A brotherly and friendly censure of the errour of a dear friend and brother in Christian affection, in an answer to his four questions lately sent abroad in print to the view of the world. Published according to order.
Walker, George, 1581?-1651.

The Preface.

The businesse of Excommunication and Sequestration from the Sacrament, &c.

The Answer to the Preface before the questions.

1. The businesse appeares plainely to be of no difficulty, unlesse men will be difficult, and through their owne averseness▪ hardly perswaded to grant and e∣stablish that which Gods Word expressely holdeth forth and commendeth, and which we hope, and humbly pray, that the Honourable Houses of Parliament will be willing to doe without difficulty. You your selfe doe quote divers texts of Scripture which establish Excommunication, and you presuppose it, in this your paper severall times, where you say none is to be suspended from the Sacra∣ment but such as are excommunicated, and in your Excommunication (for which you cite Tertullian, Schoolemen, and Canonists,) you are more rigo∣rous then any Presbyterians, whom you closely intimate to be indiscreet, passio∣nate, oversevere and revengefull: which is a point of unchristian jealousy, and un∣charitable surmise. For they dare not by excommunication exclude obstinate offenders from all ordinances, but suffer them to heare the Word, though not in communion as members of the Church, but as infidels may doe; or else what hope can we have of an illiterate person excommunicated, that he will ever re∣pent and be restored? As for suspension from the Sacrament, it is a thing more easy, in it selfe, and may be done orderly with lesse labour then excommunicati∣on, and with great ease and facility, and more frequently, and with good suc∣cesse is practised in all the best reformed Churches, which also our late aboli∣shed liturgy did allow largely to all Pastors and Church-wardens: and it had Page  3 been more easy to them that were godly, and also more usuall in our Congrega∣tions, if the proud Prelates, fathers of prophanenesse, had not taken that power wholly to themselves: Which intolerable usurpation of theirs, we hope is with themselves quite taken away: but not the power from the Church, nor the law∣full exercise of it according to the rules of Christ.

Secondly, Whereas you make no medium between prophanation and scan∣dall on the one side, and Arbitrary, tyrannicall, papall domineering over the Consciences and spirituall Priviledges of Christians on the other, herein passi∣on and partiality seem to blinde you: For there is a plain open way between the two extremes, that is, the lawfull power which Christ hath given to Ecclesiasti∣call rulers, Pastors and Elders in his Church, which all godly Ministers, and all or∣thodox members of the Assembly stand, plead, and petition for, that it may be backed and confirmed to them by civill sanction, even power to prove and try who are fit, and who are unworthy to come to the Lords Table, and by admit∣ting the one, and puting back the other, after strict triall, and due proofe and examination, prophanation and scandall may easily be prevented, and Arbi∣trary, tyranicall, papall domineering over the consciences of Pastors, and godly Christian people shall have no place in Gods Church; Scandalous proud impe∣nitent sinners shall not come desperately to out-face Christ and his Ministers at his own table, nor have an action against Ministers, who out of tender conscience, and fear of God, refuse to reach to them judgement and damnation, and so to par∣take with them in the guilt of Christs body and blood; The Congregation of the godly shall not be scandalized, nor tyrannically forced either to countenance and harden the impenitent in their open wickednes▪ by communicating with them, or to separate from our Congregations, and abhor the ordinance of the Lord, as men did in old Eli's daies, when his wicked sons made them to abhor the offering of the Lord, 1 Sam. 2. 17. But on the contrary, let scandalous, obstinate sinners have liberty to intrude and come boldly to the Lords table, and the Pastors and Elders have no power to keep back from them the holy signes and scals, which belong not to them, this is more then arbitrary, tyrannicall, papall domineering over the consciences of Pastors, Elders, and godly people.

3. But here me thinks you speak very untowardly, to the great offence of all godly people, against all Christs Ministers and ecclesiasticall rulers; for in these words (If it fall into indiscreet, over-severe, ambitious, passionate, or revenge∣full hands) you either suppose that generally the hands of Ministers and Elders of Christs Church are such, and therefore they ought not to be trusted with power of Suspension and Excommunication; which if you do, your heart is not fee from malignity against their holy calling, and the Lord Christ, who hath trusted them, will finde you out. Or else your meaning is, that, as in the daies of the Papacy and Prelacy, so now it may again under Presbyteriall Church-government happen, that some of the rulers Ecclesiasticall may act with such hands. What then? Do you infer thence that all of that high calling are to be abridged of that power? A desperate inference, striking at the prerogative and power of Parliaments, and all civil Judges, and Courts of Justice. For upon the same grounds, viz. because under the Papacy, Parliaments made Laws for suppressing true religion, and establish∣ing Page  4 Idolatry and superstition, you may go about to abridge them. And under the late domineering Prelacy and tyranny, Judges wrested laws to take away the Sub∣jects birth-right and liberty, and to maintain oppression, and they made (you know whose) will and lust, law. And Lawyers soothed them, and you know when, not one (in all the bunch) could be found, nor hired to plead in the just cause of an innocent. And even then many Presbyters and Ecclesiasticall persons stood out couragiously, and feared no persecutions, bonds or losses, in the cause both of reli∣gion and justice. Why then will you not take away all power also of judging from Judges, and of pleading and expounding the Law from Lawyers, and leave all ci∣vil government in the hands of the common people? Take heed, Sir, you be not partiall and unequall to one side more then another. Aretius hath given you a very good caveat, not to strive so earnestly against this point of Christian discipline, in those words of his by you cited (impossibile praesentibus moribus colla submitte∣re ejusmodi disciplinae) which words tell us, That the corrupt manners and pro∣fane lives of men desperately bent, in these evil times, to continue in their lewd and scandalous courses, make it impossible to bring them to submit their stiff necks to this discipline of Excommunication, and Suspension from the holy Communion, which is Christs light yoke to tractable Christians. If you proceed to take part with such refractory opposers (which, I hope, your religious heart will not permit you to do) and spend your strength in so unworthy a cause, in hope by justifying these Questions, to prevail against the votes of your best friends, and most faithfull lo∣ver which you have in this world, who truly honour you, and wish all good to you: I trust in God, you shall fail of your hopes, as Aretius did in his judgement, where speaking of this discipline set up by some in the Churches of Germany, he seems to deride it in those words by you rehearsed, Cecidit in spongiam ridicu∣lus mus; For now this despised mouse is become an high mountain in all the best reformed Churches of Germany.

4. As for your addresse to the Assembly, whom you charge unjustly with fal∣ling into extreams, and indeed calumniate them, as if they seemed to affect a great lording power over the consciences and priviledges of their Christian bre∣thren, which of right belongs not unto them, usurping that to themselves, which they vehemently declaimed against, and caused to be taken quite away from the Pope and Prelates.

To this I answer, that you utterly mistake the matter. For they abhorre all af∣fectation and usurpation of lording power over the consciences of any Christians, but have condemned it in the Pope and Prelates; and their humble Petition to the Houses of Parliament is; That none may usurp lordly power, as the proud Prelates did, over them, and the people of their flock, compelling them either against their consciences, and with great offence and scandall to the godly, to ad∣mit scandalous sinners to the Lords table, and to profane the Sacrament of Christs body and blood, by giving the seals thereof to them, or else to decline the administration of that holy ordinance, and their Ministerie, chusing affliction ra∣ther then iniquity. In plain truth, this is the lordly tyrannicall power o∣ver their consciences, and the iron yoke which you in your Question seek to lay on them.