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SECTION VI.

Whether may every Minister of the Church and Curate of

Souls reject impenitent Persons, or any Criminals from the holy Sacrament, until themselves be satisfied of their

Repentance and Amends ? SEPARATION of sinners from the blessed sacrament, was either done upon confession and voluntary submission of the penitent, or by public conviction and notoriety. Every minister of religion can do the first, for he that submits to my judgment, does choose my sentence; and if he makes me judge, he is become my subject in a voluntary government; and, therefore, I am to judge for him, when it is fit that he should communicate : only, if when he hath made me judge, he refuses to obey my counsel, he hath dissolved my government, and, therefore, will receive no further benefit by me. But concerning the latter of these, a separation upon public conviction or notoriety; that requires an authority that is not precarious and changeable. Now this is done two ways; either by authority forbidding, or by authority restraining and compelling; that is, by the word of our proper ministry, dissuading him that is unworthy from coming, and threatening him with divine judgments if he does come; or else rejecting of him in case that he fears not these threatenings, but persists in his desires of having it.

Now of the first of these, every minister of the word and sacraments is a competent minister; for all that minister to souls, are to tell them of their dangers, and, by all the effects of their office, to present them pure and

and spotless unto God. The seers must take care that the people may see, lest, by their blindness, they fall into the bottomless pit. And when the curates of souls have declared the will of God in this instance, and denounced his judgments to unworthy communicants, and told to all that present themselves, who are worthy, and who are not, they have delivered their own souls; all that remains, is, that every person take care concerning his own affairs.

For the second, viz. denying to minister to criminals, though demanding it with importunity; that is an act of

prudence and caution in some cases, and of authority in others. When it is matter of caution, it is not a punishment, but a medicine; according to those excellent words of St. Eypriana, “ To be cast out” (viz. for a time, from the communion)“ is a remedy and degree towards the recovery of our spiritual health :” and because it is no more, it cannot be pretended to be any man's right to do it; but it may be in his duty when he can; but, therefore, this must depend upon the consent of the penitent. For a physician must not, in despite of a man, cut off his leg to save his life; the sick man may choose, whether be shall or no. But sometimes it is an act of authority: as when the people have consented to such a discipline; or when the secular arm, by assisting the ecclesiastical, hath given to it a power of mixed jurisdiction ; that is, when the spiritual power of paternal regiment, which Christ hath given to his ministers, the supreme curates, is made operative upon the persons and external societies of men. Now of this power the bishops are the prime and immediate subjects, partly under Christ, and partly under kings; and of this power, inferior ministers are capable hy. delegation, but no otherwise, - they being but deputies and vicars in the cure of souls, under their superiors, from whom they have received their order and their charge. And thus I suppose we are to understand the rubrick before our communion office; which warrants the curate not to suffer“

open and notorious” evil livers, by whom the congregation is offended, and those between whom he perceiveth malice and hatred to reign, to be partakers of the Lord's table. In the first, the case is of notorious criminals, and is to be understood of a notoriety of law; and, in this, the curate is but a publisher of the judge's sentence; in the second, the criminal is, 'ipso facto,' excommunicate ; and, therefore, in this the curate is but the minister of the sentence of the law, or, at least, hath a delegate authority to pass the church's sentence in a matter that is evident. But this is seldom practised otherwise, than by rejecting such persons by way of denunciation of the divine judgments; and if it be so

a Nam ejici remedium est et gradus ad recuperandam sauitatem. – Lib. de dupl. Martyr.

See Rule of Conscience, lib. iii. c. 3 et 4.

.

understood, the curate hath done his duty which God requires; and, I believe, the laws of England will suffer him to do no more by his own authority.

But this is to be reduced to practice by the following: measures,

1. Every man is to be presumed fit, that is not known to be unfit; and, he that is not a public criminal, is not to be supposed unworthy to communicate. It may be, he is; but that himself only knows, and he can only take care ; but no man is to be prejudiced by imperfect and disputable principles, by conjectures, and other men's measures, by the rules of sects, and separate communities :" and if a man may belong to God, and himself not know it, he may do so, when his curate knows it not.

2. No man may be separated from the communion for any private sin, vehemently or 'lightly suspected. This censure must not pass, but when the crime is manifest and notorious; that is, when it is delated and convict in any public assembly, civil or ecclesiastical, or is evident to a multitude, or confessed. This is the express doctrine of the church in St. Austin's d. time, who affirms, that the ecclesiastics have no power to make separations of sinners, not confessed nor convict. And, besides many others, it relies upon this prudential consideration, which Linwood hath well observed : “ Every Christiau hath a right in the receiving the eucharist, unless he loses it by deadly sin: therefore, when it does not appear in the face of the church, that such a one hath lost his right, it ought not, in the face of the church, to be denied to him; otherwise a license would be given to evil priests, according to their pleasure, with this punishment to afflict whom they list.”

