Irenicum, to the lovers of truth and peace heart-divisions opened in the causes and evils of them : with cautions that we may not be hurt by them, and endeavours to heal them
Burroughs, Jeremiah, 1599-1646.
Page  48


The third dividing Principle, That nothing which is conceived to be evill, is to be suffered.

THis is the other extream; some think all things should be suffered, and they are loose, and cause divisions on the one hand; others thinke nothing is to be suffered, and these are rigid, and cause divisions on the other hand; If any thing be conceived evil, either in opinion or practise, if instructions and perswasions cannot reform, there must be means used to compell: This is a harsh and a sowr Principle, a disturbing Principle to Churches and States, to mankind. This Princi∣ple seldome prevails with any but those who have got power into their hands, or hope to get it. This must needs be a di∣viding Principle.

[ 1] First, because of the infinite variety of mens apprehensions about what is good or evill, scarce three men agree any long time in their apprehensions of some things to be evil; if then nothing that is conceived to be evill must be suffered, there must needs be continuall opposition between man and man.

[ 2] This subjects the generality of men to suffer for many things which they can see no evill in, but are perswaded is good; this raises an animosity against those by whom they suf∣fer; though a man can subject his body and estate to another, he cannot subject his reason to another: In the common ways of justice men are punished for those things, which if they be guilty of, they cannot but acknowledg themselves to be wor∣thy of punishment, as in Theft, Murder, Drunkennesse, &c. And for the fact, they are tryed in such a way, as they cannot but acknowledg is fit in reason to be subjected to; and there∣fore, though they suffer much, yet they will yeeld it with∣out disturbance.

But if this Principle prevails, every man almost is made ly∣able to punishment for thousands of things that he can see no reason why he should be punished: It is very hard to bring mens spirits to yeeld in such things.

Page  49But you will say, May not men be punished for things that they see no reason why they should be punished? for many malefactors may easily escape thus; guilt will quickely blind men, they will see no rea∣son why they should be punished.

It is not what men say they see no reason for,* or what it may be they indeed see no reason for; but what men cannot see reason for, though they should bend their understandings, and strength to the uttermost; yea, what the generality of man kind, and of that community of which a man is, cannot possibly see reason for, it is impossible for the generality of mankind, & the community of any Church or State, though they should be never so diligent to find out what is good, and what is evill, yet to be able to understand every thing that is evill, to be so.

If you will have laws made against all things, that such as are in authority conceive to be evill, then you must give them power to judge, not only by the rules of common justice and equity, and punish for the breach of them, but by the appre∣hensions that their own raised parts shall suggest unto them, and to punish men for not being raised to that height of un∣derstanding themselves have; but this power is more then is fit to be given to any men upon earth. This would bring ty∣ranny both in State and Church.

For first,* from whence is the rise of all Civill Power that any man, or society of men, are invested with? is it not from the generality of the men, over whom they have power? Is it not the power which they themselves had, and which they might have kept amongst themselves? For who can say, that a Democracy is a sinfull Government in it selfe? True, God establishes it upon particular men by his Ordinance, after it is given to them by the people, but the first rise is from them; and if so, then they should make no law to bring those men under punishment, who gave them their power, but such a Law as these men may possibly come to understand, to be e∣quall and just, for they act their power: and it must be suppo∣sed, that they never intended to give a power beyond this. Those who give power, may limit power; they may give part to one, part to another; they may limit the matter about wchPage  50 the power shall be exercised, it shall goe so far, and no fur∣ther; the utmost limits cannot goe beyond these rules of Ju∣stice which they are capable to understand. Hence it is, that all men in our Law, are tryed Per pares, by their Peers, be∣cause it is to be supposed, that they are to be accounted of∣fenders and to be punished; only so as those who are equall with themselves, shall judg them worthy; and this likewise is the reason that Courts are in publique, no man is to be shut out, because all men that will may behold the tryall, and ju∣stifie the proceedings of Justice against offenders: It must needs be supposed then, that the rules by which the Judges go, must be the rules of common equity and justice, that all men may understand; beyond what these rules will reach to, the Ci∣vill State is not to punish, not every thing that men of deep judgements and strong parts, may apprehend to be evill.

The power of the Church likewise extends not to the pu∣nishment of every thing, that either may by the Governours of it, be conceived to be evill, or that is indeed evill.

As the rise of the Civil power shews, that only such things are to be punished by it, as are against the common rules of Justice and Equity; so the rise of Church power will shew, that only such things as are against common rules, such things as some way or other appeare to be against conviction, and are obstinately persisted in, are by Church censure to be punished.

The rise of Church power is indeed different from the rise of the Civill, yet agrees in this, that it limits the Church, as the rise of the Civill doth the Civill power. The power of Governors in the State arises from the people, and they act their power that the Common-wealth gives to them: But the Governours of the Church have not their power from the members of the Church, but from Christ; neither do they act in the name of the Church, but in the name of Christ. It is true, the Members of the Church do design such men to such an Office; but being designed, now they are invested with the power of Jesus Christ, they exercise his power, and do act in his name, not in the name of the Church.

Page  51 You will say, seeing the Church chooseth their Officers as well as the Common-wealth theirs: How doth it appeare, that the Officers of the Church doe not exercise the power of the Church, as well as the Officers of the Common-wealth, the power of the Com∣mon-wealth?

