Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the minister of the gospel; and a man cannot possibly mention the affairs of state in publick, but it must be either way, and, therefore, he ought neither way to do it.

And, whatsoever a man's aim may be in meddling thus with statematters, as he doth no service to God in it, so he perverts the minds of the hearers, from the integrity and simplicity of the gospel, to reflect upon, and affect, with reference to worldly wisdom, the ways of a party: for all state-matters are continually carried by some plots in the hands of one party or other; and whosoever doth meddle with them, either to commend or discommend the proceedings, must be the servant of a party, and so forsakes the spiritual liberty, and impartiality, wherein they ought to stand, and whereunto he ought to bring the minds of his hearers, that they may be willing to serve all inen in love, for their spiritual edification, without prejudice, for Christ's sake. The interests of states-men, and matters, change according to circumstances, by which those, that manage publick affairs, find their advantages. If the minister of the gospel will oblige himself to meddle with these matters, he will be constrained either to say and unsay the same things, if he follow state-principles, (which is to discredit the truth of the gospel) for, when men are swayed with carnal considerations, they must needs make the same thing in their preaching, yea, yea, and nay, nay, (as we have found many do of late) or, if he will be inflexible, and not change his note with the times, he will be engaged into occasions of strife and controversies with others, for worldly matters, as often as they change, which, how inconvenient it is for a minister of the gospel to do, and how prejudicial it is unto his profession, I leave you to judge.

The scandals, which are given against the gospel to those that are discerning, and perceive men's drifts in preaching for interests, are very heinous and hurtful to the truth, and to the ministry thereof, to discredit it: for, by this means, natural men* become atheists, for thereupon they count all religiou nothing else hut a cloke of hypocrisy. These practices stagger the weak also, who are led with blind zeal to be engaged into factions against their brethren, and to maintain divisions, which overthrow the church's peace and unity; and thereby subtle statesmen take advantages to lay snares before unwary ministers, who have more zeal than prudence, to entrap them, and make use of them for their own ends; and then, when they have made them their hacknies, and served their turns out of them, they turn them away with neglect and contempt at the journey's end, because they deserve no better.

Now, I, knowing these things to be the natural consequents of mi. nisters intermeddling with state-matters, cannot think it lawful for me to come within the reach of these snares, and therefore must avoid the occasions thereof, and am willing to warn you of the same, whereof we see many ezamples before our eyes.

These are the chief heads of reasons, which have made me abstain from that way of preaching, which some have followed; and, as I

• Viz, Such as seek not God through Jesus Christ.

cunceive, these grounds, which justify, my way, to be unanswerable, so I never could find any solidity in those pretences, which are alledged for the contrary practice.

For that which is pretended from Ezech. iii. 17,-22, and xxxiii. 7, that ministers are made watchmen, to give warning to the wicked, to warn them from their wicked way, and to the righteous also, that they turn not from their righteousness, is not otherwise to be understood, but in clear cases

, wherein God's commandment is manifestly transgressed, and to be directed immediately towards the persons themselves, who are transgressors, to make them sensible of the guilt and danger under which they stand. But, in doubtful cases, wherein there is no clear word from God's mouth, wherein the magistrate's actions may be misinterpreted; wherein he pretends to walk by a just rule; wherein his secret aim and intention, by a jealousy of state, is rather condemned than his fact; and wherein he is not expresly dealt withal himself to convict his conscience concerning the iniquity of his proceedings to rectify it, but is cried out upon before others, and censured before the multitude, who are not his competent judges (which is the practice of those that in the pulpits have meddled, and do meddle with state-matters) I say, in such cases, and in such a way of proceeding, no colour can be taken from the watch-office of Ezekiel to warrant it: for, look upon the charge which he doth receive, and the way how he is to discharge it, and you will see that your practice is nothing like it. The charge is, that the watchman should hear the word at God's mouth, and give the house of Israel warning from God, ver. 17. This imports an express commandment, and a clear transgresison of the commandment in those that are to be warned, and a peculiar mission from God to give the warning. The way, how this warning is to be given to the wicked and the righteous, is by a particular address which the watchman was to make, as from God, unto themselves immediately. If the ministers, that meddle with state-matters, will observe these rules, far be it from me to condemn them ; but, if their arguing against the proceedings of those that are in places of authority hath nothing in it approaching unto this way, then I must be dispensed with from following it, and I think it my duty to discover the irregularity of it, by testifying against it. If men will make themselves, through state jealousies, and evil surmises, against those that manage publick affairs, watchmen over their rulers, when they are divided among themselves for state interests, for the advantage of one party to blast and discredit another, and then pretend that they discharge the watch-office, which is committed unto them, I shall leave them to answer it to the chief shepherd of the flock; for it becometh not me to judge another man's servants, farther than by putting them in mind of the commands of their Master, which are undeniably his known will.

