English Popish Ceremonies: To all in the Reformed Churches (Gillespie’s Introduction)

George Gillespie (1613-1648)George Gillespie

English Popish Ceremonies: To all in the Reformed Churches

Copyright © 1997 Naphtali Press

To All And Every One In The Reformed Churches Of Scotland, England, And Ireland, Who Love The Lord Jesus, And Mean To Adhere Unto The Reformation Of Religion, Grace, Mercy, And Peace, From God Our Father, And From The Lord Jesus Christ.

As Satan’s malice and man’s wickedness cease not to molest the thrice happy estate of the Church of Christ, so has the eternal council of the only wise God predetermined the coming of offenses, persecutions, heresies, schisms and divisions, that professors may be proved before they be as approved and made manifest (1 Cor. 11:19). And hence it must needs be that offenses come (Matt. 18:7); neither has the church ever enjoyed both purity and peace any long time together. But whiles the Church of God, thus disquieted, as well with dangerous alterations, as with doleful altercations, is presented in the theater of this world, and cries out to beholders, Have ye no regard, all ye that pass by (Lam. 1:12)? A pity it is to see the crooked and sinister courses of the greatest part, every man moving his period [goal] within the enormous confines of his own exorbitant desires:

– The atheistical nullifidian,1 nothing regards the assoiling [absolving] of ecclesiastical controversies; he is of Gallio’s humor (Acts 18:17), and cares for none of those things.

– The sensual Epicurean and riotous ruffian (go church matters as they will) eats and drinks, and takes his pleasure.

– The cynical critic spews out bitter aspersions, gibs2 and justles at everything that can be said or done in the cause of religion.

– The scenical jester plays fast and loose, and can utter anything in sport, but nothing in earnest.

– The avaricious worlding has no tune but Give, give, and no anthem pleases him but Have, have.

– The aspiring Diotrephes puffs down every course which cannot puff up [3 John 9, 10.].

– The lofty favorite takes the pattern of his religion from the court ichnography,3 and, if the court swims, he cares not though the church sink.

– The subdolous [cunning] Machiavillian accounts the show of religion profitable, but the substance of it troublesome; he studies not the oracles of God, but the principles of Satanical guile, which he learns so well, that he may go to the Devil to be bishopped.

– The turn-coat temporiser wags with every wind, and (like Diogenes turning about the mouth of his voluble [rotating] hogshead, after the course of the sun) wheresoever the bright beams of coruscant [flashing] authority do shine and cherish, thither he follows and sits.

– The gnathonic [fawning] parasite swears to all that his benefactor holds.

– The mercenary pensioner will bow before he breaks; he who only studies to have the praise of some witty invention cannot strike upon another anvil.

– The silly idiot (with Absolom’s two hundred, 2 Sam. 15:11) goes in the simplicity of his heart after his perverse leaders.

– The lapped [disguised] Nicodemite holds it enough to yield some secret assent to the truth [John 3], though neither his profession nor his practice testify so much; he whose mind is possessed with prejudicate opinions against the truth, when convincing light is held forth to him, looks asquint,4 and therefore goes awry.

– The pragmatical adiaphorist [latitudinarian, indifferentist], with his span-broad faith and ell-broad5 conscience, does no small harm; the poor pandect [legal code] of his plagiarized profession in matters of faith reckons little for all, and in matters of practice all for little.

Shortly, if an expurgatory index were compiled of those, and all other sorts of men who, either through their careless and neutral on-looking, make no help to the troubled and disquieted Church of Christ, or through their nocent [harmful] accession and overthwart intermeddling, work out her greater harm, Alas! how few feeling members were there to be found behind who truly lay to heart her estate and condition?

Nevertheless, in the worst times, either of raging persecution or prevailing defection, as God Almighty has ever hitherto, so both now, and to the end, he will reserve to himself a remnant according to the election of grace, who cleave to his blessed truth and to the purity of his holy worship, and are grieved for the affliction of Joseph, as being themselves also in the body, in confidence whereof I take boldness to stir you up at this time, by putting you in remembrance.

If you would be rightly informed of the present estate of the reformed churches, you must not acquiesce in the pargetting
[white-washed] verdict of those who are wealthy and well at ease, and mounted aloft upon the uncogged wheels of prosperous fortune (as they call it). Those whom the love of the world has not enhanced to the serving of the time can give you the soundest judgment. It is noted of Dionysius Hallicarnasseus (who was never advanced to magistracy in the Roman republic) that he has written far more truly of the Romans than Fabius, Salustius, or Cato, who flourished among them with riches and honors.6

