Page 5 After the Preface answered, I proceed to your Questions; The first of which is,
Quest. 1. Whether those places of Scripture, Matth. 18. 16, 17. & 1 Cor. 5. 5. 11. & 1 Tim. 1. 20. Joh. 9. 22. 32. & 12. 42. & 16. 2. &•Thess. 3. 14. & 2 Joh. 10. 11. & Joh. 3. 10. & Numb. 12. 14. & Deut. 23. 1. be properly meant of Excommunication, which you take upon you to prove from Fathers, School-men and others, to be an exclusion from all ordinances, or of Suspension from the Lords Supper onely. The first you hold, and we will grant it to you. The latter you deny, and I affirm, that it is here also meant inclusively, but not only. The first place you seem to weaken and enervate, by intimating that our Saviour speaks of private personall trespasse between man and man, and not of publike scandalous sins against the Congregation, and that the censure is private not pub∣like, because it is said, Let him be (not to the whole Church and all others, but) to Thee, as an Heathen man and a Publican; and you quote, Luk. 17. 3, 4. to prove that such private trespasses must be forgiven, if seventy times seven: which no man will deny, if the trespasser repent, as often as he offends. But now sup∣pose be stand out and persist in his sin, and scorn private admonition; yea, when he is convented before the Church, he will not hear nor obey publike admonition, doe you not think that this is publike scandall against the Cong•egation, and de∣serves Excommunication? Surely, if it were not so, our Saviour would not have passed against it that dreadfull censure of Excommunication, saying, Let him be to Thee as an Heathen man and a Publican. And if to the private person for his private wrong, much more to all others in the Congregation, for publike contu∣macy and scandalous obstinacy in his sin against the Church. It is a dangerous doctrine to teach any private person to censure and judge a brother to be in the state of an Ethnike, and as a Publican, for a private trespasse; if for his contuma∣cie against the whole Church, and obstinacie in that sin, the sentence of Excom∣munication be not by the Church publikely given against him. Whereas you make it a branch of your Question. What warrant there is in Scripture for Mini∣sters to suspend men from the Lords Supper only, and not from the Congrega∣tion, and all other publike ordinances with it. I answer this very easily: That because Suspension from the Sacrament is a step, yea the next degree to Excom∣munication (as reason, and the practice of all the best Churches of Christ doe teach us) the Scriptures which warrant Excommunication, do also warrant it as a profitable and necessary means, either to prevent that dreadfull sentence by bringing the sinner to repent and be ashamed, or to make his impenitency more evident and notorious, and to justifie the more the Excommunication of him. But I marvell, that you should thinke it so strange and unwarrantable a thing to suspend a man from a Sacrament, who hath communion in all other ordinances of the Church, seeing it was the practice of all the ancient Church∣es to exclude the Catechumeni from Baptisme, till by catechising and hear∣ing the Word publikely preached they were better instructed. And how dare you dispute against that which is resolved in this present Parliament? To wit, That ignorant, and some scandalous persons shall not be admitted to the Lords table.
