FOUR TRACTS, By the ever memorable Mr. JOHN HALES Of Eaton College. VIZ.

  • I. Of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
  • II. Of the Power of the Keyes.
  • III. Of Schism and Schismaticks.
  • IV. Missellanies.

LONDON: Printed in the Year. 1677.


Kind SIR,

IN perusal of your Letters together with the Schedule inclosed, no Circumstance did so much move me as this, that so ordinary Points as are discuss'd there, and that in a bare and ordinary manner, should amuse either your self or any Man else, that pretends to ordinary Knowledge in Controversies in Christian Religion. For the Points therein discuss'd are no other than the subject of every common Pamphlet, and sufficiently known (that I may so say) in every Barber's Shop. Yet because you require my Opinion of matters there in question, I willingly afford it you, though I fear I shall more amuse you with telling you the Truth, than the Disputants there did, by abusing [Page 4] you with Error. For the plain and necessary (though perhaps unwelcome) Truth is, That in the greater part of the Dispute, both Parties much mistook themselves, and that fell out which is in the common Proverb sc, Whilst the one milks the Ram, the other holds under the Sieve, That you may see this Truth with your Eyes, I divide your whole Dispute into two Heads; the one concern­ing the Eucharist, the other concerning the Church­es mistaking it self about fundamentals.

For the first it consisteth of two parts; of a Proposition, and of a Reply: The Proposition expresses (at least he that made it intended it so to do, though he mistakes) the Doctrine of the refor­med Churches, concerning the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The Reply doth the like for the Church of Rome in the same Argument. Now that you may see how indifferently I walk, I will open the mistakes of both Parties, that so the truth of the thing it self (being unclouded of Errors) may the more clearly shine forth.

The first mistake common to both is, That they ground themselves much upon the words of Conse­cration, as they are called, and suppose, That up­on the pronouncing of those words, something be­falls that action, which otherwise would not; and that without those words the action were lame. Sir, I must confess my ignorance unto you. I find no ground for the necessity of this doing. Our Sa­viour instituting that Holy Ceremony, commands us to do what he did, but leaves us no Precept of saying any words; neither will it be made appear, that either the blessed Apostles, or Primitive Chri­stians had any such Custom: Nay the contrary will be made probably to appear out of some of the anci­entest Writings of the Churches Ceremonials. Our [Page 5] Saviour indeed used the Word, but it was to ex­press what his meaning was; had he barely acted the thing, without expressing himself by some such Form of Words, we could never have known what it was he did. But what necessity as there now of so doing? for when the Congregation is met together, to the breaking of Bread and Prayer, and see Bread and Wine upon the Communion-Ta­ble, is there any Man can doubt of the meaning of it, although the Canon be not read? It was the farther solemnizing, and beautifying that holy acti­on which brought the Canon in; and not an opi­nion of adding any thing to the substance of the action. For that the words were used by our Sa­viour to work any thing upon the Bread and Wine, can never out of Scripture or Reason be deduced; and beyond these two, I have no ground for my Religion, neither in Substance nor in Ceremony. The main Foundation that upholds the necessity of this form of action now in use, is Church-Custom and Church-Error.

Now for that Topick place of Church-Custom, it is generally too much abused: For whereas na­turally the necessity of the thing ought to give war­rant to the practice of the Church, I know not by what device matters are turned about, and the customary practice of the Church is alledged to prove the necessity of the thing; as if things had received their Original from the Church-Authority, and not as the truth is, from an higher Hand. As for the Church's Error, on which I told you this Form of action is founded, it consists in the uncaute­lous taking up an unsound ungrounded conclusion of the Fathers, for a religious Maxim. St. Ambrose, I trow, was he that said it, and posterity hath too generally applauded it, Accedat verbum ad elemen­tum, [Page 6] & fiat Sacramentum. By which they would perswade us, against all experience, That to make up a Sacrament, there must be something said and some­thing done; whereas indeed to the perfection of a Sacrament, or holy Mystery (for both these are one) it is sufficient that one thing be done whereby ano­ther is signified, though nothing be said at all. When Tarquinius was walking in his Garden, a Messenger came and asked him, what he would have done un­to the Town of Gabii, then newly taken? He an­swered nothing, but with his Wand struck off the tops of the highest Poppies; and the Messenger un­derstanding his meaning, cut off the Heads of the chief of the City. Had this been done in Sacris,it had been forthwith truly a Sacrament, or holy Mystery. Cùm in omnibus Scientiis voces significent res, hoc habet proprium Theologia, quòd ipsae res significatae per voces etiam significent aliquid, saith Aquinas; and up­on the second signification are all Spiritual and my­stical senses founded: So that in Sacris, a Mystery or Sacrament is then acted, when one thing is done and another is signified, as it is in the Holy Communion, though nothing be said at all. The ancient Sacri­fices of the Jews, whether weekly, monthly, or yearly, their Passover, their sitting in Booths, &c. These were all Sacraments, yet we find not any sa­cred forms of words, used by the Priests or People in the execution of them. To sum up that which we have to say in this Point, the calling upon the words of consecration in the Eucharist, is too weakly found­ed to be made argumentative; for the action is perfect whether those words be used or forborn: And in truth to speak my opinion, I see no great harm could ensue, were they quite omitted. Certainly thus much good would follow, That some part (though not a little one) of the superstition that adheres to [Page 7] that action, by reason of an ungrounded conceit of the necessity and force of the words in it, would forthwith pill off and fall away: I would not have you understand me so, as if I would prescribe for, or desire the disuse of the words; only two things I would commend to you, First, That the use of the Canon is a thing indifferent. And, Secondly, That in this knack of making Sacraments, Christians have taken a greater Liberty than they can well justify: First in forging Sacraments, more than God (for ought doth or can appear) did ever intend: And Secondly, in adding to the Sacraments instituted of God many formalities, and ceremonial circumstan­ces upon no warrant but their own; which circum­stances by long use, begat in the minds of Men a conceit, That they were essential parts of that to which indeed they were but appendant; and that only by the device of some who practised a power in the Church more than was convenient.

Thus much for the first common mistake.

The Second is worse than it; You see that both Parties agree in the acknowledgement of the real presence of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, though they differ in the manner of his Presence, and application of himself to the receiver; though the Protestant Disputant seems to have gone a little beyond his Leader: Had he express'd himself in the point of Bread and Wine, what became of it, whether it remain'd in its proper nature yea or no, I could the better have fathom'd him: Now these words of his, That the Bread and Wine after consecration are truly and really the Body of Christ, howsoever they are suppled and allayed; with that clause, not after a carnal but after a spiritual man­ner, yet still remain too crude and raw, and betray the speaker for a Lutheran at least, if not for a [Page 8] favourer of the Church of Rome; for as for that Phrase, of a spiritual manner, which seems to give season and moderation to his conclusion, it can yield him but small relief: For first, To say the flesh of Christ is in the Bread, but not after a car­nal manner, is but the same nonsense, which the Divines of Rome put upon us on the like occasion, when telling us, That the Blood of Christ is really sacrificed, and shed in the Sacrament, they add by way of Gloss, that it is done incruentè, unbloodi­ly; by the like Analogy they may tell us, if they please, That the body of Christ is there incorpora­ted unbodily, Flesh not carnally may pass the Press jointly the next Edition of the Book of Bulls. Again, in another respect, That clause, of a spiri­tual manner doth your Protestant Disputer but lit­tle service, if any at all; for the Catholick Dis­putant contriving with himself how to seat the Bo­dy of God in the Eucharist, as may be most for his ease, tells us, That he is there as Spirits and glori­fied Bodies (which St. Paul calls spiritual) are in the places they possess; so then, the one tells you the Body of Christ is there really, but spiritually; the other, That he is there really, but as a Spirit in a place, and what now, I pray you, is the dif­ference between them? By the way, in the passage you may see what account to make of your Catho­lick Disputer. Aristotle, and with him common sense, tells us thus much, That he that compares two Bodies together, must know them both; Doth this Gentleman know any thing concerning the site and locality of Spirits, and Bodies glorified? if he doth, let him do us the courtesy as to shew us, at what price he purchased that degree of knowledge, that so we may try our Credit, and see if we can buy it at the same rate; ‘Tertius è Coelo cecidit Ca­to?’ [Page 9] Is he like a second Paul, lately descended out of the third Heavens, and there hath made us the discovery? for by what other means he could at­tain to that knowledge, my dulness cannot suggest. But if he doth not know (as indeed he neither doth nor can, for there is no means left to make dis­covery that way) then with what congruity can he tell us, That the Body of Christ is in the Bread, as Spirits, and glorified Bodies are in their places, if he know not what manner of location and site, Spirits and glorified Bodies have? I shall not need to prompt your discretion thus far, as that you ought not to make dainties of such fruitless and desperate Disputers; who, as the Apostle notes, thrust themselves into things they have not seen, and upon a false shew of knowledge, abuse easie Hearers, and of things they know not, adventure to speak they know not what.

To return then, and consider a little more of this second mistake common to both your Disputants, I will deal as favourably as I can with your Protestant Disputer; for though I think he mistakes himself (for I know no Protestant that teacheth, that the common Bread, after the word spoken is really made the Body of Christ) yet he might well take occasi­on thus to err out of some Protestant Writings: For generally the reformed Divines do falsly report that Holy Action, whether you regard the Essence or Use thereof.