After that it pleased God, by the light of his glorious gospel, to dispel the more than Cimmerian7 darkness of antichristianism, and by the antidote of reformation, to avoid the poison of Popery; forasmuch as in England and Ireland, every noisome weed which God’s hand had never planted was not pulled up, therefore we now see the faces of those churches overgrown with the repullulating [budding] twigs and sprigs of popish superstition. Mr. Sprint acknowledges the Reformation of England to have been defective, and says, It is easy to imagine of what difficulty it was to reform all things at the first, where the most part of the privy council, of the nobility, bishops, judges, gentry, and people, were open or close Papists, where few or none of any countenance stood for religion at the first, but the Protector and Cranmer.8 The Church of Scotland was blessed with a more glorious and perfect reformation than any of our neighbor churches. The doctrine, discipline, regiment [government], and policy established here by ecclesiastical and civil laws, and sworn and subscribed unto by the king’s majesty and several presbyteries and parish churches of the land, as it had the applause of foreign divines, so was it in all points agreeable unto the Word; neither could the most rigid Aristarchus [severe critic] of these times challenge any irregularity of the same. But now, alas! even this church, which was once so great a praise in the earth, is deeply corrupted, and has turned aside quickly out of the way (Ex. 32:8). So that this is the Lord’s controversy against Scotland: I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: How then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me (Jer. 2:21)?

It is not this day feared, but felt, that the rotten dregs of Popery, which were never purged away from England and Ireland, and having once been spewed out with detestation, are licked up again in Scotland, prove to be the unhappy occasions of a woeful recidivation [backsliding]. Neither is there need of Lyncean [keen] eyes; for if we be not poreblind [intentionally blind], it cannot be hid from us. What doleful and disastrous mutation (to be bewailed with tears of blood) has happened to the church and spouse of Christ in these dominions? Her comely countenance is miscolored with the fading luster of the mother of harlots; her shamefaced [modest] forehead has received the mark of the beast; her lovely locks are frizzled with the crisping pins of antichristian fashions; her chaste ears are made to listen to the friends of the great whore, who bring the bewitching doctrine of enchanting traditions; her dove-eyes look pleasantly upon the well-attired harlot; her sweet voice is murmuring and muttering some missal and magical liturgies; her fair neck bears the halter-like tokens of her former captivity, even a burdensome chain of superfluous and superstitious ceremonies; her undefiled garments are stained with the meritricious [meritorious] bravery of Babylonish ornaments, and with the symbolizing badges of conformity with Rome; her harmless hands reach brick and mortar to the building of Babel; her beautiful feet with shoes are all besmeared, whilst they return apace in the way of Egypt, and wade the ingruent [assailing] brooks of Popery. Oh! transformed virgin, whither is thy beauty gone from thee? Oh! forlorn prince’s daughter, how art thou not ashamed to look thy Lord in the face? Oh! thou best beloved among women, what hast thou to do with the inveigling appurtenances and habilement [seducing accessories and vestments] of Babylon the whore?

But among such things as have been the accursed means of the church’s desolation, which peradventure might seem to some of you to have least harm or evil in them, are the ceremonies of kneeling in the act of receiving the Lord’s supper, cross in baptism, bishopping, holidays, etc., which are pressed under the name of things indifferent; yet if you survey the sundry inconveniences and grievous consequences of the same, you will think far otherwise. The vain shows and shadows of these ceremonies have hid and obscured the substance of religion; the true life of godliness is smothered down and suppressed by the burden of these human inventions; for their sakes, many, who are both faithful servants to Christ and loyal subjects to the king, are evil-spoken of, mocked, reproached, menanced, molested; for their sakes Christian brethren are offended, and the weak are greatly scandalized; for their sakes the most powerful and painful ministers in the land are either thrust out, or threatened to be thrust out from their callings; for their sakes the best qualified and most hopeful expectants are debarred from entering into the ministry; for their sakes the seminaries of learning are so corrupted that few or no good plants can come forth from thence; for their sakes many are admitted into the sacred ministry, who are either popish and Arminianized, who minister to the flock poison instead of food; or silly ignorants, who can dispense no wholesome food to the hungry; or else vicious in their lives, who draw many with them into the dangerous precipice of soul-perdition; or, lastly, so earthly-minded, that they favor only the things of this earth, not the things of the Spirit of God; who feed themselves, but not the flock, and to whom the Great Shepherd of the sheep will say, The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost (Ezek. 34:4).

Simple ones, who have some taste and relish of popish superstition (for many such there be in the land), do suck from the intoxicated drugs of conformity, the softer milk which makes them grow in error. And who can be ignorant what a large-spread Popery, Arminianism, and reconciliation with Rome, have taken among the arch-urgers of the ceremonies? What marvel that Papists clap their hands? for they see the day coming which they wish for. Woe to thee, O land, which bears professed Papists and avouched Atheists, but cannot bear them who desire to abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22); for truth and equity are fallen in thee, and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey (Isa. 59:14, 15).

These are the best wares which the big hulk of conformity, favored with the prosperous gale of mighty authority, has imported amongst us; and whilst our opposites so quiverly [actively, quickly] go about to spread the bad wares of these encumbering inconveniences, is it time for us luskishly [slothfully] to sit still and to be silent? Woe unto us! for the day goeth away, for the shadows of the evening are stretched out (Jer. 6:4).