Page 6Q•. Your second Question is the same which you propounded last before as a branch of the first: belike you are well pleased and affected with it, and have some thing more to say in urging it. I omit what I have answered before; and here I doe first adde, That Christian compassion, and moderation in dealing with perverse men is commended and commanded in the Scripture, 2 Tim. 2. 24▪ 25, 26. & Jude 22, 23. And this is a maine point of compassion and mode∣ration in Ecclesiasticall rulers, to try all inferiour meanes; whereof suspension from the Lords Table is one; before they proceed to the last and greatest censure of excommunication. Though the Popes and Prelats excommunications, which belike doe still runne in your minde, were brutish thunderbolts thrown out up∣on every small occasion presently, and like the fooles dagger which is out to stab, at every crosse word, and makes but a word and a blow: yet Gods Word teacheth godly wise Pastors and Presbyters more meeknesse and gravity, in proceeding to the utmost censure, that is, first to reprove, admonish and rebuke, and if those more gentle meanes doe not prevaile, then to suspend from the Sacrament; which by experience is often found to humble stubborne offenders, and bring them to repentance, and so prevent cutting off from the Congregation; And all godly Christians doe here see a double warrant of divine Authority. First, from Gods Word: secondly, from his blessing of this proceeding with good successe. This is my first answer. Secondly, to your bold assertion, That in the Old Testament we reade of no circumcised person ever debarred from the passeover by the Priests, that was desirous to eat it. I Answer, that it is as void of truth, as full of bold∣nesse: For Levit. 22. 3. & Numb 9. 5. and divers other places. Every circumci∣sed person who was legally unclean, is forbiden to eate of the passeover, or any holy thing, under pain of being cut off, and might not eat of it till he was clean∣sed and rightly prepared as appeares, 2 Chron. 30. 3 the very chapter by you quo∣ted, according to the expresse words of the law, Numb. 9. 11. And therefore much more ought baptized persons, now under the Gospell, who are manifestly un∣clean with the spirituall defilement of scandalous sin, be suspended from the more holy Sacrament of Christs body and blood, untill he be cleansed by repentance. Thirdly, to the instance of Judas whom our Saviour knew to be a devil and a traytour. I Answer first, that Judas was not admitted to the Sacrament, for Ju∣das went out before the Supper was ended, immediatly upon his receiving of the sop, Joh 13. 30. But our Saviour did not ordaine this Sacrament till after Sup∣per, Luk. 22. 20 When he had supped, 1. Cor. 11. 25. Secondly, if Judas had been admitted, it makes nothing to the matter, for Judas professed faith in Christ, and in his outward conversation appeared so unblameable, that when our Saviour told them, that one of them twelve should betray him, they did not suspect Ju∣das more then themselves, but every one asked, saying, Master, is it I? And in∣deed let a man be an hypocrite, traytor or devil inwardly, the Minister is not to judge of such secret things which belong to God, but to looke to the outward profession, life and conversation, and accordingly deal with them. Fourthly, S. Pauls admonishing of the Corinthians of the great danger of unworthy recei∣ving, namely, that it was eating damnation to themselves, and making them guilty of Christs body and blood; and thereupon enjoyning a strict examination Page 7 of every one before he eat of that bread, and drinke of that cup, doth sufficiently instruct the elders, to put back all such as did outwardly appeare to be scandalous impenitent sinners, and so most unworthy to receive the holy signes and seales of the Lords body and blood. Fifthly, To that question of yours, Whether a Mi∣nister hath not discharged his full duty and conscience, if he doth admonish his flock of the danger of unworthy receiving, and seriously dehort such as he deemes unworthy, from receiving the Sacrament, till they become more fit to partici∣pate, under paine of eating and drinking their own damnation and other judge∣ments? I answer, that this is no full discharge, neither doe those Scriptures which you quote, Ezek, 33. 1, 2, &c. Act. 20. 16. or ours and French Liturgies prove any such thing in this case. For they who suspend scandalous persons, doe also admonish all others to examine themselves, and mention the danger of un∣worthy receiving, that none unprepared may presume. It is a discharge of a Ministers duty, when he admonisheth onely of the danger of a sin, in which when it is committed, the party admonished hath onely an hand: But here the Minister is partaker of the sin, and as much guilty by giving, as the other by re∣ceiving. I pray you tell me, Sir, if you have a cup in your hand which will poyson and kill a sick distemperd man if he drinke of it, will you give it unto him if he desires it? and doe you thinke it enough to admonish him that it is dead∣ly poyson? and first dehort him from drinking of it, and then immediatly reach it to him, with intent, that he shall drinke of it? I perswade my selfe, that as he shall perish, so his blood shall be required at your hands, and that you shall as guilty hold up your hand at the barre for it.
Quest. 3. The third Question intimates that you conceive unworthy hearing of the Word to be as great, as dangerous, as damning a sin, as unworthy receiving of the Sacrament: That Ministers are no more partakers of other mens sins, not more guilty of their sins, and of giving holy things to doggs, and casting pearles before swine, by giving the Sacrament of Christs body and blood to unworthy receivers who are openly scandalous, then by preaching the Word to unprofita∣ble hearers, to whom he is the favour of death unto death. And hereupon you would inferre, that Ministers may as well refuse to preach the Word unto their people, lest it should not profit them, as they may refuse to give the Sacrament to scandalous persons, who eat their own damnation.
