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no man, grieving no man; and therefore that when such honest, good, pious, and chaste men met together, it was rather to be called a council than a faction.” Origen bids Celsus or any of his party show any thing that was seditious amongst the Christians. That their religion arose not at first (as he falsely charged it) out of sedition, might appear in that their legislator had so severely forbidden killing and murder, and that the Christians would never have entertained such mild laws, as gave their enemies opportunity to kill them like sheep delivered to the slaughter without making the least resistance.” ? Julian the emperor, though no good friend to Christians, yet thus far does them right, that if they see any one mutinying against his prince, they presently punish him with great severities.»
And here we may with just reason reflect upon the iniquity of the church of Rome, which in this instance of religion has so abominably debauched the purity and simplicity of the Christian faith. For they not only exempt the clergy, where they can, from the authority and judgment of the secular powers, whereby horrible enormities do arise; but generally teach, that a prince once excommunicate, his subjects are absolved from all fealty and allegiance, and he may with impunity be deposed or made away. Cardinal Bellarmine (whose wit and learning were employed to uphold a tottering cause) maintains it stiffly, and in express terms, that if a king be an heretic or an infidel, (and we know what they mean by that, nay be particularly names the reformed princes of England amongst his instances,) and seeks to draw his dominions unto his sect; it is not only lawful, hut necessary to deprive him of his kingdom. And although he knew that the whole course of antiquity would Ay in the face of so bold an assertion, yet he goes on to assert, that the reason why the primitive Christians did not attempt this upon Nero, Dioclesian, Julian the Apostate, and the like, was not out of conscience, or that they boggled out of a sense of duty, but because they wanted means and power to effect it.' A bold piece of falsehood this, and how contrary to the plain and positive laws of Christ, to the meek and primitive spirit of the Gospel! Had St. Paul been of their mind, he would have told the Christian Romans quite another story, and instead of bidding them be subject unto Nero ‘not only for wrath, but for conscience sake,'? would have instructed them to take all opportunities to have murdered or deposed him. But I shall not reckon up the villanies they have been guilty of in this kind, nor pursue the odious and pernicious consequences of their doctrine and practice. Thus much I could not but take notice of, being so immediately opposite to the whole tenor of the Gospel, and so great a scandal to Christianity. And I verily believe that had the primitive Christians been no better subjects, than their emperors were princes; had they practised upon them those bloody artifices which have been common amongst those
I Tertull. Apol. c. 39, p. 32. ? Contr. Cels. lib. iii. p. 115.
3 Julian. Fragm. Epist. Oper. c. 1, p. 528.—JIlvv ei tu εις τον βασιλέα επίδομεν άτακτώντας αυτίκα μάλα κολά
that call themselves the only Catholics; that barbarous dealing would have been a greater curb to the flourishing of the Gospel, than all the ten persecutions. For how could an impartial heathen ever have believed their doctrine to have been of God, had their actions been so contrary to all principles of natural divinity ? Sure I am, pagan Rome was in this case more orthodox, and their pontifices far better doctors of divinity. Their Lex Julia (as Ulpian their great lawyer tells us) allotted the same penalty to sacrilege and treason; placing the one the very next step to the other; thereby teaching us that they looked upon treason against the prince as an affront next to that which was immediately done against the Majesty of Heaven.' And Marcellus, the great statesman in Tacitus, lays it down for a maxim, that subjects may wish for good princes, but ought to bear with any. And shame it is that any should call themselves Christians, and yet be found worse than they, their principles and practices more opposite to the known laws of God and nature, more destructive to the peace and welfare of mankind.
Lib. vii. de Offic. Procons. in l. 1, ff. ad leg. Jul. Maj. 2 Histor. lib. iv. c. 8, p. 489.
Of their Penance, and the Discipline of the ancient
Having travelled through the several stages of the subject I had undertaken; I should here have ended my journey, but that one thing remains, which was not properly reducible under any particular head, being of a general relation to the whole; and that is, to consider what discipline was used towards offenders in the ancient church; only premising this, that the Christian church, being founded and established by Christ as a society and corporation distinct from that of the commonwealth, is by the very nature of its constitution (besides what positive ground and warrant there may be for it in Scripture) invested with an inherent power (besides what is borrowed from the civil magistrate) of censuring and punishing its members that offend against the laws of it, and this in order to the maintaining its peace and purity. For without such a fundamental power as this, it is impossible that as a society it should be able to subsist, the very nature of a community necessarily implying such a right inherent in it. Now for the better understanding what this power was, and how exercised in the first ages of the church, we shall consider these four things :—what were the usual crimes that came under the discipline of the ancient church; what penalties were inflicted upon delinquent persons; in what manner offenders were dealt with; and by whom this discipline was administered.
First, What the usual crimes and offences were which came under the discipline of the ancient church. In the general, they were any offences against the Christian law, any vice or immorality that was either public in itself, or made known and made good to the church. For the holy and good Christians of those times were infinitely careful to keep the honour of their religion unspotted, to stifle every sin in its birth, and by bringing offenders to public shame and penalty, to keep them from propagating the malignant influence of a bad example. For this reason they watched over one another, told them privately of their faults and failures, and when that would not do, brought them before the cognizance of the church. It is needless to reckon up particular crimes, when none were spared. Only because in those days, by reason of the violent heats of persecution, the great temptation which the weaker and more unsettled Christians were exposed to, was to deny their profession, and to offer sacrifice to the heathen gods; therefore lapsing into idolatry was the most common sin that came before them, and of this they had very frequent instances; it being that which for some ages mainly exercised the discipline of the church. This sin of idolatry or denying Christ in those times was usually committed these three ways. Sometimes by exposing the Scriptures to the rage and malice of their enemies, which was accounted a virtual renouncing Christianity. This was especially remarkable under the Diocletian persecution in the African churches; for Dioclesian had put forth an edict, that Christians should deliver up their Scrip