Moreover, besides the prevailing inconveniency of the controverted ceremonies, the unlawfulness of them is also plainly evinced [shown] in this ensuing dispute by such convincing arguments, as being duly pondered in the equal balance of an attentive mind, shall, by God’s grace, afford satisfaction to so many as purpose to buy the truth, and not to sell it. Wherefore, referring to the Dispute the points themselves which are questioned, I am in this place to beseech you all by the mercies of God, that, remembering the words of the Lord, Them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shalt be lightly esteemed (1 Sam. 2:30); remembering also, the curse and condemnation of Meroz, which came not to help the Lord against the mighty (Judg. 5:23); of the nobles of Tekoa, who put not their necks to the work of the Lord (Neh. 3:5); and shortly, of all such as have no courage for the truth (Jer. 9:3), but seek their own things, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s (Phil. 2:21); and, finally, taking to heart how the Lord Jesus, when he comes in the glory of his Father with his holy angels (Mark 8:38), will be ashamed of everyone who has been ashamed of him and his words in the midst of a sinful and crooked generation; you would, with a holy zeal and invincible courage, against all contrary error, superstition, and abuse whatsoever, set yourselves both to speak and do, and likewise (having a calling) to suffer for the truth of Christ and for the purity of his worship, being in nothing terrified by your adversary (Phil. 1:28;1 Pet. 3:14); which, that you may the better perform, I commend to your thoughts these wholesome admonitions which follow:

I. When you see so much diversity both of opinion and practice in things pertaining to religion, the rather you ought to give all diligence for trying the things which are different (Phil. 1:10). If you judge us before you hear us, then do you contrary to the very law of nature and nations (John 7:51; Acts 5:16). Neither will it help you at your reckoning to say, `We believed our spiritual guides, our prelates and preachers, whom God had set over us.’ Nay, what if your guides be blind? Then they not only fall in the ditch themselves, but you with them (Matt. 15:14). Our Master would not have the Jews to rest upon the testimony of John Baptist himself, but would have them to search the Scriptures (John 5:33, 34, 39); by which touch-stone the Bereans tried the Apostle’s own doctrine, and are commended for so doing (Acts 17:11). But as we wish you not to condemn our cause without examining the same by the Word, so neither do we desire you blindly to follow us in adhering unto it; for what if your seeing guides be taken from you? How, then, shall you see to keep out of the ditch? We would neither have you to fight for us nor against us, like the blind sword-players, Andabatae, a people who were said to fight with their eyes closed. Consider, therefore, what we say, and the Lord give you understanding in all things (2 Tim. 2:7).

II. Since the God of heaven is the greatest king, who is to rule and reign over you by his Word, which he has published to the world, and, tunc vere, etc., then is God truly said to reign in us when no worldly thing is harbored and haunted in our souls, says Theophylact;9 since also the wisdom of the flesh is enmity against God (Rom. 8:7), who has made foolish the wisdom of the world (1 Cor. 1:20). Therefore, never shall you rightly deprehend [apprehend] the truth of God, nor submit yourselves to be guided by the same, unless, laying aside all the high-soaring fancies and presumptuous conceits of natural and worldy wisdom, you come in an unfeigned humility and babe-like simplicity to be edified by the word of righteousness. And far less shall you ever take up the cross and follow Christ (as you are required), except, first of all, you labor and learn to deny yourselves (Matt. 16:24), that is, to make no reckoning what comes of yourselves, and of all that you have in the world, so that God have glory and yourselves a good conscience, in your doings or sufferings.

III. If you would not be drawn away after the error of the wicked, neither fall from your own steadfastness, the Apostle Peter teaches you that you must grow both in grace and knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18); for, if either your minds be darkened through want of knowledge or your affections frozen through want of the love of God, then you are naked and not guarded against the temptations of the time. Wherefore, as the pervertors of the truth and simplicity of religion do daily multiply errors, so must you (shunning those shelves and quicksands of deceiving errors which witty makebates [breeders of strife] design for you), labor daily for increase of knowledge; and as they to their errors in opinion do add the overplus of a licentious practice and lewd conversation, so must you (having so much the more ado to flee from their impiety), labor still for a greater measure of the lively work of sanctifying grace; in which respects Augustine says well that the adversaries of the truth do this good to the true members of the church, that the fall of those makes these to take better hold upon God.10

IV. Be not deceived to think that they who so eagerly press this course of conformity have any such end as God’s glory or the good of his church and profit of religion. When a violent urger of the ceremonies pretends religious respects for his proceedings, it may be well answered in Hillary’s words: Subrepis nomine blandienti, occidis specie religionisThou privily creepest in with an enticing title, thou killest with the pretense of religion.11