For first, if in regard of the Essence, some Pro­testants, and that of chief note, stick not to say, That the words of Consecration are not a meer Tro­pe, and from hence it must needs follow, that in some sense they must needs be taken literally, which is enough to plead authority for the Gentleman's Error. But that which they preach concerning a [Page 10] real presence and participation of Christ's Body in the Sacrament; they expound not by a supposal that the Bread becomes God's Body, but that toge­gether with the Sacramental Elements, there is con­veyed into the Soul of the worthy Receiver, the very Body and Blood of God; but after a secret, ineffable, and wonderfull manner. From hence, as I take it, have proceeded these crude speeches of the Learned of the Reformed Parts, some dead some li­ving, wherein they take upon them to assure the Divi­nes of Rome, That we acknowledge a Real Presence as well as they; but for the manner how, con, or trans, or sub, or in, [...], we play the Secpticks, and de­termine not. This conceit, besides the falshood of it, is a meer novelty, neither is it to be found in the Books of any of the Ancients, till Martin Bucer rose. He out of an unseasonable bashfulness, and fear to seem to recede too far from the Church of Rome, taught to the purpose now related, concern­ing the Doctrine of Christ's Presence in the Sacra­ment; and from him it descended into the Writings of Calvin and Beza, whose Authority have well-near spread it over the face of the Reformed Church­es. This is an Error which, as I said, touches the Essence of that holy Action; but there are many now which touch the end and use of it, which are practised by the Reformed Parts; for out of an extra­vagant fancy they have of it, they abuse it to many ends of which we may think the first Instituter (save that he was God, and knew all things) never thought of: For we make it an Arbitrator of Civil businesses; and imploy it in ending Controversies; and for Con­firmation of what we say or do, we commonly pro­mise to take the Sacrament upon it; we teach, That it confirms our Faith in Christ, whereas indeed the receiving of it is a sign of Faith confirmed, and Men [Page 11] come to it to testifie that they do believe, not to procure that they may believe: For if a Man doubt of the truth of Christianity, think you that his scru­ples would be removed upon the receiving of the Sa­crament? I would it were so; we should not have so many doubting Christians, who yet receive the Sacrament oft enough: We teach it to be Viaticum morientium, whereby we abuse many distressed Con­sciences, and sick Bodies, who seek for comfort there, and finding it not, conclude from thence (I speak what I know) some defect in their Faith. The participation of the Sacrament to sick and weak Persons, what unseemly events hath it occasioned, the vomiting up of the Elements anon, upon the re­ceipt of them; the resurging the Wine into the Cup, before the Minister could remove his hand to the in­terruption of the action? Now all these Mistakes and Errors have risen upon some ungrounded and fond practices, crept long since (God knows how) into the Church, and as yet not sufficiently purged out. I will be bold to inform you what it is, which is [...], the main fundamental fallacy, whence all these abuses have sprung. There hath been a fancy of long subsistance in the Churches, That in the Communion there is something given be­sides Bread and Wine, of which the Numerality given, Men have not yet agreed: Some say it is the Body of God into which the Bread is transubstanti­ated; Some say it is the same Body with which the Bread is consubstantiated; Some▪ that the Bread re­maining what it was, there passes with it to the Soul the real Body of God, in a secret unknown manner; Some that a further degree of Faith is supplied us; Others, that some degree of God's grace, whatsoever it be, is exhibited, which otherwise would be want­ing: All which variety of conceits must needs fall [Page 12] out, as having no other ground, but conjecture weakly founded. To settle you therefore in your Judgment, both of the thing it self, and of the true use of it, I will commend to your consideration these few Propositions.

First, In the Communion, there is nothing given but Bread, and Wine.

Secondly, The Bread and Wine are signs indeed, but not of any thing there exhibited, but of some­what given long since, even of Christ given for us upon the Cross sixteen hundred years ago, and more.

Thirdly, Jesus Christ is eaten at the Communion-Table in no sense, neither Spiritually, by virtue of any thing done there, nor really; neither Metapho­rically, nor Literally. Indeed that which is eaten (I mean the Bread) is called Christ by a Metaphor; but it is eaten truly and properly.

Fourthly, The Spiritual eating of Christ is com­mon to all places, as well as the Lord's Table.

Last of all, The Uses and Ends of the Lord's Sup­per can be no more than such as are mentioned in the Scriptures, and they are but two.

First, The commemoration of the Death and Pas­sion of the Son of God, specified by himself at the Institution of the Ceremony.

Secondly, To testify our Union with Christ, and Communion one with another; which end St. Paul hath taught us.

In these few Conclusions the whole Doctrine and Use of the Lord's Supper is fully set down; and whoso leadeth you beyond this, doth but abuse you. Quicquid ultra quaeritur, non intelligitur. The proof of these Propositions would require more than the Limits of a Letter will admit of; and I see my self already to have exceeded these Bounds. I will there­fore [Page 13] pass away to consider the second part of your Letter.

In this second Part, I would you had pleased to have done as in the first you did, That is, not only set down the Proposition of the Catholick, but some Answer of the Protestant, by which we might have discovered his Judgment; I might perchance have used the same Liberty as I have done before, namely discovered the mistakes of both Parties; for I suspect that as there they did, so here they would have given me cause enough. Now I content my self barely to speak to the Question. The Question is, Whether the Church may Err in Fundamentals? By the Church I will not trifle as your Catholick doth, and mean only the Protestant Party, as he professeth he doth only the Roman Faction. But I shall understand all Factions in Christianity, All that entitle themselves to Christ, wheresoever dis­persed all the World over.

First, I Answer, That every Christian may err that will: for if Men might not err wilfully, then there could be no Heresie; Heresie being nothing else but wilful Error: For if we account mistakes, befallen us through humane Frailties to be Heresies then it will follow, That every Man since the Apostles time was an Heretick; for never yet was there any Christian, the Apostles only excepted, who did not in something concerning the Christian Faith mistake himself, either by addition or omis­sion, or misinterpretation of something. An evi­dent sign of this Truth you may see in this; by the Providence of God, the Writings of many learned Christians from the Spring of Christianity, have been left unto posterity; and amongst all those, scarcely any is to be found who is not confess'd on all [Page 14] hands to have mistaken some things, and those mis­takes for the most part stand upon Record by some who purposely observed them. Neither let this (I beseech you) beget in you a conceit, as if I meant to disgrace those whose Labours have been and are of infinite benefit in the Church. For if Aristotle, and Aphrodiseus, and Galen, and the rest of those Excellent Men whom God had indued with extra­ordinary portions of natural Knowledge, have with all thankful and ingenuous Men throughout all Generations retained their Credit entire, notwith­standing it is acknowledged that they have all of them in many things, swerved from the Truth; Then, why should not Christians express the same in­genuity to those who have laboured before us in the Exposition of the Christian Faith, and highly esteem them for their Works sake, their many infirmities notwithstanding? You will say, that for private Persons it is confess'd they may and daily do err; but can Christians err by whole Shoals, by Armies meet­ing for the defence of the Truth in Synods and Coun­cils, especially General, which are countenanced by the great Fable of all the World, the Bishop of Rome?

I answer, To say that Councils may not err, though private Persons may, at first sight is a merry speech; as if a Man should say, That every single Soldier indeed may run away, but a whole Army cannot, especially having Hannibal for their Captain; and since it is confess'd, That all single Persons not only may, but do err, it will prove a very hard matter, to gather out of these a multitude, of whom being gathered together, we may be secured they cannot err. I must for mine own part confess, That Councils, and Synods not only may and have erred, but considering the means how they are managed, it [Page 15] were a great marvel if they did not err: For what Men are they of whom those great Meetings do con­sist? are they the best, the most learned, the most vertuous, the most likely to walk uprightly? No, the greatest, the most ambitious, and many times Men, neither of Judgment, nor Learning; such are they of whom these Bodies do consist: And are these Men in common equity likely to determine for Truth? Qui ut in vita, sic in causis, spes quoque im­probas alunt, as Quintilian speaks. Again, when such Persons are thus met, their way to procede to conclusion, is not by weight of Reason but by multitude of Votes and Suffrages; as if it were a maxim in nature, That the greater part must needs be better; whereas our common experience shews, That, Nunquam it a benè agitur cum rebus humanis ut plures sint meliores. It was never heard in any profession, That Conclusion of Truth went, by plu­rality of Voices, the Christian profession only ex­cepted; and I have often mused how it comes to pass, That the way which in all other Sciences is not able to warrant the poorest Conclusion, should be thought sufficient to give authority to Conclusions in Divinity, the Supreme Empress of Sciences. But I see what it is that is usually pleaded, and with your leave I will a little consider of it.

