CAP. II. Of the duties of conscience.
THe proper actions or duties of conscience are twofold, to giue * testimonie or to giue iudgement. Rom. 2. 15.
Conscience giues testimonie by determining that a thing was done or it was not done, Rom. 2. 15. Their conscience also bea∣ring witnes. 2 Cor. 1. 12. Our reioycing is the te∣stimonie of our conscience, that in, &c.
Here we must consider three things: I. of what things conscience beares witnes: II. in what manner: III. how long.
For the first, conscience beares witnesse of our thoughts, of our affections, of our outward actions.
That it beares witnes of our secret thoughts, it appeares by the solemne protestation which at some time men vse In my conscience I never thought it: whereby they signifie that they think something, or they thinke it not, and that their consciences can tell what they thinke. Neither must this seeme strange. For there must be two actions of the vnderstanding, the one is simple, Page 7 which barely conceiueth or thinketh this or that: the other is a reflecting or doubling of the former, whereby a man conceiues and thinkes with himselfe what he thinks. And this action properly pertaines to the conscience. The minde thinks a thought, now conscience goes beyond the minde, and knowes what the minde thinks; so as if a man would go about to hide his sinne∣full thoughts from God, his conscience as an o∣ther person within him, shall discouer all. By meanes of this second action conscience may beare witnes euen of thoughts, and from hence also it seemes to borrow his name, because con∣science * is a science or knowledge ioyned with an other knowledge; for by it I conceiue and know what I know.
Againe, conscience beares witnes what the wills and affections of men be in euery matter, Rom. 9. 1. I say the truth in Christ, I lie nos, my conscience bearing me witnes in the holy Ghost, that I haue great •ea•ines and continuall sorrow in my heart: for I could wish my selfe to be sepa∣rate from Christ for my brethren.
Lastly it witnesseth what be mens actions. Eccles. 7. 24. Oftentimes also thine heart know∣eth, [that is, consciēce witnesseth] that thou like∣wise hast cursed others.
The manner that conscience vseth in giuing Page 8 testimonie standes in two things. First it ob∣serues and takes notice of all things that we doe: secondly, it doth inwardly and secretly within the heart, tell vs of them all. In this respect it may fitly be compared to a notarie, or a register that hath alwaies the penne in his hand, to note and record whatsoeuer is saide or done: who also because he keepes the rolles and records of the court, can tell what hath bin said and done many hundred yeares past.
Touching the third point. How long consci∣ence beares witnes, it doth it continually; not for a minut, or a day, or a moneth, or a yeare, but for euer: when a man dies, conscience dieth not; when the bodie is rotting in the graue, consci∣ence liueth and is safe and sound: and when we shall rise againe, conscience shall come with vs to the barre of Gods iudgement, either to accuse or excuse vs before God, Rom. 2. 15. 16. Their conscience bearing witnes at the day when God shall iudge the secrets of men by Iesus Christ.
By this first dutie of conscience, we are to learne three things. The first, that there is a God: and we may be lead to the sight of this euen by very reason. For conscience beares witnesse. Of what? Of thy particular doings. But against whome or with whome doth it giue testimo∣nie? thou maist feele in thy heart that it doth it Page 9 either with thee or against thee. And to whom is it a witnesse? To men or Angels? that can not be, for they can not heare the voice of consci∣ence, they can not receiue consciences testimo∣ny, nay they can not see what is in the heart of man. It remaines therefore that there is a spiri∣tuall substance, most wise, most holy, most mighty, that sees a I things to whom conscience beares record; and that is God himselfe. Let A∣theists barke against this as long as they will: they haue that in them which will convince them of the truth of the godhead will they nill they, either in life or death.
Secondly we learne, that God doth watch o∣uer all men by a speciall prouidence. The master of a prison is knowen by this to haue care ouer his prisoners, if hee send keepers with them to watch them and to bring them home againe in time convenient: and so Gods care to man is manifest in this, that when he created man and placed him in the worlde, he gaue him consci∣ence to be his keeper to follow him alwaies at the heeles & to dogge him (as we say) & to pry into his actions & to beare witnesse of them all.
Thirdly hence we may obserue Gods good∣nesse and loue to man. If he do any thing amisse, he sets his conscience first of all to tell him of it sec•edy: if then he amende, God forgives it: if Page 10 not, then afterward conscience must openly ac∣cuse him for it at the barre of Gods iudgement before all the saints and angels in heauen.
The second worke of conscience is to giue iudgement of things done.
To giue iudgemēt is to determine, that a thing * is well done or ill done. Herein conscience is like to a Iudge that holdeth an assize and takes no∣tice of inditements, and causeth the most notori∣ous malefactour that is to hold up his hand at the barre of his iudgement. Nay it is (as it were) a little god sitting in the middle of mens hearts arraigning them in this life as they shall be ar∣raigned for their offences at the tribunall seate of the euerliuing god in the day of iudgement. Wherfore the temporary iudgement that is giuen by the conscience is nothing els but a be∣ginning or a fore-•unner of the last iudgement.
Hence we are admonished to take special heed that nothing past lie heavy upon vs, & that we charge not our cōsciences in time to come with any matter. For if our conscience accuse us, god will much more condemne vs, saith S. Iohn. 1. Io•. 3. 18. because he seeth all our actions more clearely and iudgeth them more seuerely then conscience can. It shall be good therfore for all men to labour that they may say with Paul, 2. Cor. 4. I knovv nothing by my selfe, that they Page 11•ay stand before God without blame for euer.
H••st we must consider two things: first, the c••se that makes conscience giue iudgement: secondly, the manner how.
The c•use is the Binder of the conscience. The * Binder is that thing whatsoeuer which hath power & authority ouer conscience to order it.
To bind, is to vrge, cause, and constraine it in euery action either to accuse for sinne, or to ex∣cuse for well doing: or to say, this may be done or it may not be done.
Conscience is said to be bound as it is conside∣red a part by it selfe from the binding power of gods cōmandement. For then it hath liberty & is not bound either to accuse or excuse, but is apt to do either of them indifferently but when the binding power is set once ouer the cōsciēce, thē in euery actiō it must needs either accuse or excuse: euē as a man in a city or town hauing his liberty, may go vp & down or not go, where & when he will: but if his body be attached by the magistrate & imprisoned, thē his former liber∣ty is restrained, & he can go up and downe but within the prison or some other allowed place.
The binder of conscience is either proper or improper. Proper is that thing which hath absolute and soueraigne power in it selfe to bind the conscience. And that is the worde of God writtē in the books of the old & new Testamē•. Page 12 Reason. I. He which is the Lord of 〈◊〉 by his word and lawes bindes con•…: but God is the only Lorde of conscience▪ bec••se he once created it, and he alone gouer•…〈◊〉 none but he knowes it. Therfore his word and lawes only bind conscience properly. II. 〈◊〉 which hath power to s••e or destroy the 〈◊〉 for the keeping or breaking of his lawes, •ath absolute power to bind the soul and cons••ence by the same lawes: but the first is true of God a∣lone, Iam. 3. 12. There is 〈◊〉 lawgiver which is able to save and destroy. Isa•. 33. 22. The Lorde is our Iudge, the Lord is our lavvginer, the Lorde is our King, and he will save vs. Therefore the worde of God alone by an absolute and soue∣raigne power binds conscience. Because this point is cleare of it selfe, further proofe is need∣lesse.
Hēce we are taught sundry points of instructi∣on. I. Such as are ignorāt amōg us must labor to get knowledge of gods worde, because it binds cōscience. Neither wil the plea of ignorā•e serue for excuse: because whether we know gods laws or know them not, they stil bind us. And we are bound not only to do them, but whē we know them not, we are further bound not to be igno∣rant of them, but to seeke to know them. If we had no more sinnes our ignorance were suffici∣ent Page 13 to condemne vs. II. Gods word is to be o∣beyed though we should offend all men, yea loose all mens fauour, and suffer the greatest do∣mage that may be, euen the losse of our liues. And the reason is at hand▪ because gods worde hath this prerogatiue to bridle, bind, & restraine the conscience. III. Whatsoeuer we enter∣•…se or take in hand, we must first search whe∣ther God giue vs liberty in conscience and war∣ra•• to do it. For if we do otherwise, conscience 〈◊〉 bo•nd▪ presently to charge vs of sinne before god. Lastly we do here see how dangerous the case is of all time-seruers that will liue as they list and be of no certen religion till differences and dissentions therein be ended, and they haue the determination of a generall counsell: for whe∣ther these things come to passe or no, certen i• is that they are bound in conscience to receiue and beleeue the ancient, Propheticall, and Apo∣stolicall doctrine touching the true worship of god and the way to 〈◊〉 euerlasting, which is the true religion. The same is to be said of all drowsie protestants and lukewarme-gospellers that use religion not with that care and consci∣ence they ought, but only then and so far forth as it serues for their turnes, commonly negle∣cting or despising the assemblies where the word is preached: and seldome frequenting the Page 14 Lords table vnles it be at Easter. Like silly wret∣ches they neither see nor feele the constraining power that gods word hath in their cōsciences.
Gods word is either Law or Gospel. The law is a part of Gods word of things to be done o• to be left vndone. And it is threefold• morall, iu∣diciall, ceremoniall.
Morall law concernes duties of loue partly to God & partly towards our neighbour •t is con∣tained * in the decalogue or 10. commandements: & it is the very law of nature written in all men• heart• (for substance though not for the m•ner of propounding of it) in the creation of man: & therfore it binds the consciences of all men at all times, euen of blind and ignorant persons that neither knowe the most of it nor care to know it. Yet here must be remembred 3. exceptions or cautions. I. When two commandements of the morall law are opposite in respect of v•so as we can not do them both at the same time: then the lesser commandement giues place to the greater & doth not bind for that instant. Exam∣ple. I. God commands one thing, & the magi∣strate commaunds the flat contrary: in this case which of these two commandements must be obeyed, Honour God, or, b Honour the Magi∣strate? the answer is, that the latter must giue place to the former, & the former must only be Page 15 obeyed. Act. 4. 19. Whether it be right in the sight of God to obey you rather the• God judge ye. II. The 4. commandement prescribes rest on the Sabbath day▪ now it 〈◊〉 out that at the same time a whole tow•…〈◊〉 set on fire, and the sixt commandement requires our help in sauing our neighbours life & goods. Now of these two cō∣mandements which must be obeyed? for both can not. The answer is, that the fourth comman∣dement at this time is to giue place, & the sixt commandement alone binds the conscience: so as then (if need should require) a man might la∣bour all the day without offence to God. Matt. 9. 13. I will have mercie & not sacrifice. And the rule must not be omitted, That charity towards our neighbour is subordinate to the Loue of God, & therfore must giue place to it. For this cause the commandement concerning Charity must giue place to the cōmandement cōcerning loue to god: & when the case so fals out, that we must either offend our neighbour or God, we must rather offend our neighbour then God.
II. Caution. When God giues some particu∣lar cōmandement to his people, dispensing with some other cōmandement of the moral law: for that time it binds not. For all the 10. cōmande∣ments must be cōceiued with this conditiō, Ex∣cept god cōmand otherwise. Exāple. I. The sixt Page 16 commandement is, Thou shalt not kill: but God giues a particular commandemēt to Abraham. Abrahā offer thy sonne Isaac in sacrifice to me. And this latter cōmandement at that instant did bind Abraham: & he is therefore commended for his obedience to it. II. And when God commanded the children of Israel to compasse Ierico seuen daies and therfore on the Sabbath, the fourth commandement prescribing the san∣ctifying of rest on the Sabbath for th•• instant and in that action did not bind conscience.
III. Caution. One and the same commande∣ment in some things binds the conscience more straitly, and in doing some other things lesse▪ 〈◊〉 6. 10. Doe good to all men, but sp•…〈◊〉 them that be of the houshold of faith. Hence it ariseth, that though all▪ sinnes be mortall and deserue eternall death, yet all are not equall, but some more grieuous then others.
Iudiciall lawes of Moses are all such as pre∣scribe order for the execution of iustice and * iudgement in the common-wealth. They were specially given by God, & directed to the Iewes: who for this very cause were bound 〈◊〉 consci∣ence to keepe them all: and if the common-wealth of the Iewes were now standing in the old estate, no doubt they should continue still to bind as before.
Page 17 But ••uching other nations and specially Christian common wealths in these d••es, the case is otherwise. Some are of opinion, that the whole iudiciall law is wholly abolished: and some againe runne to the other extreme, hol∣ding that Iudiciall lawes binde Christians as straightly as Iewes: but no doubt, they are both wide▪ and the safest course, is to keepe the meane betweene both. Therefore the Iudici∣all lawes of Moses according to the substance and scope thereof must be distinguished▪ in which respects they b are of two sorts. Some of them are lawes of particular equity, some of c common equity. Lawes of particular equity, are such as prescribe iustice according to the particular estate and condition of the Iewes common-wealth & to the circumstances ther∣of time, place, persons, things, actions. Of this kind was the law, 〈◊〉 brother should rais• vp seed to his brother, and many such like▪ & none of them bind vs because they were framed and •…pered to a particular people.
