

Hay at his Back, said merrily, that he had enough yet ; but if he had had more than a Rick to spare, I believe no Arguments of needlesnefs would have prevailed with him to set fire to it, or to give it away, or to spend it wastfully; Many excellent and profitable uses may be made of things, which in strictness of Speech, and in some respects, may be said to be needlefs : And therefore I think this Exception may go for Nothing, unless he can prove tłem burtful in themselves; which he indeed sometimes in effect faith; but then you must take his bare Word for it, for he hath brought nothing that can make proof of it,

(10.) But after all, what if his Plea of Needlesness prove untrue? There could be no fair Pretence, tliat a thing is needless, if it were not indifferent. Now when the Question in such case is, What is fit or needful to be done? Who shall be the Judges, our lawful Superiors, or every Man for hiinlelf? If our lawful Superiors, then we ought to acquiesce in their Judgment, that such indifferent things are well and lawfiilly determined, and therefore not needless in such case : But if every Man shall judge for himself, then it is impoilible there thould be any Order or Decency in the Worlhip of God; nor can Authority interpose to prevent it, which in effect makes it null. Contufion muft necessarily follow, if no indifferent thing can be determined. It is indifferent whetlier Men go to Church at the Ringing of a Pell, or the Sounding of a Trumfet; but since Notice is given for repairing to Church by the Ring of a Bell, not the Sound of a Trumpet, will it be fuiticient for any Man to plead it in his Justification in abstaining from the publick WorIhip, That that indifferent thing is determined ? But yet farther, there are some things indifferent in their own nature, which yet of necessity must



be determined ; and the most rigid Disfenters ought to allow this

, because they constantly pradife it. Time and Place are Circumstances indifferent, yet the most violent of them all wilJingly subinit to be limited herein for their Affembling together in their publick Worship. If every Man should say, You ought not to take upon you to restrain my Christian Liberty, and therefore I will not be ty'd up by you, but will come at what hour I think fit, and when and where I please. What wise Work would this inake? At this rate how were it pollible for their Humours to be gratified, or any publick Worship to be upheld ? Now if Time and Place may be determined, why not Habit and Gesture, and the like? The Plea of Necessity can here make no real differencé. Forif they have no Authority in indifferent things, let the neceility be what it will, they have no power to determine it; but if their Aŭthority do extend to such things, then they may determine the one as well as the other. And indeed, if all things were duly considered, I believe it would be found, that Order and Decency in Worship are as necessary as Time and Place for it. But the perverseness of the Dissenters appears in nothing more palpably, than in this, that they quarrel not at inany things, wherein they are. limited themselves but are outragious against Some things, which being prescribed to others, do not oblige them. For instance, What a horrid thing is it accounted for a Minister to wear a Surplice? Indeed if they were all coinmanded to wear Surplices, perhaps they might have just cause to complain of it, as being a thing extreamly bur-. thenscme; but what need they concern themselves what Clothes the Minister wears? Whether he arpear in a Surplice or a fump, a Gown or a Cloak? And yet there is a greater Outcry against this,

which they are not bound to do, than against all those things, which they think themselves obliged to do either constantly or occasionally.

(11.) From what hath been said, it may appear, that neither ought those Commands of their Superiors to be called Impositions, neither were the things required unlawful; and therefore it is fpitefully said, that they were imposed on purpose to throw out abundance of useful Ministers. If Men will be refractory against lawful Authority, and suffer no Rule or Order in the Church, it is fit such ungovernable Persons should be thrown out, and if they will complain without a cause, they must be pleased without amends. But if the Matter were well examined, I am confident it would be found, that no small Number of his useful Ministers were turn’d out as Intruders into the lawful Poffeffions of other Men, who thro' God's Mercy had over-liv'd their barbarous Usage to claim their Right, and be repossessed of their own. As for the rest, they turn'd out themselves, they might have had what they had got even by Rebellion and Treason, if they had not obstinately refused to comply with their lawful Governors in lawful things. What Reason could a King have to entrust those Persons with the Instruction of his People, who owned the Obligation of a Rebellious Covenant, which had destroyed his Father, and would justifie the same Proceedings against biniself? With what Prudence or Conscience could the Church cherish those Serpents in her Bosom, who had laid her so waste, that they thought they had destroyed both Root and Branch; and instead of repenting of their Doings, continued still of the same Mind, when they wanted the Power ? Some Men would persuade us, that they are very harmless Creatures, when they cannot do mil. chief, though they want no good will to it; and if Governors restrain thein, it must be accounted their great Sin. Thus if a lawful Government lets them into the Power, it shall be certainly overturn'd; if it will not, no finall Sin lies at their door: Which is the same thing as to say, that I shall be damn’d, if I do not quietly suffer a Villain to cut my Throat. They may trust them, who please; but I think we are like to have bles Jed Times, when such become Favourites.

(12.) He proceeds to tell us, That our Princes and Parliaments were far from imagining, that all who should not obey their Laws for Conformity, Should be damn’d for thit, (p. 4.) Dimnining is a hard word; but I know not bow our Author came by the License to imagine for them. Their Laws were inade to direct what was to be done ; the Penalties were for restraining or correcting Difobedience. Obedience is the primary end of the Law, and the design of the Legislators; and therefore as it was their Interest, fo in reason it must be their Charity to wish, that there might be no cause for any Man to fuffer. But then their F1risdiction is limited to this Life, they have nothing to do with another World, the Keys of Hell are in another Hand. But though they cannot send to Hell fo easily as to Newgate, nor entail Damnation upon their Malefałtors, yet there may be such cause for it, that God may do it. For he that bath told us, That we must be fubjet, not only for rath, but also for Confrience Jake, (Rom. 13. 5.) hath given us fair warnings to beware how we disobey their lawful Coinvands, lest le take the matter into his hand, and revenge it farther than they can. And though neither Kings nor Parliameuts can condeinn a Man to Hell, yet there is another Power, I incan th:at of the Church, which, clave non errante, may affect us as to another Life; for 10 less than our Saviour himself .



leaving them this Power, and saying, Wbofesoever Sins pe remit, they are remitted unto them and wh"fèfoever Sins ye retain, they are retained, (John 20. 23.) He doth hereby plainly allure us, that their Sentence, regularly and ju'tly pronounced, is confirmed in Heaven; and if they give over unto Satan, God doth fo too. And if Men are so prone to contemn the Sentence of the Church, because she cannot punish them in their Bodies nor Estates, nor hath any coercive Power but what is Spiritual, I think (if they well considered it) they would, for that very Reason, much more dread it.

(13.) It seems to me but a shifting Reason, which he gives, why he intends not to enter into the Disputes concerning Schisms or Divisions in Churches, or from Churches, or who are guilty of them. For I think this a most necessary Point, and ought to have been done in the first place; because our Christian Practice, as to publick Worship, and the safety of our Communion therein, depends upon it. But I must let him do as he will; for be it never fo necessary, I cannot make him do what he will not. He faith, That's done by many on all files: And must we go hunt after all thein, before we go on forward with his Book? This were an unreasonable Task, especially if it be considered, how peevitlily and perverlly it is done by too many. But to Thorten the Work, he refers us on the one hand to Dr. Stilling fleet, who (he faith) charges it on the Diflenters ; and to Dr. Owen and Mr. Baxter, who lay it on tbeir High Opposers, (p. 4.) Dr. Stillingfleet wanted not a kindness for them, and his Judgment in this case is the more confidereble; becanle it is plain, that only the force of Truth prevailed on him to declare, contrary to the Prejudices of his Education, against a Party, which he was inclinable enough

« PreviousContinue »