If it be given out, That Christian meetings have such an assistance of God, and his blessed Spirit, that let their Persons be what they will, they may assure themselves against all possibility of mistaking; and this is that they say, which to this way of end­ing Controversies, which in all other Sciences is so contemptible, gives a determining to Theolgical Disputes of so great Authority. And this Musick of the Spirit, it is so pleasing, that it has taken the Reformed Party too; for with them likewise all [Page 16] things at lengh end in this Spirit; but with this difference, that those of Rome confine the Spirit to the Bishops and Counsels of Rome, but the Prote­stant enlargeth this working of the Spirit, and makes it the Director of private meditations. I should doubtless do great injury to the goodness of God, if I should deny the sufficient assistance of God to the whole World, to preserve them both from sin in their Actions, and damnable errors in their opinions; much more should I do it, if I denied it to the Church of God; but this assistance of God may very well be, and yet Men may fall into sin and errors. St. Paul preaching to the Gentiles, tells them, That God was with them in so palpable a manner, that even by the groping they might have found him; yet both he and we know what the Gentiles did. Christ hath promised his perpetual assistance to his Church; but hath he left any Prophecy, that the Church should perpetually adhere to him? if any Man think he hath, it is his part to inform us, where this Prophecy is to be found. That matters may go well with Men, two things must concur, the assistance of God to Men, and the adherence of Men to God; if either of these be deficient, there will be a little good done: Now the first of these is never deficient, but the second is very often; so that the Promise of Christ's perpetual presence made unto the Church, infers not at all any presumption of Infabillity. As for that term of Spirit, which is so much taken up; to open the danger that lurks under it, we must a little distinguish upon the Word. This term [Spirit of God,] either it signifies the third Person in the blessed Trinity, or else the wonderful power of Miracles, of Tongues, of Heal­ing, &c. which was given to the Apostles, and o­ther of the Primitive Christians, at the first preach­ing [Page 17] of the Gospel, but both these meanings are strangers to our purpose. The Spirit of God, as it concerns the Question here in hand, signifies either something within us, or something without us: Without us, it signifies the written Word, record­ed in the Books of the Prophets, Apostles, and Evan­gelists, which are metonymically called the Spirit be­cause the Holy Ghost spake those things by their mouths when they lived, and now speaks us by their pens when they are dead. If you please to re­ceive it, this alone is left as Christ's Vicar in his ab­sence, to give us directions both in our actions and opinions; he that tells you of another Spirit in the Church, to direct you in your way, may as well tell you a tale of a Puck, or a walking Spirit in the Church-Yard. But that this Spirit speaking with­out us may be beneficial to us, oportet aliquid intus esse, there must be something within us which also we call the Spirit; and this is twofold: For either it signifies a secret Illapse, or supernatural Influ­ence of God, upon the hearts of Men, by which he is supposed inwardly, to incline, inform, and direct Men in their ways, and wills, and to preserve them from sin and Mistake; or else it signifies that in us, which is opposed against the flesh, and which denominates us spiritual Men, and by which we are said to walk according to the Spirit; that which St. Paul means, when he tells us, The Flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the Flesh, (Rom. 7.) so that we may not do what we list. Now of these two, the former it is, which the Church seems to appeal unto in determining Controversies by way of Counsel: But to this I have little to say. First, Because I know not whether there be any such thing yea, or no. Secondly, Because experi­ence shews, That the pretence of the Spirit in this [Page 18] sense is very dangerous, as being next at hand to give countenance to imposture and abuse: which is a thing sufficiently seen, and acknowledged both by the Papist and Protestant Party; as it appears by this, that though both pretend unto it, yet both up­braid each other with the pretence of it. But the Spirit in the second sense, is that I contend for; and this is nothing but the Reason illuminated by Revelation out of the written Word. For when the Mind and Spirit humbly conform and submit to the written Will of God, then you are properly said to have the Spirit of God, and to walk according to the Spirit, not according to the Flesh. This alone is that Spirit which preserves us from straying from the Truth: For he indeed that hath the Spirit, errs not at all, or if he do, it is with as little hazard and dan­ger as may be; which is the highest point of Infal­libility, which either private Persons or Churches can arrive unto. Yet would I not have you to con­ceive, That I deny that at this day the Holy Ghost communicates himself to any, in this secret and supernatural manner, as in foregoing times He had been wont to do; indeed my own many unclean­nesses are sufficient reasons to hinder that good Spi­rit to participate himself unto me, after that man­ner. The Holy Ghost was pleased to come down like a Dove; Veniunt ad candida tecta Columbae, Accipict nullas sordida Turris Aves. Now it is no reason to conclude the Holy Ghost imparts himself in this manner to none, because he hath not done that favour unto me. But thus much will I say, that the benefit of that sacred Influence is confined to those happy Souls in whom it is, and cannot extend it self to the Church in publick: And if any Catholick except against you for saying so, warrant your self and me out of Aquinas, whose words are [Page 19] these, Innititur fidei natura revelationi Apostolis & Prophetis factae, qui Canonicos Libros scripserunt, non autem Revelationi, siqua fuit, aliis Doctoribus factae. It being granted then, that Churches can err, it remains then, in the second place, to consider how far they may err; I answer for Churches as I did be­fore for private Persons, Churches may err in Fun­damentals if they list, for they may be heretical; for Churches may be wicked, they may be Idolaters, and why then not heretical? Is Heresy a more dan­gerous thing than Idolatry? For whereas it is plead­ed, that Churches cannot fall into Heresie, because of that promise of our Saviour, That the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church, is but out of mistake of the meaning of that place; and in­deed I have often mused how so plain a place could so long and so generally be misconstrued: To secure you therefore, that you be not abused with these words hereafter, (for they are often quoted to prove the Church's Infallibility) I shall endea­vour to give you the natural meaning of them, For [...], the Gates of Hell, is an Hebraism; for in the Hebrew Expression, the Gates of a thing signifies the thing it self, as the gates of Sion, Sion it self, and by the same proportion the gates of Hell signifies Hell it self: Now [...] which we English Hell, as in no place of Scripture it signifies Heresie, so very frequently in Scripture it signifies Death, or rather the state of the dead, and indifferently ap­lied to good and bad: Let us then take the Word in that meaning, for what greater means can we have to warrant the signification of a Scripture-word, than the general meaning of it in Scripture? So that when our Saviour spake these words, he made no promise to the Church of persevering in the Truth, but to those that did persevere in the Truth, [Page 20] he made a promise of Victory against Death and hell: And what he there says, sounds to no other purpose, but this, That those who shall continue his, although they dye, yet Death shall not have the Dominion over them; but the time shall come, that the bands of Death shall be broken; and as Christ is risen, so shall they that are his rise again to Immor­tality: For any help therefore that this Text affords, Churches may err in Fundamentals. But to speak the Truth, I much wonder, not only how any Churches, but how any private Man, that is care­ful to know and follow the Truth, can err in Fundamentals: For since it is most certain, That the Scripture contains at least the Fundamental Parts of Christian Faith, how is it possible, that any Man, that is careful to study and believe the Scripture, should be ignorant of any necessary part of his Faith? Now whether the Chucrh of Rome err in Fundamentals, yea or no? To answer this, I must crave leave to use this Distinction; To err in Fundamentals, is either to be ignorant of, or deny something to be Fundamental, that is; or to entertain something for Fundamental, which is not. In the first sense, the Church of Rome, entertaining the Scriptures as she doth, cannot possibly be igno­rant of any principal part of Christian Faith; all her error is, in entertaining in her self, and obtruding upon others, a multitude of things for Fundamen­tals, which no way concern our Faith at all: Now how dangerous it is thus to do, except I know whether she did this willingly or wittingly, yea or no, is not easy to define: If willingly she doth it; it is certainly high and damnable presumption, if igno­rantly, I know not what mercies God hath in store for them that sin, not out of malicious wickedness. [Page 21] Now concerning the merriment newly started; I mean the requiring of a Catalogue of Fundamen­tals, I need no answer no more, but what Abraham tells the rich Man in Hell, Habent Mosen & Pro­phetas, They have Moses, and the Prophets, the Apostles, and the Evangelists, let them seek them there; for if they find them not there, in vain shall they seek them in all the World besides. But yet come a little nearer to the Particulars, If the Church of Rome would needs know what is Fundamental, in our conceit, and what not; the Answer, as far as my self in Person am concerned in the Business, shall be no other than this; Let her observe what Points they are, wherein we agree with her, and let her think, if she please, that we account of them as Fundamentals, especially if they be in the Scriptures; and on the other hand, let her mark in what Points we refuse Communion with her, and let her assure her self, we esteem those as no Fundamentals. If she desire a List and Catalogue made of all those, she is at leisure enough, for ought I know, to do it her self.

Last of all, Concerning the imputation of Rebellion and Schism against Church-Authority, with which your Catholick Disputant meant to affright you; all that is but meerly Powder without Shot, and can never hurt you: For since it hath been sufficiently evidenced unto us, That the Church of Rome hath adulterated the Truth of God, by mixing with it sundry Inventions of her own; it was the Consci­ence of our duty to God, that made us to separate: For where the Truth of God doth once suffer, there Union is Conspiracy, Authority is but Tyranny, and Churches are but Routs: And suppose we, that we mistook, and made our Separation upon Error, the Church of Rome being right in all her Ways, though we think otherwise; yet could not [Page 22] this much prejudice us: For it is Schism upon wilfulness that brings danger with it, Schism upon mistake, and Schism upon just occasion, hath in it self little hurt, if any at all.


I Return you more than I thought, or you expected; yet less than the Argument requir'd, If you shall favour me so much as carefully to read what I have carefully written, you shall find (at least in those points you oc­casioned me to touch upon) sufficient ground to plant your self strongly against all Discourse of the Romish Corner-creepers, which they use for the Seducing of unstable Souls. Be it much or little that I have done, I require no other reward than the continuance of your good Affection to.

Your SERVANT, whom you know.

A TRACT Concerning the Power of the KEYS. AND Auricular Confession.

IN opening the Point concerning the Doctrine of the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, I will follow those Lines, that Tract, which your self hath been pleased to set me. Yet first, ere I come to your particulars, I will discover, as far as generality will give me leave, what it is which we intend, when we use this phrase of Speech. At the first appearance, it is plain, the form of words is not Proper, but Metaphorical. Now some Truth there is in that which you learnt in the Books of your Minority, from your Aristo­tle [...]; and indeed could we but once agree what it is which that Me­taphor doth intimate, the greatest part of the Dis­pute were at an end. The Natural way to disco­ver [Page 24] this, is to see what the Use of Keys, properly taken, is; and after that, what means they are, which in our endeavours to attain to the Kingdom of Heaven, have something proportionable to the Use of Keys: and this being once discovered, there can remain no Question, What are the Keys?

Now nothing is more known, than that the on­ly Use of Keys is to open and Shut, to admit us Unto, or exclude us from the possession of what we seek. Now since the Kingdom of Heaven is compared to a House, from which all the Sons of Adam, by Nature are excluded; whatsoever then it is that gives us way, that removes all Obstacles which hinder us from entrance of that House, that certainly must be understood by the Name of Keys. Now all these means, or whatsoever else it is which doth further us towards the possessing our selves of Eternal Life, they were all laid down in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, committed by him fully and first of all to the dispensation of the blessed Apostles, to be reported by them, or their means, all the World over. So that I think I may safely lay thus much for the first ground of the Question betwixt your self and me, Clavis Regni Caelorum sunt Doctrina Evangelii.

Now since Keys are nothing without some Hand to manage them, we must in the second place dis­cover into whose Hands they are committed. And for this purpose, first of all, It must not be denied that principally and properly, (I might well enough add only, if I listed, but that I spare you) the Hand of God it is, that manages and applies these Keys: For of God and Christ it is written, He hath the Keys, he opens, and no Man shuts; he shuts, and no Man opens. Yet since it hath pleased God to use the Ministery of Men, to the saving of Men, [Page 25] and bringing them into the Kingdom of Heaven; In a secondary sense, the Keys of that Kingdom are said to be put into the hands of Men. In as much as it hath pleased the Wisdom of God, not to use these Keys, at least as far as concerns the beneficial and opening part, some act of Man not first premised; for since that Faith in Jesus Christ is the sum of the Doctrine of the Gospel, and Faith cometh not but by hearing, and hearing cometh not but by preach­ing, and preaching is the act of Men alone, (for God employs not Angels in that behalf,) It ap­pears that this Preaching, or manifestation of the Doctrine of the Gospel not performed, the Keys must needs be unprofitable. By the manifestation of the Gospel of God, I mean not only the labour of the lip, in expounding, praying, reproving, or the like, but the administration of Sacraments, the acting (if any thing beyond this is to be acted) whatsoever the manifestation of the Gospel requi­reth. So that I think I may set down for a second Ground towards the settling of the Point in question, thus much, That the managing or application of the Keys, so far forth as Men are intrusted with them, is, The Manifestation of the Doctrine of the Gospel. Thus far have we opened in general the Substance of the Keys, and the Use of them. I come now to your Queries.

