CHAP. I. Of the Rise, Growth, Decay, and Reviving of Erastianisme.
DIverse Learned men have (to very good purpose) discovered the origination, occasion, first authors, fomenters, rise and growth of Errors, both Popish, and others: I shall after their example make known briefly, what I find concerning the rise and growth the planting and watering of the Erastian Error, I can∣not say of it, that it is honest is parentibus natus, it is not borne and descended of honest parents. The Father of it is the old Page 162Serpent, who finding his Kingdom very much impaired, weak∣ned and resisted by the vigor of the true Ecclesiastical discipline, which separateth between the precious and the vile, the holy & pro∣phane; and so contributeth much to the shaming away of the un∣fruitful works of darknesse; thereupon he hath cunningly gone about to draw men, first into a jealousie, and then into a dislike of the Ecclesiastical discipline, by Gods mercy restored in the Reformed Churches. The Mother of it, is the enmity of nature a∣gainst the Kingdom of Iesus Christ; which he, as Mediator, doth exercise in the goverment of the Church: Which enmity is naturally in all mens hearts, but is unmortified and strongly prevalent in some, who have said in their hearts, We will not have this man to raigne over us. Luke 19. Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their cords from us. Psal. 2. 3. The Mid∣wife which brought this unhappy brood into the light of the world, was Thomas Erastus Doctor of Medicine at Heidelberg of whom I shall say no more, then what is apparant by his owne Preface to the Reader, namely, that as he was once of opi∣nion, that excommunication is commanded in the Word of God, so he came off to the contrary opinion, not without a male-con∣tented humour, and a resentment of some things which he lookt upon as provocations and personal reflections, though its like enough they were not really such, but in his apprehensions they were. One of these was a publick dispute at Heydelberg in the year 1568. upon certain Theses concerning the necessity of Church Government, and the power of Presbyteries to excom∣municate: Which Theses were exhibited by M. George Withers an Englishman, who left England because of the Ceremonies, and was at that time made Doctor of Divinity at Heydelberg. And the learned dispute had thereupon, you may find epitomi∣zed (as it was taken the day following from the mouth of Dr. Vrsinus) in the close of the second part of Dr. Pareus his expli∣cation of the Heidelberg Catechisme.
The Erastian error being borne, the breasts which gave it suck were prophanesse and self-interest. The sons of Belial were very much for it, expecting that the eye of the civil Magistrate shall not be so vigilant over them, nor his hand so much a∣gainst them for a scandalous and dissolute conversation, as Page 163 Church-discipline would be. Germanorum bibere est vivere, in practice as well as in pronunciation. What great marvel if ma∣ny among them (for I do not speak of all) did comply with the Erastian Tenent? And it is as little to be marvelled at, if those, whether Magistrates, Lawyers, or others, who conceived themselves to be so far losers, as Ecclesiastical Courts were in∣terested in Government, and to be greater gainers by the aboli∣tion of the Ecclesiastical interest in government; were by assed that way: Both these you may find among the causes (mention∣ed by Aretius 〈◊〉. probl. loc. 133.) for which there was so much un willingnes to admit the discipline of Excomunication. Magistratus jugum non admittuxt, timent honoribus, licentiam a∣mant, &c. The Magistrates do not admit a yoke, are jealous of their honours, love licentiousnesse. Vulgus quoque & plebs dissolutior: major pars corruptissima est, &c. The Communaltic also and people are more dissolute: the greater part is most vicious.
After that this unlucky child had been nursed upon so bad milk, it came at last to eat strong food, and that was Arbitrary Government, under the name of Royall Prerogative. Mr. Iohn Wemys (sometime Senator of the Colledge of Justice in Scotland) as great a Royalist as any of his time, in his book de Regis prima∣tu, lib. 1. cap. 7. doth utterly dissent from and argue against the distinction of Civil and Ecclesiasticall lawes, and against the Synodical power of censures; holding that both the power of making Ecclesiastical lawes, and the corrective power to cen∣sure Transgressors, is proper to the Magistrate.
The Tutor which bred up the Erastian error, was Arminia∣nisme; for the Arminians finding their plants pluckt up, and their poison antidoted by Classes and Synods, thereupon they be∣gan to cry down Synodical authority, and to appeal to the Ma∣gistrates power in things Ecclesiastical, hoping for more fa∣vour and lesse opposition that way. They will have Synods onely to examine, dispute, discusse, to impose nothing under pain of Ecclesiastical censure, but to leave all men free, to do as they list. See their exam. cens. cap. 25. and Vindic. lib. 2. cap. 6. pag. 131. 133. And for the Magistrate they have endeavoured to make him head of the Church, as the Pope was; yea so far, that they are not ashamed to ascribe unto the Magistrate that Jurisdiction Page 164 over the Churches, Synods, and Ecclesiastical proceedings' which the Pope did formerly usurpe: For which see Apollonius in his Ius Maj•…statis circa sacra.
