Part I. Chapter IV.
More of the cases, wherein faithful bishops and ministers are bound to stick to their pastoral powers and ministrations.
But when immoral and unrighteous practices, are justified in any particular case: since those practices are literally and directly condemned by moral precepts, they who pretend to justify them, must find some way to reconcile and take off those precepts. So that this justification of immoral practices in a particular case, will be sure to bring on another step, which will make this ministration of all true pastors still more necessary, and that is,
2. Secondly, the eluding, or vacating of moral duties, and precepts opposite thereto, by doctrinal salvos.
When men both act, and justify immoral things, they do not ordinarily renounce the duties transgressed thereby, under their general and received names; but start such doctrines and principles about them, for salvos, as elude, or vacate them in practice.
Thus, the Jesuits allow the sinfulness of lying. But they say, what is spoken is no lie, if they can make it a truth by a mental reservation; or by the equivocalness and ambiguity, of any words or sentences, whereby it is expressed.
Thus also others admit the damnableness, of resisting the higher power, according to St. Paul, or of raising rebellion. But they say, this is only resisting them, whilst they keep to laws, and within the bounds of legal powers, and the frame of the government; not when they go beyond them. They own, that by the fifth commandment, and other scriptural precepts, allegiance is due to their sovereign prince. But they teach withal, sometimes, as the papists, that it is in the power of the Pope; or, as others, that it is in the power of the people; to depose their princes, and then they are no longer sovereigns. And thereby, to absolve and discharge themselves, from owing and bearing them any more allegiance. Which positions, for deposing princes, and for absolving subjects from their allegiance to them, have passed in the account of our laws and church, for damnable doctrines. Or else they say, that this allegiance, is due for the sake of public good; and that whether the sovereign himself, whose right it is, discharge it or no, public good, when it interferes, will give a discharge thereof. Or again, that it is due, only on account of actual administration, and is still to follow the king in fact: and so is no longer due to their lawful king, if once another hath forcibly dispossessed him.
Further yet, some allow the sacredness and obligations of oaths; particularly of the oath of allegiance to princes. But they teach moreover, sometimes, that all this sacred obligation, is only to some feigned softening and lower senses of their own, neither suiting with the nature of things, nor with the ordinary and honest use of words, and with the simplicity and plain dealing of promises and solemn declarations. Nay, nor with their own ensuing practice and performance thereof, they, who in swearing, declared for a lower, afterwards paying and practicing an higher sense; as all will be called to do in course of their obedience, who profess allegiance to any as their civil governors. Or else, that all this sacred obligation of the oath of allegiance, is in subordination to the antecedent and superior obligation of public good, and that it will absolve and discharge them from it.
Again, they admit the unlawfulness of stealing, or of taking another man's goods, or crown, against the Eighth; or of coveting them, against the tenth commandment. But they teach also, which roots up the foundations of common honesty and justice, that if providence has at any time assisted an invader to get them from him, the invader has thereby got a providential right thereto, which is the best right; and that after that, they may lawfully maintain him, in his violent possession; and may innocently keep the other, whom themselves own still to have the legal right, out of the possession of his right, yea; and may with a safe conscience force any remaining parts out of his hands, which he shall happen to continue still possessed of.
Lastly, admitting the ordinary wickedness and destructiveness, of such breach of oaths, and of open injustice, &c. Yet many think all may be salved, by the maintenance and preservation of some other duties thereby, which are of more worth, as of orthodox faith, or of purity of gospel-worship and divine service. Thus the Jews, who sware by the name of the Lord, but not in truth, viz. swearing falsely what they never meant nor intended; nor in righteousness, viz. promising to do what was very unrighteous and unjust. And yet, as God taxes them by Isaiah, they thought to salve all, and would stay themselves upon the God of Israel, by calling themselves of the holy city, or by retaining God's temple and true worship still among them, Isaiah 48: 1, 2.
Such as these, are the doctrinal salvos, whereby men, who in the general would continue to own, and to profess moral duties and precepts, do notwithstanding study to reconcile them with some beloved and justified practices, which are a literal and down-right breach thereof.
Now, though for silencing of their own consciences, or in fear of worldly shame, in these, and the like cases, men still own the duty in general words: yet, by these opposite principles and doctrinal salvos, do they elude and vacate them in practice. That is, under shelter of these opposite doctrines, they practice against those duties, and justify themselves therein, as if there were no such duties to restrain, nor general words to forbid them.
