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upon manifest events; for prophecies before they be fulfilled, are riddles; when they are fulfilled, turn histories: but new doctrinal truths important and saving, are vainly expected, and fondly pretended.
It is not more needful than weighty counsel, which the Apostle gives to his Romans; and, in them, to us; that we should not super-sapere: yea, perhaps it is more than a counsel, a charge of his: For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think: but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith: as well knowing, what woeful effects would necessarily follow upon this height of spirit. For, hereupon ensues a scorn, to be either controlled or directed; a disdain of common and received opinionst; a resolution to walk nearer and fairer ways of our own; a defiance to all contradiction; an affectation of higher streams of sanctity; a challenge of new and super-celestial illuminations: diseases, which I would to God our times were clear of; at least, not more infested with, than those of our forefathers: although, what age ever was there, wherein some spirits would not be soaring too high? even from the wild and abstruse mysteries of the Valentinians, Basilidians, Carpocratians; and, afterwards, the Manichees, to this present day.
The learned Chancellor of Paris tells us of a woman, one Maria de Valentianas, that had, lately before his relation, written a book with incredible subtlety, concerning the prerogative and eminence of Divine Love; to which, whatever soul hath attained, is, according to her, let loose from all the Law of God's Commandments. Such speculations as these, and others of so high a nature as I fear to mention, are no novelties to these days of light and liberty; arising merely from the want of a meek and modest humility of soul, resting in plain, simple, received truths.
Shortly, peace can never dwell, but under the roof of a meek and humble heart.
(2.) In the second place, we shall be fitly composed for the entertainment of peace, if we have learnt to stoop to a submissive obedience unto our spiritual guides.
It is the full and absolute charge of the blessed Apostle, worthy to be imprinted in our heart; Obey them, that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account: Heb. xiii. 17.
Not to press the vehement exhortations of the renowned Martyr Ignatius, who, in every of his Epistles, so strongly enforces this duty, as if all the life of religion lay upon it; I cannot omit that famous observation of the holy Martyr St. Cyprian: "Neither,'
* Rom. xii. 3. Μὴ ὑπερφρονεῖν. vivere, &c. Sen. Ep. 112.
+ Res sordida est tritâ ac vulgari vid Nihil juvat obvium. Ibid. § Iræn. l. i. Jo. Gers. de Distinctione Verarum Visionum à Falsis. Cyp. Cornelio
de Fortunato et Felicissimo.
saith he, "do heresies or schisms arise from any other ground than this," quòd Sacerdoti Dei non obtemperatur, "that obedience is not yielded to the Priest of God."
I wish these times had not too much reason to under-write a probatum est to this truth; wherein it is lamentable to see, how we are fallen into another extreme from our forefathers. They had learned, and practised accordingly, to take their faith upon trust from their teachers, and to pin their souls upon their pastors' sleeves; to put themselves blindfolded into the hands of their leaders, to carry them whither they knew best; and, but to question any point which their ghostly fathers delivered to them as the doctrine of the Church, was piacular: we, on the contrary, are ready to guide and judge our teachers, to slight and control their directions, to contemn and trample upon their persons. Away with this proud usurpation! What distinction is there betwixt clergy and people? Ye take too much upon you, Moses and Aaron, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them; Num. xvi. 3. Woe is me, what an ill use do we make of that greater light which hath shined forth unto us, if it have made us more opinionative, more apt to err, more obstinate in error! The Romanists are alĺ for blind obedience: the Romanists therefore go away with peace, without truth: ours, under pretence of striving for some truths, abandon peace!
How much happier were it for the Church of God, and for us, if we had learned to attribute so much to our learned and godly pastors, as to rest in their studied interpretations of God's will revealed in the Holy Scriptures, so far, as not easily, and without sure and apparent grounds, to depart from their grave judgments! It was the great praise of those noble Bereans, that, upon the preaching of Paul and Silas, they searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so, as they had delivered them; Acts xvii. 11. They examined the quotations of the Apostles: they did not take upon them to judge of the sense of their doctrine; whereto they so submitted, as that they received the word with all readiness of mind.
Not that I would have Christians to captivate their understanding to any man's private opinion; and swear into the words of any Master in Israel: that were a servility, meet for the adorers of that Roman Vice-God, who must believe that all the truth of God is locked up in the cabinet of his own breast; and that all the decisions of that Oracular Chair are inerrablet, though delivered without study or care. Our holy profession allows us another manner of freedom. Wherefore hath God given us our inward senses, and the powers of reason, if we may not make use of them, in the main chance of our souls? Doubtless, we may improve our faculties; but as scholars, not as masters; to know, not to cavil. If thy teacher walk not in his own by-ways, but leads thee along in the beaten path of the Church of God, wherein thou art, evi† Greg. de Valent.