I•…als of common equity are such as are made according to the law or instinct of nature common to all men: and these, in respect of their 〈…〉nce, binde the consciences not onely of the Iewes but also of the Gentiles: for they were not giuen to the Iewes as they are Iewes, Page 18 that is, a people receiued into the 〈◊〉 a∣boue all other nations, brought from Egypt to the land of Canaan, of whome the Messias according to the flesh was to co〈…〉 but they were giuen to them as they were mortall men subiect to the order and la〈…〉s of nature as all other nations are. Againe iudiciall la〈…〉, so farre forth as they haue in them the generall or com∣mon equity of the lawe of nature are morall: and therfore binding in con•…, 〈◊〉 the mo∣rall law.
A Iudiciall law may be knowen to be a law of common equity, if either of these two things be found in it. First, if wise men not onely a∣mong the Iewes, but also in other nations haue by naturall reason and conscience iudged the same to be equall, iust, and necessary: and with∣all, haue testified this their iudgement by ina∣cting lawes for their common-wealthes, the same in substance with sundry of the Iudiciall lawes giuen to the Iewes: and the Roman• Emperours among the rest haue done this most excellently, as will appeare by confer∣ring their lawes with the lawes of God. Se∣condly a Iudiciall hath common equitie, if it serue directly to explane and confirme any of the tenne precepts of the Decalogue: or, if is se•… directly to maintaine and vphold any of Page 19 the three estates of the family, the common-wealth, the Church. And whether this be so or no, it will appeare, if we doe but consider the matter of the lawe, and the reasons or conside∣rations vpon which the Lord was mooued to giue the fame unto the Iewes. Now to make the point in hand more plaine, take an example or two. It is a Iudiciall law of God that mur∣derers must be put to death: now the question is whether this law for substance be the com∣mon equity of nature binding consciences of Christians or not and the answer is, that with∣out further doubting it is so. For first of all, this law hath bin by common consent of wise law∣giuers enacted in many countries and king∣domes beside the Iewes. It was the lawe of the Egyptians and c olde Grecians of Draco, of Numa, and of many of the Romane d Empe∣rours. Secondly this lawe serues directly to maintaine obedience to the sint commande∣ment: and the consideration upon which the law was made is so weighty that without it a common-wealth can not stand. The murde∣rers bloode must be shedde (saieth the Lorde Numb. 35. v. 33, 34.) because the whole lande is defiled with blood, and remaineth vn•…d, till his blood be shed, Againe it was a iudiciall law a∣mong the Iewes that the adulterer & adulteresse Page 20 should die the death; now let the question be whether this law concerne other •…ns as be∣ing deriued from the common law of nature: and it seemes to be so. For first wise men by the light of reason and naturall conscience haue iud∣ged this punishment equall and iust. Iudah be∣fore this Iudiciall law was giuen by Moses, ap∣pointed * Tamar his daughter in law to be •…rnt to death for playing the whore. Nabuchad∣nezzar burnt Echa• and Zedechias because they * committed adultery with their neighbours wiues. By Dracoes law among the Grecians * this sinne was death, and also by the law of the Romanes. Againe, this law seemes directly to maintaine necessary obedience to the seuenth commandement: and the considerations upon which this law was giuen are perpetual, & serue to vphold the common wealth. Lev. 20. 22. Yee (saith the Lord) shall keep all mine or dinances &. my iudgements [the law of adultery being o•• of them.) Now marke the reasons. 1. 〈◊〉 the land 〈◊〉 you out. 2. For the same sunnes I have ab borred the nations.
The ce•…oniall law is that which prescribes * rites & orders in the outward worship of God It must be cōsidered in three times. The first is time before the comming 〈◊〉 death of Christ: the second, the time of publishing the 〈◊〉 by Page 21 the Apostles: the third, the time after the publi∣shing of the Gospell.
In the first, it did bind the consciences of the Iewes, & the obedience of it was the true wor∣ship of God. But it did not th•• bind the consci∣ences of the Gentils, for it was the partition wall betwene them and 〈◊〉•…es. And it did conti∣nue to bind the 〈◊〉••ll the very death and as∣cension of C•…. For 〈◊〉 the hand writing of ordinances 〈◊〉 was against vs was nailed on the crosse 〈◊〉 cancelled. And when Christ saith, that the 〈◊〉 and the 〈◊〉 indured till •ohn, Luk. 〈◊〉. 〈◊〉. 〈◊〉 meaning is not, that the ceremo∣niall law ended then: but that things foretold by the prophets, and ob•…ly prefigured by the 〈◊〉 law, began then more plainly to be preached and made manifest.
The second time was from the ascension of Christ, till about the time of the destruction of the Temple and city: in which, ceremonies cea∣sed to bind conscience and remained indifferent. Hereupon Paul circumcised Timothy: the A∣postles after Christs ascension, as occasion was offered were present in the •emple, Act. 3. 1: And the councill of Hierusalem tendering the weakenesse of some beleeuers, decreed that the Church for a time should abstaine frō strangled & blood And there was good reason of this, Page 22 because the Church of the Iewes was not yet sufficiently conuicted that an end was put to the ceremoniall law by the death of Christ.
In the third time, which was after the publi∣shing of the Gospell; ceremonies of the Iewes Church became unlawfull, and so shall continue to the worlds end.
By this it appeares what a monstrous and mi∣serable religion the Church of Rome teacheth and maintaines; which standes wholy in cere∣monies, partly heat heathenish and partly Iewish.
As for the Gospel, I take it for that part of the word of God which promiseth righteousnesse * and life euerlasting to all that beleeue in Christ, and withall commandeth this faith.
That we may the better know, how the gos∣pell binds conscience, two points must be consi∣dered: one touching the persons bound, the o∣ther touching the manner of binding.
Persons are of two sorts; some be called, some be uncalled. Persons called are all such to whom God in mercy hath offered the meanes of salua∣tion, and hath reuealed the doctrine of the gos∣pell in some measure more or lesse by meanes either ordinary or extraordinary. All such I thinke are straightly bounde in conscience to beleeue and obey the Gospell. For that word of God, whereby men shall be iudged in the Page 23 day of iudgement, must first of all binde their consciences in this life, considering absolution and condemnation is according to that which is done in this life: but by the Gospell, all men that haue beene called, shall be iudged as Paul saith, Roman. 2. 16. God shall iudge the secrets of men by Iesus Christ, according to my Gos∣pell. And our Sauiour Christ saieth, Hee that beleeveth hath life everlasting, hee vvhich beleeveth not is alreadie condemned. It re∣maines therfore, that the gospell binds the con∣sciences of such men in this life. By this wee are all put in minde not to content our selues with this, that wee haue a liking to the Gos∣pell, and doe beleeue it to be true (though ma∣ny protestants in those our dayes thinke it suf∣ficient •oth in life and death, if they holde that they are to be saved by faith alone in Christ without the merite of mans workes) but wee must goe yet further, and enter into a practise of the doctrine of the Gospell as well as of the precepts of the morall lawe; knowing that the gospell doeth as well binde conscience as the lawe, and if it be not obeyed will as well con∣demne.
Men vncalled, are such as neuer hearde of Christ by reason the gospell was neuer reuealed unto them, nor means of reuelatiō offered. That Page 24 there haue bene such in former ages, I make it manifest thus. The worlde since the creation may be distinguished into foure ages. The first, from the creation to the floode: the second, from the flood to the giuing of the Lawe: the third, from the giuing of the law to the death of Christ: the fourth, from the death of Christ to the last iudgement. Now in the three for∣mer ages, there was a distinction of the world into two so••es of men, whereof one was a people of God, the other •o-people. In the first age in the families of Seth, Noe, &c. were the sonnes of God, in all other families the sonnes of men. Genes. 6. 2. In the second age were the sonnes of the flesh and the sonnes of the promise, Roman. 9. 7. In the thirde, Iewes and G•… the Iewes being the Church of God, all nations b•… no church. But 〈◊〉 the last age, this distinction was taken a•… the Apostles had a cōmission giuen them that was neuer giuen before to any namely, to goe teach not only the Iewes but all nations. Now this di∣stinction arose of this, that the gospell was not revealed to the worlde before the co•…ing of Christ, as the scriptures wi••es. The Prophet E∣sa• saith, 52. 14. that kings s•…〈◊〉 their 〈◊〉〈◊〉 at Christ because that which •ad not b•…ld 〈◊〉 they shal see, & that which they ••d 〈◊〉〈◊〉〈…〉l Page 25 they vnderstād. And 55. 5. that a natiō that knew him not shall runne vnto him. Paul saith of the Ephesians that in former times they were with∣out God and without Christ, strangers from the ••venant, Eph. 2. 12. And to the Atheni••s he saith, 〈◊〉 the times before the co•…ing of Christ were times of ignorance, Act. 17. 30. And that it may not be thought that this ignorance was affected, Paul •aith further that God in ti•e• past suffered the Gentiles to walke in their 〈◊〉〈◊〉〈◊〉, Act. 14. 16. and that th•myster•e of the Gospel was kept secret from the beginning of the world, ••d•s now in the last age r•…led to the whole world, Rom. 16. 25. Some alleadge that the Iewes beeing the Church of God, had tr•…cke with all nations, and by this meanes sp••d some little knowledge of the Messia• tho∣rough the whole world: I answer againe that the conference and speach of Iewish marchants with forrainers was no sufficient means to pub∣lish the promise of saluation by Christ to the whole world▪ first because the Iewes for the most part haue alwaies bin more readie to re∣ceiue ••y new and false religion, then to teach their owne: secondly because the very Iewes thems•…, though they were well acquainted with the •…es of their religion, yet the s••stance thereof which was Christ figured by Page 26 ex•…ll ceremonies, they knew not: and here∣upon the Pharisies when they made a Proso∣lyte, they made him ten times more the childe of the d•…ll then themselues. Thirdly, because men are •••ome or neuer suffered to professe or make any speach of their religion in forraine countries. Againe, if it b• alleadged that the do∣ctrine of the Gospel is set downe in the books of the old Testament, which men through the whole world might haue read, searched, and knowne if they would; I answer that the kee∣ping of the bookes of the old Testament, was committed to the Iewes alone, Rom. 3. 2. and therefore they were not giuen to the whole world, as also the Psalmist testifieth, H• s•…th his word vnto Iacob his statutes and his iudge∣ments vnto Isra•l; he hath not dealt so with e∣uery nation, neither haue they k•… his iudge∣ments, Psal. 147. 8.
Now touching such persons as haue not so much as heard of Christ, though they are apt & fit to be bound in conscience by the Gospel in as much as they are the creatures of God, yet are they not indeede actually bound till such time as the Gospel be reuealed or at the least 〈◊〉 of reuelation offered. Reasons herof may be these I. Whatsoeuer doctrine or law doth 〈◊〉 con∣science, must in some part be know•…by 〈◊〉Page 27 or by grace or by both: the vnderstanding must first of all conceiue, or at the least haue meanes of conc•…ing, before conscience can constraine: because it b••deth by vertue of knowne con∣•… in the minde. Therefore things that are altogether vnknowne and vnconceiued of the vnderstanding, doe not binde in conscience: now, the Gospel is altogether vnknowne and vn•…d of many, as I haue alreadie proo∣ued, and therefore it binds not them in consci∣ence. II. Paul saith. Rom. 2. 12. They vvhich s•…e vvithout the law [written] shall be condē∣ned without the law: therefore they which sinne without the Gospel, shall be condemned with∣out the Gospel: and such as shall be condemned without the Gospel after this life, were not bound by it in this life. Augustine the most iu∣diciall Div••• of all the •…ent f••hers vpon these words of Christ, but now they 〈◊〉〈◊〉〈◊〉*of their 〈◊〉, saith on this manner, A doubt*may be •…d vvhether they to whome Christ hath not co••, neither hath spoken vnto them, 〈◊〉 a• excuse for their s•…e. For if they have 〈◊〉 n•t, vvhy is it said that these [namely the Iewes] 〈◊〉〈◊〉 excuse because he came & sp•ke to th•…〈◊〉 and if they haue it, whether it be that their p•…t may be taken a•…y quite, or in part l•…d. To these dem•…des ac∣cording Page 28 to my capaciti• as the Lord 〈◊〉 i•… me I answer, that they to whome C•…〈◊〉 not, neither hath spoken vnto them, 〈◊〉〈◊〉〈◊〉 not of euery s•…e but of this 〈◊〉, 〈◊〉•…y have not beleeued in Christ. Againe, 〈◊〉〈◊〉▪ to inquire whether those, who before Christ 〈◊〉 in his Church to the •••til••, 〈◊〉〈◊〉•eard his Gospel, haue bi•〈◊〉〈◊〉〈◊〉 death, may vse this excuse? D•…〈◊〉, but they shall not therefore es•…〈◊〉▪ 〈◊〉 whosoeuer haue s•…ed without th•…▪ 〈◊〉 perish without the Law.