Under the doctrinal salvos, of equivocations and mental reservations, for instance, they think themselves true men, all the time they are telling horrid lies. And under the aforesaid doctrinal limitation, of the damnableness of resistance, to legal actings and administrations of princes; they believe themselves good subjects, whilst they are most wickedly levying war, and rebelling against God's ordinance. Thus likewise, under the doctrinal salvos, of the Popes, or people's power to depose kings, and to discharge their subjects of their obedience; of allegiance being due, only to a king in fact; or whilst the payment of it makes as they conceive, for the public good: may they think themselves unreprovable in duty and loyalty to their lawful king, though all the while they appear both to God and man, as if they ought him nothing; yea, though both by prayers and practice, they openly resist him, and oppose and set themselves against him. And by confining the obligation of oaths of allegiance, to their own arbitrary senses; or, by canceling them, by antecedent obligations of public good: they may fancy themselves keeping faith, all the time they are woefully breaking it; and that they are observing oaths, though, all the while at their extreme peril, they are literally forswearing themselves. And under shelter of the aforesaid providential right, to what an invader has unjustly got into his possession: they may take themselves for just and righteous persons, whilst all the time they are wickedly and horribly backing violence and wrong; and helping one to hold, what they believe and know he hath unjustly got; and keeping the injured and oppressed person, out of his own. And this is making God's laws of no effect in practice, however they may still be owned, in general names and acknowledgments; since, in their actions, men may do contrary, as securely and warrantably, as if there were no such laws at all. Thus it was, with the salvo of the vow corban among the Jews, to get clear of the duty, of honoring and supporting parents. And with other salvos about oaths, and other commandments. And these our saviour called, a making void the commandments of God through their doctrinal traditions (Matthew 15: 5, 6. and cap. 22.)
And where this is the case, it must not be said, on the account of their still owning and preaching up the moral duties, under their general names, that men have made no change of moral doctrines. They may have made none, but say the same, as to general doctrines, viz. That in the general, there lies an obligation upon men, to keep faith and oaths, and to be obedient and passive under governors, and to do justice to proprietors, and the like. And so the Pharisees, would in the general own, the duty of supporting parents, and those other duties, which they made void in practice. But these general and abstracted doctrines, lie further off; and some other doctrines more circumstantiate give them their proper limitations, and teach the obligation thereof, and how far they are duties in particular cases, must come between them and the practice of men, which lies all in such particular cases. And in these nearer, and more limited and circumstantiate doctrines about the foresaid moral duties, there is a change, when men fall to start the foresaid salvos. Yea, such a change, as intercepts all the force of the general doctrines, and teaches and authorizes men, notwithstanding those general doctrines, to practice otherwise. And such as the Pharisees made, for which they are charged by our saviour, for making void God's laws; which certainly is to make a woeful change thereof. These salving doctrines, are all changes of doctrine; and the preachers thereof at such times, make as great a change of moral doctrines, as is necessary to make a change of moral practices. And though they may not all agree, in any one of these salvos, or changes of moral doctrine; as men are not so like to do when they are going wrong, the ways of error being infinite, though the way of truth is but one. Yet if once they all agree, not only in following; but in justifying and teaching the immoral practices; they must all do it, upon one or other of these new salving doctrines, which men, not hardy enough to decry moral duties under their general names, must each of them choose for themselves as they see cause.