But from the contemplation of the watchman's office over the souls of the fock, and their obligation to give account thereof unto God, there is an objection and doubt, which may be raised, thus: “But what if I see my flock like to be led away (by the example of those that are in authority,'or the instigation of those that have power) untu wicked and unjust courses, which are destructive to the true religion and the safety of the state; shall I not warn them of the danger in this case ?" I answer, yes; you are bound to forewarn them of the danger, which you think they are like to fall into, if the thing be evident, and clearly à transgression of God's will; I say, you are bound to forewurn, as well those that, by their authority and power, lead others out of the way, as those that are led by them. Thus, in cases of idolatry and oppression, the prophets did address themselves directly to the rulers of the people; they shewed them the undoubted commandment of God, and their undeniable practice opposite unto it; and, in a case, which evidently doth pervert the truth of religion, and endanger the safety of the state, the fact itself, and the unrightevusness thereof, is to be laid open before all, from the word of God, and all are to be warned of the dangerous consequences thereof; which may be done in thesi, leaving the hypothesis and particular application to every man's judgment, to discharge his conscience towards God therein. But now we have seen men, that accuse those, whom they would discredit before the multitude, not to meddle with the matter in thesi, but with the hypothesis of their own coining, upon conjectural appearances, charging faults suspiciously, and by way of insinuation, where, upon a strict examination, none were to be found. He, that insists upon the hypothesis of a matter, to charge somebody with the guilt thereof, doth evidently shew, that his aim is not so much to rectify the fault, as to make him odious, whom he chargeth with it; but he, that handleth the thesis of a matter, doth not aim to instruct and warn all men of their duty, that they may look to their ways. The court chaplains did hatter and court the King and the bishops, in their sermons heretofore, with reproaches and aspersions, which they did cast upon the puritans, to make them odious, rather that they might be persecuted, than reformerl; and, since these troubles, it cannot be denied, but the popular preachers have paid them home in their own way, by courting the humours of the multitude, to incense them against the King and his prelates, that they also might be rather persecuted, than reformed: All which, on both sides, hath wrought nothing else but animosities and confusions, which have brought these distresses upon the nation, and mainly obstructed the ways of true reformation. But, if the watchmen on both sides * had handled matters in thesi, and dealt with those who were to be warned, to draw them from the error of their ways by the means of God's counsel rather than for human designs, we might have been prescrved from the dangers, into which they have belped to bring us.

There is another pretence taken, to colour this practice, from the commandments which the apostle doth give to Timothy and Titus: Them, that sin, rebuke before all, 1 Tim. V. 20. Be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, &c. 2 Tim. iv. 2. and, Rebuke them sharply, &c. Titus i. 13. and such like.

But I conceive, that all these directions are given to pastors, only in reference to those that are immediately under their pastoral charge, in clear cases, wherein they are to deal with the parties themselves immediately; it is, therefore, a great mistake to apply them unto other persons,

The preachers for and against the court.