First, You ask of the quality of the Apostles re­ceiving this Power, Whether they had it as Judges Authoritativè, or as Messengers, Declarativè only to propound, or denounce? You manifest your self for the former, and Reasons you bring, such as they be. Your Reasons I shall consider in their place, but I must first tell you that you ask amiss; for your question is concerning the whole Power of the Keys, but you answer only of a part, that is, of [Page 26] Sacramental Absolution only, as if all the Power of the Keys resided there. So that here you use the Fallacy plurium Interrogationum; and I might well grant you, That indeed that part were Judicativè but yet contend that all the rest were only Declara­tivè. To reduce you therefore I must do with you as Physicians in some cases deal with their Pa­tients; ere I can come to purge the humour you are sick of, I must a little prepare you. The power of the Keys, is express'd by the Learned in three yokes, or pairs of Words.

  • 1. To remit, and to retain.
  • 2. To loose, and to bind.
  • 3. To open, and to shut.

On the one side to remit, to loose, to open, which is the one half of the power, agree in one, and sig­nify the same thing; so do the other three, to re­tain, to bind, to shut, which contain the other half. To your Question then, Whether the power of the Keys be declarative only? I answer first: For this latter part or half, it is meerly declarative, neither can it be otherwise; which that you may see with your eyes, I must request you to observe, That all shutting of the Kingdom of Heaven, is either com­mon to all, or casual, befalling only some. The common Exclusion is that state of Nature, wherein we all are involved, as we spring from the first Adam; The second Exclusion is that which befals Christians relapsing into sin. The first shutting was at the fall, and was then Prefigured unto us, by the barring up of the way unto the Tree of Life. What active, what Judiciary part can any Minister of the Gospel have here? all that the Apostles could do here, was but to open to Men this their misery, a thing before the death of our Saviour, either very sparingly, or not at all revealed. Of this therefore [Page 27] you must needs quit your hands, and so you must of the other, I mean exclusion upon casual­ty and relapse. For when a Man converted to Christianity falleth eftsoon into some mortal sin, doth the Gate of Heaven stand open to him, till he fall upon some curst Priest, that used his Key to shut it?

There are in the World a kind of deceitful Locks with sliding Bolts, I have seen my self and others much deceived by them, when the doors have fallen at our heels, and lockt us out, when we intended no such thing. Sir, Heaven-door hath a sliding-Lock; upon occasion of mortal sin, it will shut without any use of a Key.

Perchance I do nor well, [...], yet the sober meaning of what I have spoken merrily, is but this, That either you must make the Ministery of the Gospel only Declarative, or else it will fol­low that every impenitent Relapser, that hath the good fortune to escape the Priests being privy to his Sin, is like to find Heaven open at the last. So then it is apparent, That notwithstanding your heap­ing up of Interrogatories, and your pressing of Liga­veritis & vos, and telling me what I never knew, that Solvere and Ligare be Actives; yet in this part of our Power, all your Activity is lost, and there remains nothing for you but to report upon good evidence, what you find done by your betters to your hand.

Half your Jurisdiction then is fallen, and if I had no other Medium but this; I might with good pro­bability conclude against you for the other part. For if the one half made in the same Form, in the like phrase and garb of speech, yet enforceth no more but Declaration and Denouncing: then why should you think the other half, (which in likely­hood [Page 28] is homogeneal to the former) to be more? Nay, there is far more natural Equity that you should be here only Declarative than in the other. Politicians tell us, That it is Wisdom for Princes, who desire to gain the love of their Subjects, to administer themselves all Favours and Graces, but to leave action of Justice and Harshness to be performed by others.

Sir, No Prince can be so ambitious of the Love of his Subjects, as God is of the Love of Mankind: why then should I think him so ill a Politician, as to make himself the administrator of the Rough, Un­pleasing, Love-killing Offices, of Binding, Shutting, Retaining; and then pass over to the Priest, the dis­pensation of the Fair, Well-spoken, Ingratiating Offices of Remitting, Loosing, and Opening? But I will leave this kind of Topick and Dialectical ar­guing, because you are a pretender to convincing Reasons: I will directly enter even upon that part of your power of Opening, and Remitting, being the other part of your Territory, and by main strength, take all activity from you there too. Give me leave to ask you one Question, you may very well favour me so far, for you have asked me very many.

The Conversion of a Sinner, is it an act of the Keys, yea or no?

By your Principles it is not; for you make the power of the Keys to be judiciary, and therefore the Conversion of an Infidel pertains not to them: The Church of Rome will help you with a Medium to make this Argument good. Do we not judge those that are within? for those that are without, God shall judge, saith Paul: Whence she infers, That a converted Infidel, not yet admitted to the Church, is a Stranger to the Judiciary Power of the Keys; but being once admitted into the Church, he is [Page 29] now become the Church's Subject, and so fit matter for the Priest to work on upon his next Relapse. What think you of this Reason? Do you take it to be good? Take heed; or else it will give you a deadly stripe. For the Conversion of an Infidel, out of question is a most proper act of the Keys. For since, the opening of the Kingdom of Heaven, is confess'd to belong unto the Keys; and Heaven which was shut against the Infidel in time of his In­fidelity, upon his Conversion is acknowledged to be opened unto him; certainly whoever converted him, used the Keys; or else he must pretend to have either a Pick-lock, or the Herb Lunaria, which, they say, makes Locks fall off from Doors, and the Fetters from Horses heels. If then the Conversion of a Sinner be an act of the Keys, and by the Argument of the Church of Rome it be not judiciary, it follows then, That all Acts of the Keys are not Judiciary; and if not Judiciary, then Declarative only. For be­twixt these two I know no mean.

But because to dispute against a Man out of his own Principles, which perchance are false (for this oft we know falls out, that by the power of Syllogisms, Men may and do draw True Conclusions from False Premises) because, I say, thus to do, in the judg­ment of Aristotle, leaves a Man [...]; and I am willing not only to perswade you, but to better you: I will draw the little which remains to be said in this Point from other Places.

First, In all the Apostles practice in Converting Jews and Gentiles, find you any thing like unto the act of any Judiciary Power? They neither did, nor could use any such thing. That they did not, ap­pears by Philip, who having Catechized the Eunuch, and finding him desirous of Baptism, immediately upon profession of his Faith, admitted him into the [Page 30] Church. That they neither did nor could, appears by Peter and the rest of the Apostles in the Acts, who could never in the space of an afternoon, being none but themselves, have converted three thousand Souls, had they taken any such way, as you seem to misfancy. Again, imagine with your self all circumstances you can, which are of force to make a power judiciary, apply them all to the practice of the Apostles, in the Conversion of Infidels, and if you find any one of them agree to that action, let me be challenged upon it, and be thought to have abused you with a Fallacy.

To conclude then, since your Ligaveritis, which is the one half of your pretended Jurisdiction, pre­tends to nothing above Declarative: And since your Solveritis, in so great an act as is the Conversion of Infidels, lays claim to no more, what act of the pow­er of the Keys is it, wherein we may conceive hope of finding any thing active or judiciary? I see what you will say, There yet remains a part, you think, wherein you have hope to speed, and that is the reconciling of relapsing Christians: As you fancy that in every sinning Christian, there is a duty binding him to repair, and lay his sin open to the Minister of the Gospel, and him a power to consider of the sins of such as repair unto him, to weigh particulars, to consider circumstances, and occasions, and according to true Judgment, either upon penance imposed to absolve sin, (which you call re­mitting of the sin) or to with-hold him for a time, from participation of holy duties with Catholick Christians, which you call retaining of sins, sup­posing that God doth the like in Heaven, as it is written, What you bind in Earth, is bound in Heaven, and what you loose in Earth, is loosed in Heaven. Now the Rock on which you labour to found so [Page 31] extravagant a Conceit, is no other than the Words which I have quoted out of Scripture; you press earnestly the Ligaveritis & vos, all which can yield you small relief; for if they help you not at all in those weighty parts of the Power of the Keys, which but now were laid before you; by what Analogy can you expect they should afford you any assistance here? As is Ligare, so is Solvere; as is the Con­version of an Infidel, so is the reconciling of a re­lapsing Christian, for any thing you can make ap­pear: Either all is Declarative, which is very pos­sible, and in many cases necessary, or all Judicative, which in some cases is impossible, and in none ne­cessary; so that to fit the Scripture to your Fancy, you are constrained to distract and rend it without any Warrant at all. But you have found out in the Text a stronger Argument against the declarative Power, I contend for: You espie an Insufflavit, a great, a solemn, and unwonted Ceremony, undoubt­edly concluding some greater matter than a poor power declarative: What? did our serious Master thus spend his breath to no purpose, and like a Hocus Pocus with so much shew act us a solemn nothing? I pray whose words are these? I should have thought them to have been Porphyry's, or Julian's, (but that I know your hand) for you subscribed not your name to your letters: [...]: They are the Words of your Pindarus, up­on an occasion not much unlike unto this.

Sir, you have no Skill to judge, or set a price upon so divine an act: He lost not his breath, when he spent his Insuflavit; he opened their wits, that they might understand the Scripture▪ he revealed to them the Mysteries of Jesus Christ, dying and rising again for the World's salvation, the greatest news that ever was reported in the World, and till [Page 32] then concealed; He commanded them to be the first bringers of this good News, and that they might the more undauntedly perform their Charge, he endow­ed them with Infallibility, with infinite Constancy and Fortitude, with Power of working such Won­ders as none could do unless God were with them. Appello Conscientiam tuam: Were those things such nothings, that they deserve to be thus jeered? But that befalls you which befalls the Stares that dwell in the Steeple, who fear not the Bells, because they hear them every day. These wonderful Benefits of God have every day founded in your ears, and fre­quency of them hath taught you to forget your Re­verence to them. Yet all this Insufflavit, this Cere­mony, was for no other end but to further a Declara­tive power: Their undaunted Fortitude, their power of Miracling, their Infallibility did but add countenance and strength to their Declarative Power, by which they went up and down the World, to manifest the good tidings of Salvation. So that even these which served thus to set off the Gospel, were no­thing else but means of the better manifestation of it; therefore may they very well pass, if not amongst the Keys, yet amongst the necessary Wards. Where­as your Fancy of an active or judicative Power in the Priest, concurring with God in reconciling re­lapsing Christians, is neither one nor other, but is indeed like unto the work of some deceitful Smith, who the better to countenance and grace his works, adds to his Key superfluous and idle Wards, which in the opening of the Lock, are of no use at all.