Now, when such changes of practical doctrine are introduced, and moral duties and precepts are thus eluded and vacated, by doctrinal salvos and limitations: it is more highly incumbent still, on the ministers of Christ, to stand up in his cause, and to administer his word, in defence thereof. They are ministers of religion, and must not see it suffer in any of its articles, or duties; but, as its appointed officers and advocates, must guard and maintain them. These articles and duties, are a trust divinely committed to them. The glorious gospel, was committed to my trust: and we are allowed of God, to be put in trust with the gospel, faith St. Paul. They are entrusted in their hands, as things, which they are to keep and hold fast. O! Timothy, keep that which was committed to thy trust, saith he again (1 Timothy 6: 20). Hold it fast, and in the form of found words, wherein it was delivered (2 Timothy 1: 13). He trusts to them; not only to keep and retain them, but to defend and plead for them. I am set for the defence of the gospel, Phil. 1: 17. To take care, that they be transmitted down to others, who shall come next in succession. The things, that thou hast heard of me, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others therein (2 Timothy 2. 2). And having received such sacred trusts, they must show a strict fidelity, in discharge thereof. St. Paul directs timothy, to commit them to faithful men (2 Timothy 2: 2.) And saith, Christ committed the gospel to his trust, and put him into the ministry of it counting him faithful, 1 Timothy 1. 11, 12. And all this fidelity, is to be the fidelity of ministers, who are entrusted, not only with the private keeping and profession; but with the public ministration of these articles, and gospel duties. So that their keeping, and holding fast to them; is their keeping and holding, to the preaching, and ministration of them; and by that same preaching and ministration, are they to defend them in the present age, and to deliver them over to posterity.
And therefore, when any moral duties or precepts, deposited and entrusted with them, are endangered, and attempts are made to elude or vacate them: they are tried, how true they will prove to their trusts, of ministerial keeping, and defending, and transmitting of them down. And then, they must not desert them, but stand up and act for them, by a faithful administration. If others treacherously reject them, or bend their wits to vacate them, and render them of no effect; they must not run in, to give their voice with them; nor by their uncontesting silence, and base yielding, betray, and give up that sacred depositum, which was entrusted to their custody and maintenance.
This ministerial maintenance and administration of moral precepts, when thus changed and vacated by corrupt salvos, God expected from all true prophets, and faithful shepherds among the Jews.
In the prophet Jeremiah, we are told of false prophets and pastors, who, by such salvos, had poisoned people's morals. They had corrupted them in point of oaths, drawing them generally into swearing, (or perjury, as Caestalio, and Arias Montanus, and others,) because of which, as it is there said, the land mourns: and also, in point of justice, abetting a course of evil, (or violence, as the margin,) and of unrighteous force, Jer. 23. 10. This corruption of practice, was by corruption of principles. For they had made them first to believe, that there is no sin in these their doings; which they had studied to shelter by salvos of their own invention, from the censure of those laws, which seemed plainly to forbid them. They commit adultery, and walk in lies, i.e. In lying salvos and adulteration of moral duties, making the preservation of God's worship and temple, a shelter for these vices and immoralities, as Grotius notes: and by such adulterations, they strengthen the hands of evil doers in these ways, that none of them doth return from his wickedness, verse 14. And these salvos, invented from time to time, as need was, were not more a defection from the truth, than from their own professed principles: the prophets being taxed therein, for causing the people to err, as by their lies, so by their lightness, verse 32. But now, when the false prophets, and unfaithful shepherds, set themselves by such corrupt salvos, to clude and vacate moral precepts God expected of all the true and faithful shepherds, that they should stand up against them, for ministration, and maintenance thereof. They should have stood in his council, and have caused his people to hear his word, to turn them from those evil ways, which the false teachers laboured to strengthen and encourage them in, by their lying salvos, verse 22. If any prophets had his word, he expected they should speak it faithfully, verse 28. That his word should be in them like a fire, bursting out with violence, and not sparing any that stood in its way, as the false prophets, those false and flattering accommodators, were wont to do; and like an hammer, that breaks the rock in pieces, striking on the most obdurate, when the other, in their soothing ways, were wont to stroke them, verse 29.
In Ezekiel, God complains of the false prophets, for daubing over immoral practices with untempered mortar, i.e., with corrupt salvos, to cover them from the censure and condemnation of moral precepts (Ezek. 13. 10, 11. &c.). Their daubing, was by such covers, or plasters, as were visions of peace; or to show the evil-doers, how they did not break with God, and moral duties, by these their immoral practices, verses 15, 16. This he also calls, making kerchiefs or vales, their end being to hide all appearance of sin and deformity in these actings; and saith, they fitted them to every stature, verses 18, 21. And by these lies, or lying salvos, they made men believe, that there was no breach of moral precepts in these immoral practices, nor any danger of death thereby; and so strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life though he went on therein, verse 22. But if any true prophets, who saw this, should keep silence; or, out of selfish subtlety, should skulk, and keep out of those dangers, which attend the ministerial reproof thereof at such times: God brands them, as being like foxes in the desert, for not having gone up into the gaps or breaches to repair them, and for not having made up the hedge for the house of Israel, by fencing it again with sound doctrine, and with the conscience of moral duties, to keep out all further eruption of such immoral practices, verse 4, 5. And elsewhere by the same prophet, he denounces woes to them, and declares he will require his flock at their hands, if, instead of feeding only themselves, they do not, as becomes good shepherds, feed their flocks; and that, by the due exercise of their ministrations, for strengthening the diseased, or for healing the sick, or for reducing the scattered, or recovering the lost, as the needs of the flock shall require (Ezekiel 34. 2, 3. 4. 10).