"The Compassionate Samaritan."
dencing his directions by the word of truth; follow him without fear: it is safe for thee, thus to err*. Is it for thee now, upon the suggestion of some ignorant stranger, to stand still at the next turning; and to tell thy guide he goes the wrong way; and, forsaking him, to coast the country over hedges and ditches for a nearer cut, till thou have lost, with the way, thyself?
There are some men, that are too much addicted to the judgment of their superiors. Gersont tells us, that the Cardinal of Amiens had wont to say of his brother Ebrudunensis, in a familiar sarcasm, as jesting at his too much dependance upon the CanonLaw, that, if he lay bemired in some dirty slough, he would not come forth, except there were a Canon shewed him for his rising up: and I fear these days afford too many, who, having once doted upon some admired teacher, how orthodox soever, cry up all his dictates for Gospel.
I cannot say, whether of these extremes be more dangerous: I am sure, both tend to confusion.
For the avoiding whereof, how happy were it, if our hearers would not think themselves too wise; and would content themselves to be rather disciples, than judges; and would be pleased to entertain reverent thoughts of those, that are set over them, not more for the gravity and wisdom of their persons, than for the authority of their places. Even Timothy's youth may not be contemned; and, upon this ground it was, that, amongst the Jews, though a man were never so learned, yet if his beard were not grown to some fulness, he was not allowed to minister in the synagoguet. And, hereupon it was, that holier Antiquity, even from the days of great and gracious Constantine, thought it very conducible to the good success of the Gospel, to put respects of honour upon the sacred messengers of God and even our Canutus could enact, Pari cum Thano jure fruatur Presbyter §. As, on the contrary, it is too true an observation of Damasus, where the name of Church governors is grown contemptible, the whole state of the Church must needs be perturbed.
In sum, therefore, if ever we desire to recover and maintain ecclesiastical peace, God's messengers must be greater in our eyes, and we lesser in our own.
(3.) Thirdly, to make up a fit composure towards peace, it shall be requisite, that we be charitably affected to our brethren: putting the best construction upon their practices or opinions; and allowing them such latitude of judgment in the lower rank of truths, as is no way prejudicial to the public peace.
It is a fair and equal rule of St. Augustin: "One thing may seem right and true to me; another man may judge otherwise: but neither do I prescribe what I say to another, neither doth that
Non recuso confusionem, quam mihi obedientiæ zelus invexit. 280. ad Eugen. † Jo. Gerson. Collat. pro Licentiandis. Spicileg. in 1 Tim. iii. 1. § Leg. Canuti apud Henr. Spelman. H Damas. Epist. de Chorepiscopis.
Bern. Ep. + Capell.
other prescribe to me." Charity, saith the Apostle, thinks not evil; 1 Cor. xiii. 5. If a word or action be capable of a good sense, it is our fault, if we suit it not with the best: and, if our favour should be mistaken; yet, as that Father said well, "It is better to give an account for mercy, than for cruelty+." Ead some men seen that austere Simeon, in the story ‡, going into a courtezan's house, and shutting the door after him, and maxing some stay in that polluted room, he would perhaps have misdoubted his unchastity: whereas, that holy man put himself under that unhallowed roof, for the happy conversion of that infamous sinner; hazarding his reputation, to win a soul.
There is nothing, which may not be taken with either hand: it is a spiritual unmannerliness, to take it with the left. It was a foul fault in Simon the Pharisee, and that which might have been well worthy to lose the thank of his entertainment, that, when he saw the woman which was a sinner, prostrate at the feet of Christ, and making an ewer of her eyes and a towel of her hair, to wash and wipe them, he could straight say, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman it is that toucheth him; Luke vii. 39: whereas, he should rather have said, "What a merciful Saviour is this, that gives so gracious an admission to so sinful a penitent!" That decision of Casuists is full of charity, how just soever; That, "although the mother lived in the stews, the child is presumed to be the husband's, not an adulterer's:" neither is our useful judgment much short of this favour, That, if the husband be within the four seas, the child shall be held not illegitimate.
