An expository comment, doctrinal, controversal, and practical upon the whole first chapter to the second epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians by Anthony Burgesse ...
Burgess, Anthony, d. 1664.
Page  683

SERM. CXLV.

Of Ministers power over the People.


2 COR. 1. 24.
Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy; for by faith ye stand.

THis Text is brought in by way of correction, as the Rhetoricians figure is called. For having said, That to spare them, he did not yet come to Co∣rinth, and he that spareth may also punish; lest he should seem here∣by to assume to himself some absolute dominion, and lordly power over them, he addeth, Not that we have dominion over your faith. Because in the Greek it is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; Erasmus thinketh the Preposition 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is to be under∣stood; as if the sense were, We have not dominion over you, for your faiths sake. Whereupon he enlargeth himself, that none is to be compelled to the faith; and those (saith he) who are vehement herein, it is that their Kingdom might be more enlarged. Hence he wisheth that Text in Peter, 1 Pet. 5. 3. Not being lords over Gods heritage, &c. were written upon all Bishops halls or palaces, Vel aureis literis, even in golden letters. The Greek word is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; therefore when we urge that place of our Saviours, reproving the ambition of the Disci∣ples, (Mat. 20. 25. The Gentiles exercise dominion, but so shall not ye) against the political dominion of the Pope and his Bishops, Bellarmines solution is fri∣gid. It is (saith he) 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in the Greek, which signifieth a tyrannical exercise of any power; as if such an imperious abuse of power, not the power it self were condemned. But though 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 doth sometimes aggravate, yet that it doth not there, appeareth in that the same passage, in Luk. 22. 25. is related by the simple Verb 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and here in the Text is not 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, but 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. The Apostle then doth here disclaim all absolute dominion over their faith, all lord∣linesse over their consciences; he may not dictate; or prescribe to them what he pleaseth. Now if Paul, so eminent an Apostle, made so not by men, but ha∣ving immediate revelation from God, who was also infallible in his Doctrine, doth yet disclaim this dominion; What mortal man may do it? What Minister is equal to Paul? Yea this Church of Corinth, was wholly planted by him, they were converted by him; and therefore he might plead more sovereignty over them, being not an instructer, but a father, rather than other; yet for all that he challengeth no such primacy. So that this Text confoundeth all Papal Church-government, with the upholders thereof. For how abominable are the expres∣sions of the Popish flatterers? affirming; That the Pope hath the same tribunal with Christ, that he can dispense against Paul's Epistles, that he can do any thing, praeter, super and extra jus; and that he is to judge all, but to be judged of none, with such kind of blasphemies. Yea Bellarmine doth apply that prophecy of Isaiah, Behold I lay in Sion a foundation-stone, which doth directly belong to Christ, even unto the Pope, though secondarily, but most blasphemously. The Observation is,

Page  684That though Christ hath invested the Officers of the Church, with some*kinde of ministerial power, yet they have not thereby any dominion over the faith of believers.

They may not preach what they will, nor command, and dictate what they will. Insomuch that although their Pastors say, Virtue is a vice, and vice a vir∣tue, yet the people are bound to believe it, as Bellarmine in his first Edition af∣firmed, but afterwards left it out. That all such dominion by compulsion and force is excluded from the Ministry, appeareth plainly by those two Texts, Luk. 22. 15. & 1 Pet. 5. 2. Those places do not forbid such a fatherly pastor-like power, that Christ hath bestowed upon his Church-officers, but a civil domina∣tion, as also an ecclesiastical-magisterial power in the Church, as if we were to believe, because they say so. No our Saviour absolutely prohibiteth that, when he saith, Be ye not called masters, for one is your master, even Christ, Mat. 23. 10. Where also we are commanded, to call no man father. Hence the Papists ex∣ceedingly erre, in calling those Ancients Fathers, thereby urging their domini∣on over our faith, as if we were bound to believe, what ever a Father saith. In∣deed if by Father we mean no more, than an Ancient, who hath lived long be∣fore us; so the word may be allowed; but they call them so in a doctrinal and authoritative respect, as if we might not gain-say them, no more than sonnes their father; but this doth contradict our Saviours command. Christ then is the onely Lord, and Head of his Church; whatsoever he saith, we are com∣manded to hear him, and that for his own authority; there is no disputing, no doubting, no examination allowed of what he saith: but all Ministers since the Apostles dayes are subject to errour, and may be deceived, and withall by their office they are stewards, not lords in the family; they are Embassadours onely, not Princes: Now such have a limited power, they cannot do any thing of themselves, any further than their Commission extends, their power doth not extend. And truly (as was said) if the Apostles, though infallible, would not challenge such a dominion, such a commanding power in the Church, (1 Cor. 7. 6. I speak this not by commandment) but referreth all his doctrine, his power, and what he did to Christ, as the original; yea Christ as Mediator re∣ferred his doctrine and will to the Father. What shall become of those ambiti∣ous Diotrephesses, who affect a greater power in the Church? But the Doctrine needeth explication in several particulars. And

