Part I. Chapter III.
Of the cases wherein faithful bishops and ministers, are bound to stick to their pastoral powers and ministrations.
Now, if under such revolutions, for want of such right and title in the new governor, and for continuance of the same in his competitor, all the foresaid practices and devotions are unrighteous and immoral in themselves; this exercise of their ministrations, for provision and spiritual supply of all conscionable adherers to truth, and to morality in practice and devotions, is to be expected of them, from the reality and obligation of things. If they think them to be so, and they are such in their judgments; it is to be expected from men of their apprehensions, and for them to act so, is but to be true to their own convictions. If their brethren own the ejected prince, to have legal right still, or to be king de jure; they ought to expect no other from them, since that alone makes all the foresaid immoralities, and they can do no less, if they will act according to that principle, which is owned and professed by themselves. The only ground, whereon in truth they could be exempted from this exercise, and therefore on which alone it can with reason be desired, or expected from them, is the translation of the legal right; which would remove these immoralities. So, that they can only blame them for this exercise, who believe the translation of this legal right; nor can they make it appear, that they blame them with justice, but by clearing this point, and making proof thereof.
Their obligations, to exercise their powers and ministrations at such times, are to provide against the wants and dangers of the souls of men, and against the corruptions of religion. And that, which will be ready at the same time, to be alleged against it, will be the inhibition and deprivation of the new state, and the appearance of rending the church thereby, which is then become united under other pastors put into their place, or of making of a schism. And therefore, to give a clear prospect, and for making a truer judgment of the obligations, which they stand under to this exercise on such revolutions, I think it may be of use to consider,
1. In what cases, the good and faithful bishops and ministers of Christ, are bound to stick to their spiritual powers and pastoral ministrations, and what obligations they have to do so.
2. Of what force a deprivation of estate, or the preservation of external communion and peace in the church, ought to be, in debarring them thereof.
1. First, I shall consider, in what cases, the good and faithful bishops and ministers of Christ, are bound to stick to their spiritual powers and pastoral ministrations, and what obligations they have to do so.
1. I shall first speak to the cases, wherein they are bound to stick to their spiritual powers and pastoral ministrations, and are to go on acting as bishops and pastors.
Now, this they are bound to, when there is need of it in the cause of religion, and for the safety of the souls of men. For these ministerial powers, are sacred trusts. And the very end, why they are entrusted with the bishops and pastors, is, that thereby they may take care of religion and the people's souls, and provide for the needs thereof. So that they are always to be trustily exercised, when these stand in need of them: or, whenever the souls of men will be endangered, and religion damnified, by the pastors omitting such exercise and ministration, in the places where they are concerned.
I say, they are bound then to provide such ministrations. For the part of bishops and pastors, is not, like that of mere lay Christians, to communicate as they can, in what is provided for them by others. But as pastors, they are to make provisions. The work of ministers and pastors, lies in feeding of the churches. This feeding of ministers, is feeding them with religious offices and ministrations. These, the people are to partake in; but the pastors are to provide, and administer them. And this, as religion, and the souls of men stand in need thereof. And they always need a provision of such ministrations, both of the word, of prayers, and sacraments, as may edify but not pervert, and purge but not pollute those, that seek to communicate therein. Therefore it lies upon them, I conceive, to provide and supply the churches,
First, with an holy, or sinless, and unpolluted worship, and such as may recommend the worshippers to God, and is fit to be accepted,
There is nothing, that the souls of men may seem to need more, than such an holy worship. For the worship of God, is that, whereby in an especial manner, they are to serve and please him: whereby, they must seek to expiate, and atone him after any offences, which they have committed against him: whereby, they can gain his favour, and aid; it not only being the great means of their procuring, but also an established way of his conveying and deriving down to the souls of his servants, those spiritual graces and blessings, which they need and long for. The ministrations of worship, are the ministrations of the spirit, to minister and afford grace to those who duly seek it; and so will be owned of a necessity, to all who see what need they have of the divine grace and bounty. And since the worship of God is to stand them in so much stead, they have need enough to have it pure and pleasing, that the medicine be not turned into poison; that it do not affront and provoke God, instead of gaining and appeasing him; and stop blessings, instead of bringing them down.