To your second Query, Whether the Keys were confined 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 [Page 33] the Keys unto themselves, and would be very angry to understand, that others from themselves 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, nor ever could manage them with that authority and splendour as the Apostles did, who were above all most amply furnis hed 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 your self, if you conceive that the Keys of the Gospel were any way committed to them; for concerning the My­steries 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 own, 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 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, [Page 34] that said in Leviticus, Thou shalt not see thy Brother sin, but thou shalt reprove, and save thy Brother? And if the Law binds a Man, when he saw his ene­mies Cattel to stray, to put them into 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 publick good, propa­gated the Gospel of Christ, as if some secret instinct of nature had put into Mens minds thus to do. I shame to dwell so long upon so plain a Theme, yet because I feel your pulse, and perceive what it is that troubles you, I must say something to an Objection, which I know you make. You conceive that forthwith upon this which I have said, must needs follow some great Confusion of estates, and degrees, the Laity will straitway get up into our Pulpits, we shall lose our credit, and the adoration which the simple sort do yield us is in danger to be lost.

Sir, Fear you not, the sufficient and able of the Clergy, will reap no discountenance, but honour by this: For he that knows how to do well himself, will most willingly approve what is well done by another. It is extreme poverty of mind to ground your Reputation upon another Man's Ignorance, and to secure your self, you do well, because you per­ceive perchance, that none can judge how ill you do. Be not angry then to see others joyn with you in part of your Charge. I would all the Lord's Peo­ple did Preach, and that every Man did think him­self, bound to discharge a part of the Common Good: and make account that the Care of other Mens Souls concerned him as well as of his own. [Page 35] When the Apostles took order to ordain some, upon whom the publick burden of Preaching the Gospel should lie, it was not their purpose to impropriate the thing to those Persons alone; but knowing that what was left to the care of all, was commonly worst lookt unto, in wise and most Christian Care, they designed some whose duty it should be to wait upon the Gospel alone, the better to preserve the Pro­fession to the World's end: It hath been the wisdom of those, who have taken care of the pro­pagation of Arts, and Sciences, not only to appoint means, that multitudes should study and make pro­fession privately, but that some should be constituted publick Professors to teach è Cathedra, that so all might know to whom to repair, in the doubts incident to their faculties, and this hath been thought a sovereign way to preserve Sciences. Sir, we are the publick Professors of Christianity, we speak è Cathedra, which none can do, but such as are ordain­ed. Let the private profession and practice of Chri­stianity improve it self never so much, yet the ho­nour of the Publick Professor, so he deserves his place, can never impair. It grieves me to stand so long upon so plain, so unwelcome a Lesson, I will ease my self and you, and reflect upon your third Query.

In the third place, you require to know, What necessity, or what convenience there is of Confessi­on? You mean, I think, that confession, which is as foolishly as commonly called Sacramental, for it hath nothing of a Sacrament in it. Did I know your mind a little more in particular, what form of Confession you speak of, whether as it is used in the Church of Rome, or in some refined Guise, as it seems some would, who have of late called for it in the Church of England, I should speak perad­venture more appositely to what you desire. But [Page 36] you have proposed Confession only in generality, my answer shall be in like manner. And▪

First of all, Confession of sins is a thing, not only convenient, but unavoidably necessary to Salva­tion, without which none shall ever see God. And thus far I suppose all Christians do agree. The main Difference is in the manner of practising it, the Question being, What Parties are to be interessed in it? Natural Equity informeth us, That unto every Party, justly offended, Satisfaction some way or other is due. The first Party wronged in every of­fence, is God against whose Honour, and express Command every sin is committed. To him there­fore in the first place, Satisfaction is due by submis­sion and acknowledgment, since there remains no other way of composition with God. But there are some sins committed against God, some committed against God and Men. In the former, it is sufficient if we pacifie God alone; in the latter, our Neigh­bour, against whom we have trespass'd, must receive Satisfaction for the wrong done him, at least, if it be in the power of the Trespasser. Your Primer of Sa­rum will tell you, That not to make restitution, if you be able, and not to pardon, unavoidably excludes from the Kingdom of Heaven. Now might the Doctrine of Confession and acknowledgement in case of Of­fence given, have been permitted to run fair and clear, as it descends from God, and good reason, the first Fountains of it. There needed no more to be said in this argument, than I already told you. But I know not what intempestive foolish Ambition hath troubled the stream, and it hath pass'd now for a long time (till the Reformation altered it) for a general Doctrine in the Church, That in all kind of sins, whe­ther against God, or our Neighbour, there can be no reconciliation betwixt the Parties offending and of­fended, but by interposition of a Priest, a thing [Page 37] utterly besides all reason and common sense that you should open your private imperfections to one whom they concern not, (for it is granted, that all Parties concerned in an Offence, must have reason at the hands of the Offender) and who can no ways help you: For he that is conscious of his sin, (and without trouble of Conscience I think none would ever repair to his Confessor) knows very well, That there is no sin so great, but upon submission, God both can and will pardon it; and none so small, but pardon for it must be sought, or else he hath been ill catechized. And more than this, what can any Priest tell him: *Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 28. c. 10. Your Pliny, somewhere tells you, That he that is stricken by a Scorpion, if he go im­mediately, and whisper it into the ear of an Ass, shall find himself immediately eased: That Sin is a Scorpion, and bites deadly, I have al­ways believed, but that to cure the bite of it, was a Sovereign Remedy to whisper it into the Ear of an [] a Priest, I do as well believe as I do that of Pliny. The Patrons of this Fancy for defect of rea­son and common congruity, are fain to betake them­selves to Scripture; and the mischief is, there is there no direct Text for it, and therefore they are constrained to help themselves with a meer conje­ctural consequence: For since it is taken for certain, that there is a Power to Remit and to retain sins, how shall they who have this Power given them, know how fit it is to Remit or to retain a sin, ex­cept they know the sin, and know it they cannot, but by Confession. For answer to this,

First, We have found and proved, That the Words of Scripture must receive such a sense, as from whence no such Consequence can be inferred.

Secondly; we have indeavoured to prove, That the Dispensation or Application of the Keys of the [Page 38] Kingdom of Heaven, (being nothing else, but the duty of saving of Souls) is a Duty, which pro Occa­sione oblatâ, lies upon every Christian: Which if it be true, (as in good faith I think it,) and the Clergy perceive it, I think they would never go about to urge that Text, although we should yield it them in their own meaning. For they must needs see, That it follows, that you may as well make your Mul­etter, (if you have one) your Confessor, as your Parish-Priest. Tell me in good earnest, if you can, out of what good intent can this desire to know another Man's sin, which concerns you not, pro­ceed? Is it to teach him that it is a sin? He knew that, or else he had never repaired to you, to con­fess it: Is it to tell him, that he is to repent, to restore, to pray, to give alms, &c. All this he knew, or else he hath had his breeding under an evil Cler­gy. Yea, but how shall the Physician cure the Di­sease, if he know it not? Suppose all Diseases had one Remedy (as all Spiritual have) and what matters it if the Patient be sick, to know whether it be an Ague, or Meazles, or Pleurifie, since one Potion cures them all? Yea, but if he know not the parti­culars, how shall he judge of the Quantity of the Doses? For the same Disease upon sundry circum­stances may require Majus or Minus in the Physick. This is the poorest scruple of a thousand; for in the Regiment of Patients spiritually sick there can be but one mistake, that is, if you give too little: Be sure you give enough, and teach your Patients to think no sin to be little, (which in Men spiritual­ly sick is Error saluberrimus) and you can never err: For natural Physick is only Physick; but spiritual Physick is both Physick and Diet, and may be in­differently administred both to the sick and the sound; Repentance perchance only excepted, of which upon occasion, assure your self can hardly [Page 39] take too much. What reason now can you give me, why you should desire to dive into any Man's Breast, & scire Secreta Domûs? Except it be that which follows in the next Verse, indè teneri, as I must con­fess, I suspect it is. The truth is, some mistaken Customs of the ancient Church, the craft and power of the Clergy, the simplicity and ignorance of the Laity, these begat the Tragelaphus, of which we now speak. It may be you take the practice of the ancient Church, and the Point of Excomunication, to make somewhat for you: When those Cards shall come to be play'd (though that of Church-custom is not greatly material, which way soever it looks) I believe you will not find the Game you look for. Indeed I was once minded to have con­sidered something of that: But I think you look for a Letter, not for a Book, and I perceive my self al­ready to have gone beyond the compass of a Let­ter. Another Parley therefore, if you please, shall put an end to those and other Scruples, if any do a­rise. And for the present give, I pray you, a little respite unto.

Yours, J. H.

A TRACT Concerning SCHISM.

Heresie and Schism as they are in common use, are two Theological [...] or scare­crows, which they, who uphold a Par­ty in Religion, use to fright away such, as making inquiry into it, are ready to relinquish and oppose it, if it appear either erroneous or sus­picious. For as Plutarch reports of a Painter who having unskilfully painted a Cock, chased away all Cocks and Hens, that so the imperfection of Art might not appear by comparison with Nature; so Men willing for ends to admit of no fancy but their own, endeavour to hinder an inquiry into it by way of comparison of somewhat with it, peradventure tru­er, that so the deformity of their own might not appear. But howsoever in the common manage, Heresie and Schism are but ridiculous Terms, yet the things in themselves are of very considerable moment, the one offending against Truth, the o­ther against Charity, and therefore both deadly, where they are not by imputation, but in deed.

It is then a matter of no small importance, truly to descry the nature of them, that so they may fear, [Page 41] who are guilty of them, and they on the contrary strengthen themselves, who through the iniquity of Men and times, are injuriously charged with them.

Schism (for of Heresie we shall not now treat, ex­cept it be by accident, and that by occasion of a general mistake spread throughout all the writings of the Ancients, in which their names are familiarly confounded) Schism, I say, upon the very sound of the word, imports Division; Division is not, but where Communion is or ought to be. Now Communi­on is the strength and ground of all Society, whe­ther Sacred or Civil: Whosoever therefore they be, that offend against this common Society and Friend­liness of Men, and cause separation and breach a­mong them: If it be in civil occasions, are guilty of Sedition or Rebellion; if it be by occasion of Eccle­siastical difference, they are guilty of Schism: So that Schism is an Ecclesiastical Sedition, as Sedition is a Lay-Schism. Yet the great benefit of Communi­on notwithstanding, in regard of divers distempers Men are subject to, Dissension and Disunion are of­ten necessary: For when either false or uncertain Conclusions are obtruded for Truth, and Acts ei­ther unlawful, or ministring just scruple, are requi­red of us to be perform'd; in these cases, Consent were conspiracy, and open Contestation is not Fa­ction or Schism, but due Christian Animosity.