But the Erastian Error being thus borne, nursed, fed, and e∣ducated, did fall into a most deadly decay and consumption: the procuring causes whereof were these three. First, the best and most (and in some respect all) of the Reformed Churches re∣fused to receive, harbour, or entertain it, and so left it exposed to hunger and cold, shame and nakednesse.
Some harbour it had in Switzerland, but that was lookt up∣on as comming onely through injury of time, which could not be helped; the Theological and Scriptural principles of the Divines of those Churches, being Anti-Erastian, and Presby∣teriall, as I have * else-where shewed against Mr. Coleman. So that Erastianisme could not get warmth and strength enough, no not in Zurick it self. Yea Dr. Ursi•…us in his Iudicium de Disciplinâ Ecclesiasticâ, & excommunicatione, exhibited to the Prince Elector Palatine Frederick the third (who had required him to give his judgement concerning Erastus his Theses) doth a once and again observe, that all the Reformed Churches and Divines, as well those that did not practice excommunication, as those that did practise it, agree notwithstanding in this prin∣ciple, that excommunication ought to be in the Church. Which is a mighty advantage against Erastianisme.
The second cause was a mis-accident from the Mid-wife, who did half stisle it in the birth, from which did accrue a most dangerous infirmity, of which it could never recover. b Read the preface of Erastus before the Confirmation of his Page 165Theses; also the close of his sixth Book; put these together, you will find him yeeld, that all ought not to be admitted promiseu∣ously to the Sacrament, but that such admission be according to the custome and rule observed in the Church of Heidelberg (and what that was, you may find in the Heidelberg Catechisme Quaest. 82. & 87. namely a suspension of prophane scandalous persons from the Sacrament, and in case of their obstinacy and continuing in their offences, an excommunicating of them.) He yeelds also that these seven sorts of persons ought not to be esteemed as members of the Church, and that if any such be found in the visible Church, they ought to be cast out. 1. Idola∣ters. 2. Apostates. 3. Such as do not understand the true Do∣ctrine, that is, Ignorant Persons. 4. Such as doe not approve and embrace the true Doctrine, that is, Hereticks and Secta∣ries. 5. Such as desire to receive the Sacrament otherwise then in the right manner, and according to Christs Institution. 6. Such as defend or justifie their wickednes. 7. Such as doe not con∣fesse and acknowledge their sins, and professe sorrow and repen∣tance for them, and a hatred or detestation of them. And thus you see as Erastianisme pleadeth for no favour to Sectaries, or whosoever dissent in doctrine, or whose Tenents concerning Christs Institution, or manner of Administration, are contrary to that which is received in the Church where they live: (for c it is content that all such, were they never so peaceable and godly, be cast out of the Church by excommunication. All the favour and forbearance which it pleadeth for, is to the loose and prophane) So neither doth it altogether exempt the pro∣phane, but such onely as do neither deny nor defend their wic∣kednesse, but confesse their sins, and professe sorrow for them. Let the Erastians of this time observe what their great Master hath yeelded touching the Ecclesiastical Censure of prophane ones. Which though it is not satisfactory to us, for reasons elsewhere given, yet it can be as little satisfactory to them. But whereas Erastus together with those his Concessions (that hee may seem to have said somewhat) falls a quarrelling with Pres∣byteries for presuming to judge of the sincerity of that repen∣tance Page 166 professed by a scandalous sinner, and their not resting sa∣tisfied with a mans owne profession of his repentance. If his followers will now be pleased to reduce the controversie with∣in that narrow circle, Whether a Presbyterie may excommu∣nicate from the Church, or at least suspend from the Sacra∣ment, any Church-member, as an impenitent scandalous sinner, who yet doth not defend nor denie his sin by which he hath gi∣ven scandall, but confesseth it, and professeth sincere and hearty repentance for it: (which is the point that Erasius is faine to hold at in the issue) Then I hope we shall be quickly agreed, and the controversie buried; for we do rest satisfied with the offender his confession of his sinne, and profession of his repen∣tance, unlesse his owne known words or actions give the lye to his profession of repentance; that is, if he be known to ju∣stifie and defend his sin in his ordinary discourse, or to continue in the practice of the sin, which he professeth to the Presbyterie he repents of; if these or such like sure signes of his impeniten∣cy be known, must the Presbyterie notwithstanding rest satisfied with his verbal profession of repentance? All that fear God (I think) would cry shame, shame, upon such an assertion. And moreover, let us take it in the case of an Idolater, Heretick, A∣postate (for Erastus is content that such be excluded from the Sacrament.) Suppose such a one doth confesse his sin, and pro∣fesseth repentance, in the mean while is known to be a writer or spreader of books in defence of that Idolatry or Heresie, or to be a perswader and enticer of others secretly to that way, or if there be any other known infallible signe of his impenitency, must his verbal profession to the Presbyterie in such cases be trusted and taken as satisfactory? I am confident Erastus him∣self would not have said so. Wherefore as in the case of an Heretick, so in the case of a prophane person, or one of a scandalous conversation, there is a necessity that the Presbyterie examine the real signes of repentance, and the offenders verbal profession is not all.