There is nothing also, that religion lies more in. The worship of God, is the most direct and immediate act, and the most express and open profession of religion. It is a service both solemnly and professedly performed in the presence, and immediately to the person of God. And being so directly and immediately concerned with it in person, he is more nicely tender of any profanation, or wrong to him therein. It is particularly in matters of his worship, that he declares himself a jealous God, in the second commandment. When sin and wickedness is sent up to him there, his own person is immediately struck at. Instead of being served and honoured, he is aspersed and blasphemed by it. For such an unholy worship, asperses and slanders him, as if he were an unholy God. It is a profession, to serve, and gain him, by wicked ways; which represents him, as taking pleasure in ill things, and being ready to patronize them; fixing upon him, our own violences, and making him appear as bad, as we our selves are. And this is a most horrible profanation, and blasphemously foul aspersion, thrown upon the purest of all beings. It is a turning piety into profaneness; and our very prayers into libels, and reproaches. So that if men would have their worship, truly religious; or such as may truly represent and honour God, not disgrace and belie him: they must take care above all things, to preserve it free from all profane matter, and sinful mixtures. As the worship is of an holy God; so must what is offered to him, be an holy worship. Holiness becomes his house, and more especially his service. His servants, must put up holy prayers, and not have their prayers turned into sin, or their sins presented to God therein, which would turn prayers into an abomination.
And this is true, of all sorts of sins, either idolatry and superstition, or immoralities. The needs of religion, and of the church require, that worship and devotions be kept free from both, and that neither of them mix and incorporate therewith. Immoral prayers, as well as idolatrous ones, are a blasphemous libel upon God, and an utter profanation and prostitution of worship and devotion; they turn prayer into an abomination, and call down a curse instead of a blessing. And thus it was in the heathen devotions, which were not only idolatrous, as being paid to false gods: but too often immoral and impure, as being paid to vicious and dishonest deities. Mercury, by their account was addicted to theft; Venus, to whoredom; Bacchus, to reveling and drunkenness; as others were to other immoralities. And setting up such immoral deities, no wonder they should be found paying them immoral services; and together with their idolatrous sacrifices, offering up also immoral services, as uncleanness, drunkenness, and revellings, in their temples. And these immoralities, in lasciviousness and excess of wine, as well as the misapplications of worship therein, were the most odious profanation and blasphemous reproach of God, and made them abominable idolatries, as St. Peter says, 1 Peter 4. 3.
These immoralities, whilst they find a place only in practice, if persisted in, stop the acceptance of devotions. And so God told the Jews by his prophet Amos, that till he saw a course of judgment and righteousness, he should hate and despise their feast days, and not smell in their solemn assemblies, nor accept their burnt offerings or peace-offerings, nor hear their hymns and songs of praise (Amos 5. 21-24). And the same he declares to them, by Isaiah, (Is. 1: 11-18) and by Jeremiah, (Jer. 6. 6, 20). And if they have such fatal effects, when presented to him only in practice; what will they have when presented to him in solemn worship and prayers, which makes the profanation thereof so much more staring and audacious, and the provocation abundantly more heinous.
Now these sinless prayers, free from immorality, as well as from idolatry, which religion and the souls of men stand in such need of, it must be the care of pastors, to provide and supply them with. As ministers of prayers, they must see that such be administered to them. Yea, as God himself is jealous of his honour, in these services: so must they, as his substitutes and representatives, be jealous for him, to maintain and preserve purity therein. And that, to invite honest and sincere tempers, to resort to prayers and divine service: as well as to prevent their contracting guilt, and profaning God instead of pleasing him, when they are met there. For wicked and unrighteous prayers, extremely disturb righteous petitioners, and drive away truly pious and devout minds, making them mh douleuein qew, as it is in the Septuagint, on the pollutions of the sacrifices by Ely's sons, that is, to forbear the service of God, and to abhor the offering of the Lord (1 Samuel 2. 17, 24).
