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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 wijh 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 Moses'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 salvation 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 thp perverseness of their way, and to reclaim them from the errors thereof, this 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 so: 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 statetl, as it relates to the gospel of Christ; let it be handled in thesi et antitkesi, 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 orV posites. 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 partiality 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, asa 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 duty. It is far fromme to desire you, or any man, to be slack in ebscrving your vows, and performingyour 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,asobligingmyself untoGod to perform the tenor thereof,and notunto 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,-»-keeping the same; which you shall see, whenever you please*;and according to this engagement, although all men should neglect and disannul the covenant, yet
• This immediatelj follows, bj the title of, The Vow which J. P. bath made, See.
by me it never shall be forsaken, by God's grace, but maintained and foN lowed, so long as I shall have abilities so to do.
If, then, I should answer your scruple concerning your engagement, "upon thin account of meddling with state-matters, in case the covenant should be made void, I must refer you to the words of the covenant itself, to let you see how far it doth oblige you to follow this way. The first, third, fifth, and sixth articles do limit your endeavours to your power, place, calling, vocation, and interest: If I conceive, then, my proper place, calling, vocation, and interest to be, in the pulpit, none other but to speak the oracles of God, and to meddle with nothing else directly, but with the knowledge of Jesus Christ and him crucified, as in the covenant of grace he is offered unto us, by repentance and faith in his name; and to mention nothing indirectly, but what is evidently opposite unto the tenor of some profitable truth belonging unto that matter. If (I say) this is so, then I may soon determine the bounds of my intermeddling, how far they should reach, and where to stop; for I am bound by my own promise not to meddle, further than a servant of Christ in the gospel ought to do; so that I should make myself a transgressor of the covenant, if I should interpose my judgment, in the pulpit, further than either makes to lead my hearers unto Christ, and to the observation of the covenant of grace, which the father hath made with us in him; or otherwise than is suitable to the rules of edification towards all, without offence and partiality towards any. If then I should step beyond this line, and take upon me, through some insight into state-designs, to play the statist towards the people, to sway their inclinations to some earthly byass, for certain ends, which Christ hath not bid me prosecute in his husbandry, I know not how I should be able to answer it Unto my own conscience in his presence: For my spirit would tell me, that to play the huckster with the truth, to corrupt the word of God, and not to handle it in sincerity and as of God, is not the part of a faithful servant of Christ; therefore, as I would not have any to judge of me, I shall never take upon me tojudge of any man'ssecret intentions in handling the word, and mixing heterogeneal matters of publick concernment with his sermon. Every one shall answer to his own master that which he hath done; and the day, which burneth as fire, and is near at hand, shall try his work, whether it be of combustible matter, or not. I have enough to do to look to my own feet, to walk in an even path; and I desire that all my brethren, who are engaged in the covenant, may be careful to examine their own hearts and ways, according to the rules heretofore mentioned. And, if they consider conscionably the property of their calling and place, and find that, to discharge their duty in it, they must tell statesmen their duty, in private or in publick, as well as others, and that with some reference to publick matters of state, let them do it in God's name freely, but let the manner of doing it be such as becometh the gospel of Christ, and the stewards of the mysteries of God; that is, let all be done in love, let nothing be offered without a clear discovery of God's will from the word. And, when worldly circumstances and matters of fact are mentioned, let no passion, no envy, no vain-glory appear, nor any thing be done with a murmuring and disputing affection; but let the spirit of meekness and compassion govern the whole carriage of the business, towards the restoring of those that are overtaken in a fault, rather than to shame them, or give others any occasion to insult over them. With these cautions, if the covenant doth bring any special engagement upon any man's conscience to take notice of state-matters, further than otherwise is incident to the ministerial function in an ordinary way, I suppose he may walk safely towards God, and without offence towards men, in matters of greatest scrupulosity.
But for a further clearing of scruples, which may be incident in this kind, I shall put a case, which, in evil times before the witnesses be killed, faithful ministers, in their warfare against the beast, may, and will be put unto. Let us then suppose, that it shall be made a crime worthy of death, to speak against any human constitutions, which authority shall set up in God's worship, altho' never so contrary to the express word of God, as in the bishops times some were made offenders for a word, and a pretence, taken from any small thing, which seemed to contradict authority, was enough to out a man from his place whom they called a popular preacher; not so much because the thing deserved outing, but because any occasion would serve to silence a powerful and faithful minister. In such a case, the question is, how far a conscionable minister is bound to appear in opposition to the sanctions of authority?
