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their interview in Egypt. Our comfortable expectation and most thirsty desire whereof, what man soever amongst you shall any way help to satisfy (as we truly hope there is no one amongst you but someway or other will), the blessings of the God of peace, both in this world and in the world to come, be upon him more than the stars of the firmament in number,
BO O K I.
Coucerning Laws, and their several kinds in general.
THE MATTER CONTAINED IN THIS FIRST BOOK.
1. The cause of writing this general discourse concerning laws.
all things by.
that which is good. 9. Of the benefit of keeping that law which reason teacheth. 10. How reason doth lead men unto the making of human laws, whereby politic soci
eties are governed, and to agreement about laws, whereby the fellowship or
communion of independent societies standeth. 11. Wherefore God hath by Scripture farther made knowo such supernatural laws
as do serve for men's direction. 12. The cause why so many natural or rational laws are set down in Holy Scripture. 13. The benefit of having Divine laws written. 14. The sufficiency of Scripture unto the end for which it was instituted. 15. Of laws positive contained in Scripture; the mutability of certain of them, and
the general use of Scripture. 16. A conclusion, shewing how all this belongeth to the cause in question.
He that goeth about to persuade a multitude, that they are The cause
of writing not so well governed as they ought to be, shall never want
this general attentive and favourable hearers ; because they know the ma- discourse. nifold defects whereunto every kind of regiment is subject: but the secret lets and difficulties, which in public proceedings are innumerable and inevitable, they have not ordinarily the judgment to consider. And because such as openly re
prove supposed disorders of state, are taken for principal friends to the common benefit of all, and for men that carry singular freedom of mind; under this fair and plausible colour, whatsoever they utter, passeth for good and current. That which wanteth in the weight of their speech, is supplied by the aptness of men's minds to accept and believe it. Whereas on the other side, if we maintain things that are established, we have not only to strive with a number of heavy prejudices, deeply rooted in the hearts of men, who think that herein we serve the time, and speak in favour of the present state, because thereby we either hold or seek preferment; but also to bear such exceptions as minds, so averted beforehand, usually take against that which they are loath should be poured into them. Albeit therefore, much of that weare to speak in this present cause, may seem to a number perhaps tedious, perhaps obscure, dark, and intricate (for many talk of the truth, which never sounded the depth from whence it springeth; and therefore when they are led thereunto, they are soon weary, as men drawn from those beaten paths wherewith they have been inured); yet this may not so far prevail, as to cut off that which the matter itself requireth, howsoever the nice humour of some be therewith pleased, or no. They unto whom we shall seem tedious, are in no wise injured by us, because it is in their own hands to spare that labour which they are not willing to endure. And if any complain of obscurity, they must consider, that in these matters it cometh no otherwise to pass than in sundry the works both of art, and also of nature, where that which hath greatest force in the very things we see, is notwithstanding itself oftentimes not seen.
The stateliness of houses, the goodliness of trees when we behold them, delighteth the eye; but that foundation which beareth up the one, that root which ministereth unto the other nourishment and life, is in the bosom of the earth concealed; and if there be occasion at any time to search into it, such labour is then more necessary than pleasant, both to them which undertake it, and for the lookers-on. In like manner, the use and benefit of good laws, all that live under them may enjoy with delight and comfort, albeit the grounds and first original causes from whence they have sprung, be unknown, as to the greatest part of men they are. But when they who withdraw their obedience, pretend, that the laws which they should obey
are corrupt and vicious; for better examination of their quality, it behoveth the very foundation and root, the highest well-spring and fountain, of them to be discovered. Which, because we are not oftentimes accustomed to do, when we do do it, the pains we take are more needful a great deal than acceptable, and the matters which we handle seem, by reason of newness (till the mind grow better acquainted with them) dark, intricate, and unfamiliar. For as much help whereof, as may be in this case, I have endeavoured throughout the body of this whole discourse, that every former part might give strength unto all that follow, and every latter bring some light unto all before. So that if the judgments of men do but hold themselves in suspense, as touching these first more general meditations, till in order they have perused the rest that ensue; what may seem dark at the first, will afterwards be found more plain; even as the latter particular decisions will appear, I doubt not, more strong, when the other have been read before. The laws of the church, whereby for so many ages together we have been guided in the exercise of Christian religion, and the service of the true God, our rites, customs, and orders of ecclesiastical government, are called in question. We are accused as men that will not have Christ Jesus to rule over them; but have wilfully cast his statutes behind their backs, hating to be reformed and made subject unto the sceptre of his discipline. Behold, therefore, we offer the laws whereby we live unto the general trial and judgment of the whole world ; heartily beseeching Almighty God, whom we desire to serve according to his own will, that both we and others (all kind of partial affection being laid clean aside) may have eyes to see, and hearts to embrace, the things that in his sight are most acceptable. And because the point about which we strive is the quality of our laws, our first entrance hereinto cannot better be made, than with consideration of the nature of law in general, and of that law which giveth life unto all the rest which are commendable, just, and good, namely, the law whereby the Eternal himself doth work. Proceeding from hence to the law, first of nature, then of Scripture, we shall have the easier access unto those things which come after to be debated, concerning the particular cause and question which we have in hand.
2. All things that are, have some operation not violent or of that casual: neither doth any thing ever begin to exercise the God from
bath set for himself to do all
before the same, without some foreconceived end for which it worketh. beginning And the end which it worketh for is not obtained, unless the
work be also fit to obtain it by; for unto every end every
operation will not serve. That which doth assign unto each things by.
thing the kind, that which doth moderate the force and power, that which doth appoint the form and measure of working, the same we term a law. So that no certain end could ever be attained, unless the actions whereby it is attained, were regular; that is to say, made suitable, fit, and correspondent, unto their end, by some canon, rule, or law: which thing doth first take place in the works, even of God himself. All things therefore do work after a sort according to law; all other things according to a law, whereof some superior, unto whom they are subject, is author; only the works and operations of God have him both for their worker, and for the law whereby they are wrought. The being of God is a kind of law to his working; for that perfection which God is, giveth perfection to that he doth. Those natural, necessary, and internal operations of God, the generation of the Son, the proceeding of the Spirit, are without the compass of my present intent; which is to touch only such operations as have their beginning and being by a voluntary purpose, wherewith God hath eternally decreed when and how they should be; which eternal decree is that we term an eternal law. Dangerous it were for the feeble brain of man, to wade far into the doings of the Most High ; whom although to know be life, and joy to make mention of his name; yet our soundest knowledge is, to know that we know him not as indeed he is, neither can know him: and our safest eloquence concerning him, is our silence, when we confess without confession, that his glory is inexplicable, his greatness above our capacity and reach. He is above, and we upon earth; therefore it behoveth our words to be wary and few. Our God is one, or rather very oneness, and mere unity, having nothing but itself in itself, and not consisting (as all things do besides God) of many things; in which essential unity of God, a trinity personal nevertheless subsisteth, after a manner far exceeding the possibility of man's conceit. The works which outwardly are of God, they are in such sort of him being one, that each person hath in them somewhat peculiar and proper: for being three, and they all subsisting in the essence of one Deity, from the Father, by the Son, through