Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

ment of his church, to be, by the stubbornness and perverseness of our wits and minds, turned to the mischief and destruction thereof.' With much more to the same purpose, too large to be here inserted.

What I have cited, makes an apology, for doing so, needless : his whole book is a most accurate account of Satan's, stratagems, to cause and keep up divisions among Christians; deserving a first place with the most Christian writers since the apostolical times. He was an Italian, of excellent natu- · ral and supernatural endowments, banished about Luther's time for the gospel.

Let us now inform ourselves of the judgment of that great man of our own country, J. Hales, of Eton, in his treatise of the Power of the Keys,'* upon the matter in hand; viz, * To your second query, Whether the keys were consigned to the apostles only? The answer is in no case hard to give; it may perchance, in some case, be dangerous; for there is a generation of men in the world, the clergy they call them, who impropriate the keys unto themselves, and would be very angry to understand, that others from them. selves should claim a right unto them. To your question then; no doubt but originally none received the keys from the mouth of our Saviour, but the apostles only; none did, or ever could, manage them with that authority and splendour, as the apostles did, who were, above all, most amply furnished with all things fitting so great a work. For whereas you seem to intimate, that the preaching mission was communicated to others, as the seventy-two disciples, as well as the apostles, you do but mistake yourself, if you conceive that the keys of the gospel were any way committed to them : for concerning the mystery of Jesus Christ, and him crucified for the sins of the world (wherein, indeed, the opening of the kingdom of heaven did consist) they received it not, they knew it not. To be the prime reporters of this, was an honour imparted only to the apostles : yet were they not so imparted, as that they should be confined to them. Every one that heard and received the light of the saving doctrine from them, so far forth as he had understanding in the ways of life, had now the keys of the kingdom of heaven committed to his power, both for his own and others' use. Every one, of what state or condition soever, that hath any occasion offered him to serve another in the ways of life, clergy or lay, male or female, whatever he be, hath these keys, not only for himself, but for the benefit of others. For if natural goodness teach every man, Lumen de Lumine, erranti comiter monstrare viam, &c. then how

• J. Hales, . Of the Keys,' pages 170, 171, 172, 173.

much more doth Christian goodness require of every one, to his ability, to be a light to those who sit in darkness, and direct their steps who most dangerously mistake their way? To save a soul, every man is a priest. To whom I pray you, is that said in Leviticus, “ Thou shalt not see thy brother sin, but shalt reprove, and save thy brother ?" And if the law binds a man, when he saw his enemy's cattle to stray, to put them in their way; how much more doth it oblige him to do the like for the man himself? See you not how the whole world conspires with me in the same opinion? Doth not every father teach his son, every master his servant, every man his friend? How many of the laity in this age, and from time to time in all ages, have by writing, for the public good, propagated the gospel of Christ; as if some secret instinct of nature had put into men's minds thus to do,' &c.

To this let me add his sense of the force of the fathers' authority in the decision of controversies ; and how far the ancients, whether fathers or councils, ought to be interested in the debates of these times; which may not be improper to the present subject, because not a few build upon their bottom; the clergy to be sure, that pretend to direct the rest.

“You shall find,' says he,* that all schisms have crept into the church by one of these three ways; either upon matter of fact, or matter of opinion, or point of ambition, For the first; I call that matter of fact, when something is required to be done by us, which either we know, or strongly suspect, to be unlawful : so the first notable schism, of which we read, in the church, contained in it matter of tact: for it being, upon error, taken for necessary that an Easter must be kept; and upon worse than error, if I may so speak, for it was no less than a point of judaism, forced upon

the church, upon worse than error, I say, thought further ne'cessary, that the ground for the time of our keeping that feast, must be the rule left by Moses to the Jews; there arose a stout question, Whether we were to celebrate with the Jews, on the fourteenth moon, or the Sunday following ? This matter, though most unnecessary, most vain, yet caused as great a combustion as ever was in the church; the west separating and refusing communion with the east, for many years together. In this fantastical hurry, I cannot see but all the world were schismatics : neither can any thing excuse them from that imputation, excepting only this, that · we charitably suppose ihat all parties, out of conscience, did what they did.

* J. Hales, Tract of Schism, page, 201, 202, 203, 204.

"A thing which befel them through the ignorance of their guides; for I will not say their malice; and that through the just judgment of God; because, through sloth and blind obedience, men examined not the things which they were taught; but, like beasts of burden, patiently couched down, and indifferently underwent whatsoever their superiors laid upon them. By the way, by this you may plainly see the danger of our appeal unto antiquity, for resolution in controverted points of faith, and how small relief we are to expect from thence. For if the discretion of the chiefest guides and directors of the church, did, in a point so trivial, so inconsiderable, so mainly fail them, as not to see the truth in a subject, wherein it is the greatest marvel how they could avoid the sight of it; can we, without imputation of extreme grossness and folly, think so poor-spirited persons competent judges of the questions now on foot betwixt the churches? Pardon me! I know not what temptation drew that note from me.'