The priests, saith Zephaniah, have done violence to the law, forcing it with corrupt glosses and expositions, to bear with immoral and unlawful practices. Zeph. 3. 4. They have violated my law, or, as the margin from the Hebrew, offered violence to it, i.e. Stopped its mouth by wicked salvos, not suffering it to condemn those evil deeds, against which it is designed, saith God by Ezekiel (Ezek. 22. 26). These corrupt salvos, and doctrinal perversions of God's laws, are grievously complained of by the holy prophets, and still grew up among the Jews, to perfect the wickedness, and to hasten on the ruin of that church. But whensoever these attempts were made by false prophets and seducers, to pervert the laws of God; it was incumbent on his true ministers, to oppose them therein, and to minister those laws and duties to the people in their true meaning. And they still incur the censure, of shepherds that feed not the flock, but themselves; of blind watch-men, and dumb dogs; if they are silent, and sit still on such occasions.
The like, our saviour Christ also expected from his disciples, when they found such salvos advanced, for practices against any of his commandments.
The Pharisees, had invented many doctrinal salvos, to justify men in the breach of moral duties, and to vacate several of God's holy commandments. Thus they dealt, by the breach of oaths; which they cleared by several arbitrary limitations, and nice distinctions of their own, about the obligation of them, or men's becoming debtors, i.e. bound by them, Matthew 23. 16, 18. And by the denial of relief, or help to parents; which they said was discharged of the obligation laid by the fifth commandment, and free from sin, if it was salved by the vow corban, i.e. if they had made a vow before, that they would never relieve them (Matthew 15: 4, 5, 6). Thus frustrating the commandments of God, as he tells them, and making them of none effect, through their undermining salvos and traditions (Matthew 15: 6 and Mark 7: 9, 13). Not to mention, their limiting the obligation of all righteousness; to external acts; or other ways, of their exempting many offences, forbid by their own law, as well as by that of the blessed Jesus.
But when the ministers of Christ met with these salvos, it was their part, not to suffer them, but to rescue moral precepts from being corrupted, and men's consciences and practices from being ensnared by them. They were to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, in these, and other points: not only, as private Christians, to beware of imbibing it themselves; but as pastors, of suffering others to be tainted, or corrupted therewith. When by these, and such like glosses, the lawyers had taken away the key of knowledge, and shut up the kingdom of heaven against men, as our Lord saith; they, as ministers of that kingdom, were to unlock and open it to them, and to make these duties, which were the paths thereof, plain for all, who were sincerely desirous to walk in them. They that are made pastors, and put in station to be great in the kingdom of heaven, must both do the some themselves; and teach others to observe, even the least of Christ's commandments, when others not only transgress them in their own practice, but teach men to transgress them, Matthew 15. 19.
St. Paul afterwards speaks of false apostles, who corrupted the word of God. KapelouonteV, that adulterated it, as vintners do their wines, by corrupt mixtures, blending their own arbitrary salvos and conceits therewith, or mixing their own doctrines with God's, as St. Chrysostom comments (2 Corinthians 2. 17). Who handled the word of God deceitfully (2 Corinthians 4. 2). And spoke lies in hypocrisy, pretending them consistent with, or sometimes promotive of duty and piety (1 Timothy 4. 2). And perverted the gospel of Christ, Galatians 1. 17. But when the true ministers met with any of these corrupt infusions, and adulterations of Christian doctrines; instead of treacherously conniving at these adulterations, they were, by a purer and more sincere ministration, to cure and teach men better. They were to make full proof of their ministry in preaching the word; and to reprove, and rebuke all that was contrary to it, among those that would heap to themselves teachers of errors and adulterations of the truth, according to their own lusts (2 Timothy 4: 2, 3, 5). When others fell to speak lies in hypocrisy, they were not to neglect the gift that was in them, that is, their pastoral power and function; but to stir it up, and put the brethren in remembrance of the pure and saving Christian truths and duties, that they may discharge the part of good ministers of Jesus Christ, 1 Timothy 4. 2. 6. 14. When vain talkers and deceivers started up, teaching things they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake; they were called upon, not only to hold fast the faithful word, as they had been taught, and to keep to it themselves; but also, by sound doctrine, to exhort and teach others, and to convince, and stop the mouths of gainsayers, (Titus 1: 9, 10, 11).