For 1., it is most evidently true of these ceremonies, which our divines say of the gestures and rites used in the mass, They are all frivolous and hypocritical, stealing away true devotion from the heart, and making men to rest in the outward gestures of the body.12 There is more sound religion among them who refuse, than among them who receive the same, even our enemies themselves being judges; the reason whereof let me give in the words of one of our opposites: Supervacua haec occupatio circa traditiones humanas, gignit semper ignorantiam et contemptum proeceptorum divinorum – This needless business about human traditions does ever beget the ignorance and contempt of divine commandments.13

2. Where read we that the servants of God have at any time sought to advance religion by such hideous courses of stern violence, as are intended and assayed against us by those who press the ceremonies upon us? The jerking and nibbling of their informal huggermugger [secrecy] comes nearer to sycophancy [self-seeking] than to sincerity, and is sibber [more kin] to appeaching [impeding] hostility than fraternal charity; for just so they deal with us as the Arians did with the catholics of old. Sinceros, etc. The sincere teachers of the churches they delated [handed over, or reported] and accused before magistrates, as if they alone did continually perturb the church’s peace and tranquility, and did only labor that the divided churches might never again piously grow together; and by this calumny they persuaded politic and civil men (who did not well enough understand this business) that the godly teachers of the churches should be cast forth into exile and the Arian wolves should be sent into the sheepfolds of Christ.14

Now, forasmuch as God has said They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain (Isa. 11:9), and will not have his flock to be ruled with force and with cruelty (Ezek. 34:4); Nec potest (says Lactantius) aut veritas cum vi, aut justitia cum crudelitate conjungi – Neither can either truth be conjoined with violence, or righteousness with cruelty.15 Therefore, if our opposites would make it evident that they are in very deed led by religious aims, let them resile [draw back] from their violent proceedings and deal with us in the spirit of meekness, showing us from God’s word and good reason the equity of their cause and iniquity of ours; wherein we require no other thing of them than that which Lactantius required of the adversaries of his profession, even that they would debate the matter verbis pontius quam verbveribus – by words rather than by whips; Distringant aciem ingeniorem suorum: siratio eorum vera est, asseratur: parati sumus audire, si doceant – Let them draw out the sharpness of their engines; if their reason be true, let it be averred; we are ready to hear, if they teach us.

3. If their aims were truly for the advancement of religion, how comes it to pass, that whilst they make so much ado, and move every stone against us for our modest refusing of obedience to certain ordinances of men, which in our consciences we are persuaded to be unlawful, they manumiss [manumit, emancipate] and set free the simony, lying, swearing, profanation of the Sabbath, drunkenness, whoredom, with other gross and scandalous vices of some of their own side, by which God’s own commandments are most fearfully violated? This just recrimination we may well use for our own most lawful defense. Neither do we hereby intend any man’s shame (God knows), but his reformation rather. We wish from our hearts we had no reason to challenge our opposites of that superstition taxed in the Pharisees, Quod argubant, etc. – that they accused the disciples of little things, and themselves were guilty in great things, says Nicolaus Goranus.16

V. Do not account ceremonies to be matters of so small importance that we need not stand much upon them; for, as Hooker observes, a ceremony, through custom, works very much with people.17 Dr. Burges alleges, for his writing about ceremonies, that the matter is important for the consequences of it.18 Camero thinks so much of ceremonies that he holds our simplicity to notify that we have the true religion, and that the religion of Papists is superstitious, because of their ceremonies.19 To say the truth, a church is in so far true or hypocritical as it mixes or mixes not human inventions with God’s holy worship; and hence the Magdeburgians profess that they write of the ceremonies for making a difference between a true and a hypocritical church. Vere enim ecclesia etc.For a true church, as it retains pure doctrine, so also it keeps simplicity of ceremonies, etc.; but a hypocritical church, as it departs from pure doctrine, so for the most part it changes and augments the ceremonies instituted of God, and multiplies its own traditions, etc.20

And as touching our controverted ceremonies in particular, if you consider what we have written against them, you shall easily perceive that they are matters of no small but very great consequence. Howbeit these be but the beginnings of evils, and there is a worse gallimaufry [confused jumble] gobbet-wise prepared [prepared in pieces]. It has been observed of the warring Turks, that often they used this notable deceit – to send a lying rumor and a vain tumult of war to one place, but, in the meanwhile, to address their true forces to another place, that so they might surprise those who have been unwarily led by pernicious credulity.21 So have we manifest (alas! too, too manifest) reasons to make us conceive, that whilst the chief urgers of the course of conformity are skirmishing with us about the trifling ceremonies (as some men count them), they are but laboring to hold our thoughts so bent and intent upon those smaller quarrels, that we may forget to distinguish between evils immanent and evils imminent, and that we be not too much awake to espy their secret slight in compassing further aims.