As for the reasons which some of the school∣men haue alleadged to the contra•…, they are answered all by b men of the same order, and I will briefly touch the principall. First i•〈◊〉 obie∣cted that the holy Ghost shall iudge the worl•• of 〈◊〉, because they haue 〈◊〉 bele•ved in Christ, Ioh. 16. 9. I answer that by the world we must not vnderstand 〈◊〉 and •…y man s•…e the creation, but all nations and kingdomes in the last age of the world, to whome the Gospel was •…ed. Thus hath Paul expounded this word, Rom. 11. 12. The fall of them is the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles. v. 15. The casting of them away is the reconciling of the world Secondly it is ob∣iected that the law binds all men in conscience Page 29 though the greatest part of it •e vnknowne to them. Ans•. The low was once giuen to A∣dam and imprinted in his heart 〈◊〉 his first crea∣tion, and in him as b••ing the roote of all man∣kin•…, it was giuen to all men: and as when he •…ed 〈◊〉 men •…ed in him, so when he was inlighte•…d all were inlightened in him, and cō∣sequently when his conscience was bound by the l•w, all were bound in him. And though this knowledge be lost by mans default, yet the bond r•…s still on Gods part. Nowe the case i• otherwise with the Gospel, which was neuer written in mans nature, but was g•…n after the fall and is aboue nature. Here a further reply is made, that the covenant made with A∣dam. The seede of the 〈◊〉 shall br•…se the serpe••s •ead, was also made with his seede which is all mankinde, and was afterward con∣•…d with Abraham to all nations. I answer a∣gaine, that Adam was a ••o•e of mankinde one∣ly in respect of mens 〈◊〉 with the gifts and 〈◊〉 thereo•… was no root in respect of grace which is aboue nature, but Christ the second Adam. And therefore when God gaue the pro∣mise vnto him and faith to beleeue the promise, he did not in him giue 〈◊〉 both to all man∣kind: neither, if Adam had afterward fallen frō faith in the M•…, should all •…inde agai••Page 30〈…〉•f grace w•…〈◊〉•o Ad•••〈◊〉〈◊〉〈◊〉〈◊〉 it appeares; b••••se 〈◊〉 God did 〈◊〉〈◊〉 the cov•…t, b•…〈◊〉 to the 〈◊〉 of N•• and Abr•…, 〈…〉 it w•• res•…ed to I∣saac, 〈◊〉 Isaac (saith the Lord) 〈…〉•hy s•••• be 〈◊〉; yea in the very 〈◊〉 of the 〈◊〉〈◊〉 is a distinction made of the se•d• of the w•m•n and the se•• of the serpe•… which •eed• of the •erpent is a * part of mankind, 〈◊〉 it 〈◊〉 ex∣•••ded from the covena•t. And wher•… the 〈◊〉 promised to Abraham that in his •eede all 〈◊〉•…ions of the earth should be blessed, the •…ise must not be vnderstood of all men in 〈◊〉••e, but of all ••tion• in the last age of the 〈◊〉. And thus P•…ath cleared there•…, 〈◊〉. 3. 8. The Scripture fore se•ing that God vv•…ld iusti•… the Ge•tiles thr••gh •aith [which was done after Christs 〈…〉] 〈◊〉 pre•…hed before the ••spel to A•…, 〈◊〉 t•… shall 〈◊〉 be blessed. Lastly it may be obiected, 〈◊〉 if any man be ignorant of the doctrine of •…tion by Christ, it is throug• his owne fault: it is true in∣deede that all ig•…ce of the doctrine of sal∣vation com•…•…h mans fault and sinne: but sinne must be •istinguished; it is either perso•…, o• the 〈◊〉 of mans nature. Now Page 31 in them that 〈◊〉 heard of Christ, 〈◊〉〈◊〉 i• this point proceedes not of 〈◊〉 personall 〈◊〉 in them, but •…ly from the 〈◊〉 of 〈◊〉 nature, 〈◊〉 i•, the •…e of 〈◊〉〈◊〉 to •…kind•▪ which 〈◊〉 is punished when God 〈◊〉〈◊〉〈◊〉 to th•…. Now many things there be 〈…〉 men proceeding from this s•…, which 〈◊〉 are no sinnes, as the m•nifold miseries of this li••: & so I take the ignorance of things aboue ma•• nature altogether vn•••ealed, to be no •inne 〈◊〉 a punishment of originall sinne.
Thus much •f the persons which are bound by the Go••••: now 〈…〉〈◊〉 how farre•… they are •…d by 〈…〉▪
God in the Gospel g•…lly 〈◊〉 two points vnto 〈◊〉 the first that there is perfect •igh∣••ousnes and life 〈◊〉•o 〈◊〉 Christ: the second, that the 〈◊〉 to ob∣taine righteousnes and life 〈…〉 Christ. Moreouer when this Gospel 〈◊〉 dispe•…∣sed and preached vnto vs, God •…les vnto vs two points more: the first, 〈◊〉•ee 〈◊〉 make vs particularly to be partakers of true righteousnesse and life euerlasting by C•… the second, that hee will haue vs with•… doubting to beleeue thus much of our s•…, •nd for this cause euery man to 〈◊〉Page 32•he 〈◊〉 is •…led, i• bound to beleeue his 〈◊〉 no d••tion, iustification, sanctification, and glori••cation in and by Christ. The reasons and 〈◊〉〈◊〉 this point out of the w••d of God •re th•••▪ 〈◊〉. 1. Io•. 〈…〉. This is his 〈◊〉 that we beleeue i• the name of his s•…e ••s•• Christ, and lo•e 〈◊〉〈◊〉〈…〉 as •e ga•e vs c•…ment. Now to beleeue in Christ, is not con••sedly to beleeue that he is a redeemer of mankind, but withall to beleeue that he is my •…iour, and that I am elected, iustified, sanctifi∣ed, and shalbe glorified by him. This is graunted of all then, yea of the Papists themselues, which otherwise are 〈◊〉•f this doctrine. For •…berd saith, To belee•e i• Go• is by beleeuing to lo•e, ••d 〈◊〉 i•••re to g•• into God: by belee∣•ing*to cl•… vnto him, and as it were to be 〈◊〉 into his •…bers. II. Paul, Gal. 2. •6. first of all propounds a generall sentence, That a 〈◊〉 is 〈◊〉 iustified by the workes of the law, 〈◊〉 by the faith of Christ. Afterwa•d he addes a speciall application, E•en we (namely Iowes) 〈◊〉 beleeued in Iesus Christ, that vve might be iustified by the faith of Iesus Christ; and in v. 〈◊〉. he descends more specially to apply the Gospel to himselfe, I liue (saith he) by the faith of the sonne of God, who hath loued 〈◊〉 and 〈◊〉 himselfe for me. And in this kinde of ap∣plication Page 33 there is nothing peculiar to Paul, for in this very action of his he is an example vnto vs, 1. Tim. 1. 16. F•• this cause (saith he) was I re∣ceiued to 〈◊〉, that Iesus Christ should she• first 〈◊〉〈◊〉 all lo•g ••ffering vnto the e•sample of the• which shall in time to c•…e belee•e in •im to •ter••ll life. Againe Philip. 3. 8. he saith, I thinke allthings but losse, that I might winne Christ, and might be fo•n• in him not having mi•e •vv•e righteousnes, but that vvhich is through the faith of Christ, that I may knovv him 〈◊〉 the v••••• of his resurrection: and af∣•erward he •ddeth. v. 15. L•t vs as many as be perfect be 〈◊〉 mi••ed. III. Whatsoeuer we pray for according to Gods will, we are bound to beleeue that it shall be giuen vnto vs. Mark. 11. 24. Whatsoeuer ye des•… when ye pray, belee•• that y• shall haue i•, and it shall be done vnto you. But we pray for the pardon of our owne sinnes, and for life euerlasting by Christ; and that according to the will of God. There∣fore we are bound in conscience to beleeue the p••don of our owne sinnes and life euerlasting. IV. If God should speake particularly to any man, and say vnto him, Cornelius, or Peter, be∣leeue thou in Christ, and thou shalt be saued; this commaundem••• should binde him parti∣cularly. Now when the Minister lawfully cal∣led, Page 34 in the name and stead of God publisheth the Gospel to the congregation, that is as much as if God himselfe had spoken to them par∣ticularly; calling each of them by their names and promising vnto them life euerlasting in Christ. 2. Cor. 〈◊〉. 20. We as ambassadours for Christ, as though God did be seech you through vs, pray you in Christs stead, that ye be re•••∣ciled to God.
It may be and is obiected, that if euery man be bound in conscience to beleeue his owne Election and saluation by Christ, then some men are bound to beleeue that which is false, because some there be euen in the middest of the Church, which in the counsell of God were neuer chosen to saluation. I answeare, that this reason were good, if men were bound absolutely to beleeue their saluation without further respect or condition: but the bond is conditionall, according to the tenour of the couenant of grace; for we are bound to beleeue in Christ, if we would come to life euerlasting, or if we would be in the •…∣uour of God, or if we would be good disci∣ples and members of Christ.
In that we are bound in conscience on this manner to beleeue the promises of the Gospell with an application of the benefites Page 35 thereof to our selues, sundrie necessarie and profitable points of instruction may be lear∣ned. The first, that the popish Doctours a∣bolish a great part of the Gospel, when they teach that men are bound to beleeue the Go∣spel onely by a Catholicke saith, which they make to be nothing else but a gift of God, or illumination of the minde, whereby assent is giuen to the word of God that it is true; and more specially that Iesus is Christ, that is, an all-sufficient Sauiour of mankinde. All which the damned spirits beleeue: whereas the Go∣spel for the comfort and saluation of mens soules hath a further reach, namely to in∣ioyne men to beleeue that the promise of saluation is not onely true in it selfe, but al∣so true in the very person of the beleeuer, as appeares euidently by the Sacraments which are as it were a visible Gospel, in which Christ with all his benefits is offered and ap∣plied to the particular persons of men: to this ende, no doubt, that they might beleeue the accomplishment of the promise in themselues.
Secondly, we learne that it is not presump∣tion for any man to beleeue the remission of his owne sinnes: for to doe the will of God to which we are bound, is not to presume: now it is the will of God to which he hath Page 36 bound vs in conscience, to belo•ue the remi••ion of our owne sinnes: and therefore rather 〈◊〉 to doe it is p•…ous disobedience.
Thirdly, we are here to ••rke and to re•…∣ber with care, the foundation of the 〈◊〉 certen•e of mans salo•ion For if man be bound in conscience first to giue assent to the Gosp•t and secondly to applie 〈◊〉 to himselfe by true faith, then without doubt a man by faith may be certenly perswaded of his owne 〈◊〉 and saluation in this 〈◊〉 without any ext•or∣dinarie reuelation: Gods commaundements beeing in this and the like case• possible. For commaundements are either Legall or Evan∣gelicall. Legall shew vs ••t disease, but giue vs no remedie: and the perfect doing of them ac∣cording to the intent of the law giuer, by reason of mans weaknes and through mans default, is impossible in this world. As for Evangelicall commandements, they haue this priuiledge, that they may and can be performed according to the intention of the Lawgiuer in this life: be∣cause with the commandement is ioyned the inward operation of the spirit, to inable vs to effect the dutie commaunded: and the will of God is not to require absolute perfection at our hands in the Gospel as in the law: but ra∣ther to qualifie the rigour of the law by the sa∣tisfaction Page 37 of a mediatour in our steads and of vs (we beeing in Christ) to accept the vpright will and indeauour for the deede; as the will to re∣pent, and the will to beleeue, for repentance and true faith indeede. Now then if things re∣quired in the Gospel, be both ordinarie and possible, then for a man to haue an unfallible certaintie of his owne saluation, is both ordina∣ry & possible. But more of this point afterward.
Lastly, all such persons as are troubled with 〈◊〉, distrustings, vnbeleefe, dispaire of Gods mercie, are to learne and consider that God by his word bindes them in conscience to be•••ue the pardon of their owne sinnes be they neuer so grieuous or many, and to be•••e their own Election to saluation whereof they doubt, M••••hat are but civill haue care to auoid rob∣bing and killing, because God giues commaundements against stealing and killing: why then should not we much more striue against our manifold doubtings and distrustings of Gods loue in Christ, hauing a commandement of God that calls vpon vs and binds vs to doe so.
Thus we see how Gods word bindes consci∣ences now conscience being thus bound, againe bindes vs.
The bonde of conscience is called Guiltines. Guiltines is nothing els but a worke of the con∣science, Page 38 binding ouer a man to a punishment be∣fore God for some sinne.
Thus much of the propet binder of the con∣science: now follows the improper.
The improper binder is that which hath no power or vertue in it selfe to binde conscience: but doth it onely by vertue of Gods word or of some part of it. It is threefold, Humane lawes, an Oath, a Promise.
Touching humane lawes, the speciall point to be considered is, In what manner they * binde. That this may in part be cleared, I will stande a while to examine and confute the opi∣nion that the very pillers of the popish Church at this day maintaine; namely, that Civill and Ecclesi•sticall Iuris••ction haue a coactive povver in the conscience, and that the 〈◊〉 made thereby doe as truly and properly binde (as they speake) to mortall and venial sinne, as Gods law it selfe. The arguments which they com∣monly vse, are these.