Thus are the faithful ministers of Christ obliged, to feed the church with the pure administration of moral, or other gospel duties; when the false guides, by doctrinal salvos, and undermining propositions, are showing men, how they may securely vacate and transgress them. They are not to connive at such corruptions, and adulterations of moral precepts; but to cry out, and warn against them: nor to smother, and keep up the real and injured duties; but to preach and minister them out to those souls, who are like to perish through their ignorance, and breach thereof. And this, as they will answer God's repeated calls and injunctions, or approve themselves true and faithful to their ministerial trusts. To neglect it, or fail therein, would be treachery and falseness to that sacred doctrine, which had been deposited with them; and to those souls, which had been committed to them.
And this ministration they are bound to, though these corrupt salvos are only the doctrines of the pastors and teachers, (as those forementioned salvos of the false prophets, and of the Pharisees too, I suppose, were among the Jews;) and are not yet made the determinations of the church. It is not enough, on such justification of immoral practices, or advancement of immoral salvos by the guides of souls, to say, the church hath not altered its articles, nor justified nor salved the ill things so, by any synodical confession. For it is a call to them for their ministration, if these things are done by the churchmen. Their ministration is to provide against the dangers of souls. And they are always endangered by damnable practices, whosoever teach them, whether their particular guides, or whole synods. But particular guides, are the directors, which the generality of men have for their consciences and practices. So that the consciences and practices of the generality are endangered, when they fall generally to teach them the breach of moral duties by corrupt salvos. And then, true guides are to warn them of these dangers. When speakers of perverse things shall arise from among themselves, the pastors are bid to take heed to their flocks, and to feed them with the word of truth and righteousness (Acts 20. 28, 30).
And instead of abating this obligation, it will add to it, if, amidst all this prevarication of the church men by such corrupt salvos, the church itself continues right in these points, and says the same it did in its public acts and articles. For then, in these ministrations, those faithful pastors have, as the authority of truth, so also the authority of their own church on their side. Therein, they only minister out among the members, what their own church teaches: and show themselves, as faithful ministers of Christ, in standing up for his truths; so faithful ministers of their own church, in standing up for its doctrines. As to the point of separation from the church; I grant that true ministers must not separate from a church for any doctrines, if the church itself holds and maintains them, though the churchmen should generally and shamefully defect from them. But this ministration of those deserted doctrines, is not to separate from it, but to stick firm and constant to it; yea, and to keep it up still as a visible body, for all its true members to adhere to. And I hope true and faithful ministers of a church, may stand by it, in maintenance and ministration of the truths and laws of God; though that continue on a breach, and keep them at a distance from those revolting pastors, who have defected and separated themselves from both
The foresaid justification of immoral practices in such particular cases, and maintenance thereof by doctrinal salvos, will make the consciences of transgressors, easy and in rest at sin. They will by this means, see no breach of duty in what they do, nor danger of punishment for doing it. They are taught in these cases, to call evil good, and to put darkness for light, whereto such heavy woes are denounced by the prophet: and so, under the greatest load and danger, of sin and guilt, think themselves safe and innocent. This God calls, speaking peace to the wicked, or to those, who should have no peace, but terror and indignation in their present evil ways. And sewing pillows, to bolster up evil doers, to make them easy and at rest in their unrighteousness. And strengthening the hands of the wicked, making them bold and forward in their ungodly courses; and barring their repentance and return from their wickedness, by leaving in them no conscience of guilt, no relentings or remorse, for their going on therein.