VI. Neither let the pretense of peace and unity cool your fervor, or make you spare to oppose yourselves unto those idle and idolized ceremonies against which we dispute; for whilst our opposites make a vain show and pretense of peace, they do like the Romans, who built the Temple of Concord just in the place where the seditious outrages of the two Gracchi, Tiberius and Caius, had been acted;22 which temple, in the subsequent times, did not restrain, but, by the contrary, gave further scope unto more bloody seditions, so that they should have built discord a temple in that place rather than concord, as Augustine pleasantly tickleth them.23

Do our opposites think that the bane of peace is never in yielding to the course of the time, but ever in refusing to yield? Or will they not rather acknowledge that, as a man is said to be made drunk by drinking the water of Lyncestus, a river of Macedonia,24 no less than if he had filled himself with the strongest wine, so one may be inebriate with a contentious humor in standing stiffly for yielding, as well as standing steadfastly for refusing? Peace is violated by the oppugners of the truth, but established by the possessors of the same; for (as was rightly said by Georgius Scolarius in the Council of Florence) the church’s peace can neither stay among men, the truth being unknown; neither can it but needs return, the truth being known. Nec veritate ignorata manere inter homines potest, nec illa agnita nesessario non redire.25 We must therefore be mortised [joined] together, not by the subscudines of error, but by the bands of truth and unity of faith. And we go the true way to regain peace whilst we sue for the removal of those popish ceremonies which have both occasioned and nourished the discord; we only refuse that peace (falsely so called) which will not permit us to brook [enjoy] purity, and that because (as Joseph Hall notes)26 Saint James (3:17) describes the wisdom which is from above to be first pure, then peaceable; whence it comes that there can be no concord between Christ and Antichrist, nor any communion between the temple of God and idols (2 Cor. 6:15, 16). Atque ut coelum etc.: and though heaven and earth should happen to be mingled together, yet the sincere worship of God and his sacred truth, wherein eternal salvation is laid up for us, should worthily be unto us of more estimation than a hundred worlds, says Calvin.27

John Fox judged it better to contend against those who prefer their own traditions to the commandments of God, than to be at peace with them. True it is, Pax optima rerum, quas homini novisse datum est [Peace is the very best of the conditions which it has been granted to a man to know].28 Yet I trust we may use the words of that great adiaphorist, Georgius Cassander: – Ea demum vera, etc.: That alone (says he) is true and solid Christian peace which is conjoined with the glory of God and the obedience of his will, and is sejoined from all depravation of the heavenly doctrine and divine worship.29

VII. Beware, also, you be not deceived with the pretense of the church’s consent, and of uniformity as well with the ancient church as with the now reformed churches, in the forms and customs of both.

For 1., our opposites cannot show that the sign of the cross was received and used in the church before Tertullian, except they allege either the Montanists or the Valentian heretics for it. Neither yet can they show, that apparel proper for divine service, and distinguished from the common, is more ancient than the days of Pope Coelestinus; nor, lastly, that kneeling in the act of receiving the communion was ever used before the time of Pope Honorious III. They cannot prove any one of the controverted ceremonies to have been in the church the first two hundred years after Christ, except the feast of Easter (which yet can neither be proved to have been observed in the apostles’ own age, nor yet to have been established in the after age by any law, but only to have crept in by a certain private custom), and for some of them they cannot find any clear testimony for a long time thereafter.

Now, in the third century, historiographers observe, that Paulatim ceremonioe auctoe sunt, hominum superstitiosorum opinionibus: unde in baptismo unctionem olei, crucis signaculum, et osculum addideruntceremonies were by little and little augmented by the opinions of superstitious men; whence it was that they added the unction of oil, the sign of the cross, anda kiss in baptism.30 And in the fourth century they say Subinde magis magisque, traditiones humanae cumulatae suntForthwith human traditions were more and more augmented.31 And so from that time forward vain and idle ceremonies were still added to the worship of God, till the same was, under Popery, wholly corrupted with superstitious rites; yea, and Mr. Sprint has told us, even of the first two hundred years after Christ, that the devil, in those days, began to sow his tares (as the watchmen began to sleep), both of false doctrine and corrupt ceremonies.32

And now, though some of the controverted ceremonies have been kept and reserved in many (not all) the reformed churches, yet they are not therefore to be the better liked. For the reason of the reservation was because some reverend divines who dealt and labored in the reformation of those churches, perceiving the occurring lets [hindrances, obstacles] and oppositions which were caused by most dangerous schisms and seditions, and by the raging of bloody wars, scarcely expected to effectuate so much as the purging of the church from fundamental errors and gross idolatry, which wrought them to be content, that lesser abuses in discipline and church policy would be then tolerated, because they saw not how to overtake them all at that time. In the meanwhile, they were so far from desiring any of the churches to retain these popish ceremonies, which might have convenient occasion of ejecting them (far less to recall them, being once ejected), that they testified plainly their dislike of the same, and wished that those churches wherein they lived might have some blessed opportunity to be rid of all such rotten relics, riven [torn] rags, and rotten remainders of Popery. All which, since they were once purged away from the Church of Scotland and cast forth as things accursed into the lakes of eternal detestation, how vile and abominable may we now call the resuming of them? Or what a piacular prevarication [sinful deviation] is it to borrow from any other church, which was less reformed, a pattern of policy for this church which was more reformed.

