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of its preservation, if there be no human universal head and governor of it upon earth? And if Christ have instituted none such, whether prudence and the law of nature oblige not the church to set up and maintain an universal ecclesiastical monarchy or aristocracy? Seeing that which is every man's work, is as no man's, and omitted by all ?
I. To the first question I must refer you in part to two small, popular, yet satisfactory Tractates F, written long ago, that I do not one thing too oft. Briefly now.
1. The unity of the universal church, is founded in, and maintained by their common relation to Christ the head, (as the kingdom in relation to the king).
2. A concord in degrees of goodness, and in integrals and accidentals of Christianity, will never be obtained on earth, where the church is still imperfect: and perfect holiness and wisdom, are necessary to perfect harmony and concord.
3. Experience hath long taught the church, if it will learn, that the claim of a Papal headship and government over the church universal, hath been the famous incendiary and hinderer of concord in the Christian world. · 4. The means to attain such a measure of concord and harmony which is to be hoped for, or endeavoured upon earth, I have so distinctly, fully, and yet briefly described (with the contrary impediments) in my Treatise of the “ Reasons of Christian Religion,” Part vii. Chap. 14. pp. 470, 471. in about two leaves, that I will not recite them. If you say, you are not bound to read the books which I refer you to; I answer, ‘Nor this.'
II. To the latter Question I answer, l. To set up such an universal head on the supposition of natural reasons and human policy is, (1.) To cross Christ's institution, and the laws of the Holy Ghost, as hath been long proved by Protestants from the Scripture.
(2.) It is treason against Christ's sovereign office to usurp such a vicegerency without his commission.
(3.) It is against the notorious light of nature, which
p“ Catholic Unity,” and “ The True Catholic and Church described,"
telleth us of the natural incapacity of mortal man, to be such an universal governor through the world.
(4.) It is to sin against long, and dreadful common experience, and to keep in that fire that hath destroyed emperors, kings, and kingdoms, and set the church's pastors and Christian world in those divisions, which are the great and serviceable work of satan, and the impediment of the church's increase, purity, and peace, and the notorious shame of the Christian profession in the eyes of the infidel world.
And if so many hundred years sad experience, will not answer them that say, “ If the pope were a good man, he might unite us all ;' I conclude that such deserve to be deceived 9.
Quest. XXVIII. Who is the judge of controversies in the church?
1. About the exposition of the Scripture, and doctrinal points in themselves. 2. About either heresies, or wicked practices, as they are charged on the persons who are accused of them; that is, 1. Antecedently to our practice, by way of regulation. 2. Or consequentially, by judicial sentence (and execution) on offenders.
I have answered this question so oft, that I can persuade myself to no more than this short, yet clear solution.
The Papists used to cheat poor, unlearned persons that cannot justly discern things that differ, by puzzling them with this confused, ambiguous question. Some things they cunningly and falsely take for granted, As that there is such a thing on earth, as a political, universal church, headed by any mortal governor. Some things they shuffle together in equivocal words. They confound, 1. Public judgment of decision, and private judgment of discerning. 2. The magistrate's judgment of church-controversies, and the pastor's, and the several cases, and ends, and effects of their several judgments. 3. Church-judgment as directive to a particular church, and as a means of the concord of several churches. Which being but distinguished, a few words will serve to clear the difficulty. 1. As there is no universal human church (constituted
q 2 Thess. ii. 10–12.
or governed by a mortal head) so there is no power set up by Christ to be an universal judge of either sort of controversies, by decisive judicial sentence; nor any universal civil monarch of the world.
2. The public, governing, decisive judgment, obliging others, belongeth to public persons, or officers of God, and not to any private man,
3. The public decision of doubts or controversies about faith itself, or the true sense of God's Word and laws, as obliging the whole church on earth to believe that decision, or not gainsay it, because of the infallibility or governing authority of the deciders, belongeth to no one but Jesus Christ; because as is said, he hath made no universal governor, nor infallible expositor". It belongeth to the lawgiver only to make such an universally obliging exposition of his own laws.
4. True bishops or pastors in their own particular churches are authorised teachers and guides, in expounding the laws and Word of Christ ; and the people are bound as learners to reverence their teaching, and not contradict it without true cause ; yea, and to believe them 'fide humanâ,' in things pertinent to their office : for 'oportet discentem credere.