3. Every sinner that hath been convict, or hath confessed, and affirms himself to be truly penitent, is to be

e Omnibus episcopis et presbyteris interdicimus segregare aliquem à sacra conimunione, antequam cansa monstretur, propter quam sanctæ regulæ hoc fieri jubent. - Collat. xi. tit. 15. C. 11. de Sanctissimis Episcopis.

Nos à communione quenquam probibere non possumus, nisi ant sponte confessum, aut in aliquo judicio ecclesiastico vel sæculari nominatum atque convictum. - Homil. 50. et de Medicina Pænit. super illud i Cor. v. ' si quis frater.'

e De celebrat. Missar, VOL. XV.

TT

believed, where, by the laws of the church, he is not bound to pass under any public discipline. For no man can tell, but that he says true ; and because every degree of repentance is accepted to some dispositions and proportions of pardon, and God hath not told us the just period of his being reconciled ; and his mercy is divisible as our return, and unknown to us; he that knows, that, without repentance, he eats damnation, and professes upon that very account that he is penitent, -may be taught as many more things as the curate please, or as he is supposed to need; but must not be rejected from the holy communion, if he cannot be persuaded. For this judgment is secret, and is to pass between God and the soul alone; for because no man can tell, no man can judge; and the curate, who knows not how it is, cannot give a definitive sentence.

4. But if there come any accidental obligation upon criminals; as if by the laws of a church, to which they are subjected, it be appointed they shall give public evidence and amends, they are to be judged by those measures, and are not to be restored ordinarily, till they have, by public measures, proved their repentance. This relies upon all those grounds, upon which obedience to ecclesiastical rulers is built f.

5. It is lawful for the guides of souls to admit to the communion such persons, whom they believe not to be fit and worthily prepared, if they will not be persuaded to retire : it is evident in the case of kings, and all supreme powers, and great communities, and such who, being rejected, will be provoked into malice and persecution. “Such, indeed, the church sometimes tolerates, lest, being provoked, they disturb the people of God: but what does it profit them, not to be cast out of the assemblies of the godly, if they deserve to be cast out? To deserve ejection is the highest evil; and to no purpose he is mingled in the congregations of the faithful, who is excluded from the society of God, and the mystical body of Christ 8.” And it is also evident in the societies of the church, which, we know by the words of

" See Rule of Conscience, lib. iii. c. 1 et 4.
& St. Cyprian, sive quicunque sit auctor libri de duplice Martyrio.'

Christ, and by experience, are a mixed multitude. And, " since the Scripture does not exempt a secret sinner from the communion, why wilt thou endeavour to exempt him ?” It is St. Austin's argument. And who shall reject every man that he believes to be proud, or covetous, or envious ? Who shall define pride, or convince a single person of a proud heart, or of his latent envy? And who shall give rules, by which every single man that is to blame, can be convinced of covetousness? If it be permitted to the discrétion of the parish-priest, you erect a gibbet and a rack, by which he shall be enabled to torment any man, and you give him power to slander or reproach all his neighbours : if you go about to give him measures, you shall never do it wisely or piously; for no rules can be sufficient to convince any proud man: and if you make the parish-curate judge of these rules, you had as good leave it to his discretion; for he will use them as he please : and, after all, you shall never have all the people good; and if not, you shall certainly have them hypocrites; and, therefore, it cannot be avoided, but unfit persons will be admitted : for since the kingdom of grace is within us, and God's chosen ones are his secret ones, and he only knows who are his, it will be strange that visible sacraments should be given only to an invisible society : and after all, if to communicate evil men be unavoidable, it cannot be unlawful.

I do not say that persons unprepared may come, for they ought not; and if they do, they die for it: but I say, if they will come, it is at their peril, and to no man's prejudice, but their own, if they be plainly and severely admonished of their duty and their danger; and, therefore, that every man must judge of his own case, with very great severity and fear, even then when the guides of souls must judge with more gentleness, and an easier charity; when we must suspect our little faults to be worse than they seem, and our

" Ad hoc enim altare quod nunc in ecclesia est, in terra positum ad mysteriorum divinorum signacula celebranda, multi etiam scelerati possunt accedere; quoniam Deus commendat in hoc tempore patientiam suam, ut in futuro exserat severitatem suam. Ad illud antem altare, quo præcúrsor pro nobis introivit Jesus, quo caput ecclesiæ præcessit, membris cæteris sccutoris, nullus eorum accedere poterit, de quibus dixit apostolus, quoniam qui talia agunt, regnum Dei non possidebunt.' - St. Aug. homil. 50. c. 9.

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