For the further opening therefore of the nature of Schism, something must be added by way of dif­ference to distinguish it from necessary Separation, and that is, that the causes upon which Division is attempted, proceed not from Passion, or Distemper, or from Ambition, or Avarice, or such other Ends, as humane folly is apt to pursue; but from well weighed and necessary Reasons, and that, when all other means having been tryed, nothing will [Page 42] serve to save us from guilt of Conscience, but open Separation. So that Schism, if we would define it is nothing else but an unnecessary Separation of Christians from that part of the visible Church, of which they were once Members. Now as in Muti­nies and Civil Dissensions, there are two Attendants in ordinary belonging unto them; one the choice of one Elector or Guide in place of the General, or ordinary Governour, to rule and guide; the other the appointing of some publick place or Rendez­vous, where publick Meetings must be celebrated: So in Church-Dissensions and Quarrels, two Appur­tenances there are, which serve to make a Schism compleat.

First, The choice of a Bishop in opposition to the former, (a thing very frequent amongst the An­cients, and which many times was both the cause and effect of Schism.)

Secondly, The erecting of a new Church and Oratory, for the Dividing-party to meet in publick­ly. For till this be done, the Schism is but yet in the Womb.

In that late famous Controversy in Holland, De Praedestinatione, & Auxiliis, as long as the disa­greeing Parties went no further than Disputes and Pen-combats, the Schism was all that while un­hatched; but as soon as one Party swept an old Cloyster and by a pretty Art suddenly made it a Church, by putting a new pulpit in it, for the se­parating Party there to meet; now, what before was a Controversy, became a formal Schism. To know no more than this, if you take it to be true, had been enough to direct how you are to judge, and what to think of Schism and Shismaticks; yet because in the Ancients, (by whom many Men are more affrighted than hurt) much is said, and many fearful Dooms are pronounced in this case; will [Page 43] we descend a little to consider of Schisms, as it were by way of Story, and that partly further to open that which we have said in general, by in­stancing in particulars; and partly to disabuse those who reverencing Antiquity more than needs, have suffered themselves to be scared with imputation of Schism, above due measure; for what the Ancients spake by way of censure of Schism in general, is most true; for they saw (and it is no great mat­ter to see so much) that unadvisedly, and upon fan­cy to break the knot of Union betwixt Man and Man (especially amongst Christians, upon whom above all other kind of Men, the tye of Love and Communion doth most especially rest) was a Crime hardly pardonable, and that nothing Absolves a Man from the guilt of it, but true and unpretend­ed Conscience; yet when they came to pronounce of Schisms in particular (whether it were because of their own interests, or that they saw not the Truth, or for what other cause God only doth know) their Judgments many times (to speak most gently) are justly to be suspected: Which that you may see, we will range all Schism into two ranks.

For there is a Schism, in which only one Party is the Schismatick; for where cause of Schism is necessary, there not he that separates, but he that occasions the separation is the Schismatick.

Secondly, There is a Schism, wherein both Parties are the Schismaticks: For where the occasion of se­paration is unnecessary, neither side can be excused from the guilt of Schism.

But you will ask, Who shall be the Judge what is necessary? Indeed that is a Question, which hath been often made, but I think scarcely ever truly answered; not because it is a Point of great depth or difficulty truly to assoil it, but because the [Page 44] true solution carries fire in the tail of it. For it bringeth with it a piece of Doctrine which is sel­dom pleasing to Superiours. To you for the pre­sent this shall suffice. If so be you be Animo defoe­cato, if you have cleared your self from froath and grounds; if neither sloth, nor fears, nor ambition nor any tempting Spirits of that nature abuse you (for these and such as these are the true Impedi­ments, why both that, and other Questions of the like danger are not truly answered) if all this be and yet you see not how to frame your resolution, and settle your self for that doubt; I will say no more of you than was said of Papias, St. John's own Scholar, you are [...], your abili­ties are not so good as I presumed.

But to go on with what I intended, and from which that interloping Question diverted me; that you may the better judge of the nature of Schisms by their occasions; you shall find 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 fact; 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 necessary, 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 14th Moon, or the Sunday following? This matter, though most unnecessary, most vain, yet caus­ed [Page 45] 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 Schismaticks: neither can any thing excuse them from that imputation; excepting only this, that we charitably suppose that all Parties out of Con­science did what they did. 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 Superiours 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 grosness 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.

The next Schism, which had in it matter of fact, is that of the Donatist: who was perswaded (at least so he pretended) that it was unlawful to con­verse or communicate in holy Duties with Men stained with any notorious Sin. (For howsoever Austin and others do specify only the Thurificati & Traditores, and Libellatici, and the like, as if he separated only from those, whom he found to be such; [Page 46] yet by necessary proportion, he must refer to all notorious Sinners) Upon this he taught, that in all places where good and bad were mixt together, there could be no Church, by reason of Pollution, evaporating as it were from Sinners, which blasted righteous Persons who conversed with them, and made all unclean. On this ground separating him­self from all whom he list to suspect, he gave out, that the Church was no where to be found but in him and his Associates, as being the only Men a­mong whom wicked Persons found no shelter; and by consequence, the only clean and unpolluted Company, and therefore the only Church. Against this Saint Augustine laid down this Conclusion, Unitatem Ecclesiae per totum orbem dispersae propter nonnullorum peccata non esse deserendam; which is indeed, the whole sum of that Father's Disputation against the Donatist. Now in one part of this Con­troversie betwixt St. Augustine and the Donatist, there is one thing is very remarkable. The Truth was there where it was by meer chance, and might have been on either side, any Reasons brought by either Party notwithstanding. For though it were de facto false, that pars Donati, shut up in Africk, was the only Orthodox Party, yet it might have been true, notwithstanding any thing St. Augustine brings to confute it; and on the contrary, though it were de facto true, that the part of Christians dispersed over the Earth were Orthodox; yet it might have been false notwithstanding any thing St. Augustine brings to confirm it. For where, or amongst whom or amongst how many the Church shall be, or is, is a thing indifferent; it may be in any Number more or less, it may be in any Place, Country, or Nation; it may be in All, and (for ought I know) it may be in none, without any prejudice to the definition of the Church, or the Truth of the Gos­pel. [Page 47] North or South, many or few, dispersed in many places, or confined to one; none of these either prove or disprove a Church.

Now this Schism, and likewise the former, to a wise Man that well understands the matter in Con­troversie; may afford perchance matter of pity, to see Men so strangely distracted upon fancy; but of doubt or trouble what to do, it can yield none. For though in this Schism the Donatist be the Schis­matick, and in the former both Parties be equally engaged in the Schism; yet you may safely upon your occasions communicate with either, so be you flatter neither in their Schism: For why might it not be lawful to go to Church with the Donatist, or to celebrate Easter with the Quartodeciman, if occasion so require? since neither Nature nor Re­ligion, nor Reason doth suggest any thing to the contrary: For in all publick Meetings pretending Holiness, so there be nothing done, but what true Devotion and Piety brook, why may not I be pre­sent in them, and use communication with them? Nay, what if those to whose care the execution of the publick Service is committed, do something either unseemly or suspicious, or peradventure un­lawful? what if the garments they wear be censu­red as, nay indeed be superstitious? what if the Gesture of adoration be used at the Altar, as now we have learned to speak? What if the Homilist or Preacher deliver any Doctrine of the truth of which we are not well perswaded; (a thing which very often falls out) yet for all this we may not separate, except we be constrained personally to bear a part in them our selves. The Priests under Eli had so ill demeaned themselves about the daily Sacrifice, that the Scripture tells us, they made it to stink, yet the People refused not to come to the Taber­nacle, nor to bring their Sacrifice to the Priest. For in [Page 48] these Schisms, which concern Fact, nothing can be a just cause of refusal of Communion, but only to require the execution of some unlawful or suspected act: For not only in Reason, but in Religion too, that Maxim admits of no release, Cautissimi cujus (que) Praeceptum quod dubitas, ne feceris. Long it was ere the Church fell upon Schism upon this occasion, though of late it hath had very many; for until the second Council of Nice, (in which concilable Superstition and Ignorance did conspire) I say, un­till that Rout did set up Image-worship, there was not any remarkable Schism, upon just occasion of Fact: All the rest of Schisms of that kind were but Wantonness, this was truly serious. In this the Schismatical Party was the Synod it self, and such as conspired with it. For concerning the use of Images in Sacris, First, It is ackowledged by all, That it is not a thing necessary: Secondly, It is by most suspected: Thirdly it is by many held utterly unlawful. Can then the enjoyning of the practice of such a thing be ought else but abuse? Or can the refusal of Communion here, be thought any other thing than duty? Here, or upon the like occasion, to separate, may peradventure bring personal trouble and danger, (against which it concerns every honest Man to have Pectus benè praeparatum) further harm it cannot do. So that in these cases, you cannot be to seek what to think, or what you have to do.