First, Let us see negatively, What is not forbidden or disclaimed by the Apostles,* and then positively. What is for the negative,

1. The Apostle doth not here exclude that lawfull Ecclesiastical power which the Ministers of God have after a spiritual manner in dispensing of the Ordinances ap∣pointed by Christ. Some indeed think it is not power or authority, but a gift. Others, that all their power is swallowed up by the Magistrate, when he becom∣eth Christian; but certainly Christ appointed Pastors and Teachers in his Church till his second coming, and gave them power to preach the Word, to administer Sacraments, to exercise Church-discipline, as might at large be proved, if this were a fit occasion. The Apostle attributeth to himself a power once or twice; only he saith, it is for edification, not destruction, 2 Cor. 13. 10. And he telleth these Corinthians, If he come again, he will not spare, 2 Cor. 13. 2. & 2 Cor. 10. 6. he saith, He was in a readinesse to revenge all disobedience: And that com∣mand of his, To cast out the incestuous person, argued his power. Yea the names given them, that they are called Pastors and Rulers, and that the people are to obey them, argue plainly there is a spiritual ministerial power appointed by Christ in his Church. Of which more largely (God assisting) in subsequent passages.

Page  685 2. Neither doth this expression imply, That the Ministers of the Gospel have their power from the people. As if they were Embassadonrs in their name, and * acted with a power derived from them, as some have pleaded; for the office is of Christ, the designation and application of the person to the office, is by the Ministry of the Church, but they have not the office it self from them. It's true, they are sometimes called, The servants of the Church, but that is finaliter, not originaliter, because the end of their office is for the good of the people; They have not these Offices for their own honour and dignity, but meerly for the good of others. So that although in respect of Christ, they are meerly Mi∣nisters and servants, yet in respect of the Church and the people, they are Fa∣thers and Pastors, having a spiritual rule over them.

3. Neither doth this expression encourage a licentious boundlesse questioning of*the Doctrine, that the Ministers of the Gospel do deliver, because they are not in∣fallible, because they are not commanded absolutely to depend on them. Therefore some runne into a disorderly extream, cavilling and questioning every thing that is taught. But you must know, that although every Christian be allowed a judgement of discretion, and he is by his own faith to be saved. Hence the Bereans are accounted more noble, because they compared the Doctrine delivered with the Scriptures; yet withall they are commanded to hear the Ministers, highly to esteem of them for the workes sake; To obey them, and to submit them∣selves to them. So that the liberty a believer is allowed must not tend to the over∣throw of the office of the Ministry. It is true, here is much wisdome and grace required in bounding the peoples liberty; and yet asserting their dependance upon the Ministers whom God hath set over them, and from whom they are to seek direction and guidance: but this work is not to be done here. It is certain, they may mutually stand together; yea they were appointed by God for the mutual good of each other; and therefore it's nothing but corruption that ma∣keth a contrariety herein; sometimes by the Ministers pride, and affectation of power; and sometimes by the peoples pride and conceitednesse, whereby they refuse humbly to submit to such order and officers as God hath commanded them. But this deserveth a large Tractate. For all evil ariseth in the Church, because these bounds are transgressed. In some ages the officers tyranny, in other ages the peoples licentiousness have much hindered the power of godliness, and the beauty of Ordinances.

Lastly, By this is not excluded that duty, whereby Ministers ought with holy*zeal and courage, reprove sinne, and that in the greatest of men. Yea and whoso∣ever are obstinate and impenitent sinners to refuse the administration of the seals of Church-communion unto them. When the Apostle commanded this incestu∣ous person (whom some think to be a man of great place among the Corinthians) to be cast out, when he delivered Hymenaeus and Philetus up to Satan; when he commands, If any walk disorderly, to withdraw from such, 2 Thess. 3. 6. Yea and if any obey not his word, to note, or signifie such a man. All these are demon∣strations of power, but not lordly dominion; yea where reproof, admonition, and excommunication are rightly administred to a spiritual heart awakened, they become more dreadfull than civil, or bodily punishments; because what is done this way, God bindeth in Heaven; God casteth such out of his communi∣on, and commands them, as David to Absolom, not to come in his presence. Thus the Apostle doth not exclude these necessary ministerial duties, although distastfull to flesh and blood. Yea though corrupt persons account them no∣thing, but the expression of lordlinesse. Even as when Lot reproved those wicked Sodomites, they replied, He would be a Judge over them, Gen. 19. 9. and Moses, when he rebuked the Hebrews, striving one with another. How scorn∣fully did the injurious person answer him? Who made thee a Prince and a Judge over us? Exod. 2. 14. By this we see, how imbred a thing it is in all sinners, if Page  686 they be reproved and controlled in their wickednesse, to account all nothing but dominion and lordlinesse. Even the holy Government of the Church ap∣pointed by Christ for spiritual and supernatural ends, and so wholly for the good of those that go astray, yet by evil men hath been complained of, as worse than Turkish slavery. How little do such men consider, what their Christianity ob∣ligeth them unto? What it is to be baptized into the name of Christ, and to acknowledge him the Head, Lord, and Governour of his Church? For if they did, they would not say, Let us break his bends, and cast his cords away from us. Is not the Discipline of Christ to be received, as well as his Doctrine? Did not the Apostle rejoyce to behold the faith and order of the Colossians? Col. 2. 5.