Argum. 1. Deut. 17. That man that vvill 〈◊〉 presumptuous•y, and not ob•y thebau• horitie of the priest, or I•dge, shall 〈◊〉 and th•• shalt take away euill from Israel. Here (say they) the pre∣cepts of the high priest are *Imperia, not •dmo∣nitions or exhortations, and they binde in con∣science; otherwise the transgressours thereof Page 39 should not haue bin punished so seuerely. Answ. The intent of this law (as a very child may per∣ceiu•) is to establish the authoriue and right of the highest appeales for all matters of contro∣versie in the Synedrium o• great court at Ierusa lem. Therefore the words alleadged doe not giue vnto the priest a soveraigne power of ma∣king lawes, but a power of giuing iudgement of controuersies, and that according to lawes alreadie made by God himselfe: from which iudgement there might be no appeale. Nowe this power of determining doth not constraine conscience, but the outward man to maintaine order and peace. For what reason is there that that sentence which might be either a gain∣saying of Gods law, or a mistaking of it, should binde the conscience to a sinne. Againe, not e∣uery one that refused to subiect themselues to the sentence of this court, were straightway guiltie of sinne (for this did Ieremie the Pro∣phet, * and Christ our Sauiour, when they were condemned for wicked persons) but he that presumptuously despised the sentence, and by consequent the authoritie it selfe, which was the ordinence of God, was guiltie. Lastly, the se∣ueritie of the punishment, which is temporall death, doth not argue any power in the iudge of binding conscience: this they might haue Page 40 learned of their owne D•ct••〈◊〉, who hol∣deth * that they that binde any man to mortall sinne, m•st be able to punish him with answe•∣rable punishment, which is eternall death.
Argum•… Math. 16. What soeuer ye shall bind vpon 〈◊〉 shall be 〈◊〉 in heauen. Here to binde, is to make lawes •…ning conscience according to Matth. 23. 4. They binde 〈◊〉 bur••ns, and lay the••〈◊〉 mens 〈◊〉. Ansvver. The 〈◊〉 power of binding and soo•…, is not belonging to any crea∣ture; but is p•op•• to Christ, who hath the keyes of heauen and hell, he openeth and no man sh•… h•〈◊〉••d no man ope∣neth, R•… 3. 7. As for the power of the Church it is nothing but 〈◊〉 ministerie of seruice where∣by men publish and pro•… that Christ bindeth or Ido•eth. Againe, this binding stands not in the power of making lawes, but in re∣mitting and retaining of m•n's sinnes, as the words going before declate, v. 18. If thy bro∣ther sinne against thee, &•. and Christ ••ew∣eth h•▪ owne meaning, when he ••ith, Whose sinnes ye remit they are remitted, and ••hose sinnes 〈◊〉 retaine they are retained, Ioh. 20. 23. 〈◊〉 before in the person of Peter promi∣sed them this honour, in this forme of words, Math. 16. I vvillgiue vnto thee the keyes of the Page 41 king dome of •e 〈◊〉, what soeuer th•• shalt binde vpon earth, sh•• be bo•… in •e 〈◊〉. This which I say, is approoued by consent of auncient Di∣vines, August. Psal. 101. ser. 2. Remission of s•… (saith he) is loosing: therefore by the law of con∣traries, binding is to hold sinne vnpardoned. Hilar. vpon Math. cap. 18. Whome they binde on earth, that is (saith he) leaue vntied of the knots of their s••nes. Lumberd the popish master * of sentences, The Lord, saith he, hath given to priests power of binding and loosing, that is, of making manifest that men are bound or loosed Againe both Origen, b Augustine, and Theo∣philact attribute the power of biuding to all * Christians, and therefore they for their partes neuer dreamed that the power of binding should be an authority to make lawes. Lastly, the place Matt. 23. 4. overturnes the argument, for there the Scribes and Phanses are condem∣ned, because they laid upon mens shoulders the burdens of their traditions as meanes of God• worship and things binding conscience.
Arg. 3. Act. 15. It seemes good vnto vs & the Holy Ghost, to lay no more burden on you the• these necessary things, that yee abstaine from things offered to i•ols, and blood, and that which is strangled, and fo•nication. Here, say they, the Apostles by the instinct of the holy ghost make Page 42 a new lawe not for this or that respect, but sim∣ply to binde consciences of the Gentils that they might be exercised in obedience. And this is prooued because the Apostles call this lawe a burden, and call the things prescribed necessary, and S. Luke tearmes them, the commandements of the Apostles: and Chrysostome calls the Epi∣stle sent to the Church, Imperium, that is, a lordly charge. To this they adde, the testimo∣nies of Tertullian, Origen, Augustine. Answ. Though all be granted that the law is a burden imposed, a precept of the Apostles, a charge, a∣gaine that things required therein are necessary: yet will it not follow by good consequent, that the lawe simply bindes conscience: because it was giuen with a reseruation of Christian li∣bertie, so as out of the case of scandall, that is, if no offence were giuen to the weake Iewes, it might freely be omitted. And that will appeare by these reasons. First of all Peter saith, that it is a tempting of God, to impose upon the Gentiles the yoke of Iewish ceremonies: hee therefore must needs be contrary to himselfe if he intend to binde mens consciences to abstinence from strangled, blood, and things offered to idols. A reply is made, that this abstinence is prescribed not by the ancient law of Moses, but by a new Ecclesiasticall or Apostolicall authority. I an∣swer Page 43 againe, that a Mosaicall ceremony is still the same thing though it be stablished by a new authority. And wheras Christ by his death put an end to the ceremoniall lawe, it is absurde to thinke that the Apostles by their authority re∣vived some part of it againe, and bound mens consciences therto. Secondly the Church of god in all places suffered this cōmandement to cease, which the faithful seruants of God would neuer haue done, if they had bin perswaded that this law had bound conscience simply. It is answe∣red, that this law ceased not because the giuing of offence unto the Iewes ceased, but because it ceased vniuersally: yea but it could not haue cea∣sed universally, if it had bound conscience sim∣ply, specially considering it was propounded to the Church without any mention or limi∣tation of time. Thirdly Paul was present in this counsell and knewe the intent of this lawe very well, & therefore no doubt he did not in any of his Epistles gainsay the same. This being graun∣ted, it can not be, that this law should bind con∣science out of the case of offence. For he teach∣eth the Corinthians that things offered to idols * may be eaten so be it the weake• brother be not offended. Here it is answered that when Paul writ his first Epistle to the Corinthians, this cō∣mandement of the Apostles touching things Page 44 strangled & bloode was not come unto them. Well, to grant all this which can not be proo∣ued, let it be answered, why Paul did not now deliuer it, & why he deliuereth• doctrine con∣trary to that which he had 〈◊〉〈◊〉 Hieru∣salem, which was that the Gentiles should ab∣solutely abstaine from things o•…d to Idols. As for the testimonies of the fathers they •…∣bused. Indeed T•…li••〈◊〉 plainly, that chri∣stians * in his daies abstained 〈◊〉 of blood, and he persvvades men to 〈◊〉〈◊〉 so doing, because he is of opinion (being indeed farre de∣ceiued) that this very law of the Apostles must l•st to the end of the worlde •which conceit if the Papists hold not, what meane they to build vpon him. Origen saith, that this law was very * necessary in his daies: and no 〈◊〉. For by I∣dolithy••s he understands not things that haue bene offered to idols, & are afterward brought * to priuat houses or to the market as other com∣mon meates, but he understands things that re∣maine * consecrated to idols, & are no where els used but in their temples, which we grant with him must for euer be avoided a• meanes and in∣struments of Idolatry wheras the law of the A∣postlesspeaks only of the first kind. As for things strangled and blood, hee takes them to be the deuils foode: and for this cause hee approoues Page 45 abstinence from them. And whereas Augustine * saith, that it is a good thing to abstain frō things offered to idols, though he be in necessity, 〈◊〉 must be understoode of the first kind of Idoli∣thy••• which •re yet remaining in the idol∣temples still consecrated unto them, and not of the second, of which the Apostles law (as I haue said) must be understood.
Arg. 4. Ioh. 21. Christ saith to Peter, [〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉] 〈◊〉 my 〈◊〉: that is, (as the word importeth) 〈◊〉 and rule my sheepe. Answ. This feeding and ruling stands not in making new lawes, but in teaching and gouerning the Church of God according to the doctrine which they had re∣ceiued from Christ. And this action of feeding is ascribed to all Christians Revelat. 3. 27. who can not therupon chalenge a power of making lawes to the conscience.
Argum. 5. Ioh. 20. As my father sent me, so I send you: but Christ was sent of his father not only with power of preaching and ministring the sacraments, but also with authority of com∣manding and giuing iudgement. Answ. Is this kind of reasoning may stand, all the Apostles shall be made redeemers; for they were all sent as Christ was: and hee was sent not onely to preach the redemption of mankind, but also to effect and worke the same. It this be absurde, Page 46 then it is a flat abusing of scripture to gather frō this saying of Christ, that the Apostles had po∣wer of binding conscience because he had so. It is true indeed that there is a similitude or analo∣gie betwene the calling of Christ and his Apo∣stles; but it wholly stands in these points. Christ was ordained to his office before all worldes, & so were the Apostles: Christ was called of his father immediatly, and so were they of Christ: Christ was sent to the whol worlde, & so were they: Christ receiued all power in heaven and earth as beeing necessary for a mediatour; and they receiued an extraordinary authority from him with such a plentifull measure of the spirit as was necessary for the Apostolicall function. Lastly Christ was sent euen as he was man to be a teacher of the Iewes: & therfore be is cal∣led the minister of circumcision, Rom. 15. 8. & so the Apostles are sent by him to teach the Gen∣tiles. Thus far is the comparison to be enlarged, & no further. And that no man might imagine that some parte of this resemblance stands in a power of binding conscience, Christ hath put a speciall exception when he saith, Goe teach all nations, teaching them to obserue al things that I have commanded you.
Arg. 6. Rom. 13. Whosoever resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God: and, they that re∣sist Page 47••all receive to them selues iudgement: and, ye must be subiect not onely for wrath, but also for conscience s••e. Answ. Magistracie indeed is an ordinance of God to which we owe subiectiō, but how farre subiection is due there is the que∣stiō. For body & goods & outward cōversation I grant all: but a subiection of cōscience to mans lawes, I deny. And betweene these two there is a great difference to be subiect to authority in conscience, & to be subiect to it for conscience, as wil be manifest if we do but consider the phrase of the Apostle, the meaning whereof is, that we must performe obedience not onely for anger, that is, for the auoiding of punishment, but also for the auoiding of sinne, & so by cōsequent for auoiding a breach in cōsciēce. Now this breach is not properly made because mans law is negle∣cted, but because Gods law is broken which or∣daineth magistracie, & withall binds mens con∣sciences to obey their lawfull commandements. And the dānation that is due unto men for resi∣sting the ordinance of God comes not by the single breach of magistrates commandemet, but by a transgression of the law of God which ap∣pointeth magistrates & their authority. To this answer papists reply nothing that is of moment. Therfore I proceed.
Arg. 7. 1. Cor. 4. What will you that I come unto Page 48 you with a rod, or in the spirit of meeknes? Now this rod is a iudicial power of punishing sinners. Answ. For the regiment & protection of Gods Church. There be 2. rods m•…oned in scripture: the rod of Christ, & the Apostolicall rodd. The rod of Christ is termed a rod of iron or the rod of his mouth, & it signifies that absolute & soue∣raigne power which Christ hath ouer his crea∣tures wherby he is able to cōuert & saue them, or to forsake and destroy them. And it is a pe∣culiar priuiledge of this rodde to smite and wound the conscience. The Apostolicall rodde was a certaine extraordinary power where∣by God inabled them to plague and punish rebellious offenders with grieuous iudgements not in their soules but in their bodies alone. With this rod Paul smote Elimas blind, & Peter smote Ananias and Saphira with bodily death. And it may be that Paul by this power did giue up the incestuous man when he was excommu∣nicate, to be vexed in his body and tormented by the deuill: but that by this rodde the Apostles could smite conscience, it can not be prooued.
Arg. 8. 1. Tim. 3. Paul made a law that none hauing two wiues should be ordained a Bishop: now this law is positiue and Ecclesiasticall and bindes conscience. Answ. Paul is not the ma∣ker of this law, but God himselfe, who ordained Page 49 that in mariage not three but two alone should be one flesh: and that they which serue at the altar of the Lord, should be holy. And to graunt that this law were a new law beside the written word of God, yet doeth it not follow that Paul was the maker of it: because he used not to de∣liuer any doctrine to the Churches but that which he receiued of the Lord.
Argum. 9. Luc. 10. He which heareth you, heareth me. Answ. These wordes properly concerne the Apostles, and doe not in like ma∣ner belong to pastors & teachers of the Church. And the end of these wordes is not to confirme any Apostolicall authority in making lawes to the conscience; but to signifie the priviledge which hee had vouchsafed them aboue all o∣thers, that he would so farre forth assist them with his spirite, that they should not erre or be deceiued in teaching & publishing the doctrine of saluation, though otherwise they were sin∣full men: according to Matth. 10. It is not you that speake, but the spirite of my father which speaketh in you. And the promise to be led into all truth was directed vnto them.