The like candid interpretations must we give in matter of opinions; making the best of doubtful terms; and receiving the harshest expressions, not without some grains of salt the want whereof may prove extremely injurious, both to the authors and to ourselves; for there is no human writing, which needs not the favour of such fair ingenuity; without which, the Fathers themselves would scarce sound orthodox. Thus Erasmus dares say, that Augustin himself, even after all his Retractations, hath left many things in his works simply heretical¶; and can say of Luther, his great antagonist, that he hears some things are cried down in his writings, which, if they were soberly argued among learned and sincere men, would be found to avail much towards that spiritual and evangelical vigour, from which the world had too
*Aug. in Ps. xvi. Potest mihi aliquid videri, alteri aliud; sed neque ego quod dixero præscribo alteri, nec ille mihi. ↑ Melius est propter misericordiam rationem reddere, quàm propter crudelitatem. Opus imperfect. in Matth. Evagrius. 1. iv. c. 33. § Quandoque jus fingit aliud esse quàm sit, fingit mulierem stipulatam dotem, natum qui non est. Jo. de Geminiano, 1. viii. c. 19. Etiamsi mater viveret in prostibulo, præsumitur filius mariti et non adulteri. Mart. Vivald. explan. Bullæ. Cyrillus et Joh. Antiochenus anathematizarunt se, hæresim sibi mutuò objicientes; postea comperti idem sentire. Act. Concil. Ephesini.-Idem de Cyrillo et Theodoreto.
¶ Eras. Ep. lib. xxii. Joanni Episcopo. Cùm Augustinus, post editas Retrac tationes, reliquerit simpliciter hæretica; si quis eu nunc pelit tueri.
much degenerated*: and, elsewhere, in an Epistle of his to Jodocus Justus, he professes that those things, which Luther urges, if they be moderately handled, come more near to the power of the Gospelt.
Without this candour, what monsters of opinion doth prejudice raise out of the most harmless writings! No man ever could be a more fit instance, than that honour of Rotterdam, traduced beyond example by the malicious cowls of his age: amongst whom, John Standish, a Minorite, impudently calumniates him to the King and Queen of England, as one, that denied the Resurrection ; others, that he had blasphemed all Christ's miracles, as done by magic: since which time, our modern Pontificians, and Bellarming amongst the rest, can brand him as a friend to Arianism; and a patron of that Anabaptistical fancy of the unlawfulness of war; which yet himself, as præscious of so unjust an imputation, prevents and confutes in an Epistle to Paulus Voltzius. Shortly, himself professes, that the very sentences of our Saviour Christ, and his Apostle St. Paul, are, under his name, damned by his adversaries; when they are reported in his Paraphrase, under another person¶T.
I would to God, this age were not palpably guilty of too much uncharitableness, this way. When we look upon errors, we are apt, as those that see through a mist, to think them greater than they are every fault is a crime; every misopinion, a heresy. Neither can it be otherwise, while we are ready to impute to the contrary-minded, not only those things, which they profess to hold; but those, which we conceive to be consequent to their opinions, how vehemently soever disclaimed and defied by the authors. For the instances whereof, besides those of our daily experience, I refer my reader to the Treatise of Christian Moderation, where they are, to our sorrow, specified**. This is no other, than to enlarge the breach, and widen the wounds of God's Church; which we ought, by all good means, to bind and make uptt. Why should not I rather, when I meet with a hard and crabbed expression in a worthy Divine, (as Piscator, Beza, Paraus) say, as Cruciger said of Luther‡‡, that " he means better, than sometimes, in his heat, he speaketh?" and say of the works
* In Lutheri scriptis, &c. Eras. Cutberto Tonstallo, Episc. Londinens. + Quæ Lutherus urget, si moderatè tractentur, meâ sententiâ propiùs accedunt ad vigorem Evangelicum. Ep. 1. ii. ad Jodocum Justum. Eras. ep. 1. xv. Thom. Moro. § Bellar. Præf. lib. de Christ. Si quis à bellis, que jam secutus aliquot ob res nihili plus quàm Ethnicè gerimus, deterreat, notatur à Sycophantis quasi sentiant cum iis, qui negant ullum bellum gerendum Christianis. lib. Ep. xxiii. P. Volt. ¶ Quid hic commemorem Christi Paulique sententias, meo nomine damnatas, cùm in Paraphrasi sub alienâ personâ referuntur? Ep. 1. xxii. ** Christian Moderation. Book ii, Rule 7.
tt Nec ostentemus industriam, aut duvórnla, in augendis discordiis ut multi faciunt. Phil. Melanch. ad Amicum Quendam: an. 1544. Dissimulandus in corpore pulchro navus unus. Maldon. in Joannis xx.
Eum commodiùs sentire, quàm interdum loquitur, dum effervescit. Boxhorns. ex Autographo Crucigeri. Sic et Phil. Melanch. Sciebam “horridiùs scripturum Lutherum, quàm sentit. Ep. ubi supra,