5. No such pastors are to be absolutely believed, nor in any case of notorious error or heresy, where the Word of God is discerned to be against them.
6. For all the people as reasonable creatures, have a judgment of private discerning to judge what they must receive as truth, and to discern their own duty, by the help of the Word of God, and of their teachers. ..
7. The same power of governing-judgment lawful synods have over their several flocks, as a pastor over his own, but with greater advantage.
8. The power of judging in many consociate churches, who is to be taken into communion as orthodox, and who to be refused by those churches as heretics, ‘in specie,' that is, what doctrine they will judge sound or unsound, as it is
judicium discernendi ;' belongeth to every one of the council singly : as it is a judgment obliging themselves by contract, (and not of governing each other, it is in the con
* See my“Key for Catholics.”
tracters and consenters : and for peace and order usually in the major vote ; but with the limitations before expressed.
9. Every true Christian believeth all the essentials of Christianity, with a divine faith, and not by a mere human belief of his teachers, though by their help and teaching his faith is generated, and confirmed, and preserved. . Therefore no essential article of Christianity is left to any obliging decision of any church, but only to a subservient obliging teaching: as whether there be a God, a Christ, a heaven, a hell, an immortality of souls ; whether God be to be believed, loved, feared, obeyed before man? Whether the Scripture be God's Word, and true? Whether those that contradict it are to be believed therein? Whether pastors, assemblies, public worship, baptism, sacrament of the Lord's supper, be Divine institutions? And the same I may say of any known Word of God: no mortals may judge ‘in partem utramlibet,' but the pastors are only authorized teachers and helpers of the people's faith. (And so they be partly to one another.)
10. If the pope or his council, were the infallible, or the governing expositors of all God's laws and Scriptures, 1. God would have enabled them to do it by an universal commentary which all men should be obliged to believe, or at least not to contradict. For there is no authority and obligation given to men (yea, to so many successively) to do that (for the needful decision of controversies) which they never have ability given them to do. For that were to oblige them to things impossible. 2. And the pope and his council would be the most treacherous miscreants on earth, that in so many hundred years, would never write such an infallible, nor governing commentary, to end the differences of the Christian world. Indeed they have judged (with others) against Arius, that Christ is true God, and one with the Father in substance, &c. But if they had said the contrary, must we have taken it for God's truth, or have believed them?
11. To judge, who for heresy or scandal, shall be punished by the sword, belongeth to none but the magistrate in . his own dominions: as to judge who shall have communion or be excommunicated from the church, belongeth, as afore: said, to the pastors. And the said magistrate hath first as a man his own judgment of discerning what is heresy, and who of his subjects are guilty of it, in order to his public governing judgment.
12. The civil, supreme ruler may antecedently exercise this judgment of discerning (by the teaching of their proper teachers) in order to his consequent sentences on offenders: and so in his laws may tell the subjects, what doctrines and practices he will either tolerate or punish. And thus may the church pastors do in their canons to their several flocks, in relation to communion or non-communion.
13. He that will condemn particular persons as heretics or offenders, must allow them to speak for themselves, and hear the proofs, and give them that which justice requireth, &c. And if the pope can do so at the antipodes, and in all the world either' per se,' or 'per alium' without giving that other his essential claimed power, let him prove it by better experience than we have had.
14. As the prime and sole universal legislation belongeth to Jesus Christ, so the final judgment, universal and particular, belongeth to him, which only will end all controversies and from which there is no appeal.
Quest. xxix. Whether a parent's power over his children, or a
pastor, or many pastors or bishops over the same children, as parts of their flock, be greater, or more obliging in matters of religion and public worship?
This being touched on somewhere else, I only now say, 1. That if the case were my own, I would (1.) Labour to know their different powers, as to the matter commanded, and obey each in that which is proper to its place.
(2.) If I were young and ignorant, natural necessity, and natural obligation together, would give my parents with whom I lived such an advantage above the minister (whom I seldom see or understand) as would determine the case de eventu,' and much. de jure.'
(3.) If my parents command me to hear a teacher who is against ceremonies or certain forms, and to hear none that are for them, natural necessity here also (ordinarily) would make it my duty first to hear and obey my parents ;