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the same class. Thus all the constitutions of the Church, which we receive as holy and useful, may be classed under two heads; some refer to rites and ceremonies, others to discipline and peace.
XXX. But because there is danger here, on the one hand, that the false bishops may seize a pretext to excuse their impious and tyrannical laws, and on the other, that there may be some persons who, from an excessive fear of falling into the evils we have mentioned, will reject all ecclesiastical laws, however holy and useful they may be; it is necessary to protest, that I approve of no human constitutions, except such as are founded on the authority of God, and deduced from the Scripture, so that they may be considered as altogether divine. Let us take, as an example, the kneeling practised during solemn prayers. The question is, whether it be a human tradition, which every one is at liberty to reject or neglect. I answer that it is at once both human and divine. It is of God, as it forms a branch of that decorum which is recommended to our attention and observance by the apostle; it is of men, as it particularly designates that which had in general been rather hinted than clearly expressed. From this single example, it is easy to judge what opinion ought to be entertained of all the rest. Because the Lord in his holy oracles hath faithfully comprehended and plainly declared to us the whole nature of true righteousness, and all the parts of divine worship, with whatever is necessary to salvation, in these things he is to be regarded as our only master. Because in external discipline and ceremonies he hath not been pleased to give us minute directions what we ought to do in every particular case, foreseeing that this would depend on the different circumstances of different periods, and knowing that one form would not be adapted to all ages, here we must have recourse to the general rules which he hath given, that to them may be conformed all the regulations which shall be necessary to the decorum and order of the Church. Lastly, as he hath delivered no express injunctions on this subject, because these things are not necessary to salvation, and ought to be applied to the edification of the Church, with a variety suitable to the manners of each age and nation, therefore, as the benefit of the Church shall require, it will be right to change and abolish former regulations, and to institute new ones. I grant indeed, that we ought not to resort to innovation rashly or frequently, or for trivial causes. But charity will best decide what will injure or edify, and if we submit to the dictates of charity, all will be well.
XXXI. Now such regulations as have been made upon this principle and for this end, it is the duty of Christian people to observe, with a free conscience indeed, and without any superstition, yet with a pious and ready inclination: they must not treat them with contempt or carelessness, much less violate them in an open manner through pride and obstinacy. It will be asked, what kind of liberty of conscience can be retained amidst so much attention and caution? I reply, it will very well be supported, when we consider, that these are not fixed and perpetual laws by which we are bound, but external aids for human infirmity, which though we do not need, yet we all use, because we are under obligations to each other to cherish mutual charity between us. This may be observed in the examples already mentioned. What? does religion consist in a woman's veil, so that it would be criminal for her to walk out with her face uncovered? Is the solemn decree respecting her silence, such as cannot be violated without a capital offence? Is there any mystery in kneeling, or in the interment of a dead body, which cannot be omitted without sin? Certainly not: for if a woman, in the assistance of a neighbour, finds a necessity for such haste as allows her no time to cover her head, she commits no offence in running to the place with her head uncovered. And it is sometimes as proper for her to speak, as at other times to be silent. And he who from disease is unable to kneel, is quite at liberty to pray standing. Lastly, it is better to bury a dead body in proper season, even without a shroud, than for want of persons to carry it to burial, to suffer it to putrefy without interment. Nevertheless in these things, the customs and laws of the country we inhabit, the dictates of modesty, and even humanity itself, will direct us what to do, and what to avoid: and if an error be incurred through inadvertence or forgetfulness, no crime is committed, but if through contempt, such perverseness deserves to be reprobated. So it is of little importance, what days and hours are appointed, what is the form of the places, what psalms are sung on the respective days. But it is proper that there should be certain days and stated hours, and a place capable of receiving all the people, if any regard be paid to the preservation of peace. For what a source of contentions would be produced by the confusion of these things, if every man were permitted to change at his pleasure what relates to the general order; for it would never happen that the same thing would be agreeable to all, if things were undetermined and left to the choice of every individual. If any one object, and resolve to be wiser on this subject than is necessary, let him examine by what reason he can justify his obstinacy to the Lord. We ought however to be satisfied with the declaration of Paul; “ If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the Churches of God." (m)
XXXII. Now it is necessary to exert the greatest diligence to prevent the intrusion of any error, which may corrupt or obscure this pure use of ecclesiastical regulations. This end will be secured, if all the forms, whatever they may be, carry the appearance of manifest utility, if very few are admitted, and principally if they are' accompanied with the instructions of a faithful pastor, to shut the door against all corrupt opinions. The consequence of this knowledge is that every person will retain his liberty in all these things, and yet will voluntarily impose some restraint upon his liberty, so far as the decorum we have mentioned, or the dictates of charity, shall require. In the next place, it will be necessary, that without any superstition we should attend to the observance of these things ourselves, and not too rigidly exact it from others; that we should not esteem the worship of God to be improved by the multitude of ceremonies; and that one Church should not despise another on account of a variety of external discipline. Lastly, establishing no per
(m) 1 Cor. xi. 16.
