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ing of any opinion good or bad in religion, or any other learning, and thus not only in heathen authors, but in the New Testament itself, without censure or blame; Acts xv. 5, Certain of the heresy of the Pharisees which believed ;' and xxvi. 5, After the exactest heresy of our religion I lived a Pharisee,' In which sense, presbyterian or independent may without reproach be called a heresy. Where it is mentioned with blame, it seems to differ little from schism; 1 Corinthians xi. 18, 19, 'I hear that there be schisms among you, &c. for there must also heresies be among you,' &c.; though some who write of heresy after their own heads, would make it far worse than schism; whenas on the contrary, schism signifies division, and in the worst sense; heresy, choice only of one opinion before another, which may be without discord.
In apostolic times, therefore, ere the scripture was written, heresy was a doctrine maintained against the doctrine by them delivered; which in these times can be no otherwise defined than a doctrine maintained against the light, which we now only have, of the scripture. Seeing therefore that no man, no synod, no session of men, though called the church, can judge definitely the sense of scripture to another man's conscience, which is well known to be a general maxim of the protestant religion, it follows plainly, that he who holds in religion that belief, or those opinions which to his conscience and utmost understanding appear with most evidence or probability in the scripture, though to others he seem erroneous, can no more be justly censured for a heretic than his censurers, who do but the same thing themselves while they censure him for so doing. For ask them, or any protestant, which hath most authority, the church or the scripture? They will answer, doubtless, that the scripture ; and what hath most authority, that no doubt
but they will confess is to be followed. He, then, who to his best apprehension follows the scripture, though against any point of doctrine by the whole church received, is not the heretic; but he who follows the church against his conscience and persuasion grounded on the scripture.
To make this yet more undeniable, I shall only borrow a plain simile, the same which our own writers, when they would deinonstrate plainest that we rightly prefer the scripture before the church, use frequently against the papist in this manner. As the Samaritans believed Christ, first for the woman's word, but next and much rather for his own, so we the scripture; first on the church's word, but afterwards and much more for its own, as the word of God; yea, vie church itself we believe then for the scripture. The inference of itself foilows; if by the protestant doctrine we believe the scripture, not for the church's saying, but for its own as the word of God, then ouglit we to believe what in our conscience we apprehend the scripture to say, though the visible church, with all her doctors, gainsay; and being taught to believe them only for the scripture, they wilo so do are not beretics, but the best protestants; and by their opinions, whatever they be, can hurt no protestant. whose rule is not to receive them but from the scripture ; which to interpret convincingly to his own conscience, none is able but himself guided by the Holy Spirit; and not so guided, none than he to himself can be a worse deceiver.
To protestants, therefore, whose common rule and touchstone is the scripture, nothing can with more conscience, more equity, nothing more protestantly can be permitted, than a free and lawful debate at all times by writing, conference, or disputation of what opinion soever, disputable by scripture ; concluding,
that no man in religion is properly a heretic at this
Who seeks to govern both, must needs be worse than any lord, prelate, or church pluralist; for he in his own faculty and profession, the other not in his own, and for the most part not thoroughly understood, makes himself supreme lord or pope of the church, as far as liis civil jurisdiction stretches, and all the ministers of God therein his ministers, or his curates rather, in the function only, not in the government, while he himself assumes to rule by civil power things to be ruled only by
* He is the minister of God, 'a revenger to execute wrath on him that doth evil.'
But we must first know who it is that doth evil; the heretic, they say, among the first. Let it be known then
certainly who is a heretic, and that he who holds opinions in religion professedly from tradition, or his own inventions, and not from scripture, but rather against it, is the only heretic ; and yet, though such, not always punishable by the magistrate unless he do evil against a civil law, properly so called, hath been already proved without need of repetition. But if
• thou do that which is evil, be afraid.' To do by scripture and the gospel according to conscience, is not to do evil; if we thereof ought not to be afraid, he ought not by his judging to give cause; causes therefore of religion are not here meant. For he beareth not the sword in vain." Yes, altogether in vain, if it smite he knows not what; if that for heresy, which not the church itself, much less he, can determine absolutely to be so; if truth for error, being himself so often fallible, he bears the sword not in vain only, but unjustly and to evil. Be subject not
. • only for wrath, but for conscience' sake;' how for conscience' sake, against conscience ? By all these reasons it appears plainly that the apostle in this place gives no judgment or coercive power to magistrates, neither to those then, nor these now, in matters of religion, and exhorts us no otherwise than he exhorted those Romans.
How many persecutions, then, imprisonments, banishments, penalties, and stripes; how much bloodshed have the forcers of conscience to answer for, and protestants rather than papists! For the papist, judging by his principles, punishes them who believe not as the church believes, though against the scripture ; but the protestant, teaching every one to believe the scripture, though against the church, counts heretical, and persecutes against his own principles, them who in any particular so believe as he in general teaches thein; them who most honor and believe divine scripture, but not against it any human interpretation though universal; them who interpret scripture only to themselves, which by his own position, none but they to themselves can interpret; them who use the scripture no otherwise by his own doctrine to their edification, than he himself uses it to their punishing; and so whom his doctrine acknow
; ledges a true believer, his discipline persecutes as a heretic. The papist exacts our belief as to the church due above scripture, and by the church, which is the whole people of God, understands the pope, the general councils, prelatical only, and
, the surnamed fathers. But the forcing protestant, though he deny such belief to any church whatsoever, yet takes it to himself and his teachers, of far less authority than to be called the church, and above scripture believed; which renders his practice both contrary to his belief, and far worse than that belief which he condeinns in the papist. By all which,' well considered, the more he professes to be a true protestant, the more he has to answer for his persecuting than a papist. No protestant therefore, of what sect soever, following scripture only, which is the common sect wherein they all agree, and the granted rule of every man's conscience to himself, ought, by the common doctrine of protestants, to be forced or molested for religion.
From the riddance of these objections, I proceed yet to another reason why it is unlawful for the civil magistrate to use force in matters of religion ; which is, because to judge in those things, though we should grant bin able, which is proved he is not, yet as a