Come we then to consider a little of the second sort of Schism, arising upon occasion of variety of opinion. It hath been the common disease of Chri­stians from the beginning, not to content them­selves with that measure of Faith, which God and Scriptures have expresly afforded us; but out of a vain desire to know more than is revealed, they have attempted to discuss things, of which we can have no light, neither from Reason nor Revela­tion; [Page 49] neither have they rested here, but upon pre­tence of Church-authority, which is none, or Tra­dition, which for the most part is but figment; they have peremptorily concluded, and confidently im­posed upon others, a necessity of entertaining Con­clusions of that nature; and to strengthen them­selves, have broken out into Divisions and Factions, opposing Man to Man, Synod to Synod, till the Peace of the Church vanished, without all possibi­lity of recall. Hence arose those ancient and many separations amongst Christians, occasioned by Ar­rianism, Eutychianism, Nestorianism, Photinianism, Sabellianism, and many more both ancient and in our time; all which indeed are but names of Schism; howsoever in the common Language of the Fathers, they were called Heresies. For Heresie is an act of the Will, not of Reason; and is indeed a Lye, not a mistake: Else how could that known speech of Austine go for true, Errare possum, Haereticus esse nolo. Indeed Manichaeism, Valentianism, Marcio­nism, Mahometanism, are truly and properly Here­sies; For we know that the Authors of them received them not, but minted them themselves, and so knew that which they taught to be a Lye. But can any Man avouch that Arrius and Nostorius, and others that taught erroneously concerning the Trinity, or the Person of our Saviour, did maliciously invent what they taught, and not rather fall upon it by er­orr and mistake? Till that be done, and that upon good Evidence, we will think no worse of all Parties than needs we must, and take these Rents in the Church to be at the worst but Schisms upon matter of Opi­nion. In which case what we are to do, is not a point of any great depth of understanding to discover, so be Distemper and Partiality do not intervene. I do not yet see, that Opinionum Varietas, & Opinontium [Page 50] Unitas are [...], or that Men of different opini­nions in Christian Religion, may not hold communi­on in Sacris, and both go to one Church. Why may I not go, if occasion require, to and Arrian Church, so there be no Arrianism exprest in their Liturgy? And were Liturgies and publick Forms of Service so framed, as that they admitted not of par­ticular and private fancies, but contained only such things, as in which all Christians do agree, Schisms on Opinion were utterly vanished. For consider of all the Liturgies that are or ever have been, and remove from them whatsoever is scandalous to any Party, and leave nothing but what all agree on, and the event shall be, that the Publick Service and Ho­nour of God shall no ways suffer: Whereas to load our Publick Forms with the Private Fancies upon which we differ, is the most sovereign way to per­petuate Schism unto the Worlds end. Prayer, Con­fession, Thanksgiving, Reading of Scriptures, Ex­position of Scripture, Administration of Sacraments in the plainest and simplest manner, were matter enough to furnish out a sufficient Liturgy, though nothing either of private Opinion, or of Church Pomp, of Garments, of prescribed Gestures, of I­magery, of Musick, of matter concerning the Dead, of many superfluities, which creep into the Churches under the name of Order and Decency, did interpose it self. For to charge Churches Liturgies with things unnecessary, was the first beginning of all superstition, and when scruples of Conscience began to be made or pretended, then Schisms began to break in. If the spiritual Guides and Fathers of the Church would be a little sparing of incumbring Churches with superfluities, and not over rigid either in reviving obsolete Customs, or imposing new, there were far [Page 51] less danger of Schism or Superstition; and all the in­convenience were likely to ensue, would be but this, they should in so doing, yield a little to the imbecilities of Inferiors, a thing which St. Paul would never have refused to do. Mean while, wheresoever false or suspected Opinions are made a piece of the Church Liturgy, he that seperates is not the Schismatick; For it is alike unlawful to make profession of known or suspected falshoods, as to put in practice unlawful or suspect actions.

The third thing I noted for matter of Schism was Ambition, I mean Episcopal Ambition, shewing it self especially in two heads; one concerning Plurali­ty of Bishops in the same See, another the Superiori­ty of Bishops in divers Sees. Aristotle tells us, that Necessity causeth but small faults, but Avarice and Ambition were the Mothers of great Crimes; Episcopal Ambition hath made this true: For no Oc­casion hath produced more frequent, more continu­ing, more sanguinary Schisms, than this hath done. The Sees of Alexandria, of Constantinople, of An­tioch, and above all of Rome, do abundantly shew thus much, and our Ecclesiastical Stories witness no less, of which the greatest part consists in the factio­nating and tumultuating of great and potent Bishops. Socrates Apologizing for himself, that professing to write an Ecclesiastical Story, he did oft-times inter­lace the actions of secular Princes and other civil bu­sinesses; tells us, That he did thus to refresh his Rea­der, who otherwise were in danger to be cloy'd by reading so much of the Acts of unquiet and un­ruly Bishops, [...], in which as a Man might say, they made Butter and Cheese one of another; For [...], (that I may shew you a cast out of my old Office, and open you a Mystery in Grammer) properly signifieth to make Butter and Cheese: Now because these are [Page 52] not made without much agitation of the Milk, hence [...], by a borrowed and translated significa­tion, signifies to do things with much agitation and tumult.

But that I may a little consider of the two Heads which I but now specified; The first I mentioned was the Plurality of Bishops in one See. For the general practice of the Church from the beginning, at least since the original of Episcopacy, as now it is, was never to admit at once more than one Bishop in one See; And so far in this point have they been careful to preserve Unity, that they would not suf­fer a Bishop in his See to have two Cathedral Churches, which thing lately brought us a Book out of France, De Monogamia Episcoporum, written by occasion of the Bishop of Langres, who, I know not upon what fancy, could not be content with one Cathedral Church in his Diocess, but would needs have two, which to the Author of that work seems to be a kind of spiritual Polygamy. It fell out amongst the Ancients very often; sometimes upon occasion of difference in Opinion, sometimes because of difference amongst those who were in­teressed in the choice of Bishops, that two Bishops and sometimes more were set up, and all Parties striving to maintain their own Bishop, made them­selves several Churches, several Congregations, each refusing to participate with others, and many times proceeding to mutual Excommunication. This is that which Cyprian calls Erigere Altare contra Alta­re: to this doth he impute the Original of all Church disorders; and if you read him, you would think he thought no other Church-Tumult to be a Schism but this. This perchance might plead some excuse; For though in regard of Religion it self, it matters not whether there be one or more Bishops in the same [Page 53] Diocess, and sometimes two are known to have sat at once (for Epiphanius reckoning up the Bishops of Rome, makes Peter and Paul the first: and St. Au­stin acknowledgeth, that for a time he sat fellow Bi­shop with his Predecessor, though he excuseth it, that he did so by being ignorant that the contrary had been decreed by the Council of Nice,) yet it being a thing very convenient for the Peace of the Church to have it so; neither doth it any way savour of Vice or Misdemeanor; their Punishment sleeps not, who unnecessarily and wantonly go about to infringe it.

But that other Head of Episcopal Ambition, con­cerning Supremacy of Bishops in divers Sees, one claiming Superority over another, as it hath been from time to time, a great Trespasser against the Churches Peace, so it is now the final Ruin of it. The East and the West, through the fury of the two prime Bishops, being irremediably separated with­out all hope of Reconcilement. And besides all this mischief, it is founded in a vice contrary to all Chri­stian humility, without which no Man shall see his Saviour; For they do but abuse themselves and others, that would perswade us, that Bishops, by Christ's Institution, have any Superiority over other Men, further than of Reverence; or that any Bi­shop is Superiour to another, further than positive order agreed upon amongst Christians, hath prescrib­ed. For we have believed him that hath told us, That in Jesus Christ there is neither high nor low; and that in giving honour, every Man should be ready to prefer another before himself; which sayings cut of all claim most certainly to Superiority, by title of Christianity; except Men can think that these things were spoken only to poor and private Men. Na­ture and Religion agree in this, that neither of them hath a hand in this Heraldry of secundum sub & [Page 54] supra; all this comes from Composition and Agree­ment of Men among themselves. Wherefore this abuse of Christianity, to make it Lacquey to Am­bition, is a vice for which I have no extraordinary name of Ignominy, and an ordinary I will not give it, least you should take so transcendent a vice to be but trivial.

Now concerning Schism arising upon these Heads, you cannot be for behaviour much to seek; for you may safely communicate with all Parties as Occasi­on shall call you, and the Schismaticks here are all those who are heads of the Faction, together with all those who foment it: for private and indifferent Persons, they may be Spectators of these contentions as securely in regard of any peril of Conscience (for of danger in Purse or Person, I keep no account) as at a Cock fight. Where Serpents fight, who cares who hath the better? The best Wish is, that both may perish in the fight.

Now for Conventicles, of the nature of which you desire to be informed, thus much in general. It evidently appears, that all Meetings upon unne­cessary Occasions of Separation are to be stiled, so that in this sense, a Conventicle is nothing else but a Congregation of Schismaticks; Yet Time hath taken leave sometimes to fix this Name upon good and honest Meetings, and that perchance not alto­gether without good reason; For with publick Re­ligious Meetings thus it fares: First, it hath been at all times confessed necessary, that God requires not only inward and private Devotion, when Men either in their Hearts and Closets, or within their private walls, pray, praise, confess and acknow­ledge; but he further requires all those things to be done in Publick, by troops and shoals of Men, and from hence have proceeded publick Temples, Al­tars, [Page 55] Forms of Service, appointed Times, and the like, which are required for open Assemblies; yet whilst Men were truly pious, all Meetings of Men for mutual help of Piety and Devotion, wheresoever and by whomsoever celebrated, were permitted with­out exception.

But when it was espied that ill affected Persons abus'd private Meetings, whether Religious or Ci­vil, to evil ends, Religiousness to gross, impiety, (as appears in the Ethnick Eleusmia, and Baecchanalia; and Christian Meetings under the Pagan Princes, when for fear they durst not come together in open view, were charged with foul imputations, as by the report of Christians themselves plainly ap­pears; and Civil Meetings many times under pre­tence of friendly and neighbourly Visits, sheltered treasonable Attempts Against Princes and Common­weals:) Hence both Church and State joyned, and jointly gave order for Forms, Times, Places of Publick Concourse, whether for Religious or Civil Ends; and all other Meetings whatsoever, besides those of which both Time and Place were limited, they censured for Routs and Riots, and unlawful Assemblies in the State, and in the Church for Con­venticles.

So that it is not lawful, no not for Prayer, for Hearing, for Conference, for any other Religious Office whatsoever, for people to assemble otherwise, than by Publick Order is allowed. Neither may we complain of this in Times of Incorruption, for why should Men desire to do that suspiciously in private which warrantably may be performed in publick? But in Times of manifest Corruptions and Persecu­tions, wherein Religious Assembling is dangerous, private Meetings, howsoever besides publick Or­der, are not only lawful, but they are of Necessity [Page 56] and Duty; else how shall we excuse the Meetings of Christians for publick Service, in time of dan­ger and persecutions, and of our selves in Queen Maries days? And how will those of the Roman Church amongst us, put off the imputation of Con­venticling, who are known amongst us privately to assemble for Religious Exercise against all establish­ed Order, both in State and Church? For indeed all pious Assemblies in times of persecution and cor­ruptions howsoever practised, are indeed, or rather alone the lawful Congregations; and publick Assem­blies, though according to form of Law, are in­deed nothing else but Riots and Conventicles, if they be stained with Corruption, and Superstiti­on.