To this I answer▪ that there is vast difference between these two, preaching the Word to unprofitable hearers, and giving the Sacrament to persons openly scan∣dalous, impenitent and prophane receivers. First a Minister preacheth the Word to many that are unprofitable hearers, not knowing them to be such, and in hope to convert and profit them, if there be any such in the auditorie, and so also he gives the Sacrament to some unworthy receivers, unwilling∣ly, not knowing them to be such: and in such cases he is blamelesse: but if he gives the holy seales of Christs body and blood to scandalous impe∣nitent persons, he knowes that he gives them damnation to eat and drink, and he is halfe sharer with them in the sinfull act. And therefore though the sin of un∣worthy hear••• of the Word is as dangerous and damning, as unworthy re∣ceiving of the Sacrament, to the hearen and receivers: yet to the Minister in the Page 8 one, to weet, preaching without knowledge of the hurt which some receive by it, there is no fault; but in giving to the scandalous receiver he wittingly acts and partakes of the profanation of the holy ordinance.
Secondly, The Lords holy Table in the holy communion, is for the time a place of Gods more speciall presence then the common Auditory, and there we come neerer to God, and receive with the word and promises particularly applyed to us, the seales of our communion with Christ, and of our right and in∣terest in him and all his benefits. But preaching to a common Auditory, is on∣ly a generall propounding of the word and promises to all, not a particular ap∣plying of it to any, especially that hear unprofitably: for that were giving holy things to doggs: therefore there is more danger and greater sinne in admitting unworthy receivers to the Lords Table. A small errour in such an holy ordi∣nance doth provoke the Lord to wrath, who will be sanctified in them that come neere to him, as appears in Aarons two sonnes, Levit. 10. •, 2, 3. & Ʋzza•, 2 Sam. 6. 7.
Thirdly, Preaching the Word to such as are openly knowne to be scorners of the Gospell, and persecutours of the Preachers, and doe more rage and are harden∣ed thereby, is a prophanation of an holy thing, and a casting of pearles before swine, which our Saviour expressely forbids, Matth. 7. 6. & Matth. 10. 14. Bids his Apostles turne from such, and shake off the dust from their feet, as a testimo∣ny against them; and so Paul and Barnabas did, Act. 13. 51.
Fourthly, In preaching the Word, the Minister of Christ propounds the truth to many wicked men generally, but doth not particularly apply any word of comfort, or promise of blessing to any but profitable hearers, and upon condi∣tion of repentance: But in giving the Sacrament to known impenitent persons, he preacheth most palpable lyes against his own conscience, when he saith. The body of Christ was broken for you, and his blood wasshed for you: And therefore the points urged in this Question are very dangerous, and divers Scriptures herein quoted, are wrested and grossely perverted.
Quest. 4. The fourth Question (upon that received truth, That God only knows the secrets of mens hearts, which Ministers doe not, but mistake hypocrites for worthy receivers, and more honest simple weak men, for unfit Communicants) would inferre, That Ministers ought not to have power to judge or censure. I• which reasoning; First, I finde grosse absurdity: for what can be more ridicu∣lous then to argue, that because Ministers know not secret things which belong to God, therefore they know not revealed and manifest things, as open scandalous sins, and impenitency professed in the face of the Church, and by consequent may not judge and censure them by the Word of God, which doth plainly reveal their wickednesse to them and the whole Consistory.
Secondly, Observe how the Scriptures, which forbid rash judgement concern∣ing mens estate before God, which is secret, or concerning mens last end, and the like, as Matth. 7. 1. Luk 6. 37. Rom. 14. 4. are wrested to overthrow all judg∣ing and censuring in generall, both civil and ecclesiasticall.
Thirdly, How vainly the power of God is abused, to prove that he will in the midst of a profane wicked act change notorious sinners hearts in a moment, which Page 9 if he should doe, how shall these sinners manifest their repentance in a moment to the Church, which they have offended, that they may he admitted orderly, and not rashly without just ground or satisfaction?