Now all this, is a direct ministration to destroy souls. And whilst false prophets, and devouring wolves, are ministering lies for their destruction; it is evidently and highly incumbent on true and faithful pastors, who are set to save souls, to minister the word of truth for their salvation. Accordingly, amidst all these preachers of peace and strengtheners of evil doers, God tells the prophets of Israel, that they should not, like subtle foxes, have studied only how to slip aside, and shun danger by silently conniving at these doings: but ought to have gone up into the gaps, and have made up the hedges. Seeing they were public ministers, deputed by God to act for him, and for the good of souls; their part had been to stand in his counsel, and to have caused his people to hear his words, and thereby to have turned them from the evil of their doings. When the people run thus, to do evil in such cases, without any sense of guilt, or by calling evil good; they heap up sin, and death to themselves, and know it not, and so perish for want of knowledge. But the priest's lips must keep up knowledge among the people, and they must have the knowledge of the law at his mouth (Malachi 2: 7). And if my people are destroyed, for lack of knowledge; because thou hast rejected knowledge, and the communication thereof to my people, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me, saith God (Hosea 4: 6).
Such is the obligation incumbent on true pastors, to minister moral truths, when immoral practices are justified in particular cases, and all the moral duties opposite thereto, are vacated and taken off, by undermining propositions, and doctrinal salvos.
And they are still more strictly obliged to this ministration, if the practices justified by such salvos, are
1. In immoralities of great, and general ill fame, and in things extremely scandalous to religion.
All gross violations, of common honesty and justice; and breach of faith, especially when confirmed by solemn oaths; and renouncing of duty and subjection to superiors, more particularly to patents and princes; and such others; are immoralities, that all sober men think they ought to account scandalous, and of highest reproach. For the duties transgressed thereby, are generally known to be of greatest importance, for keeping up society, and for securing the comforts of humane life: which therefore all mankind, that feel such need of society, and would find comfort in life, cry up, and utterly decry the breaches of them. So that these immoralities, are sure to bring the most general infamy upon any thing that is guilty of them; yea, and upon religion itself, should it ever be found, or represented, as allowing, or giving countenance thereto.
Now the ministers of religion, are to be especially careful, to preserve its good name, and to keep up an honorable opinion and reverence for it among men. He has nothing of the ministerial care, or of a ministerial spirit, who is careless and unconcerned, how ill, and irreverently men think of religion. Indeed, if they would keep religion if self up in the world, they must keep up this reverence, and good opinion of it. For if once mankind come to think ill, or despicably of it, they are never like to trouble themselves much therewith, nor to labour after much thereof. And if they would preserve religion reputable, and secure of men's reverence, and honorable opinion; they must watchfully keep all those things out of it, which deservedly loose and lessen men's good opinion. They must have a jealous care to preserve it pure, not admitting, or justifying any thing, that, in the common sense of mankind, is infamous, or of bad name. And therefore, if any such things, (as all the forementioned immoralities are in an high-degree,) offer to creep in, or if Satan's ministers are busy to introduce them; they must oppose, and minister against them with all their might, and presently disclaim and purge them out, that religion may be clear of them. They must watch, as far as they are able, to keep them out of the practice of men; least from such practice of its professors, the lookers on should harbor a presumption or suspicion, as if religion had some toleration or allowance for them. Let servants count their own masters worthy of all honour; and let wives be keepers at home, and obedient to their own husbands, &c. that the word of God, and his doctrine, be not blasphemed, faith St. Paul, directing timothy and Titus, in that pastoral and ministerial care, which they should have of the church. But when these ill and infamous things appear, not only in practice, but in doctrines; and come, not as the blamed and prevaricating acts of professors, but as justified and preached up by their guides and leaders: then religion is more directly and plainly brought in, and the true ministers thereof are more highly obliged to oppose them in its behalf, to prevent its incurring any scandal or reproach thereby.