But 2., though there could be more alleged for the ceremonies than truly there can be, either from the customs of the ancient or reformed churches, yet do our opposites themselves profess that they will not justify all the ceremonies either of the ancient or reformed churches.33 And, indeed, who dare take this for a sure rule, that we ought to follow every ancient and universally received custom? For as Casaubon showed, though the church’s consent ought not to be condemned, yet we are not always to hold it for a law or a right rule.34 And do not our divines teach, that nihil faciendum est ad aliorum exemplum, sed juxta verbum – Nothing is to be done according to the example of others, but according to the Word? 35 Ut autem, etc.: As the multitude of them who err (said Osiander), so long prescription of time purchases no patronage to error.36

VIII. Moreover, because the foredeck and hinddeck of all our opposites’ probations do resolve and rest finally into the authority of a law, and authority they use as a sharp knife to cut every Gordian knot which they cannot unloose, and as a dreadful peal to sound so loud in all ears that reason cannot be heard; therefore we certiorate [certify] you with Calvin that si acquivistis imperio, pessinio laqueo vos induistisIf you have acquiesced in authority, you have wrapped yourselves in a very evil snare.37 As touching any ordinance of the church, we say with Whittaker Obediendum ecclesioe est, sed jubenti ac docenti recta – We are to obey the church but commanding and teaching right things.38 Surely, if we have not proved the controverted ceremonies to be such things as are not right to be done, we shall straight obey all the ceremonial laws made thereabout; and as for the civil magistrate’s part, is it not held that he may not enjoin us to do that whereof we have not good ground to do it of faith? And that, although all thy external condition is in the powerof the magistrate, yet internal things, as the keeping of faith, and obedience, and a good conscience, are not in his power.39
For every one of us shall give account of himself to God (Rom. 14:12), but until you hear more in the dispute of the power which either the church or the magistrate has to enact laws about things belonging to the worship of God, and of the binding power of the same, let me add here touching human laws in general, that where we have no other reason to warrant unto us the doing of that which a human law prescribes, beside the bare will and authority of the law-maker, in this case a human law cannot bind us to obedience.

Aquinas holds with Isadore, that a human law (among other conditions of it) must both be necessary for removing of some evil, and likewise profitable for guiding us to some good.40 Gregorius Sayrus following them herein, says Debet lex homines a malo retrahere, et ideo dicitur necessaria: debet etiam promovere in bonum, et ideo dictur utilis. – A law ought to draw back men from evil, and therefore is called necessary: it ought also to promove them unto good, and therefore is called profitable.41

Human laws, in Mr. Hooker’s judgment, must teach what is good, and be made for the benefit of men.42 Demosthenes describes a law to be such a thing cui convenit omnibus parere, which it is convenient for everyone to obey.43 Camero not only allows us to seek a reason of the church’s laws Non enim, he says veroe ecclesioe libet leges ferre quarum non reddat rationemIt pleases not the true church to make and publish laws, whereof she gives not a reason;44 but he will likewise have us, in such things as concern the glory and honor of God, not to obey the laws of any magistrate blindly and without a reason.45 There was one, said the Bishop of Winchester, that would not have his will stand for reason; and was there none such among the people of God? Yes; we find (1 Sam. 2) one of whom it is said, Thus it must be, for Hophni will not have it so, but thus: his reason is, For he will not. And God grant none such may be found among Christians.46

From Scripture we learn that neither has the magistrate any power, but for our good only (Rom. 13:4), nor yet has the church any power, but for our edification only (Ephes. 4:12). Law-makers, therefore, may not enjoin quod libet, that which likes them; nay, nor always quod licet, that which is in itself lawful; but only quod expedit, that which is expedient and good to the use of edifying. And to them we may well say with Tertullian, Iniquam exercetis dominationem si ideo negatis licere quia vultis, non quia debuit non licereYou exercise an unjust dominion; if, therefore, you deny anything to be free, because you will so, not because it ought not to be free.47

Besides all this, there is nothing which any way pertains to the worship of God left to the determination of human laws, beside the mere circumstances, which neither have any holiness in them, forasmuch as they have no other use and praise in sacred than they have in civil things, nor yet were particularly determinable in Scripture, because they are infinite; but sacred, significant ceremonies, such as cross, kneeling, surplice, holidays, bishopping, etc., which have no use and praise except in religion only, and which, also, were most easily determinable (yet not determined) within those bounds which the wisdom of God did set to his written Word, are such things as God never left to the determination of any human law. Neither have men any power to burden us with those or such like ordinances; For (says not our Lord himself to the churches), I will put upon you none other burden: but that which ye have already hold fast till I come (Rev. 2:24, 25). Wherefore, pro hac, etc., for this liberty we ought stoutly to fight against false teachers.48 Finally, it is to be noted, that though in some things we may and do commendably refuse obedience to the laws of them whom God has set over us, yet are we ever obliged (and accordingly intend) still to subject ourselves unto them; for to be subject does signify (as Zanchius shows)49 to be placed under, to be subordinate, and so to give honor and reverence to him who is above, which may well stand without obedience to every one of his laws. Yes, and Dr. Field also tells us that subjection is generally and absolutely required where obedience is not.50