Arg. 10. 1. Cor. 11. I praise you that yee keepe my commandements. Answ. Paul deliuered no∣thing of his owne concerning the substance of the doctrine of saluation & the worship of God, Page 50 but that which he receiued from Christ; the precepts here ment are nothing else but rules of decencie & comely order in the congregation: and though they were to be obeyed, yet Pauls meaning was not to binde any mans conscience therewith. For of greater matters he saith, This I speake for your commoditie, and not to intangle you in a snare, 1. Cor. 7. 35.
Arg. 11. Councels of ancient fathers when they commād or forbid any thing, do it with threat∣ning of a curse to the offenders. Ans. The church in former time used to annexe vnto hir Canons the curse anathema, because things decreed by them were indeed, or at the least thought to be the will and word of God: and they had respect to the saying of Paul, If any teach otherwise though he be an angell from heauen, let him be accursed. Therfore councels in this action were no more but instruments of God to accurse those, whome he first of all had accursed.
Arg. 12. An act indifferent if it be commanded is made necessary: & the keeping of it is the pra∣ctise of vertue, therefore euery law bindes con∣science to a sinne. Ans. An act in it selfe indiffe∣rent being commāded by mans law is not made simply necessary, for that is as much as gods law doth or can doe, but only in some part, that is, so far forth as the said act or action tends to main∣taine Page 51 and preserue the good end for which the law is made. And though the action be in this regard necessary, yet doth it still remaine indif∣ferent as it is considered in it selfe out of the ende of the law: so as if peace, the common good & comely order may be maintained & all offence auoided by any other meanes, the act may be done or not done without sinne before God. For whereas God himselfe hath giuen liberty & freedome in the use of things indifferent, the law of man doeth not take away the same but onely moderate and order it for the common good.
Arg. 13. The fast of Lent stands by a lawe and commandement of men: and this lawe bindes conscience simply: for the ancient fathers haue called it a Tradition Apostolicall, and make the keeping of it to be necassary, and the not kee∣ping of it a sinne, and punish the offenders with excommunication. Answer. It is plaine to him that will not be obstinate, that Lent fast was not commaunded in the Primitiue Church, but was freely kept at mens pleasures, & in seue∣rall Churches diuersly both in regard of space of time, as also in respect of diversity of meats. Ireneus in his epistle to Victor •…ed by Eusebius * saith, Some have thought that they must fast o•… day, some two daies, some more, some 40. houres Page 52 day and night, which diversitie of fasting com∣mendeth the vnitie of faith. Spiridion a good * man did eate flesh in Lent, and caused his guest to doe the same, and this he did upon iudgemēt because he was perswaded out of Gods worde, that to the clean all things were cleane. And Eu∣sebius recordes that Montanus the hereuke was * the first that prescribed solemne and set lawes of fasting. And whereas this fast is called an A∣postolicall tradition it is no great matter, for it was the manner of the ancient Church in for∣mer times to tearme rites and orders Ecclesia∣sticall not set downe in scriptures Apostolicall orders, that by this meanes they might com∣mend * them to the people: as Ierome testifieth, Every province (saith he) may thinke the consti∣tutions of the ancestours to be Apostolicall lawes. And whereas it is said to be a sinne not to fast in Lent (as Augustine speaketh) it is not by reason * of any commandement binding conscience, for Augustine saith plainly, that neither Christ nor * his Apostles appointed any set time of fasting: & Chrysostome, that Christ neuer commanded * vs to follow his fast: but the true reason hereof is borrowed from the ende. For the Primitiue Church vsed not the popish fast, which is to eat whitmeate alone, but an abstinence from all meates vsed specially to morufie the flesh and Page 53 to prepare men before-hand to a worthy recei∣uing of the Eucharist. And in regarde of this good ende was the offence. And whereas it is said, that auncient fathers taught a necessitie of keeping this fast, euen Hierome whome they alledge to this purpose saith the contrary. For confuting the errour of Montanus who had his set times of fast to be kept of necessity, hee * saith, We fast in Lent according to the Apostles tradition as in a time meete for vs: and wee doe it not as though it were not lawfull for vs to fast in the rest of the yeere except Penticost: but it is one thing to doe a thing of necessitie, and ano∣thing to offer a gift of free-vvill. Lastly, excom∣munication was for the open contempt of this order taken vp in the Church, which was, that men should fast before Faster for their further humiliation & preparation to the sacrament. So the 29. canō of the councill of 〈◊〉 must be * understood. As for the Canons of the Apostles (so falsely called) and the 8. councill of Toledo, I much respect not what they say in this case.
Arg. 14. Gods authority binds conscience: ma∣gistrates authority is Gods authority: therefore magistrates authority binds conscience proper∣ly. Ans. Gods authority may be takē two waies: first for that soueraigne and absolute power which he useth ouer all his creatures: secondly, Page 54 for that finite & limited power which he hath 〈◊〉 that men shall exercise ouer men. If the minor,〈◊〉 that Magistrates authority is Gods authority, be taken in the first sense, it is false: for the soueraigne power of god is mooue∣•…ic able. If it be taken in the second sense, the 〈◊〉〈◊〉 false. For there be sundry authori∣ties ordained of God, as the authority of the fa∣ther oner the childe, of the master over the ser∣vant, the authority of the master ouer his schol∣ler, which doe not properly and 〈◊〉 bind in conscience as the authority of gods lawes doth.
By these arguments which I haue now answe∣red, & by many other being but lightly 〈◊〉, it will appeare that necessary obedience is to be performed both to ciuil & ecciesiasticall iurisdi∣ction: but that they haue a constraining power to bind conscience as properly as gods laws do, it is not yet prooued, neither can it be, as I will make manifest by other arguments.
Arg. 1. He that makes a law binding consciēce to mortal sinne, hath power, if not to saue yet to destroy: because by sin, which follows upon the transgressiō of his law, comes death & dānation: But God is the only lawgiuer that hath this pri∣uiledge, which is, after he hath giuē his law, vpō the breaking or keeping thereof, to save or de∣stroy. Iam 4. 12. There is one lawgiuer that can saue or destroy. Therfore God alone makes laws Page 55•inding cōscience properly, & no creature cā do the like. Answer is made that S. Iames speaks of the principall law-giuer, that by his own proper authority makes lawes, & doth in such manner saue & destroy, that he need not feare to be de∣stroied of any: & that he speaks not of secondary lawgiuers that are deputies of god & make laws in his name. I say again that this answer stāds not with the text. For S. Iames speakes simply with∣out distinctiō, limitatiō, or exceptiō: & the effect of his reason is this. No mā at all must slander his brother, because no man must be iudge of the law: & no man can be iudge of the law, because no man can be a law-giuer to saue and destroy. Now then where be those persons that shall make lawes to the soules of men, & binde them unto punishment of mortall sinne; considering God alone is the sauing & destroying lawgiuer.
Arg. 2. He that can make laws as truly binding conscience as gods lawes, can also prescribe rules of Gods worship: because to bind the consciēce is nothing els but to cause it to excuse for things that are well done, and therefore truely please God, & to accuse for sinne wherby god is disho∣noured: but no man can prescribe rules of gods worship; & humane lawes as they are humane laws, appoint not the seruice of God. Esai. 29. 13. •••ir fear towards me was taught by the precept of 〈◊〉. Mat. 15. 9. they worship me in vain teach•••Page 56 doctrines which are the commandements of 〈◊〉. Papists here make answer, that by lawes of men we must understand such lawes as be unlawfull or unprofitable being made without the autho∣rity of God or instinct of his spirit. It is true in∣deed that these commandements of men were unlawfull: but the cause must be considered: they were unlawfull not because they comman∣ded that which was unlawful & against the will of God, but because things in themselues lawfull were commanded as parts of gods worship. To wash the outward part of the cup or platter, & to * wash hands before meat; are things in respect of civill use very lawfull, & yet are these blamed by Christ & no other reason cā be rendred but this, that they were prescribed not as things indiffe∣rent or ciuill, but as matters pertaining to Gods worship. It is not against Gods worde in some politike regards to make distinctions of meats, & drinks, & times: yet Paul calls these things do∣ctrines of deuils, because they were commāded as things wherein God would be worshipped.
Arg. 3. God hath giuen a liberty to the consci∣ence whereby it is freed frō all lawes of his own whatsoeuer, excepting such lawes & doctrines as are necessary to salvation. Col. 2. 10. If yee be dead with Christ, ye are free frō the elemēts of the world. Gal. 5. 1. Standye in the liberty wher with Page 57 Christ hath freedyou, and be not againe intang∣led with the yoke of bondage. Nowe, if humane lawes made after the graunt of this libertie, bind conscience property, then must they either take away the foresaid libertie, or diminish the same; but that they cannot doe: for that which is grā∣ted by an higher authority, namely God himself, cannot be reuoked or repealed by the inferiour authoritie of any man. It is answered, that this freedome is onely from the bondage of sinne, from the curse of the morall law, from the cere∣moniall and iudiciall lawes of Moses, and not from the lawes of our superiours. And I answer againe, that it is absurd to thinke that God giues vs libertie in conscience from any of his owne laws, and yet will haue our consciences stil to re∣maine in subiection to the laws o• sinnefull men.
Arg. 4. Whosoeuer bindes conscience, com∣maunds conscience. For the bonde is made by a commādement vrging conscience to do his du∣tie, which is to accuse or excuse for euill or well doing. Now Gods laws commaund conscience in as much as they are spirituall, commaunding bodie and spirit, with all the thoughts, will, affe∣ctions, desires, and faculties, and requiring obe∣dience of them all according to their kinde. As for the laws of men, they want power to com∣maund conscience. In deede if it were possible Page 58 for our gouernours by law to commaund mens thoughts and affections, then also might they command cōscience: but the first is not possible, for their lawes can reach no further then to the outward man, that is, to bodie and goods, with the speaches and deedes thereof: and the ende of them all is not to maintaine spirituall peace of conscience, which is betweene man and God, but onely that externall and ciuill peace which is betweene man and man. And it were not meete that men should commaund conscience, which cannot see conscience and iudge of all her acti∣ons, which appeare not outwardly and where∣of there be no witnesses, but God and the con∣science of the doer. Lastly, men are no fitte com∣manders of conscience, because they are no lords of it, but God himselfe alone.
Argum. 5. Men in making lawes are subiect to ignorance and errour: and therefore when they haue made a law (as neare as possible they can) agreeable to the equitie of Gods law, yet can they not assure themselues and others that they haue failed in no point or circumstance. Therefore it is against reason that humane laws beeing subiect to defects, faults, errours, and manifold imperfections, should truly bind con∣science, as Gods lawes doe which are the rule of righteousnes. All gouernours in the world, Page 59 vpon their daily experience see and acknow∣ledge this to be true which I say, (by reason that to their olde lawes, they are constrained to put restrictions, ampliations, modifications of all kindes, with new readings and interpretations) saving the Bishop of Rome (so falsly tearmed) which perswades himselfe to haue when he is in his consistorie, such an infallible assistance of the spirite that he can not possibly erre in iudgement.
Argum. 6. If mens lawes by inward vertue binde conscience properly as Gods lawes, then our dutie is to learne, studie, and remember them as well as Gods laws, yea ministers must be diligent to preach them, as they are diligent in preaching the doctrine of the Gospell: be∣cause euery one of them bindes to mor∣tall finne, as the Papists teach. But that they should be taught and learned as Gods lawes, it is most absurd in the iudgement of all men, Papists themselues not excepted.
Argum. 7. Inferiour authoritie can not binde the superiours no we the courts of 〈◊〉 and their authoritie are vnder conscience. For God in the heart of euery man hath •rocted a tribunall seale, and in his stead he hath pl•••d neither saint nor angell, not any other crea∣•… what soeuer but conscience it selfe, Page 60 who therefore is the highest iudge that is or can be vnder God; by whose direction also courts are kept and lawes are made.
Thus much of the popish opinion: by which it appeares that one of the principall notes of An∣tichrist, agrees fuly to the Pope of Rome. Paul, 2. Thess. 2. makes it a speciall propertie of Anti∣christ to exalt himselfe against or aboue all that is called God, or worshipped. Now what doth the Pope els, when he takes vpon him authori∣tie to make such lawes as shall binde the consci∣ence, as properly and truly as Gods lawes? and what doth he els, when he ascribes to himselfe power to free mens consciences from the bond of such lawes of God, as are vnchaungeable: as may appeare in a canon of the councill of Trent: the words are these, If any shall say, that th•se degrees of consanguinitie which be expressed in*Leviticus, ••e 〈◊〉 hinder 〈◊〉 to be made, and breake it beeing made, and that the Church cannot dispense with some of them, or appoint that more degrees may hinder or breake ••••age, let him be accursed. O sacrilegious impietie! considering the lawes of affinitie and consanguinitie, Lev. 18. are not ceremoniall, or iudiciall lawes peculiar to the Iewes, but the ve∣ry laws of nature. Wh••• this canon els, but a publike proclamation to the world, that the Page 61 Pope and Church of Rome doe sit as lords, or rather idols in the hearts & consciences of men. This will yet more fully appeare to any man, if we read popish bookes of practical or Case ai∣vinitie, in which the common manner is, to binde conscience where God looseth it, and to loose where he bindes; but a declaration of this, requires long time.