Fourthly, The breaking of a bruised reed, and quenching of smoking flax, is most miserably applied to the suspending of proud, refractorie, impenitent sinners from the holy Sacrament; between which two sorts of persons and actions there is as vast a difference as between heaven and hell, light and darknesse. For the bruised reed signifies men of broken heart and contrite spirit, groaning under the burden of their sins, and fleeing to Christ for ease: And smoking flax signifies such as have a weak but true faith, which like a spark in flax sheweth by smoking that there is fire, striving to break forth, and to shew light of holy life. Now how contrary these are to proud, scandalous impenitent sinners, let reasonable men judge; the first are such as the Publicans and sinners, who came to Christ repent∣ing and confessing their sins, and by him were received, cherished and com∣forted; the latter are like those trees which brought forth no good, but bad fruit, unto the root of which the axe was laid, to hew them down, and cast them into the fire. The not breaking nor quenching the first is a point of mercy, and a work of Christ; the tolerating of the other and cherishing and encouraging them in their scandalous sins, by admitting them to the holy Communion of Christs body and blood, is a point of great impiety, and a diabolicall act of profanation. Here therefore the Scriptures are dangerously abused and wrested, where scandalous, impenitent and refractory persons are confounded with humble penitent sinners, breathing after comfort and communion with Christ.
Fifthly, Here is a strange supposition, that all, bearing the name of Christians, even scandalous, impenitent sinners, are invited to the Sacrament, and are bound to come and receive it under pain of sin and contempt. I am sure the French and our Liturgies before cited doe admonish all impenitent persons to abstain, lest they eat and drink their own damnation. And the Scriptures here quoted, 1 Cor. 11. & Heb. 10. 29. do shew that unworthy wicked sinners doe by unworthy recei∣ving count the blood of the Covenant an unholy thing. Therefore to inferre that no Minister in point of conscience can refuse to give the Sacrament to such, is to conclude, quidlibet ex quolibet. But whereas it is added, that Ministers may not refuse any Christian, not actually excommunicated, the Sacrament, if he desires to receive it, in case he professe sincere repentance for sins past, and promise new∣nesse of life for the time to come: this we embrace with all our hearts, and if he obtrude on us no other but only such, we will not be so uncharitable as to judge them unworthy, neither need we fear to partake of their sin, or suspect their unworthy receiving. For our rule is to proceed with men according to that which manifestly appears, whether it be in truth or in hypocrise; if any so professing doth eat unworthily, he eats damnation to himself, not to the Ministers, who therein doe nothing against their consciences, but proceed according to the judgement of charity, and he shall bear his own burthen. The Ministers act of administration to them who professe sincere repentance, is an holy and divine in∣stitution; but to open scandalous impenitent persons, it is a manifest profanation, and they are partakers in the guilt and punishment.
Page 10 The Conclusion being the result of the former arguments, which are plainly shewed to be weak and of no strength, doth of it self fall to the ground and va∣nish. For I have shewed, that unworthy hearing and unworthy receiving are e∣qually sins in the hearers and receivers; but in the Preachers of the Word and the givers of the Sacraments it is farre otherwise: the Preacher doth onely propound the Word generally, and not falsely apply the promises of blessing and life to any particular scandalous persons, but upon condition of their beleeving repentance and obedience. If he knows any in the auditory, who are scorners of the Word, and haters and persecutours of him and his doctrine, he denounceth a curse from God against them, and desires them to keep away, and holds himself guilty of sin, if he should cast the pearl of the Gospel before such swine, when they are alone and separated from other hearers: he will not wittingly be to any the savour of death unto death. But the Minister who gives the Sacrament to open scandalous sinners in their impenitency, doth wittingly profane Gods holy ordinance, and ly∣eth against his conscience in saying that Christs body was broken, and his blood shed for them, and makes himself guilty of their blood, while he gives them wit∣tingly to eat and drink their own damnation, as is before shewed. Whatsoever power takes from Christs Ministers the lawfull and necessary liberty to exclude from the Lords table scandalous sinners openly impenitent, that is such a trans∣cendent arbitrary, unlimited power, as lordly Prelates sometimes exercised, and no lesse then tyrannie and oppression of the consciences both of Ministers and their godly people. And therefore here the Divines of the Assembly are charged most unjustly and calumniously, who have humbly desired, by way of Petition to both the honourable Houses of Parliament, that their consciences may not have this yoke of oppression laid on them, which will force them either to profane the Sacrament of Christs body and blood, by giving it to unworthy persons, or to decline their Ministery and administration of that holy ordi∣nance, chusing affliction rather then iniquity.