IX. Forasmuch as some ignorant ones are of opinion, that when they practice the ceremonies, neither perceiving any unlawfulness in them (but, by the contrary, being persuaded in their consciences of the lawfulness of the same), nor yet having evil meaning (but intending God’s glory and the peace of the church), therefore they practice them with a good conscience. Be not ye also deceived, but rather advert unto this, that a peaceable conscience, allowing that which a man does, is not ever a good conscience, but oftentimes, an erring, bold, presuming, secure, yes, perhaps, a seared conscience. A good conscience, the testimony whereof gives a man true peace in his doings, is, and is only, such a one as is rightly informed out of the word of God. Neither does a good meaning excuse any evil action, or else they who killed the apostles were to be excused, because in so doing they thought they did God good service (John 16:2). It is the observation even of Papists that men may commit many a soul-ruining scandal, though they intend no such thing as the ruin of souls.51

X. If once you yield to these English ceremonies, think not that thereafter you can keep yourselves back from any greater evils, or grosser corruptions which they draw after them; for as it is just with God to give such men over to strong delusions as have not received the love of the truth, nor taken pleasure in the sincerity of his worship (2 Thess. 2:10, 11); so there is not a more deceitful and dangerous temptation than in yielding to the beginnings of evil. He that is unjust in the least is also unjust in much, says he who could not lie (Luke 16:10). When Uriah the priest had once pleased King Ahaz, in making an altar like unto that at Damascus, he was afterwards led on to please him in a greater matter, even in forsaking the altar of the Lord, and in offering all the sacrifices upon the altar of Damascus (2 Kings 16:10-16). All your winning or losing of a good conscience, is in your first buying; for such is the deceitfulness of sin, and the cunning conveyance of that old serpent, that if his head be once entering in, his whole body will easily follow after; and if he make you handsomely to swallow gnats at first, he will make you swallow camels ere all be done. Oh, happy they who dash the little ones of Babylon against the stones (Ps. 137:9)!

XI. Do not reckon it enough to bear within the enclosure of your secret thoughts a certain dislike of the ceremonies and other abuses now set afoot, except both by profession and action you evidence the same, and so show your faith by your fact. We are constrained to say to some among you, with Elijah, How long halt ye between two opinions? (1 Kings 18:21); and to call unto you, with Moses, Who is on the Lord’s side? (Ex. 32:26). Who? Be not deceived; God is not mocked (Gal. 6:7); and No man can serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). However, he that is not against us pro tanto [by so much], is with us (Mark 9:40); that is, in so far he so obliges himself unto us as that he cannot speak lightly evil of our cause, and we therein rejoice, and will rejoice (Phil. 1:18); yet, simpliciter [simply], he that is not with us is against us (Matt. 12:30); that is, he who by profession and practice shows not himself to be on our side, is accounted before God to be our enemy.

XII. Think not the wounds which the church has received by means of these nocent [harmful] ceremonies to be so deadly and desperate, as if there were no balm in Gilead; neither suffer your minds so far to miscarry as to think that you wish well to the church, and are heartily sorry that matters frame with her as they do, while, in the meantime, you essay no means, you take no pains and travail for her help. When King Ahasuerus had given forth a decree for the utter extirpation of the Jews, Mordecai feared not to tell Esther that if she should then hold her peace, enlargement and deliverance should arise unto the Jews from another place, but she and her father’s house should be destroyed; whereupon she, after three days’ humiliation and prayer to God, put her very life in hazard by going in to supplicate the king, which was not according to the law (Esth. 4:11). But now, alas! there are too many professors who detract [withdraw] themselves from undergoing lesser hazards for the church’s liberty, yes, from using those very defenses which are according to the laws of the kingdom. Yet most certain it is, that without giving diligence in the use of the means, you shall neither convince your adversaries, nor yet exonerate your own consciences, nor, lastly, have such comfort in the day of your suffering as otherwise you should. I know that principally, and, above all, we are to offer up to God prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, which are the weapons of our spiritual warfare (Heb. 5:7); but as this ought to be done, so the achieving of other secondary means ought not to be left undone.

If you disregard these things whereof, in the name of God, I have admonished you, and draw back your helping hands from the reproached and afflicted cause of Christ, for which we plead, then do not put evil far from you, for wrath is determined against you. And as for you, my dear brethren and countrymen of Scotland, as it is long since first Christianity was preached and professed in this land,as also it was blessed with a most glorious and much-renowned Reformation:52 and, further, as the gospel has been longer continued in purity and peace with us than with any church in Europe: moreover, as the Church of Scotland has treacherously broken her bonds of oath and subscription wherewith other churches about us were not so tied; and, finally, as Almighty God, though he has almost consumed other churches by his dreadful judgments, yet has shown far greater long-suffering kindness towards us, to reclaim us to repentance, though, notwithstanding all this, we go on in a most doleful security, induration [hardening], blindness, and backsliding; so now, in the most ordinary course of God’s justice, we are certainly to expect, that after so many mercies, so great long-suffering, and such a long day of grace, all despised, he is to send upon us such judgments as should not be believed though they were told. O Scotland! understand and turn again, or else, as God lives, most terrible judgments are abiding you.