I do not say, there is the same need of affording the people of God this pure worship, free from the company of immoral practisers. The congregation of worshippers, or church of God in this world, is like to be a mixture of persons; or as a field, wherein tares will grow mixed with the wheat, till at the general harvest, they come to be separated and weeded out by the angels, as our Lord says. Immorality whilst only in practice, though it dishonor God, and hinder the effect of prayers as to the practisers themselves; yet doth not affect communion, or stain the devotion of others, and intercept the blessing from those good practicers, who join with them in public offices. And this is the error of those, among our dissenters, who have insisted on the plea of mixed communions, meaning thereby, a mixture of persons, or of good and bad practisers in God's worship and service, which they pretend should be made up of saints, or of pure and regenerate souls. Church-governors, I grant, in such sort, as may be most medicinal to the offenders themselves, and to preserve religion from the stain, and the sound members from the infection of such companions, are to remove such, (especially when the immoralities are gross and notorious,) from communion by church-censurers, so far as may be profitably and prudently done in course of discipline, and as times and circumstances, and the state of a church in this corrupt and mixed world, will bear. But this will be no absolute provision against them; and after all, the church here will have a mixture of persons, or good and bad to meet together in divine offices, and it is not for any, to break communion with it thereupon.
But, though they are not universally to keep out immoral practisers; yet they are to keep out immoral prayers from public ministrations. For these are offered to all that come, though only fit to poison, not to nourish them: and are put up to God, in the name of the congregation; and so are a public, visible, and professed dishonour to him. So that they, who have the care of public worship, must take care to purge them out of it.
It will be incumbent on them, to supply the church,
2. Secondly, with the ministration of all that truth, which is necessary to be believed, or practiced. The word, or preaching of these truths, is to bear up religion, and to save the souls of men. And the ministry of this word, is committed unto them.
This ministration must be of all necessary truth. What our Lord entrusted with the apostles, and, in them, with the bishops and pastors of the church to the end of the world, is, to teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded: where all things, must needs take in all that are necessary. Matthew 28. 20. And St. Paul, in discharge of his cure of souls, pleads himself pure of the blood of all men, as having declared to them the whole counsel of God, which their blood might any way depend upon, and having kept back nothing that was profitable to them, Acts 20. 26, 27. For in these points, if the people perish through the watch-man's being dumb, or for want of his giving warning; the people die, indeed, and are taken away in their iniquity, but their blood will God require at the watch-man's hand (Ezekiel 33. 6, 8). As for inferior truths, which are not commonly necessary for Christians to know and to be instructed in; but in their nature, are more indifferent: they may be forborne for peace, as need requires, and to prevent great stirs and divisions in the church. But truths of necessity and importance, must not be neglected, or given up on such pretences.
And it must be a ministration of all that is necessary, whether in faith, or practice. That which makes either, to be a necessary part of their ministration, is, because they are necessary parts of religion, and necessary to the souls of men. And this makes an equal necessity, of ministering both. For obedience, is as necessary, and indispensable a branch of the gospel, as faith: and practical opinions, are as much set by, as propositions about faith; and as much dishonour may accrue to God, and as much danger to the souls of men, by practical, as by speculative heresies. Nay, many times more, since matters of morality and practice, are more naturally imprinted on all men's hearts, and are more easy and obvious to all understandings. They lie open, to the unlearned, as well as to learned men. Yea, the ignorant and unlearned, oft-times continue to see them, when the learned overlook them: a little skill, with a sufficient degree of honesty, qualifying men to discern these matters; and there not being so much need of learning, in those, who would descry, as there is in those, who would pervert and mistake them. And this makes the mistakes of men, in these points, both more dangerous to themselves, and more dishonourable to religion. For being so generally known, or easy of knowledge: there is not like room in them, for extenuation and excuse, of error or ignorance; as there is in speculations of faith, that are of harder examination, and lie further off; which renders practical heresies oft-times more dangerous. And on the same account, the dishonour to God and religion thereby, is more universally noted, being more manifestly apparent, and more sensibly disgusting, to the generality of beholders: which makes them also, more disgraceful and scandalous. And therefore they stand particularly bound, to minister the word, and give warning, in these points: both as what would oft-times more surely, and irremediably shed the blood of souls; and as what would prove more scandalous in the sight of all considerate persons, and make religion more generally despised, blasphemed, and evil spoken of.