How to know the Church.

MArks and Notes to know the Church there are none, except we will make True Profession, which is the Form and Essence of the Church to be a Mark. And as there are none, so is it not necessary there should be. For to what purpose should they serve? That I might go seek and find out some Company to mark. This is no way necessary. For glorious Things are in the Scriptures spoken of the Church: not that I should run up and down the World to find the Persons of the Professors; but that I should make my self of it. This I do by taking upon me the Profession of Christianity, and submitting my self to the Rules of Belief, and Practice, delivered in the Gospel, though besides my self, I knew no other Professor in the World. If this were not the Authors end in proposal of the Title, it is but a meer Vanity.

To the Description of the Church.

The Church, as it imports a visible Company in Earth, is nothing else but the Company of Profes­sors of Christanity, wheresoever disperst in the [Page 58] Earth. To define it thus by Monarchy, under one visible Head, is of novelty crept up, since Men be­gan to change the spiritual Kingdom of Christ to se­cular Pride and Tyranny, and a thing never heard of, either in the Scriptures, or in the Writings of the Ancients. Government, whether by one or many, or howsoever, if it be one of the Churches contingent Attributes, it is all; certainly it is no necessary Property, much less comes it into the Defi­nition and Essence of it. I mean outward Govern­ment; for as for inward Government, by which Christ reigns in the Hearts of his Elect, and vindi­cates them from spiritual Enemies, I have no occa­sion to speak, neither see I any reference to it in all your Authors Animadversions.

How Christ is the Head of the Church.

From the Worlds beginning, till the last hour of it, the Church is essentially one and the same, howsoever perchance in Garment, and outward Ceremony, it admits of Difference. And as it was from the beginning of the World, so was it Christian; there being no other difference betwixt the Fathers before Christ and us, but this, As we believe in Christ that is Come, so they believed in Christ that was to Come. Jesus Christ yesterday, and to day, and the same for ever. Reference unto Christ is the very Essence of the Church, and there neither is, nor ever was any Church but Christ's; and therefore the Church, amongst the Jews was properly and truly Christian, quoad rem, as we are. Now as this Church at all times is Christ's Body, so is Christ the Head of it. For it is as impossible for the Church, as for the Body, to be without its Head; it is not therefore as your Au­thor [Page 59] dreams. Christ came not to found a New Church, or to profess a Visible Headship of it. That Rela­tion to this Church, which we express when we call him the Head of it, is one and the same, from the Beginning to all Eternity, neither receives it any alteration in this respect, because the Person in whom this Relation, is founded, is sometimes Visi­ble, sometimes not. 'Tis true indeed, the Head of the Church sometimes became Visible, but this is but contingent and by Concomitancy. For Christ the second Person in the Trinity, becoming Man to Redeem this Church, and manifest the way of Truth unto it; It so fell out that the Head of the Church became Visible. Of this Visibility he left no Succes­sor, no Doctrine, no Use, as being a thing meerly accidental: I ask, Had the Church before Christ any Visible Head? if it had, then was not Christ the first, as here our Teacher tells us; If it had none, why then should the Church more require a Visible Head, than it did from the Beginning. To speak the Truth at once. All these Questions, concerning the Notes, the Visibility, the Government of the Church, if we look upon the Substance and Na­ture of the Church, they are meerly Idle and Imper­tinent: If upon the End, why Learned Men do handle them, it is nothing else but Faction.

Of Peter's Ministerial Headship of the Church.

In your Author's Paragraphs concerning the visi­ble Encrease, or Succession of the Church, there is no Difference betwixt us. As for the Proofs of Pe­ters Ministerial Headship, this first concerning his being the Rock of the Church, that cannot prove-it; [Page 60] For Peter was the Rock then; when our Saviour spake, but then could he not be the visible Head, for Christ himself then was living, and by our Teachers Doctrine, supplied that room himself. Peter therefore howsoever, or in what sense soever he were the Rock, yet could he not be the visible Head, except we will grant the Church to have had two visible Heads at once.

Secondly, The Keys of Heaven committed to Peter, and Command to feed his Sheep, import no more, than that common Duty laid upon all the Disciples, To teach all Nations; for this Duty in several respects, is exprest by several Metaphors. Teaching, as it signifies the opening of the way to Life, so is it called by the name of Keys; but as it signifies the Strengthning of the Soul of Man by the Word, which is the Souls spiritual Food, so is it called Feeding. Thus much is seen by the Defenders of the Church of Rome, and therefore they fly for refuge to a Circumstance: It is observ­ed, that our Saviour delivered this Doctrine to Pe­ter alone (as indeed sometimes he did) in this it is supposed that some great Mystery rests: For why should our Saviour thus single out Peter, and com­mend a common Duty to him, if there were not something extraordinary in it, which concerned him above the rest? This they interpret a Pre-eminence that Peter had in his Business of Teaching, which they say is a Primacy and Head-ship; inforcing thus much, that all the rest were to depend from Him, and from Him receive what they were to preach. For Answer, Grant me there were some great Mystery in it, yet whence is it proved, that this is that Mystery? For if our Saviour did not manifest it, then might there be a thousand Cau­ses, which Mans Conjecture may easily miss: It is great boldness, out of Causes concealed, to pick [Page 61] so great Consequences, and to found Matters of so great weight upon meer Conjectures.

Thirdly, The Prayer for Confirmation of Peters Faith, whence it came, the Course of the Story set down in the Text doth shew, It was our Saviours Prevision of Peters danger to relapse, which dan­ger he had certainly run into, had not our Saviour extraordinarily prayed for confirmation of his Faith. And the Precept of confirming his Brethren, is but that charitable Office, which is exacted at every Chri­stians hand, that when himself had escaped so great a Wrack, to be careful in warning and reclaim­ing others whom common frailty drives into the like Distress.

These Circumstances, that Peter is first named amongst the Disciples, that he made the first Ser­mon, and the like, are two weak Grounds to build the Soveraignty over the World upon; and that he spake Ananias and Sapphira dead, argues spiritual Power, but not temporal. But that Peter called the first Council in the Acts, is a Circumstance be­yond the Text; for concerning the calling of the Council there is no word, all that is said is but this, that the Disciples and Elders met, no Sylla­ble of Peters calling them together.

That Peter was 25 Years Bishop of Rome, is not to be proved out of Antiquity, before St. Hierom, who shuffled it into Eusebius's Chronicle, there be­ing no such thing extant in his Story. Yea, that he was Bishop at all (as now the name of Bishop is taken) may be very questionable: For the Ancients that reckon up the Bishops of Rome until their times, as Eusebius, and before him Tertullian, and before them both Iraeneus, never account Peter as Bishop of that See: And Epiphanius tells us, that Peter and Paul were both Bishops of Rome at once; [Page 62] by which it is plain he took the Title of Bishop in another sense than now it is used: For now, and so for a long time upward, two Bishops can no more possess one See, than two Hedge-Sparrows dwell in one Bush. St. Peters time was a little too early for Bishops to rise.

Answer to the Bishop of Romes Practice of Supremacy.

To the first, That so many of the Bishops of Rome were Martyrs, What makes that to the purpose? Is Martyrdom an Argument of the Supremacy?

To the second, That Victor indeavoured to ex­communicate the Asiatick Bishops, is true; but withal it is as true, that he was withstood for his Labour: For the Bishops of Asia themselves did sharply reprove him, [...], the Words of Eusebius; and Iraeneus wrote against him for it.

To the third, That the first four Councils were called by the Popes, is an open Falshood, for in the two first, the Bishops of Rome are not so much as mentioned, save only as persons cited. In the two last they are mentioned only as Petitioners to the Emperour. There are extant the Stories of Euse­bius, Socrates, Ruffinus, Theodoret, Sozomenus, the Acts of the Councils themselves, at least some of them, the Writings and Epistles of Leo Bishop of Rome. In all these there is not one word of the Pope farther than a Supplicant, and the whole cal­ling of the Bishops together is attributed to the Emperour. Take for Example but the last of them Leo, Bishop of Rome, was desirous that some things done in a meeting of Divines at Ephesus, should be disannulled; for this he becomes a Suitor to The­odosius [Page 63] the junior, to have a General Council, but could never procure it of him. After his death he continues his suit to Marcianus Successor to Theo­dosius, who granted his request; But whereas Leo had requested the Council might be held in Ita­ly, the Emperour would not hear him; nay which is more, the Pope upon good reason, had besought the Emperour to put off the day design'd for the hold­ing of the Council, but the Emperour would not hear him. So that Leo could do nothing, neither for the calling the Council, nor for the Place nor for the Time. And all this appears by Leo's own Epistles. If the Popes could do so little well near 500 years after Christ, how little could they do be­fore, when their horns were not yet so long.

The Plea of the Protestants concerning the Cor­ruption of the Church of Rome, which by them is confessed sometimes to have been pure, is no more prejudicial to Christs Promise to his Church, that the Gaits of Hell shall not prevail against her, than the known corruption of the Churches in Asia in St. John's time, or of other Churches after.

The Close of all is a Demonstration. A Word unfortunately used by your Author, to bewray his Lo­gick: For indeed a Reason drawn from so poor and empty a sign, falls many bows wide of demonstrative Proof. First, it is false that all the rest of Patriar­chal Sees are extinct. The See of Constantinopel yet stands, and shews her Succession of Bishops from St. Andrew, till this day, as well as the Church of Rome can from St. Peter. The See of Alexandria yet subsists and the Bishop of that place calls him, [...], Judge of the World, (as my self have seen in some of his Letters) a Title to which he hath as good Right, as the Bishop of Rome hath to be the Worlds Sovereign. If any reply they are poor, [Page 64] in misery, in persecution and affliction: this can make no difference, since with Christ there is neither rich nor poor, but a new Creature. And again, their case now is as good as was the Bishops of Rome, under the Ethnick Emperors; for their Lot then was no other than those Bishops is now. But grant that it had lasted longest, what then? Some of them must needs have consisted longer than the other, except we would suppose that they should have fallen all together. Peradventure the reason of her so long lasting is no other, but that which the Cyclops gives Ulysses in Homer, [...] Ulysses should be eaten last of all. However it be, this Vant seems but like that of the wicked Servant in the Gospel, tardat Dominus venire, and we doubt not but a day of the Lord shall overtake him who now eats and drinks, and revels with the World, and beats his fellow Servants.


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