But if you lay these things to heart; if you be humbled before God for the provocation of your defection, and turn back from the same; if with all your hearts and according to all your power, you bestow your best endeavors for making help to the wounded church of Christ, and for vindicating the cause of pure religion, yes, though it were with the loss of all that you have in the world (augetur enim religio Dei, quo magis premiturGod’s true religion is enlarged the more it is pressed down);53 then shall you not only escape the evils which shall come upon this generation, but likewise be recompensed a hundred fold with the sweet consolations of God’s Spirit here, and with the immortal crown of never-fading glory hence.

Now, our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which has loved us and has given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, establish you and keep you from evil, that you may be presented before his throne. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, Amen.

 

  1. One of no faith; a sceptic in matters of religion. []
  2. Gib (jib): halt, balk, or resist, as an animal. Justle (jostle): “to contend, to push, to shove.” []
  3. Plan or map (a ground-plan, like a modern blueprint). []
  4. Voluntary look aside. []
  5. Span: The distance between the tip of the thumb and the little finger (about nine inches). Ell: Arm’s length (from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger). []
  6. Bodin., Meth. Hist., cap. 4, p. 47. []
  7. Cimmerian: a mythical people (in Homer) who inhabit a land of perpetual darkness. []
  8. Rep. to the Ans., p.269. []
  9. Enar. in Luc. xvii. []
  10. De Civitale Dei, lib. 18, cap. 51. []
  11. Lib. contra Const. Aug. Ad Constantium Agustum Liber. []
  12. Andrew Willet, Synopsis Papismi, that is, Papistrie, A general view of the Papacy together with an antithesis of the true Christian Faith, cont. 13, quest 7, p. 593. []
  13. John Davenant. Expositio Epist. D. Pauli ad Colossenses, (Cambridge, 1630), in col. 2, 8, p. 186. []
  14. Lucas Osiander, Epitomes historiae ecclesiasticae centuriae XV (ex Historia Magdeburgica), Tb. 1607, 3 vols. Cent 4, in Epist. dedic. []
  15. Lib. 5, cap. 20.. []
  16. Ennarrat. in Matt. xv. []
  17. Eccl. Polity, lib. 5, sect. 65. []
  18. Preface of the Answer., p. 14. []
  19. Popish Praejud., cap. 10. []
  20. Cent. 2, cap. 2, col. 109. []
  21. Cron. Turcie., tom. 3, lib. 4, p. 63. []
  22. Augustine, de Civ. Dei, lib. 3, cap. 25. []
  23. Ibid, cap. 26 []
  24. Ovid., Metam., lib. 15. []
  25. Apud Binium, 4; Conc., part 1, p. 630. []
  26. No Peace with Rome, sect. 2. []
  27. Lib. Epist., col. 298. []
  28. Medit. in Rev. ii, iii. []
  29. De Offic. Pii Viri. []
  30. Osiand., Hist. Eccl., cen. 3, lib. 3, cap. 11. []
  31. Magd., cent. 4, cap. 6, col. 440. ., cen. 3, lib. 3, cap. 11. []
  32. Cassand., Angl., p. 104.., cen. 3, lib. 3, cap. 11. []
  33. Cassand., Angl., pp. 83, 85, 93, 110. []
  34. Exerc. 14, cap. 11. []
  35. Marlor. in Rom. xv. 22. []
  36. Hist. Eccl., cent. 4, lib. 3, cap. 38, p. 352. []
  37. Lib. Epist., col. 446. []
  38. De Auth. Scrip., lib. 1, p. 129. []
  39. Taylor upon Titus 3:1, p. 552. []
  40. Aquin., 1a, 2a, quest. 95, art. 3. []
  41. Cas. Consc., lib. 3, cap. 3, n. 60. []
  42. Eccl. Polity, lib. 1, sect. 10. []
  43. Natal. comit. Mythol., lib. 2, cap. 7. []
  44. Praelict., tom. 1, p. 367. []
  45. Ibid., p. 372. []
  46. Sermon on John 16:7. []
  47. Apolog., cap 4. []
  48. Conrad. Pfeilen. Clav. Theo., art. 9, p. 373. []
  49. Comm. in Eph. 5, de subject. []
  50. Of the Church, lib. 4, cap. 34. []
  51. Aquin., 1a, 2a, quest. 43, art. 1; Stella in Luke 17:1. []
  52. Speed, Hist. of Brit., bk. 6, chp. 9, sec. 9. []
  53. Lactantius, lib. 5, cap. 20. []