2, if they are generally preached up by seducers, and men are every where taught, and persuaded to them. Instead of giving any discharge, to those few faithful ministers that remain; at such times, the general falling away and corruption of others, adds to their obligation. For God, and these moral truths then, have more need of their ministration. And they can have no pretence left, of putting off this service to other ministers, since they in effect preach them down, and there is no appearance of their being faithfully administered at all, if not by them. So that, what ministerial trusts they undertook, or promises they made, of being ready with all faithful diligence, to drive away all such erroneous doctrine, are more pressing upon them, since then they rest on their fidelity alone. And this will be to answer the apostles rules, of taking heed to all their flocks, when the speakers of perverse things arise, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20. 28, 30). Of standing up against deceivers, that teach things which they ought not, and of exhorting, and convincing, and stopping the mouths of gainsayers (Titus 1: 9, 10, 11). Of making full proof of their ministry, when people have teachers after their own lusts; yea, will not bear sound doctrine, but heap up such to themselves, having itching ears (2 Timothy 4. 3, 5).
3. If they come recommended by suitableness, to worldly and carnal passions and interests, which, when once these salvos have reconciled them to men's consciences, will be sure to gain innumerable followers. But especially, if the scrupulous and unwilling are driven into them, by a sore and general persecution.
This case of persecution, I grant, is an outward discouragement to the true pastors, from performing this ministration, because it will be sure to be hottest against them. And it will be an hindrance too, from their discharging it so fully, and generally, as they might do in a free and quiet time. If meetings then, are fixed, and of free recourse, and open and numerous, they will miss of their end, and the effect will only be, to be disturbed, and carried before magistrates, not to go on in prayers and devotions. Assemblies to partake in these ministrations, cannot be so regular, and constant to times and places; so free, and full of communicants; and so easy and accessible to all those members, who desire, and stand in need thereof; when the church is daily disturbed, and persecuted, and driven into the wilderness, as they may in times of peace and external allowance. And thus, in the first persecutions, the disciples assembled in the evening, and were careful to keep the doors shut, for fear of the Jews (John 20: 19, 26). And St. Paul's meeting on the first day of the week at Troas, was held in an upper chamber, and in the night-time, his speech being continued until midnight (Acts 20: 7-9, 11). And Pliny's account to the emperor Trajan, of the Christians meetings in that persecution, is, that on their set times, their manner was to meet together before day, for their solemn worship and sacraments.
But so far as they can minister the word of moral truths against them, in a persecuted and dispersed state, and in such sort as that will admit of; they have more obligation to this ministration, by reason of the persecution. It makes the difficulty of this ministration, to be the more; but the duty of it to be never the less, but the straighter likewise. For, the more others persecute moral duties, and good practice; the more need there is for the ministers thereof, to stand up for them. And the more any faithful souls, are persecuted for them; the more need there is for the guides of souls, and the more obligation lies on them, by the best ministrations they can, to instruct and strengthen them therein. They are then to minister the word, not only to confirm them in their good practices; but also, to support and comfort them under their hard sufferings, and to assist and arm them at all points against their persecutors and spiritual enemies, that by faith and fortitude, patience and charity, they may bravely repel all their assaults, and gloriously triumph over them.
Thus God blames the shepherds of Israel, because, when the flocks were scattered, none did search or seek after them; when any were driven away, none sought to bring them back again, nor to strengthen what was diseased, nor to bind up what was broken among them, Ezekiel 34: 4, 5, 6. And when the wolf is coming, to break in among the sheep, and to rear and scatter them, i.e. when some cruel and imminent persecution is before them: if a pastor doth not stick by them then, and minister and show his pastoral care the best he can; but leaves them to themselves, and looks only how he may secure his own person; our blessed Lord tells us, he is no true shepherd, as being destitute of the pastoral care and spirit, but an hireling, John 10. 12. And St. Paul bids timothy, to stir up the gift that was in him, by the laying on of his hands, and not to be hindered, or discouraged from it, by the persecutions of that time: for that the Holy Ghost, conferred by God upon his ministers by such imposition of hands, is not the spirit of fear, or cowardice, whose ministrations are to be stopped by approach of dangers; but the spirit of power or courage, and of love to him and his church, when thereby we expose our own persons, 2 Timothy 1. 6, 7. Seeing we have, or stand charged with this ministry, though troubled, perplexed, and persecuted on every side, in the due discharge thereof, we faint not, saith he, 2 Corinthians 4: 1, 8, 9. But approve our selves the ministers of God, by the word of truth, and by the armor of righteousness on the right-hand, and on the left, in all patience, and afflictions, and in the midst of tumults, of stripes, and imprisonments, (2 Corinthians 6: 4, 5, 7).