Page images
PDF
EPUB

word of Moses drove them into the houses, preserved them alive. If men wander in the field of their own ways, of selfseeking, oppression, ambition, and the like, doubtless the storm will carry them away; but for those who keep house, who keep close to the Lord, though it may have much noise, terror, and dread with it, it shall not come nigh them. And if the Lord for causes best known, known only to his infinite wisdom, should take off any Josiahs in the opposition, he will certainly effect two things by it.

(1.) To give them rest and peace.

(2.) Further his cause and truth, by drawing out the prayers and appeals of the residue, and this living they valued above their lives.

All you then that are the Lord's workmen, be always prepared for a storm; wonder not that men see not the ways of the Lord, nor the judgments of our God, many are blinded. Admire not that they will so endlessly engage themselves into fruitless oppositions; they are hardened. Be not amazed that evidence of truth and righteousness will not affect them; they are corrupted. But this do; Come and enter into the chambers of God, and you shall be safe until this whole indignation be overpast.' I speak of all them, and only them who follow the Lord in all his ways with upright hearts, and single minds, if the Lord will have you to be a rock and a brazen wall for men to dash themselves against, and to break in pieces, though the service be grievous to flesh and blood, yet it is his, whose you are; be prepared, the wind blows, a storm may come.

Use 2. Let men set upon opposition make a diligent inquiry, whether there be no hand in the business, but their own? whether their counsels be not leavened with the wrath of God, and their thoughts mixed with a spirit of giddiness, and themselves carried on to their own destruction ? Let me see the opposer of the present ways of God, who, upon his opposition is made more humble, more self-denying, more empty of self-wisdom, more fervent in supplications and waiting upon God, than formerly; and I will certainly blot him out of the roll of men judicially hardened. But if therewith men become also proud, selfish, carnally wise, revengeful, furious upon earthly interests, full, impatient; doubtless God is departed, and an evil spirit from the Lord

prevaileth on them. O that men would look about them before it be too late, see the Lord disturbing them, before the waves return upon them; know that they may pull down some antics that make a great shew of supporting the church, and yet indeed are pargetted posts supported by it! The foundation is on a rock that shall not be prevailed against.

Use 3. See the infinite wisdom and sovereignty of Almighty God, that is able to bring light out of darkness, and to compass his own righteous judgments by the sinful ad. visings and undertakings of men. Indeed the Lord's sovereignty and dominion over the creature, doth not in any thing more exalt itself, than in working in all the reasonings, debates, consultations of men, to bring about his own counsels, through their free workings. That men should use, improve their wisdom, freedom, choice; yea, lusts, not once thinking of God; yet all that while do his work more than their own; This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.'

Of the last part of my text I shall not speak at all, neither indeed did I intend.

OF

TOLE RATION:

AND

THE DUTY OF THE MAGISTRATE

ABOUT RELIGION.

The times are busy, and we must be brief. Prefaces for the most part are at all times needless, in these troublesome. Mine shall only be, that άνευ προοιμίων και παθών, without either preface or solemnity,'I will fall to the business in hand. The thing about which I am to deal, is commonly called, Toleration in religion, or toleration of several religions. The way wherein I shall proceed, is not by contest, thereby to give occasion for the reciprocation of a saw of debate with any; but by the laying down of such positive observations, as being either not apprehended, or not rightly improved, by the most, yet lie at the bottom of the whole difference between men about this business, and tend in themselves to give light unto a righteous and equitable determination of the main thing contended about. And lastly, herein for method I shall first consider the grounds upon which that non-toleration, whereunto I cannot consent, had been, and is still endeavoured to be supported, which I shall be necessitated to remove.