Now I come (as neare as possibly I can) to set downe the true manner, how mens lawes are by Diuines and may be said to binde consci∣ence. That this may be cleared, two things must be handled, By what meanes they binde, and How farre forth.
Touching the meanes, I set downe this rule. Whole some lawes of men, made of things indif∣ferent, binde conscience by vertue of the gene∣rall commaundement of God, vvhich ordaineth the Magistrates authoritie: so as vvho soever shall wittingly & willingly, with a disloyal mind, either breake or omit such lavves, it guiltie of s•••e before God.
By whole some lawes, I vnderstand such posi∣tiue constitutions, as are not against the law of God, and withall tend to maintaine the peace∣able estate and common good of men.
Furthermore I adde this clause, made of things indifferent, to note the peculiar matter where∣•…Page 62〈◊〉 lawes properly 〈◊〉〈◊〉〈◊〉 things 〈◊〉 are neither 〈◊〉 commanded or forbidden by God.
Now such kinde of lawes haue no vertue or power in themselues to constraine conscience, but they bind onely by vertue of an higher com∣mandement. Let euery soule •e subiect to the higher powers, Rom. 13. 1. or, Honour father and mother, Exod. 20. which commaundements binde vs in conscience to performe obedience to the good laws of men. As S. Peter saith, Sub∣mit your selues to euery humane ordinance for the Lord, 1. Pet. 2. 13. that is, for conscience of God, as he saith afterward, v. 19. wherby he signifieth two thing: first that God hath ordained the au∣thority of gouernours: secondly that he hath ap∣pointed in his word, and thereby bound men in conscience to obay their gouernours law∣full commandements.
If the case fall out otherwise, as commonly it doth, that humane laws be not inacted of things indifferent, but of things that be good in them∣selues, that is, commanded by God, then are they not 〈◊〉 properly but divine lawes. Mens laws intreating of things that are morally good, and the parts of Gods vvorshippe, are the same with Gods laws: and therfore binde conscience, not because they were inacted by men, but be∣cause Page 63 they were first made by God: men beeing no more but instruments and ministers in his name to revive, renew, and to put in exequution such precepts and laws as prescribe the worship of God, standing in the practise of true religion & vertue. Of this kind are all positiue lawes tou∣ching articles of faith, & the duties of the morall law. And the man that breakes such lawes sinnes two waies, first because he breaks that which is in conscience a law of God, secondly because in disobaying his lawfull magistrate, he disob•… the generall commandement of God touching magistracie.
But if it shall fall out that mens lawes be made of things that are cuill and forbidden by God, then is there no bonde of conscience at all but contrariwise, men are bound in conscience not to obay, Act. 4. 19. And hereupon the three children are commended for not obaying Na∣buchadnezzar, when he gaue a particular com∣mandement vnto them to fall downe and wor∣ship the golden image, Dan. 3.
Moreouer, in that mans law binds onely by power of Gods law, hence it follows, that Gods law alone hath this priuiledge, that the breach of it should be a sinne. S. Iohn saith 1. epist. 3. Sinne it the anomie, or, transgressiō of the law, vnderstanding Gods lawe. When Dauid by Page 64 adulterie and murder had offended many men, & that many waies, he saith Psal. 51. against thee, against thee haue I sinned. And Augustine defi∣ned sinne to be some thing said, done, or desired against the law of God. Some man may say, if this be so, belike then we may breake mens laws without sinne. I answer, that men in breaking humane lawes, both may and doe sinne; but yet not simply, because they breake them, but be∣cause in breaking them, they doe also breake the law of God. The breach of a law must be considered two waies. First as it is a trespasse, hinderance, iniurie, damage, and in this respect it is committed against mens lawes: secondly the breach of a law must be considered as it is sinne, and so it is onely against Gods law.
The second point, namely How farreforth mens lawes binde conscience, I explane on this manner. It is all that the lawes of God doe or can doe, to binde conscience simply and abso∣lutely. Therefore humane laws bind not simply, but so farre forth as they are agreeable to Gods word, serue for the cōmongood, stād withgood order, and hinder not the libertie of conscience. The necessitie of the law ariseth of the necessitie of the good end thereof. And as the end is good and profitable more or lesse, so is the law it selfe necessarie more or lesse.
Page 65 Hence it followeth that a man may doe a∣ny thing beside humane lawes and constitutions without breach of conscience. For if he shall o∣mit the doing of any law I. without hindrance of the ende and particular considerations, for which the law was made: II. without offence giuing as much as in him lieth: III. without contempt of him that made the law, he is not to be accused of sinne. Example. In time of warre, the magistrate of a citie commands that no man shall open the gates: the end is, that the citie and euery member thereof may be in safetie. Now it falls out that certaine citizens beeing vpon oc∣casion without the citie, are pursued by the ene∣mie and in daunger of their lifes. Herupon some man within openeth the gate to res•…e them. The question is, whether he haue sinned or no. And the truth is, he hath not: because he did not hinder the ende of the law, but rather further it, and that without scandal to men, or contempt to the magistrate.
And this stands euen by the equitie of Gods word. God made a law, that the priests onely should eate of the shewbread: now Dauid being no priest, did vpon vrgent occasion eate of it without sinne. If this be true in Gods law, then it may also be true in the lawes of men, that they may in some cases be omitted without Page 66 sinne, against God.
Neither must this seeme strange. For as th•re is a keeping of a law, and a breaking of the same; so there is a middle or meane action betw••ne them both, which is, to doe thing *beside the law, and that without s•••e.
To proceede further, mens laws be either ci∣vill or ecclesiasticall. Civill laws are for their sub∣stance determinations of necessarie and profita∣ble circumstances, tend••• to ••hold and main∣taine the commandem•… of the 〈◊〉〈◊〉 More specially they prescribe what is to be do• and what is to be left vndone, touching actions both civill & criminal, touching offices and b•r∣gines of all so•••, &c. yea they conclude, inioyne, & commād not onely such affaires as be of smal∣ler importāce. but also things & actions of great waight, tending to maintaine common peace, civill societie, and the very state of the common wealth. Now such laws binde so farre forth, that though they be omitted without any apparan• s••ndal or contemp•, yet the breach of them is a sinne against God. Take this example: A subiect in this lande vpon pouertie, or vpon a couctous minde, against the good law of the land, coines money, which after ward by a sleight of his wit, is cunningly conuaied abroad into the hands of men, and is not espied. Here is no euident of∣fence Page 67 giuen to any man, nor open contempt shewed to the lawgiuer: and yet in this action he hath sinned, in that closely otherwise then he ought to haue done, he hath hindered the good of the common wealth, and robbed the soueraigne prince of her right.
Eccles•sticall lawes, are certaine necessarie and profitable determinations of circumstances of the commaundements of the first table. I say b••e 〈◊〉, because all doctrines per∣taining to the foundation and good estate of the Church, as also the whole worshippe of God, 〈◊〉〈◊〉 downe and comma•nded in the written word of God, and cannot be prescri∣bed and concluded otherwise by all the Chur∣ches in the world. A••or the Creedes and Con∣fession• of particular Churches, they are in sub∣stance Gods word, and they binde not in con∣science by any power the Church hath, but be∣cause they are the word of God.
The lawes then which the Church in proper speach is s••de to make, are decrees concerning outward order and comelines in the admini∣stration of the word and sacram••s, in the mee∣tings of the cōgregation, &c. & such laws made according to the generall rules of Gods word, (which requires that all things be don to edifica∣tiō, in comelines, for the auoiding of offence) are Page 68 cessarie to be obserued, and the word of God binds all men to thē so farre forth as the keeping of them maintains decent order, and p•…s o∣pen offence. Yet if a law concerning some •…∣nall ri•e of thing indifferent, be at some time vp∣on some occasion omitted no offence giuen, not contempt shewed to Ecclestasticall •••horitie, there is no b•each made in the conscience: ••d that appeares by the example before han••••. The Apostles guided by the holy Ghost, made a decree for the auoiding of offence, necessarie to be obserued, namely that the Gentiles should ab∣staine from strangled and blood and ido•ithy••s: and yet Paul out of the case of scandall and con∣tempt, permits the Corinthians to doe other∣wise, 1. Cor. 8. & 9. which he would not h••• done, if to doe otherwise out of the case of scan∣dall and contempt had bin sinne.
Againe, lawes are either mixt or meerely pe∣nall. Mix•, are such lawes as are of weightie mat∣ters, and are propounded in cōmanding or for∣bidding •ea••es: and they binde men first of all to obedience, for the necessary good of humane societies and secondly to a punishment, if they o∣bay not, that a supplie may be made of the •in∣drance of the common good. In the breach of this kind of laws, though a man be neuer so wil∣ling to suffer the punishment, yet that will not Page 69 discharge his conscience before God when he of•…ds. If a man coin mo•y with this minde to be willing to die when he is con•icted, yet that will not free him from a sinne in the action, be∣cause Gods law binds vs not onely to subiection i••earing of punishments, but also to obedience of his •…e commandement, it beeing lawfull, though •e should set downe no punishment.
A law meerely pe••ll is that, which beeing m•… of matters of lesse importance, and not vt∣•…d pre•isely in comm•…ding tearmes, doeth onely declare and shewe what is to be done, or conditionally require this or that with respect to the punishment, on this manner. If any person doe this or that, then he shall forfeit thus or thus. This kind of law kinds especially to the punish∣ment, & that in the very intent of the lawgiuer, and he that is readie in omitting the law to pay the fine or punishmet, is not to be charged with sinne before God: the penaltie being answerable to the losse that comes by the neglect of the law.
Thus we see how farre forth mens laws bind conscience. The vse of this points is this: I. hence wee learne that the immunitie of the Popish cleargie whereby they take themselues exemp∣ted from civill courts and from civill authoritie in criminall causes, hath no warrant: because Gods commandements binds euery man what∣soeuer Page 70 to be subiect to the magistrate, R•…. 〈◊〉. Let euery soule be s•…ct to the higher powers. II Hence we see also, what notorio•• rebe•… those are, that beeing borne subi•cts of this land, yet choose rather to die then to acknowledge (as they are bound in con•…) the Q•… Ma•estie to be supreame gouernour vnder God in all causes & ouer all persons. III. Lastly we are taught hereby to be readie and willing to giue subiection, obedience, reuerence, and all other duties to magistrates, whether they be superiou or inferiour: yea with chearefulnes to pay 〈◊〉 and subsidies, and all such lawfull charges 〈◊〉 appointed by them. Giue to Ces•• that 〈◊〉〈◊〉 Cesars, & to God that which is Go••. Rom. 13. 〈◊〉. Giue to 〈◊〉〈◊〉 their dutie: tribute to 〈◊〉 tribute: 〈◊〉 to whome custome.
Now follows the Oath, which is either asser∣torie * or promissorie. Assertorie, by which a man auoucheth that a thing was done or not done; Promisserie, by which a man promiseth to doe a thing or not to doe it. Of both these I mean to speak, but specially of the second. And here two points must be cōsidered, the first by what means an oath bindeth, the second when it bindeth.
An oath bindeth by vertue of such particu•… cōmandements, as require the keeping of oath•• lawfully taken. Num. 30. 3. Who soeuer s•… an •ath to binde his soule by a bond, •e shall not Page 71〈◊〉 his word, 〈◊〉 shall doe according to all that 〈◊〉〈◊〉 of his 〈◊〉.
This being so •questiō may be made, whether the 〈◊〉 of insi•… bi•d conscience, & by what v•…, 〈◊〉 they ••ither know the Scrip∣t•… no• the true God. A•s. They * doe bind in conscience. For example: Iacob & Laban make a 〈◊〉 confirmed by oath. Iacob sweares by the true God, Laban by the god of N•…or, that i•, 〈◊〉 his idols. Now Iacob, though he approoue not the forme of this oath yet he accepts it for a civil bond of the covenant: & no doubt, though Laban beleeued not Gods word reuealed to the P•…ks, yet he was bound in cōscience to keep this •th euen by the law of nature, & though he 〈◊〉 not the 〈◊〉 God, yet he 〈◊〉 the false god of Nac••r to be the true God. Gen. 31. 53.
Againe, if a lawfull oath by vertue of Gods cō∣mandements bind conscience, then it must need• be that the Romane Church hath long erred, in that •…ee •…th and maintaineth that gouer∣nours, as namely the Pope and other inferiour * Bishops, haue power to giue relaxations and dispensations, not onely for oathes vnlawfull (from which the word of God doth sufficiently free vs, though they should neuer giue absolutiō) but from a true & lawfull oath made wittingly & willingly without errour or deceit of a thing, honest and possible: as when the Pope frees the Page 72 subiects of this land, as occasion is offered, from their sworne allegiance and loyaltie to which they are bound, not onely by the law of nature, but also by a solemne and particular oath to the Supremacie, which none euer deemed v•…∣full but such as carrie traytors hearts. Now this erronious divinitie would easily be revoked, if men did b•• consider the nature of an oath, one part whereof is Invocation; in which we pr•• vnto God, first that he would become a witnes vnto vs that we speak the truth and purpose not to deceiue: secondly if we faile & break our pro∣mise, that he would take •…ge vpon vs: and in both these petitions we bind our selues immedi∣atly to God himselfe, and God againe who is the ordainer of the oath, accepts this bond and 〈◊〉 it by his commendement, till it be accomplished. Hence it follows, that no creature cā haue pow∣er to v••ie the bood of an ••th that is truly and lawfully an ••th, vnles we wil 〈◊〉 the creatures aboue God himselfe. And our Sauiour Christ gaue better •…ell when he commanded vs to performe our 〈◊〉 to the Lord for the p•…∣ting of periurie, Matth. 5. 33.