These two things shew the difference clearly.*

First, The Officers of the Common-wealth can do nothing [ 1] by their power, but that which the Common-wealth may do without them, if they were not; they might have kept their Government in a Democracy, and if they had pleased, done any act of power by a major vote: But it is not so in the Church; if the Church be without Officers, they cannot doe that which belongs to Officers to do, they can have no Sacra∣ments amongst them, neither can they have any spirituall ju∣risdiction exercised amongst them; only brotherly admoni∣tion, and with-drawing from such as walk disorderly, for their own preservation.

2ly. The members of the Church cannot limit the power [ 2] of their Officers, so as the Common-wealth may the power of their: but if once a man be chosen to be an Officer in the Church, all that power that ever any in that Office had since Christs time, in any Church in all the christian world, or ever can have to the coming of Christ again, falls upon him: If a man be chosen a Pastor, he hath as full power as ever any Pa∣stor had upon the face of the earth, or can have by any Pasto∣rall power: The Church cannot limit him, and say, You shall be a Pastor for such ends and purposes, but no further: The same may be said of the ruling, none upon earth ever had, or can have more power of ruling, then this man who is chosen into that Office. It is not thus in the State, all Kings have not the like power; in some Countries Kingly power reacheth so far, in others further, according to the va∣riety of the Lawes of the Countries, the agreements between them and the people: all Dukes, all States, all Parliaments have not the same power.

Now then, the rise of the power of Church-governors ri∣sing from Jesus Christ, and they doing what they doe in the Name of Christ, therefore they cannot punish any evill be∣yond what Christ would have punished.

Page  52You will say, What evills would Christ have punished, and what not?

Christ would have no evill punished that is repented of;* if it be a known evill, then it must be repented of particularly; if it be a 〈◊〉 of ignorance, Christ forgives it upon a generall repentance, although a man should never be convinced of it all his dayes; Yet, says Christ, I discharge him of all these, supposing the rise of his ignorance be not some wilfull neg∣lect: But if it be a sinn committed through wilfulnesse, or continued in obstinately, then sayes Christ, I will have this man smart for such an offence; now comes in the power of the Church-officers, to doe in the Name of Christ what he would have done: But if they goe further, then they exercise a tyrannicall power, if they will punish every thing which they conceive to be evill, whether committed through ig∣norance and weaknesse, or wilfulnesse and obstinacy, in this they take upon them a higher power of punishing then Christ (according to the tenor of the Gospel) exercises. For my part, sayes Christ, I goe but thus far with my power; If I see any of my Church sin through weaknesse and ignorance, la∣bouring to understand and do my will, and mourning that they know no more, they do no better, I wil passe by all; but if any shall appear wilfull and obstinate, I will deale severely with such a one.

If you say, If men have meanes of knowledge and strength, and yet continue ignorant and weake, should not such be dealt with as wilfull and obstinate?

No,* says Christ, I do not goe by any such rule, for I have revealed my will in my Word, I labour by my Spirit and Mi∣nisters to convince men, yet I see after all meanes I use, there are many, who meerly through their weaknesse are not con∣vinced, I pitty them, I deal gently with them, I pardon them. Those then who will go further, they will punish for every evill; and if they use means to convince them, and they be not convinced, they will judge them obstinate, and proceed against them accordingly; these challenge and exercise not the power of Christ, but Antichrist. If Christ should deale so with them, as they deal with their brethren, it would go ill with them; If Christ should say, whatsoever I see evil in you, Page  53 I will not suffer it in you; if you are ignorant notwithstand∣ing means of light, I will deal with you as wilfull and obsti∣nate, and never leave inflicting punishment upon you, till you be convinced, and do reform; could any of you stand be∣fore Christ dealing thus with you? Take heed of exercising that power over your Brethren (and that in Christs name) that you would not have Christ exercise over you.

Both the Civill State and Church must take us as wee are faln from that integrity of our first creation, not as we came first out of Gods hands: God the Creator may (indeed) pu∣nish us for not knowing or doing what is our duty to know or do, because he once made us perfect; but Man must not do so, Man must deal with his fellow-creatures, as men imper∣pect; one man cannot require of another that perfection not only of heart, but of externall conversation, that God may, yea God-man our Mediator lookes upon us in a state of im∣perfection, and deals with us accordingly, and thus he would have all do who have to deale with his people in his name.

But you said before, All things must not be suffered; now you say, some things must be suffered: Tell us then what must not, and what must.

I am perswaded most of you yeeld to the falseness of both these dividing principles; you verily believe all things must not be suffered, and yet you think it were too harsh to affirm that nothing is to be suffered; only here lyes the difficulty, what must, and what must not be suffered. This hath been the unhappiness of pleading for toleration of any thing, yet of the very mention of it, that men presently cry out, and say, we would have every thing tolerated.

I confesse it is very hard to cut here right in the joynt; were I sure that none would blame or oppose what I shall deliver in this; but those who are willing to interess themselves in such a knotty business as this, and to be helpfull to us in the understanding how to untye such a knot, what ever such op∣posers should prove otherwise, I should not feare them for being too numerous.

What I have, I shall present unto you.