Thus you see what is not excluded. Let us then consider in the next place, What the Apostle doth positively shut out by this negative expression, Not that we*have dominion over you. And

1. It doth exclude all abuse and excesse even of lawfull power. For those who * are true officers of Christ, having a lawfull power committed to them, may yet abuse it, they may shew much rashnesse, too much austerity in the exercise of it. Therefore in the next Chapter, we see this holy Apostle, though zealous to have this incestuous person cast out, yet when truly humbled and repenting, he is no lesse carefull to have him received again, requiring them to confirm their love to him, lest he should be swallowed up with too much grief. Some learned men have thought, that the primitive Bishops did exceed in their austerity here∣in, as appeareth by many Canons made against some sinners, who for two or three years were not to be received into Church-communion, though truly re∣penting; yet some excuse them, because the condition of the times did then, they say, require it, that the Churches zeal against sinne, might vindicate her against those abominable calumnies cast upon her by the Heathens, as if she did secretly nourish all impiety. And although she was thus severe, yet the Nova∣tians did refuse communion with the Church, as being too remisse, in that she would at any time receive such, who through fear apostatized in time of perse∣cution, though never so sincerely manifesting their humiliation. Thus all un∣lawfull austerity, even in lawfull power, is excluded.

2. By this the Apostle doth disclaim all civil and political Government. Hence * the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, signifieth one in 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, saith Varinus; and one that hath 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, saith Budaeus. The Apostles did not invade the Magistrates office, neither would Christ the fountain of all Church-power, be a divider of an inheritance. A civil power is coactive and compelling by force, which Church-power is not. And although Bellarmine say, Ecclesiasti∣cal power is ridiculous and in vain, if it may not civilly compell. Yea a prophane Papist saith, Our Lord Christ had been indiscreet, if he had not given this tempo∣ral power also. Yet they speak this according to their humane apprehensions, transforming Christs kingdome into an earthly and external one.

3. Hereby he excludeth a magisterial power, though in an ecclesiastical way, over consciences. That is, he doth not assume to himself to be Lord in the Church, * but an Embassadour or Steward only. He doth not say, his Doctrine is his, the Sacraments are his; but as he received of the Lord, so he delivered to them. And this is that, for which the Protestants accuse the Roman Church, That their Offi∣cers arrogate to themselves a Magisterial power in the Church, pleading an in∣fallibility in Doctrine, by which they anathematize all as hereticks, who will not subscribe thereunto. The Protestants doe acknowledge a ministeriall power, but they will have a magisterial one. There must be a supreame visible Judge in the Church (say they) as there is in Commonwealths; else Christ hath not wisely provided in his Church a sufficient remedy against all he∣resies and schism.

Page  687 Lastly, By this he doth exclude any sinfull or wicked end. As if he did make the Church subservient to any corrupt interest of his own. Officers are * for the Church, the Church is not for them. He that hath a lordly govern∣ment or despotical, saith Aristotle, administreth it, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. It's not the publick good, but the personal good he looketh at: it is not Res pub∣lica, but Res propria. All tyrannical administrations are for the tyrants profit, they Non praesunt ut prosint; whereas good Governours, they relate to the publick good, knowing they are for it, not it for them. And thus it is in Church-officers, all their names are names of care, of diligence and labour. God hath not set them there for their carnal advantages, as if the people were made for them; but they are to promote the Kingdome of Christ, and to advance the souls of their hearers. Alas, the Church is Christs Spouse, not theirs; it's Christs flock, not theirs; they died not for it, they were not crucified for it; neither are believers baptized into their name, but the name of Christ.

Use of Instruction. How happy and blessed a thing it is to see the Church of God in unity between Pastors and people; the Officers not abusing their power to ambition and tyranny, nor the people their liberty to licentiousnesse and wantonnesse; when Pastors and people strive not about their respective power, but who shall most faithfully discharge their duties to one another. All disor∣der in the Church hath for the most part come in at this breach. If a Church be Plebs adunita clero, as Cyprian said, Church and people united together, then what goeth to the dissolving of this, tendeth to the destruction of the Church it self. How much doth Ignatius (if they be his genuine Epistles) presse this subjection of people to Pastors? And the Apostle Peter doth as ear∣nestly presse a loving and meek government in Officers. And no doubt, when God is angry with a people, then he sends an evil spirit, as between Abime∣lech and the Shechemites, which tendeth to the consumption of both. Let Ministers therefore carefully avoid all affectation of unlawfull power, and people of unlawfull liberty. Let Pastours looke upon their people, as the Spouse of Christ, as purchased by his blood, and this will keepe them from lordly dominion; and let people look upon Pastours, as the Offi∣cers of Christ, coming in his name to them; and this will make them honour them, and have them in high esteeme, both for their office, and works sake. But other parts of this Epistle will provoke to greater enlargement herein.