Particularly, it will be incumbent on them to supply the church with the ministration of necessary practical truths,
1. When dangerous and immoral practices are setting up. Especially, if they are setting up generally, and most people are in danger of being drawn into them: as when they come dressed up, with appearances and recommendations of worldly ease, or interests; or are driven on by the arm of secular power, or by the cry of a time. And undisturbedly, as when they, who are in the place of reproving, dissemble and connive at them; and are dumb, not lifting up their voices against them.
These immoral practices, though the immoral things are only practiced, but not justified, are most dangerous and destructive to those souls, who are involved therein. And when they see men in the ways of death, the watchmen are required at their peril to give warning, and to tell them what will be the end thereof. If thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; his blood will I require at thine hand, Ezekiel 3: 18, 20. And cap. 33. 8. They are the spiritual weaknesses, and diseases of souls, their strayings, and loosing of themselves, in wrong and pernicious ways. And the duty of shepherds, is not to stand off, or to keep silent when these maladies have seized the flocks; but to show their pastoral care, and make provision for them. They are, as God tells the shepherds by Ezekiel, to heal that which they find to be sick, by applying proper remedies; and to strengthen that which is diseased, feeding it with wholesome doctrine, or proper aliment, as Grotius says upon it; to bring again that which was driven away, and to seek that which was lost, if happily, by seasonable and needful warning and admonition, they may recover it. (Ezekiel 34. 4.) And if they take up with feeding of themselves, and neglect by these ways to feed the flocks at such times; he denounces woes to them, verse 2. And declares he will require his flock at their hand, verse 10.
I do not say immoral practices, are a cause for pastors to separate communions. For immorality, whilst confined to practice and conversation, and not crept into worship and prayers, doth not hinder all communion in divine service. Nor are we to separate from any church in divine offices because of a mixture of persons, or of their having moral and immoral livers among them, as I observed before.
But they are an obliging call to them, to minister the word, to put a stop to them. And if they cannot be allowed to do this in communion with others; they must do it however, by breaking off from them, and officiating by themselves. And such breach, to say nothing of other grounds, is consequential upon the ministrations of the deprived pastors, on such revolutions. They are by their deprivation secluded from ministering in the authorized and established churches; and so must act separately, and minister by themselves, if they are bound to minister the word at all.
2. When ill, or immoral practices, are not only set up, but justified. And then ill practices, are turned into ill principles, and become doctrines. There may be defection from duties in practice, whilst men retain their principles: their love of this world, and the strength of corrupt passions, carrying them too oft, to act and do all against their judgments. But if their opinion is brought over, and in judgment they are reconciled to ill ways; since all judgment is upon principle, that is, by change of principles. Their judgment then is perverted, by ill and corrupt doctrines. Which, having imbibed to corrupt, and alleging to clear and justify themselves; they will teach and propagate among others. And when, by venting corrupt principles and propositions, false guides set up for teachers of ill things: it is high time, for true and faithful guides, to open their mouths, and to strive for truth and righteousness against them. They are ill watch-men, if they are a sleep, or silent, at such a time. And ill shepherds, if they take no care to lay wholesome things before the flocks, and to drive away unwholesome, when the speakers of perverse things, are endeavouring to poison them. And unfaithful stewards, and dispensers of the word, if, instead of dispensing it out, they smother and suppress it, when the church is in the greatest need to be informed thereof.
Particularly, they are obliged to this ministration, when the ill and immoral practices are justified.
1. First, in some particular cases, especially, if those cases are of general concern, that draw in great numbers of persons: and may prove of long continuance, to hold them on for a considerable time, in the repetition of the same immoral practices. Both which happen, in case of injustice, to dispossessed princes, and of turning allegiance against them; which concern all the subjects of such princes, and will continue so to do, till the competition ceaseth.
Now these immoralities in particular cases, are the immoralities, that will destroy souls, when those cases happen. It is in particular cases, that particular persons are guilty of them, and liable to be condemned for them. So, it is in particular cases, that they need to be warned against them, and showed the danger of them.