Next let vs consider the time when an oath bindeth or bindeth not.
An oth bindeth thē, when it is made of things certen & possible, in ••uth, iustice, iudgemēt, for Page 73 the glory of God & the good of our neighbour.
Question. I. Whether doeth an oath binde conscience if by the keeping of it there followe losses and hinderances? Answ. If it be of a thing that is lawfull, and the domages be priuate to him that sweareth, then doth it bind conscience. For example: A man makes a purchase of lande at the sea side: his bargaine is confirmed only by oath: and it falles out that before he doe enter possession, the sea breakes in and drownes a part of that purchase. Now he is in conscience to stand to his bargaine, because the thing is law∣full, & the domage is priuate, & great reuerence must be had of the name of God which hath bin used in the bargaine making. Dauid makes it the property of a good man, to sweare to his owne hinderance and not to change, Psal. 15. v. 4.
Question. II. Whether the oath which a man hath taken, being induced thereto by fraud and guile, doeth bind conscience. Answ. If it be still of a thing lawfull, and bring nothing but priuate losses, it is to be kept. When the Gibe∣••ites had by a fraud brought Iosua to make a league with them, and to binde it with an oath, hee and the princes of the people answer them thus, Wee have sworne vnto them by the Lord• God of Israel, now therefore wee may not touch them. Ios. 9. 19. And 300. yeres after, when Page 74 Saul slewe certaine of the Gib•onites against this othe, the plague of 〈◊〉〈◊〉 was upon the people of Is∣rael three yeeres, and was not staied till certaine persons of Sauls family for a recompence were put to death, 2. Sam. 21. v. 7.
Question. III. Whether an oath made by feare or compulsion bind in conscience. For ex∣ample. A thiefe disappointed of the bo••y 〈◊〉 he looked for, bindes the true man by solemne oath upon paine of present death to fetch and deliuer vnto him some portion of mony at one 100 or 200 crownes for the redeeming of his life. Well, the oath is taken, and the question is, whether it bind him or not to perform his pro∣mise. An answer may be this: some b protestant diuines thinke it doth bind: some againe thinke no: but I take it the safest course to bolde the meane betweene both, on this manner. The oth seemes to bind, and is to be perfourmed: neither * is it against the good of the cōmon-wealth (〈◊〉 then it were unlawfull) but it is rather a furthe∣rance in that a member therof is preserued: and the losses which follow are only priuate to the man, rather to be endured then the losse of life. Yet that a remedy may be had of this priuate in∣iury, & that a publike mischiefe may be preuen∣ted, the party is to reueale the matter to the ma∣gistrate, whose office it is to punish robbers and to order all things according to equity for the Page 75 cōmon good. But if the case fall out, that the mā through exceeding feare doe further sweare to keep silence, I see not how his oth may be kept, except he be sure that nothing will ensue therof, but a pri•… domage to himself. For otherwise perpetu••••…ence seemes to be a secrete consen∣ting to the robber, & an occasion that others fall into the like danger and hazard of their liues.
Ag••ne, in six cases an oth binds not conscience at all. I. If it be made of a thing that is flat against the word of God For all the power of binding which it hath is by the word of god: & therfore whē it is against Gods will, it hath no power to constraine. And it is an old receiued rule, that an oth must not be a bonde of iniquity. Hereupon Dauid when he had made a rash oth to kill Na∣bal & 〈◊〉 his houshold, reioyced when he had an occasion offered by Abigail to break the same, 1. Sam. 25. 32. And though he sware to Shemi, that he would saue his life, 2. Sam. 19. 23. yet after∣ward upon better consideration (as it may seem) he commanded his son Salomon to put him to death, as one that had long agoe deserued the same. 1. King. 2. 9. And Herod was far deceiued, that thought he was bound by his oth to giue to the dāsell Iohn Baptists head in a platter. Mat. 14. 7. II. Is it be against the good and whole∣some lawes of any kingdome or countrey, whereof a man is a member it bindes not at all: Page 76 because on the contrary Gods commandement bindes vs to keepe the good lawes of men. III. If it be made by such persons as want sufficient reason and discretion, as young children, fooles, madde men. For the conscience can not indeed be bounde, where the understanding can not discerne what is done. IIII. If it be made of such as haue no power to bind themselues, it bindes not: because it is made against the lawe of nature, which is, that * he which is ot in his owne power can not binde himselfe. Hence it followes, that papists erre grossely when they teach, that a childe may enter into any rule or order of religion, yea binde himselfe thereto by oath, and the oath to be good, flatt against his parents consent. Num. 30. 4. If a woman vow vnto the Lord, & bind her selfe by a bond, being in her fathers house in the time of her youth, &c. 6. If her father disallow her the same day that he heareth all her vowes and bondes, they shall not be of value. And an ancient councill decreed that all children that vpon pretence of Gods wor∣ship should depart from their parents, and not doe*them d•e reverence, should be accursed. Second∣ly they erre in that they teach that the promise made priuately by a childe in way of marriage without and against consent of wise and careful parents, bindes them: whereas indeede if this Page 77 promise were further bound by an oth, it could not stand: because children under gouernment and tuition of parents can not giue themselues. V. It bindes not if it be made of a thing that is out of a ••ns power, as if a man sweare to his friend to giue him another mans goods. VI. If at the first it were lawfull, and afterwarde by some meanes become either impossible or vn∣lawfull, it binds not conscience. For when it be∣comes impossible, then wee may safely thinke that God from heauen frees a man from his oath. And when it beginnes to be unlawfull, then it ceaseth to bind, because the binding ver∣tue is onely from the worde of God. For ex∣ample: a king bindes himselfe by oath to a for∣raine Christian prince to find him men & mo∣ney to defende his people against all enemies. This oath is lawfull. Well, afterward the prince becomes a professed enemy to him, his religion, & people: and then the kings oth becomes un∣lawful and binds him not: because the word for∣bids that there should be any league of amitie with Gods enemies: though there may be leagues of concord with them.
Seeing a lawfull oath must bind conscience, though a man be deceiued and great losses fol∣low, it shews in how great reuerence we should haue Gods name, and with what care and con∣sideration Page 78 take an oth. And by this we must be aduertiseo to take heed of customable swearing in our common talke, whether our oathes be great or small. We must thinke of an oth as a part of Gods worship: nay the H. ghost often puts it for the whole worship of God. Isai. 19. 18. In that day shall five cities in the lande of E∣gypt speake the language of Canaan, and shall sweare by the Lorde of hostes, that is, acknow∣ledge and worship him. Ierem. 12. 16. If they will learne the waies of my people, to sweare by my Name, The Lorde liveth, then shall they be built in the middest of my people. This serues to shew unto us, that such as giue them-selues to swearing, want religion & good conscience: & that those families in which there is risenesse of othes, abandon all care of religion, and banish God out of their houses. And indeed it is a very hard thing for the common swearer to auoide common periury. If we see a man holde up his hand at the barre of an earthly iudge we pity him and are sorry for him: on then why doe we not pittie blasphemers and common swea∣rers. For with God they are no better then re∣beis, that hold up their hands at the barre of his iudgement seate as guilty malefactours. Exod. 20. 7. Augustine saith well, They that worship stockes and stones feare to svveare falsely by Page 79 stones, and doest not then feare God that is pre∣sent, God that liveth, God that 〈◊〉 God that taketh revenge of contemners: but of bad custome vvhen thou art beleeved, thou svvea∣rest: vvhen none requires it, thou svvearest: and vvhen men cannot abide it, then svvea∣rest.
Thus much of an Oath: now followes a pro∣mise which is either to God or man: the first is called a vow, the second a single promise.
A vowe is taken three waies. First general∣ly * for a promise of morall obedience: and this vowe is first made in Baptisme and continued in the Lordes Supper, as also in the spirituall exercises of invocation and repentance. It is called of Peter 1. Epist. 3. 21. the stipulation which a good conscience makes to God.
This kinde of vowe bindes all and euery member of the Church of God. And the not keeping of it is the common sinne of the worlde: for most men make not conscience to perfourme that which they haue promised to God in Baptisme: and therefore their Bap∣tisme is become unto them the sacrifice of fooles. Ecclesiast. 4. 17. But considering we are bound in conscience by this vowe, let vs here∣after endeauor to be as good as our word; and that shall be when we begin to die to our sinnes Page 80 and rise to newnesse of life: we will seeme to haue care to keepe touch with men: what a shame is it for us then not to keepe couenant with God.
Againe a vow is taken for a promise of cere∣moniall obedience, whereof reade Num. 6. and 30. and Levit. 27. This vow is peculiar to the old Testament and did not bind all men, but on∣ly such as had peculiar occasion to vowe, and thereupon bound themselues: as the Nazarites, and some other.
Thirdly a vow is taken for the performance of some outwarde and bodily exercises taken up of a mans owne accord, as being things in a mans owne liberty, without any commaundè∣ment of God: as the keeping of set times of fast, of praying or reading, the performance of set taskes, almes giuing, abstinence from certaine meates and drinkes, in the use whereof through our owne weakenesse we feare any occasion of sinne. And this kind of vow is more peculiar to the new Testament.
In the making of it that it may be warranta∣ble, foure things must be obserued. I. It must be agreeable to the worde of God. II. It must not be against a mans generall or particular cal∣ling. III. It must be in a mans power, and not against Christian liberty. IIII. It must be so Page 81 made and be obserued without any opinion of •••rit or worship of God to this end alone, that it may be a means to exercise and cherish repen∣tance and inuocation, temperance, patience, and to shewe forth thankfulnesse to God.
A vowe thus made, binds conscience by ver∣tue of Gods commandement. Eccles. 5. 3. When thou hast 〈◊〉 a vow to God, 〈◊〉 not to pay it.
And the vow once made continues to binde so long as the thing is in force which was the 〈◊〉 of the vow For example: A man desi∣rous to practise sobrietie and temperancy, finds that drinking of wine is hurtful to him hereup∣on he vowes to God to drinke no wine: now 〈◊〉 vow once made 〈◊〉 him 〈◊〉〈◊〉 estate of his body alter, and he feele no inconvenience in wine; and then 〈◊〉 ceaseth to bind any longer.
Question Whether Papists are bound in con∣science to keepe the vowes of single life and vo∣luntary pouerty which they make, or no. Ans. No. Reasons. I. They are 〈◊〉 against Gods cō∣•…〈◊〉 if they cannot abstaine, let them 〈◊〉 for it is better to marry then to 〈◊〉. 1. Cor. 7. 9. This we warned 〈◊〉 of that if there were 〈◊〉〈◊〉 would not 〈◊〉 they should not 〈◊〉. 2. Thess. 3. 10. II they are not in the power of him that voweth: as the promise of 〈◊〉 chastity in single life. III. they abolish Page 82 christian liberty in the vse of the creatures and ordinances of God, as riches, and mariage, meat, drinke, appar•• making that necessary which God left to our liberty. IV. They are made that men may thereby merit life eternall & worship God: whereas Paul saith, 1. Tim. 48. Bodilyex∣ercise profiteth little, but godlinesse 〈◊〉 profitable for all things. Therefore they are better broken then kept.
As for a single promise, it also bindes a man according as he will to whome the promise is * made, though he be an heretike or an infidell. As for the purpose of the mind it binds not, but may upon conuenient cause be altered.
Yet we must remember that there are so•… cases in which a promise made binds not. I. If it be against Gods word. One saith well, In evill*promises cut off thy faith. It is a 〈◊〉 promise which cannot be perfourmed without an offence, II. If he which makes it want reason or suffi∣cient discretion. III. If he make the promisae who can not bind himselfe: as a child under the gouernment of his parents. IV. If a man be in∣duced to make his promise by fraud & guile. V. If the promise being at the first lawfull become afterward either impossible or unlawfull.
And though men be bound in conscience to keepe their promises: yet this hinders not but Page 83 that there is and may be a good and lawfull use of Indentures and obligations. For the bonde of conscience is betweene man and God: but the bonde of an obligation is onely betweene man and man. Abraham when hee bought a purchase of Ephron the Hi•••te, hee payed his money and made it sure before witnesse, Gen. 23. vers. 17.
Here we must consider the generall sinne of this age, which is to speak deceitfully euery one to his neighbour. It is an hard thing to find a mā that will stand to his word and lawfull promise. It is a rule of Machi•vell that a man may pra∣ctise many things against his faith, against cha∣rity, and humanity, and religion: and that it is not necessary to haue these vertues, but to coun∣terfait and dissemble them. But let all such as feare God, make conscience of their word, be∣cause they are bound so to do: and hereby they shall resemble their heauenly father who is true in all his promises; and they shall also bring soorth a notable fruite of the spirite, Galat. 5. vers. 22.
