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a mighty sway all the world over, and in these poor nations especially.

1. And first, for the absurdity and impertinence of them. What a rattle and a noise has this word conscience made! How many battles has it fought ! How many churches has it robbed, ruined, and reformed to ashes! How many laws has it trampled upon, dispensed with, and addressed against! And, in a word, how many governments has it overturned! Such is the mischievous force of a plausible word, applied to a detestable thing.

The allegation or plea of conscience ought never to be admitted barely for itself: for when a thing obliges only by a borrowed authority, it is ridiculous to allege it for its own. Take a lieutenant, a commissioner, or ambassador of any prince; and, so far as he represents his prince, all that he does or declares nuder that capacity has the same force and validity, as if actually done or declared by the prince himself in person. But then how far does this reach? Why, just so far as he keeps close to his instructions : but when he once balks them, though what he does may be indeed a public crime or a national mischief, yet it is but a private act; and the doer of it may chance to pay his head for the presumption. For still, as great as the authority of such kind of persons is, it is not founded upon their own will, nor upon their own judgment, but upon their commission.

In like manner, every dictate of this vicegerent of God, where it has a divine word or precept to back it, carries a divine authority with it. But if no such word can be produced, it may indeed be a strong opinion or persuasion, but it is not conscience : and


no one thing in the world has done more mischief, and caused more delusions amongst men, than their not distinguishing between conscience, and mere opinion or persuasion.

Conscience is a Latin word, (though with an English termination,) and, according to the very notation

, of it, imports a double or joint knowledge; to wit, one of a divine law or rule, and the other of a man's own action: and so is properly the application of a general law to a particular instance of practice. The law of God, for example, says, Thou shalt not steal; and the mind of man tells him, that the taking of such or such a thing from a person lawfully possessed of it is stealing. Whereupon the conscience, joining the knowledge of both these together, pronounces in the name of God, that such a particular action ought not to be done. And this is the true procedure of conscience, always supposing a law from God, before it pretends to lay any obligation upon man: for still I aver, that conscience neither is nor ought to be its own rule.

I question not, I confess, but mere opinion or persuasion may be every whit as strong, and have as forcible an influence upon a man's actions as conscience itself. But then, we know, strength or force is one thing, and authority quite another. As a rogue upon the highway may have as strong an arm, and take off a man's head as cleverly as the executioner. But then there is a vast disparity in the two actions, when one of them is murder, and the other justice : nay, and our Saviour himself told his disciples, that men should both kill them, and think that in so doing they did God service. So that here, we see, was a full opinion and persuasion, and a very zealous one too, of the high meritoriousness of what they did; but still there was no law, no word or command of God to ground it upon, and consequently it was not conscience.

Now the notion of conscience thus stated, if firmly kept to, and thoroughly driven home, would effectually baffle and confound all those senseless, though clamorous pretences of the schismatical opposers of the constitutions of our church. In defence of which, I shall not speak so much as one syllable against the indulgence and toleration granted to these men. No, since they have it, let them, in God's name, enjoy it, and the government make the best of it. But since I cannot find that the law which tolerates them in their way of worship (and it does no more) does at all forbid us to defend ours, it were earnestly to be wished, that all hearty lovers of the church of England would assert its excellent constitution more vigorously now than ever : and especially in such congregations as this; in which there are so many young persons, upon the well or ill principling of whom, next under God, depends the happiness or misery of this church and state. For if such should be generally prevailed upon by hopes or fears, by base examples, by trimming and time-serving (which are but two words for the same thing) to abandon and betray the church of England, by nauseating her pious, prudent, and wholesome orders, (of which I have seen some scurvy instances, we may rest assured, that this will certainly produce confusion, and that confusion will as certainly end in popery.

And therefore, since the Liturgy, rites, and ceremonies of our church have been, and still are so much cavilled and struck at, and all upon a plea of con

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science, it will concern us, as becomes men of sense, seriously to examine the force of this plea, which our adversaries are still setting up against us as the grand pillar and buttress of the good old cause of nonconformity. For come to any dissenting brother, and ask him, Why cannot you communicate with the church of England ? “Oh,” says he, “it is “ against my conscience; my conscience will not suffer “ me to pray by a set form, to kneel at the sacra“ ment, to hear divine service read by one in a sur“plice, or to use the cross in baptism,” or the like.

Very well; and is this the case then, that it is all pure conscience that keeps you from complying with the rule and order of the church in these matters? If so, then produce me some word or law of God forbidding these things. For conscience never commands or forbids any thing authentically, but there is some law of God which commands or forbids it first. Conscience (as might be easily shewn) being no distinct power or faculty from the mind of man, but the mind of man itself applying the general rule of God's law to particular cases and actions. This is truly and properly conscience. And therefore shew me such a law; and that, either as a necessary dictate of right reason, or a positive injunction in God's revealed word: (for these two are all the ways by which God speaks to men nowadays :) I say, shew me something from hence, which countermands or condemns all or any of the forementioned ceremonies of our church, and then I will yield the cause. But if no such reason, no such scripture can be brought to appear in their behalf against us, but that with screwed face and doleful whine they only ply you with senseless harangues of conscience against carnal ordi

nances, the dead letter, and human inventions on the one hand, and loud outcries for a further reformation on the other; then rest you assured that they have a design upon your pocket, and that the word conscience is used only as an instrument to pick it; and more particularly as it calls it a further reformation, signifies no more, with reference to the church, than as if one man should come to another and say, “Sir, “ I have already taken away your cloak, and do fully “ intend, if I can, to take away your coat also.” This is the true meaning of this word further reformation ; and so long as you understand it in this sense, you cannot be imposed upon by it.

Well, but if these mighty men at chapter and verse can produce you no scripture to overthrow our church ceremonies, I will undertake to produce scripture enough to warrant them; even all those places which absolutely enjoin obedience and submission to lawful governors in all not unlawful things : particularly that in 1 Pet. ii. 13. and that in Heb. xiii. 17. (of which two places more again presently,) together with the other in 1 Cor. xiv. last verse, enjoining order and decency in God's worship, and in all things relating to it. And consequently, till these men can prove the forementioned things, ordered by our church, to be either intrinsically unlawful or undecent, I do here affirm by the authority of the foregoing scriptures, that the use of them, as they stand established amongst us, is necessary; and that all pretences or pleas of conscience to the contrary, are nothing but cant and cheat, flam and delusion, In a word, the ceremonies of the church of England are as necessary as the injunctions of an undoubtedly lawful authority, the practice of the primitive church,

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