petual law of this kind for ourselves, we ought to refer the use and end of all such observances to the edification of the Church, according to the exigence of which we should be content not only with the change of some particular observance, but with the abolition of any that have hitherto been in use among us. For that the abrogation of some ceremonies, not otherwise inconsistent with piety or decorum, may become expedient from the circumstances of particular periods, the present age exhibits an actual proof. For such has been the blindness and ignorance of foriner times, Churches have heretofore adhered to ceremonies with such corrupt sentiments and such obstinate zeal, that it is scarcely possible for them to be sufficiently purified from monstrous superstitions without the abolition of many ceremonies, for the original institution of which perhaps there was some cause, and which are not in themselves remarkable for any impiety.
The Jurisdiction of the Church, and its Abuse under the
Papacy. WE come now to the third branch of the power of the Church, and that which is the principal one in a well regulated state, which we have said consists in jurisdiction. The whole jurisdiction of the Church relates to the discipline of manners, of which we are about to treat. For as no city or town can exist without a magistracy and civil polity, so the Church of God, as I have already stated, but am now obliged to repeat, stands in need of a certain spiritual polity; which however is entirely distinct from civil polity, and is so far from obstructing or weakening it, that, on the contrary, it highly conduces to its assistance and advancement. This power of jurisdiction therefore will in short be no other than
an order instituted for the preservation of the spiritual polity. For this end, there were from the beginning judiciaries appointed in the Churches, to take cognizance of manners, to pass censures on vices, and to preside over the use of the keys in excommunication. This order Paul designates in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, when he mentions “ governments;” (n) and to the Romans, when he says, “He that ruleth,” let him do it “with diligence." () He is not speaking of magistrates or civil governors, for there was at this time no Christian magistrates, but of those who were associated with the pastor in the spiritual government of the Church. In the First Epistle to Timothy, also, he mentions two kinds of presbyters or elders, some “who labour in the word and doctrine," others who have nothing to do with
reaching the word, and yet "rule well." (0) By the latter class, there can be no doubt that he intends those who were appointed to the cognizance of manners, and to the whole exercise of the keys. For this power, of which we now speak, entirely depends on the keys, which Christ has conferred upon the Church in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew; where he commands that those who shall have despised private admonitions, shall be severely admonished in the name of the whole Church; and that if they persist in their obstinacy, they are to be excluded from the society of the faithful. (7) Now these admonitions and corrections cannot take place without an examination of the cause; hence the necessity of some judicature and order. Wherefore unless we would nullify the promise of the keys, and entirely abolish excommunication, solemn admonitions, and every thing of a similar kind, it is necessary to allow the Church some jurisdiction. Let it be observed, that the passage to which we have referred, relates not to the general authority of the doctrine to be preached by the apostles, as in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew and the twentieth chapter of John; but that the power of the sanhedrim is for the future transferred to the Church of Christ. Till that time, the Jews had their own method of
() Rom. xii. 8.
() 1 Tim. v. 17.
(n) 1 Cor. xii. 28.
(9) Matt. xviii. 15--18. Vol. III.