Hitherto I haue spoken of the cause that ma∣keth conscience to giue iudgemente Now fol∣loweth * the manner of iudgement.
Cōsciēce giues iudgemēt in or by a kind of rea∣soning or disputing, called a practicall syllogismePage 84 Rom. 2. 15. their reasonings [〈◊〉〈◊〉, 〈◊〉.] 〈◊〉〈◊〉 excusing 〈◊〉 other.
In the making of this reason, conscience hath two assist•… mind, and memory.
The mind is the storehouse and 〈◊〉〈◊〉 of all manner of rules and principles. It may be co•…∣pared * to a booke of law, in which are 〈◊〉 down the penall statutes of the lande. The of it it is to preferre and present to the conscience rules of diuine law whereby it is to giue iudge∣ment.
Memory serues to bring to mind the particu∣lar actions which a mā hath done or not done, * that conscience may determine of them.
Now conscience assisted by these 〈◊〉, proceeds in iudgement by a kinde of argumen∣tation: an example whereof we may take from the conscience of a murderer thus.
To proceed: Conscience giues iudgement ei∣ther * of things past or things to come.
Of things past two waies, either by accusing & cond•ning, or by excusing & absoluing. Ro. 2. 15.
To accuse is an action of conscience giuing Page 85〈◊〉 that this o• that thing was •…ll don; 〈◊〉 that still by reasoning on this manner.
To 〈◊〉 is another action of the con∣science ••yned with the former, whereby it gi∣ueth iudg•…t that a man by this or that sinne hath deserued death: on this maner.
These two actions are very sorcible and ter∣rible: for they are the •…ctions and pric∣kings that be in the heart. Act. 2. 37. they are the stripes as it were, of an iron rodde, wherewith the heart of a man smiteth it selfe, 2. Sam. 24. 10. And by reason of them, conscience is compared to a wo••e that neuer dieth but alwayes lyes gnawing and grabbling, and pulling at the heart of man, Marc. 9. 42. and causeth more paine and anguish, then any disease in the wo•ld, can.
The time when conscience perfourmes these actions is not before the sinne, or in the acte of s•••ing, but specially after the sinne is done and past. Reason. I. Before a man sinne, the deuill doth extenuate the fault & make sinne to be no Page 86 sinne. II. Corrupt affections doe for a time so blind and ouercast iudgement, that it doeth not see or at the least consider what is good or bad, till afterward.
Neither doth conscience •ccuse & conde•… only for time present, but also long after a thing is done. The consciences of Iosephs •…hren accuse them 22. yeres after they had solde him into Egypt. Gen. 42. 21.
The effect of the accusing and conde•ning conscience is to stir vp sundry passions and •o∣tions in the heart, but specially these five.
The first is sha•…, which is an affection of the heart, whereby a man is gr•eued and displea∣sed with him-selfe, that hee hath done any e∣uill: and this shame showeth it selfe by the ri∣sing of the bloode from the heart to the 〈◊〉.
Yet wee must here remember that 〈◊〉 such as haue the pardon of their sinnes, and are not guilty, may be ashamed and b••sh, Rom. 6. 21. What fr•… had yee in those things, wher∣at ye now blush, or, be ashamed. Whereas those which are most guilty may be without all shame. Ierem. 6. 15. were they 〈◊〉〈◊〉 they had •…itted 〈◊〉••y, ••y, they vvere not ashamed, 〈◊〉 they 〈◊〉〈◊〉〈◊〉: because they are growen to some great Page 87 height in sinne, Eph. 4. 18.
The second passion is sadnesse and sorrowe: which is commonly thought to be nothing else but Melancholy: but betweene them twa••e, there is great difference. Sorow that comes by melancholly ariseth onely of that humour an∣noying the body, but this other sorrow ariseth of a mans sinnes for which his conscience ac∣cuseth him. Melancholly may be cured by phi∣•…e this sorow 〈◊〉 not be cured by any thing but by the blood of Christ.
The third is feare: in causing whereof con∣science is very forcible. If a man had all the de∣lightes and pleasures that heart can wish, they can not doe him any good, if conscience be guiltie. Belshazzar when hee was in the mid∣dest of all his delights, and saw the hand wri∣ting vpon the wall: his countenance changed, his thoughts trouble• him, his ioy•ts loosed, and his knees smote togither, Dan. 5. 6. Yea the guiltie conscience will make a man afraid, if hee see but a worme peepe out of the ground, or a silly creature to goe crosse his way, or if hee see but his owne shadowe on a sudda•…, or if he do but forecast an euill with himselfe. Pro∣verb. 28. 1. The vvicked flyeth vvh•• no man pur sueth him.
Terrors of •ōsciēce whē they are more vehe∣cause Page 88 other passions in the body, as exceeding heare, like that which is in the fi•t of an ag•e, the rising of the entrals towardes the mouth: and swounding• as experience hath often shewed. And the writer of the booke of Wisedome saith truly, cap. 17. vers. 10. It is a 〈◊〉 full thing vvhen malice is condemned by 〈◊〉〈◊〉 test•∣monie: and a conscience th•• is 〈◊〉, 〈◊〉 ever fore-cast cruell things. For feare is no∣thing else, but the betraying of the succ•…, that reason offereth, &c. they that did 〈◊〉 the night that was •…llerable, &c. sometimes*vvere troubled vvith mon•…s visions, and sometimes they s•••ned, as though their 〈◊〉 soule should betray them: for a sudden feare 〈◊〉 looked for, came upon them.
The fourth is desperation, whereby a man through the vehement and constant accusation of his conscience, comes to be out of all hope of the pardon of his sinnes. This made Saul, Achitophel, and Indas, to hang them selues; this makes many in these daies to doe the like as appeareth by the declarations of such as haue bene presented, when they were about to hang or drowne them selues, or to cutt their owne throats.
The last is a perturbation or disquie••es of the whole man: wherby all the powers & faculties Page 89 of the whole man are forth of order, Isa. 57. 20. The wicked are like the raging of the sea that 〈◊〉 test, vvhose vvaters cast vp •…ire and •…rt.
Thus much of the two first actions of con∣science, which are to accuse and condemne: the s•cond followeth to excuse and absolue.
To excuse, is an action of the conscience gi∣uing iudgement that the thing is well done.
To absolue, is an action of the conscience gi∣uing iudgement that a man is free or cleare frō fault and so from punishment.
From these two actions arise some special af∣fections: I. bold•es and confidence, Prov. 28. 1. The righteous are bold as a lyon. II. ioy and re∣ioycing, 2. Cor. 1. 12. Our reioycing is the testi∣•…nie of my conscience, that in all simplicitie and godly pure•es I haue had my conuer sation in the world. Hence it is said, that a good conscience is a continuall feast.
Hithe•to I haue spoken how conscience giues iudgement of things done and past: now followeth her iudgement of things to be done.
Conscience giues iudgement of things to come, by foretelling and as it were saying in∣wardly in the heart, that the thing may be well done or ill done. Of this kinde of iudgement e∣uery man may haue experience in him selfe, Page 90 when he is about to enterprise any busines ei∣ther good or badde.
By this we may see the goodnes of God to all men. If a man beeing to make an vnknowne iourney, should finde one that would goe with him and shew him the way, with al the turnings thereof, he could not but take it for a great point of curtosie. Wee are pilgrimes in this world, our life is our iourney. God also hath ap∣pointed our conscience to be our companion and guide, to shew vs what course we may take and what we may not.
And here it must be noted, that in all things to be done, conscience is of great force & beares a great stroke. For, This is the beginning of a good vvorke, that the conscience first of all give her iudgement truely, that the thing may be done, and is acceptable to God. Rom. 14. 23. What∣soeuer is not of faith, that is, whatsoeuer is not done of a settled perswasion in iudgement and conscience out of Gods word, howsoeuer men iudge of it, is sinne. Againe, God regardes not the outward pompe of the action or the doer, but obedience and especially the obedi∣ence of the heart: therefore vnlesse the con∣science first of all approoue the thing to be good and agreeable to Gods will, it can be no∣thing else but a sinne. And he that shall doe a Page 91 thing, because it is good in his owne eyes, not knowing that God doeth allow of it, pre∣ferres him-selfe before God, and disobaies him as the seruant that in his masters house will not doe his masters will but his owne will.
From this former rule arise three other: the first, What soeuer is done vvith a doubting con∣se•••e is a s•…e. For example: some beleeuers in the Primitive Church held, that still after the ascens•on of Christ there remained a difference betweene meate and meate, and therefore it was a scruple to them to eate of sundrie kinde of meates! •ow put the case, by example they are drawne on to eate swines flesh, or some other thing which they thinke is forbidden: and there 〈◊〉 no question but in so doing they haue sinned, as Paul prooueth, Rom. 14. v. 14. I knovv and 〈◊〉 persvvaded through the Lord Iesus, that there is nothing vncleane of it selfe: but vnto him that iudgeth any thing vncleane, it is vncleane: and v. 23. He that doubteth is condemned, if he eate: because he eateth not of faith.
The second What soeuer thing is done vvith an erroneous conscience, is a sinne. For ex∣ample, in the primitiue Church diuers of the Gentiles helde this errour, that fornication Page 92 was a thing indifferent, and therfore •onscience told them that they might doe i• and yet neuer∣thelesse fornication in them was a sinne• becaus• conscience erred in her iudgement. And euill r•∣maines euill, though conscience ••y the contra∣rie a thousand times.
The third. What soeuer is done*against con∣science, though it erre & be deceiued, it sinne in the d•er. Example. An Anabaptist holding it vt∣terly vnlawfull to sweare, is brought before a magistrate; and vrged either through feare or so 〈◊〉 cause, takes an oath & that against his o•ne conscience: now the question is, whether he hath sinned or no. Ans. He hath indeed sinned not so much because he hath taken an oath, for that is the ordinance of God: but because he hath taken an oath in a bad manner, that is, against his conscience, and therefore not in faith.
Thus it is manifest that consci•nce beares a great stroke in all things that are to be saide or done. And hereby we are aduertised of many things. First, if a thing done without good di∣rection of cōscience be a sinne, then much more that which is done without direction of Gods word is a flatte sinne: for without direction of Gods word conscience can giue no good dire∣ction. And if God will holde that for a sinne which is done without direction of his word, Page 93 then no doubt Gods word ministers sufficient direction for all actions whatsoeuer: so as if a man be to put but a bit of bread in his mouth, it can so farre forth direct him, that in doi•g of it he shall be able to please God: If this were •ot true, mans ease were most miserable. For then we should sinne in manifold actions, and that without remedie. And here by the Word, I meane nothing but the Scriptures of the olde and new Testament, which containe in them∣selues sufficient direction for all •ctions As for the law of nature, though it af•oard in deede some direction; yet is it corrupt, imperfect, vn∣certen: and whatsoeuer is right and good therin is contained in the writtē word of God. And as for the best vnwrittē traditions, let al the Papists in the world answer if they cā, how I may in cō∣science be perswaded that they are the word of God. If they say that the auncient fathers of the primitive Church auouch in their writings that they are Apostolicall traditions, I answer a∣gaine, how 〈◊〉 I know and be certen in con∣science that the fathers subiect to errour, in say∣ing so haue not erred.
Againe we learne hence, that a good intenti∣on is not sufficient to make a good worke, vn∣lesse withall conscience can giue iudgement that God doth approoue the action. This shewes Page 94 the ignorance of our people, that when 〈◊〉〈◊〉 their dealings they runne vpon a good mea∣ning, then alwaies they thinke they doe well and please God.
Thirdly, hence it appeares that all thing• deuised by man for the worship of God, •re fiarre sinnes; because conscience 〈◊〉 not say of them that they please God. Esa. 29. 13. Mark. 7. v. 7.
Lastly, wee learne here that ig•or•nce of Gods will and word, is a daungerous thing, and makes the life of man to abound, yea to flowe with a sea of offences against God. Men com∣monly thinke that if they keepe themselues frō petiurie, blasphemie, murder, theft, whordome, all is well with them: but the truth is, that so long as they liue in ignorance, they want right and true direction of conscience out of Gods word, and therfore there best actions are sinnes, euen their eating and drinking, their sleeping and waking, their buying and selling, their speach and silence, yea their praying and seruing of God. For they doe these actions either of custome, or example, or necessitie, as beasts doe, and not of faith: because they know not Gods will touching things to be done or left vndone. The consideration of this point should make e∣uery man most carefull to seeke for know∣ledge Page 95 of Gods word, and daily to increase in it, that he may in all his affaires haue Gods lawes to be the men of his counsell, Psal. 119. 24. that 〈◊〉 may giue heede to them as to a light shining in a ••rke place. 〈◊〉. Pet. 1. 19. that he may say with P••er, when Christ commanded him to lanch forth into the deepe, and to cast forth his net: Lord •ve h••e ben all•ight, ana haue catched nothing, yet in thy word vvill I let d•vvne my ••t, Luk 5. 5.