To this I shall answer, first, that, in such a case, where God's word is clearly opposite to the sanction of man in matters of his own worship, no man may with a good conscience be indifferent, connive, or seem to give way unto the establishment thereof willingly, for this would be a lukewarmness in God's service.
Secondly, No man can give an exact rule to another, what, on such occasions, as may fall out in reference to his flock, or against his adversaries, he should do, to quit himself, and not betray the truth, or the souls of his flock, unto the power of seduction, because circumstances are infinite; therefore men are to study general rules, and must in particulars be left unto the directions of God's spirit, who doth oftentimes call forth his servants to the battle upon smaller occasions, to fight as effectually as upon greater ones; and, in some men, the human imprudencies of their spiritual zeal may be asuseful, in God's way of ordering the same, as the greatest prudence of others.
Thirdly, Altho' a faithful minister may neither connive nor shew any compliance with that which he knows to be clearly opposite to the will of God, but must be zealously affected and bent to stand out against it, in the sphere of his calling; yet he is not obliged, either at all times to set himself openly against it; or to appear in such a way of contradiction unto it, which may give the adversaries of the gospel some advantages, which they lie in wait to take against him, from the manner of his opposition or contradiction. Therefore it is lawful at all times, and in such cases very expedient, to use prudence, and by some spiritual stratagems to defeat the enemies of their advantages; which may be done sometimes by declining a direct and open 'contradiction of that which is the act of authority; and by using another way of opposing the same, which may be as effectual, and yet not liable to any exception. For there are two ways of handling all matters of doctrine and practice, the one is positive, the other negative. The negative is to refute and contradict that which another doth assert or practise, condemning it as an error or a fault. The positive is to confirm and declare our own opinion as a truth; and, if this be done effectually, in a matter wherein our assertion doth by a clear consequence make void the error, or overthrow the practise of our adversary, it is no less profitable to bear witness to the truth, than a direct reproving of vice by an express condemnation thereof. By this method then, a faithful minister may prudently decline a snare laid to entrap him, if he should presume to be so stout, as to contradict that which is expresly established; and yet may zealously and effectually discharge his conscience, and preserve his flock from error, by a positive delivery of the truth, which, being entertained from God's word, will be liable to no exception, and yet destroy the error, and discover the fault of those that abuse their authority in all men's minds, and altho' the consequence be not expresly made, or the thing to be condemned once named.
Tmas then, in matters of state, which authority may perhaps set on foot directly, in opposition to the kingdom of Christ, to make men. guilty, that shall openly contradict it, zealous men may decline an open contradiction; and, by asserting strongly that matter of religion or worship, which is opposite in its nature to that matter of state, which authority would settle, quit their conscience fully; and, without naming the thing, which may not be professedly condemned, yet overthrow it in all men's minds. He that did assert strongly from the word ofGod, that the Lord's day is to be kept holy to God in spiritual duties, to enter into his rest, and mind him alone without any other thoughts; and that all professors are bound in conscience to intend this, as they desire to partake of his holiness, and that the neglect of this duty is a forfeiture of that holiness, which God in his covenant, by the ordinance of that day doth offer to us: He, I say, that did strongly make out this, to be a truth which cannot be controuled, did fully condemn and refute the Book of Sports on the Lord's day, which was set up by authority*, although he never did once name it; and so, in all other cases, something may be done of like nature, when adversaries lie in wait to find occasions of making men offenders, if they dare seem to be directly opposites to that which bears the name of authority. Also the thesis of a matter may be so fully handled, that the hypothesis need notto be once named, but all men will be able to make the application thereof by themselves. The defensive postures in fencing are easier and safer than the offensive; and he that is well skilled therein, that his adversary, by assaulting him, gain nothing else but weariness to himself, and the spending his strength in vain, will, in the end, have an easy conquest of him. And, to cure diseases there are two ways, either by the strengthening of the vital spirits in the natural constitution of every one, or by the purging out of evil humours; if nature can be so well fortified by cordials or fomentations, as to cast out that which is noxious by itself, it is far better and safer than to use purgations, which always bring some trouble, and
* Of King James I. and afterward) by King Charles I.