How these two worthy men will come off, I cannot tell: they have ventured fairly, and yet I think their case not hazardous at all. You have them in three points plain. First, “ That relying upon the clergy, as guardians of truth to the people, and the people not examining the truth of things from them, is not apostolical, but apostatical. Secondly, That no councils or fathers ought to be the rule or judge of our faith. : Thirdly, That to save souls, every man is a priest :' that is, the people are interested in the Christian ministry, which is not tied to times, places, persons, and orders, as under the law; but free to all that have obtained mercy and grace from God. And therefore Peter calls the believers (1 Pet. ji. 5. 9.).“ an holy and royal priesthood.” So that every believer is a priest to himself under the gospel. But all this I have mentioned with design, if it be possible, to beat men off that superstitious and 'dangerous veneration they carry to the names of church, priesthood, and fathers; as if they were to be saved by them, and not by Christ, who is the “ only Head and saviour of the true church, and God over all, blessed for ever.” And truly, when I consider the wide dependance some people have upon the church, whilst they know not what she is, and make it a principle not to inquire, I am amazed, and often struck with horror, to observe with what confidence they expose their souls. This principle it is, and not inquiry, that makes men careless and unactive about their own salvation. But let none deceive themselves, “as they sow they shall reap,” Gal. vi. 5. 7. “ Every one must -bear his own burden." It is not to be saved, to be within

the pale of any visible church in the world. That is putting an eternal cheat upon ourselves. Ill things are ill things, within or without the pale: that matters not: and as sin cannot be christened, nor impiety reconciled to Christianity, by any arts of men, so “ the wages of sin will be death, Rom. vi. 23. eternal death. To be therefore of the church of which Christ is head, the redeemed, regenerated church of Christ, is quite another thing than to be of any visible society whatever; for in all such communions there are but too many that have no true title to Christianity. If, then, that immaculate church, of wbich Christ is head, be made up only of holy and regenerated souls throughout the so: cieties of Christians, this will administer but little comfort to those, that presume upon their being within the pale of the visible church, that are without the pale of virtue and holiness.

But to proceed to those scriptures that are irreconcileable to implicit faith and blind obedience: “He that believeth, hath the witness in himself,” 1 John v. 10. This general rule respects no persons : it is the result of the Holy Ghost to all believers. Such have no need to go to Rome, nor Winifred's Well, to the shrines of saints, the priests, nor the church, for a proof of their faith. They have an evidence nearer home: they have the witness of their faith, and the reason of their hope, in themselves.

It is true, this is a private judge; but (as it happens) it is one of the Holy Ghost's setting up; of all things, I confess, most destructive to papacy, no doubt; for there is a judge in every man, that sincerely believes, to whom he must stand or fall in this and the other world. For, saith the apostle, “ If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things : beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God," I John iii. 20, 21. That is, 'The witness in our.selves discharges us.' “ The Spirit beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God;" Rom, viii. 16. and sons of the true church: not she that hath fatted herself with the flesh of the saints, and died ber garments in the blood of martyrs, who hath merchandized in the souls of men; but of that church which is crowned with stars, and clothed with the sun, and has the moon under her feet. A church of light and knowledge, of understanding and truth, and not of implicit faith and blind obedience : one that tramples upon all sublunary glory; and not she that makes her pretences to religion a decoy to catch the empire of the world.

Of like tendency is that notable passage of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians, 2 Cor. xiii. 5.

“ Examine yout: selyes, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves : know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates ?” Here is not a word of the pope, nor an external judge ! no human inquisition or authority. “ Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith? Prove your own selves :" but which way shall we do this? By Christ who is the great light, that shines in our hearts, to give us the knowledge of God and ourselves : “ He that believes in him, has the witness in himself;" he is no reprobate; his heart condemns him not.

To which I will add another passage to the same purpose, in his epistle to the Galatians, Gal. vi. 4, 5. “But let every man prove his own work; then shall he have rejoicing in bimself alone, and not in another : for every man shall bear his own burden.” Here every man is enjoined to turn inquisitor upon himself; and the reason rendered shows the justice of the thing; because my rejoicing must be in myself alone, and not in another, I stand and fall to no man; such as I sow, I must reap at the hand of God, if Paul say true. Men's pardons are vain, and their indulgences fictitious ; “ for every man shall bear his own burden, in that great day of the Lord.” It cannot therefore be reasonably thought that another man should have the keeping of my understanding at my eternal cost and charge; or that I must entirely depend upon the judgment of a man, or men, who erring, and thereby causing me to err) cannot be damned for me, but I must pay their reckoning at the hazard of my own damnation.

I am not unacquainted with the great objection that is made by Roman catholics, and some protestants too, hig! churchmen perhaps, that love the treason, but hate the traitor ; that like this part of popery, but hate the pope, viz. · There are doubts in scripture, even about the most important points of faith; somebody must guide the weak; there must be some one ultimate, external, and visible judge to appeal to, who must determine and conclude all persons, as to their doubts and apprehensions concerning the interpretation of scripture; otherwise, so many men, so many minds; the church would be filled with controversy and confusion.'

I answer, That the scriptures are made more doubtful than they are, by such as would fain preserve to themselves the umpirage and judgeship of their meaning. I deny it, in point of fact, that man's duty is not most plainly expressed in all that conceros eternal salvation. But it is very strange, that when God intends nothing more by the scriptures, than to reach the capacities of men as to things on which their

« ПредишнаНапред »