I. By considering the arguments brought from holy writ.

II. From some other general observations. And then in order

III. I shall assert the positive truth, as to the substance of the business under contest.

All in these ensuing observations.
1. As to the first of these,

1. Although the expressions of toleration, and non-toleration, wherewith the thing in controversy is vested, do seem to cast the affirmative upon them who plead for a forbear

ance in things of religion towards dissenting persons, yet the truth is, they are purely upon the negation, and the affirmative lies fully on the other part; and so the weight of proving, which ofttimes is heavy, lies on their shoulders. Though non-toleration sound like a negation, yet punishment (which terms in this matter are looduvauoūvra) is a deep affirmation. And therefore it sufficeth not men to say, that they have consulted the mind of God, and cannot find that he ever spake to any of his saints or people to establish a toleration of error. And yet this is the first argument to oppose it, produced in the late testimony of the reverend and learned assembly of the church of Scotland. Affirmative precepts must be produced for a non-toleration, that is, the punishing of erring persons. For actings of such high concernment, men do generally desire a better warrant than this: there is nothing in the word against them. Clear light is needful for men, who walk in paths which lead directly to houses of blood. God hath not spoken of non-toleration, is a certain rule of forbearance. But God hath not spoken of toleration, is no rule of acting in opposition thereunto. What he hath spoken, one way or other, shall be afterward considered. Positive actings must have positive precepts, and rules for them, as conscience is its own guide. If then you will have persons deviating in their apprehensions from the truth of the gospel, civilly punished, you must bring better warrant than this, that God hath not spoken against it, or I shall not walk in your ways, but refrain my foot from your path.

2. That undoubtedly there are very many things under the command of the Lord, so becoming our duty, and within his promise, so made our privilege, which yet if not performed, or not enjoyed, are not of human cognizance, as faith itself. Yet because the knowledge of the truth is in that rank of things, this also is urged as of weight, by the same learned persons, to the business in hand.

3. Errors, though never so impious, are yet distinguished from peace-disturbing enormities. If opinions in their own nature tend to the disturbance of the public peace, either that public tranquillity is not of God, or God alloweth a penal restraint of those opinions. It is a mistake to affirm, that those who plead for toleration, do allow of punishment for offences against the second table, not against the first. The case is the same both in respect of the one, and the other. What offences against the second table are punishable? Doubtless not all; but only such, as by a disorderly eruption, pervert the course of public quiet and society. Yea, none but such fall under human cognizance. The warrant of exercising vindictive power amongst men, is from the reference of offences to their common tranquillity. • Delicta puniri publice interest.' Where punishment is the debt, 'Bonum totius' is the creditor to exact it. And this is allowed, as to the offences against the first table. If any of them in their own nature (not some men's apprehensions) are disturbances of public peace, they also are punishable. Only let not this be measured by disputable consequences, no more than the other are. Let the evidence be in the things themselves, and 'Actum est,' let who will plead for them. Hence

Popish religion, warming in its very bowels a fatal engine against all magistracy amongst us, cannot upon our concessions plead for forbearance; it being a known and received maxim, that the gospel of Christ clashes against no righteous ordinance of man.

And let this be spoken to the third argument of the forenamed reverend persons, from the analogy of delinquencies against the first and second table.

4. The plea for the punishment of erring persons from the penal constitution under the Old Testament against idolaters (which in the next place is urged), seems not very firm and convincing. The vast distance that is between idolatry, and any errors whatsoever, as merely such, however propagated or maintained with obstinacy, much impaireth the strength of this argumentation.

Idolatry is the yielding unto a creature the service and worship due to the Creator. Reinold. de. Idol. lib. 2. cap. 1. sect. 1. •Idololatria est circa omne idolum famulatus et servitus.' Tertul. de Pol.' the attendance and service of any idol.' • Idololatræ dicuntur qui simulachriseam servitutem exhibent, quæ debetur Deo.' August. lib. 1. de Trinit. cap. 6. • They are idolaters who give that service to idols which is due unto God.' To render glory to the creature, as to God, is idolatry, say the Papists. Bell. de Eccles. Triump. lib. 2. cap. 24. Greg. de Valen. de Idol. lib. 1. cap. 1. Suitable to the description of it given by the apostle, Rom. i. 25.

« PreviousContinue »