The third cause which helped forward the deadly malady and consumption of Erastianisme; was the grief, shame, confusion and losse which it sustained by the learning and labour of some Divines in the Reformed Churches, who had to very good pur∣pose Page 167 taken pains to discover to the world the curled nature of that unlucky brood, being of the seed of the Amalekites, which ought not to enter into the Congregation of the Lord. The Di∣vines who have more especially and particularly appeared a∣gainst it, are (to my observation) these. Beza de Excommunica∣tione, & Presbyterio contra Erastum: Which was not printed till Erastus his Reply unto it was first printed. Whereunto as Beza in a large Preface layeth the foundation of a duply, so he had prepared and perfected his duply, had he not been hindred by the great troubl•s of Geneva, at that time besieged by the Duke of Savoy; Beza himself being also at that time 71. yeares old; howbeit for all this, he did not lay aside the resolution and thought of that duply, if he should have opportunity, and see it requisite or calld for; all which is manifest from that preface. Next to him, I reckon Zacharias Ursinus a most solid judici∣ous Divine, who did (as I touched before) exhibite to the Prince Elector Palatine Frederick the third, Iudicium de disciplina Eccle∣siastica & Excommunicatione (which you may find in the end of his third Tome) wherein he doth soundly confute the Theses of Erastus, neither hath any reply been made thereto, that e∣ver I could learn of • Also in his Catecheticall explications, Quaest, 85. He plainly disputes against the Erastian principles. The more strange it is that Mr. Hussey in his Epistle to the Par∣liament would make them beleeve that Ursinus is his, and not ours, in this controversie.
After these, there did others, more lately, come upon the Stage against the Erastian Principles, as Casparus Brochmand a Lutheran, in System. Theol. Tom. 2. Artic. De disciplina Eccle∣siastica, where he examineth the most substantiall Arguments of Erastus: Antonius Walaeus de munere ministrorum Ecclesiae & inspectione Magistratus circa illud. Et in loc•… com. de clavi∣vibus & potestate Ecclesiastica. Et Tom, 2. Disp. de disciplina Ecclesiastica. Helmichius de vocatione Pastorum & institutione Consistoriorum. D. Triglandius in differtatione de potestate civili & Ecclesiastica. D. Revius in examine libelli de Episcopatu Con∣stantini magni. D. Apollonij 〈◊〉 Majestatis circa sacra. D. Cabeliavius de libertate Ecclesiae in exercenda disci∣plina spirituali. Dr. Voqtius in his Politica Ecclesiastica,Page 168 especially his Disputations de potestate & Politia Ecclesiarum. Beside Acronius, Thysius, Ludov. a Renesse, who were Cham∣pions against that unhappy error revived in the Low-Countries by W•…enbogard a Proselyte of the Arminians.
But now, while E•…astianisme did thus lye a dying, and like to breath its last, is there no Physitian who will undertake the cure, and endeavour to raise it up from the gates of death to life? Yes, Mr. Coleman was the man, who (to that purpose) first appeared publikely; First by a Sermon to the Parliament; Next, by debating the Controversie with my selfe in writing; and lastly, By engaging in a publike debate in the Reverend As∣sembly of Divines, against this Proposition: Iesus Christ as King and Head of His Church, hath appointed a Governement in the Church, in the hands of Church-Officers, distinct from the Ci∣vil Governement. After he had some dayes argued against this proposition (having full liberty both to argue and reply as much as he pleased) it pleased God to visit him with sicknesse, du∣ring which, the Assembly (upon intimation from himself, that he wished them to lay aside that Proposition for a time, that if God should give him health again, he might proceed in his de∣bate) did goe upon other matter, and lay this aside for that sea∣son. The Lord was pleased to remove him by death, before he could do what he intended in this, and other particulars. One of his intentions was to translate and publish in English the Book of Erastus against Excommunication. But through Gods mercy, before the poison was ready, there was one An∣tidote ready, I mean Mr. Rutherford his answer to Erastus. But though Mr. Coleman was the first man he was not the onely man that hath appeared in this present Controversie in Eng∣land. Others (and those of divers professions) are come up∣on the Stage. I shall leave every man to his Judge, and shall judge nothing before the time. Onely I shall wish every man to consider sadly and seriously, by what Spirit and Prin∣ciples he is led, and whether he be seeking the things of Christ, or his owne things; whether he be pleasing men, or pleasing Christ; whether sin be more shamed, and holinesse more ad∣vanced, this way, or that way; Which way is most agreeable to the Word of God, to the example of the best Reformed Page 169 Churches; and so to the sol•mne League and Cov•nant. The Controversie is now hot: every faithfull servant of Christ, will be carefull to deliver his owne soule by his faithfulnesse, and let the lord do what seemeth him good. The cause is not ours, but Christs; it stands him upon his Honour, his Crowne, his Lawes, his Kingdom. Our eyes are towards the Lord, and* we will wait for a divine decision of the businesse: For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Law-giver, The Lord is our King, he will save us.