And the giving them this warning, in such particular cases, as they come, is the business of the watch-man. For he is set to watch particular cases, and against particular occurrences; and is to call out and give warning, as oft as he espies any harm, or danger approaching therein. And if any perish in those cases, for want of his giving them notice, God tells him, he will require their blood at his hands. The watch-man, must have both his eyes abroad, to espy these dangers; and his tongue free, to proclaim, and give warning of them: being set to drive any approaching evils away, by giving the alarm for people to arm against them, and to keep out of their way. And if, like men asleep, they take no notice of vices, when catching and over-running their flocks, nor open their mouths against them; the scripture brands and upbraids them, as it did the prophets, and watch-men of Israel, with the name of dumb dogs that cannot bark: it being the office of priests and prophets, to reprehend and open their mouths, against approaching vices, as it is of dogs set to watch the house, to open theirs, and bark against approaching thieves, as Grotius comments upon it (Isaiah 56: 10).
It is the part of stewards and rulers of the house; who are set to attend all particular cases, that may arise, and concern the family; and still to dispense and deliver out, what portion of food, each case, or occasion, may make needful, or proper for the household.
It is the office of pastors and shepherds, to have an eye to circumstances of time and place, and to watch over their flocks in particular cases. The needs of their flocks, their sicknesses and strayings, lie all in particular cases. And, as the work and duty of shepherds, lies in feeding of their flocks, it will be their duty to administer this food, when they need it, and their care and provision must be for those particular cases, which are in want thereof. Their feeding of their flocks, must be by strengthening them in any case, where they see them diseased; or healing them, where they find them sick; or seeking after them, when they are lost; and bringing them back at any time, when they are gone astray, or are driven away, as God tells the shepherds of Israel (Ezekiel 34: 3, 4.) And if they neglect, by due ministrations to feed them in these cases, where they are in so great want to be fed; he tells them they are no shepherds, but that his flock is without a shepherd, v. 5. Or, that they are such shepherd, as feed not his flock, but feed themselves, verse 2, 8.
It is the duty of ministers of the word, who are to watch and mark seasons, and not to let the people want it in any case, when they need to be warned, and instructed by it. They are to preach the word, and to be instant in it, in season, yea, and even out of season, 2 Timothy 4. 2. To see, that none of the family starve, or go astray for want thereof, in a trying time; but that all have what portion of it they need, in due season, Luke 12: 42. They are constituted pastors and teachers, to minister the word, for perfecting the saints, and for edifying the body of Christ: and so are bound to administer it in any case, where the saints need to be perfected; or where that body needs to be repaired thereby; as sure they do, when ill practices have broken in, and are allowed among them, Ephesians 4: 11, 12.
It is the work and profession of guides of souls, to direct them in all particular occurrences, and to set them right in all cases: and if at any time, they see them about to mistake their way, to show them which path they ought to keep; or, if they see they are gone wrong, to call out to them to come back again. They are such guides or leaders, as are entrusted with, and must give an account of souls: and so are strictly bound to see, that they do not may, nor perish in any case, for want of true and careful guidance and direction (Hebrews 13: 17).
So that particular cases, which are the times of the people's needs, must be times of the pastors ministrations. Especially such particular cases, wherein the generality are like to run into deadly sin, and are like to be daily repeating the same, and, for ought appears, to continue long therein.
And therefore in such cases, if immoral things are not only practiced, but justified; the true pastors are more highly bound to warn the church, and to show the guilt and danger thereof. The mere justification of them in such particular case, without any further propositions or false doctrines about them, is enough to require this ministration at their hands. For, when such immoral things, are justified; sin is not only practiced, but it, and death, are generally recommended. Men are taught then, to call evil, good; and to embrace sin, without remorse or shame; and to meet death, without fear, or sense of danger. And what is there left then to restrain them, from corrupting themselves therewith, according as they are lead thereto, by their own interests, ease, or inclinations; or by the power, or persuasions of others? So that sin, and death, here ride triumphant, and go on without opposition. And that sure, is a loud call for the ministers of righteousness, to stir up their ministerial powers, to put a stop thereto, and to save the souls they are set to minister to, from being polluted and destroyed by them. They would be ill ministers of the word, should they administer no word, but keep silent; and ill watch-men for their several charges, should they give no warning; ill stewards of the house-hold, should they make no provision; ill shepherds of the flocks should they neglect to feed and minister to them; and ill guides of souls, should they fail to show the way, and to give directions, how they may avoid both sin and death, so fairly and invitingly recommended to them, and so hastily coming upon them, in these cases.