who are not under their pastoral charge, and in cases which are mysteries of state, and not obvious to the cognisance of every one, and which are handled, not before the parties themselves, but before others, who are not capable to judge thereof, as the common multitude is. If we look to that which Christ did, in this way of reproof, towards the scribes and pharisees, Mat. xxiii. we shall see, how these reproofs ought to be managed. First, It may be observed, that Christ came not to this sharpness with them till towards the latter end of his ministry, after that he had, in all probability, dealt oft-times with them in a milder way, to make them sensible of their duty; for it is said of him, that he did not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax; that he did not strive, nor cause his voice to be heard in the streets, Mat. xii. 19, 20. Whence we must conclude, that he never, at first, dealt with any man sharply, but gently always; but, when he found these scribes and pharisees incorrigible, then, lest the people might be seduced by their practices, he doth give them a necessary warning, to preserve them from being perverted by the example of their leaders, and reproves the open faults of their leaders, in clear cases, convincingly before them. Secondly, he doth give it in such a way which is without all exception ; for he doth not intend to discredit them in their places, or blast their authority towards the people, but establisheth it, commanding the people to hearken to them, as they sit in Moscs's seat, vers. 2, 3. Then he reproves them, not behind their backs, to the people, but to their faces, in the presence of the people. And lastly, he insists upon particular matters of fact, which were undeniable; wherein he not only discovers their hypocrisy, to convince them of it, but shews them the duty which ought to be done, and warns them of the judgment, which is to come upon them, if they neglect it. Now, if the ministers, that meddle with state-affairs in the pulpit, would observe this way and method, their practice would be free from all exceptions ; for, if they can deal with those that manage publick affairs, to rectify that which they find opposite to christianity, and amiss in them, first, by way of counsel in private; and if, afterward, finding that private admonitions profit not, but that they persevere in a course of state-hypocrisy, to endanger the salvalion of others, whom they may seduce, by their example, from the sincerity of the holy profession: If(I say) in such a case, without prejudice to their just authority, they can deal roundly and openly with them, to convince them of the perverseness of their way, and to reclaim them from the errors thereof, ihis would not only be warrantable, but commendable. But, how far this is intended by any, I leave to you to judge, and to the conscience of those that handle state-matters in their sermons, to determine between God and themselves.

As for that which some say, that men must not be lukewarm neutralists, but zealous in the cause of God, and for the publick good, I answer, It is su: But we must also take heed, that we mistake not the cause of God, and that we make not our own partial aims, and private interests, that which we call God's cause. Let God's cause be stated, as it relates to the gospel of Christ; let it be handled in thesi et antithesi, as it reflects upon the conscience of all men, by the manifestation of the truth; and let no personal reproaches, insinuations, reflexions, and particular worldly matters, to asperse any body, be mixed with it; and let it be held forth with all spiritual fervency from the word, and so let it be recommended to God's blessing upon the hearts of the hearers; but let us not call our own contrivements God's cause, nor human passions, raised upon jealousies or discontents, zeal. Do we not see evidently, that no party doth count any thing a publick good, but that which is for its own way? And that all its zeal and strength is spent, not so much to build up, to settle, or advance any righteous constitution in common, as to set up itself over the adverse party, and to cast down every thing which is not for its own interest? This is evidently all the zeal of these times, viz. to strive for power over others, and then to act by meer will, according to power, against all that are found, or suspected to be opposites. And, if not to be active in this way of partiality, or puffed up for the interest of one against another, to have the rule, be counted to be a lukewarm neutralist, I shall confess myself to be one of these ; and yet, I hope, I shall never be found a neutralist before God in his cause, nor lukewarm towards the way of truth and peace, which is without par. tiality and without hypocrisy.

But above all this there is yet one scruple more, which doth stick with you, which is, the tenor of the national covenant; whereby you conceive you are solemnly obliged before God to advance the publick ways of reformation, mentioned therein, as well towards the church, as towards the state. Now you say (and say well) that, in case the tenor of it be made void, to bring a guilt upon the nation, that you are bound in conscience to free yourself from that guilt, and, as a minister of God, to warn others of that danger; and, consequently, to meddle with statematters, so far as this comes to.

To this I say, that, if you do this, as a minister of the gospel ought to do, and not as a minister of state-affairs, you do that which is your daty. It is far from me to desire you, or any man, to be slack in observing your vows, and performing your oath untoGod; I shall rather, as bound in the same promise, strengthen your heart and hands in it; and to that effect, I shall tell you, how I find myselfengaged in the covenant. I took the covenant,as obliging myself untoGod to perform the tenor thereof, and not unto men. I took it to prosecute the lawful ways of advancing religion and righteousness, and reformation and peace, in church and commonwealth; and not to become serviceable to any one party against another. And, lastly, I took it to advance these aims in this place, with a special reference and subordination to the main rules and fundamental aims of my profession in christianity, and not otherways; and, lest those, who desired me to join with them in prosecuting the tenor of the covenant, might seem to impose their sense upon me in taking it, or might, in time to come, pretend to have me obliged, as it were, by implicit faith, to follow their courses in observing it; I sent unto them, before I took it, my sense of the articles thereof in writing, containing a declaration of the way, which I thought myself bound to follow, in keeping the same; which you shall see, whenever you please* ;and according to this engage ment, although all men should neglect and disannul the covenant, yet

This immediately follows, by the title of, The Vow which J. D. hath made, &c.

« PreviousContinue »