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love of earthly things, and want of love to one another ? How easily might princes rule men, that are thus ruled by love and patience? Object. 111. ‘Christianity teacheth men to obey the Scriptures before their governors, and to obey no law that is contrary to the Bible; and when the Bible is so large, and hath so many passages hard to be understood, and easily perverted, some of these will be always interpreted against the laws of men; and then they are taught to fear no man against God, and to endure any pains or death, and to be unmoved by all the penalties which should enforce obedience; and to rejoice in this as a blessed martyrdom, to the face of kings; and those that punish them, are reproached as persecutors, and threatened with damnation, and made the vilest men on earth, and represented odious to all “.’ Answ. The sum of all this objection is, That there is a God. For if that be not denied, no man can deny that he is the Universal Governor of the world; and that he hath his proper laws and judgment, and rewards and punishments, or that magistrates are his ministers, and have no power but from him; and consequently, that the commands, and threats, and promises of God, are a thousand-fold more to be regarded, than those of men 9. He is a beast, and not a man that feareth not God more than man, and that feareth not hell more than bodily sufferings: and for the Scriptures, 1. Are they any harder to be understood than the law of nature itself? Surely the characters of the will of God “ in natura rerum,’ are much more obscure than in the Scriptures. Hath God sent so great a messenger from heaven, to open to mankind the mysteries of his kingdom, and tell them what is in the other world, and bring life and immortality to light, and yet shall his revelation be accused as more obscure than nature itself is ? If an angel had been sent from heaven to any of these infidels by name, to tell them but the same that Scripture telleth us, sure they would not have reproached his message, with such accusations. 2. And are not the laws of the land about smaller matters, more voluminous and difficult? And shall that be made a matter of reproach to government 2 And for misinterpretation, it is the fault of human nature, that is ignorant and rash, and not of the Scriptures. Will you tell God, that you will not obey him, unless he will make his laws so, as no man can misinterpret them 2 When or where were there ever such laws? God will be God, and Judge of the world, whether you will or not ; and he will not be an underling to men, nor set their laws above his own, to avoid your accusations. If there be another life of joy or misery, it is necessary that there be laws according to which those rewards and punishments are to be adjudged. And if rulers oppose those who are appointed to promote obedience to them, they must do it at their perils: for God will render to all according to their works. Object. Iv. “Doth not experience tell the world, that Christianity every where causeth divisions? and sets the world together by the ears ? What a multitude of sects are there among us at this day; and every one thinketh that his salvation lieth upon his opinion? And how can princes govern men of so contrary minds, when the pleasing of one party is the losing of the rest? We have long seen that church-divisions shake the safety of the state. If it were not that few that are called Christians are such indeed, and serious in the religion which themselves profess, there were no quietness to be expected: for those that are most serious, are so full of scruples, and have consciences still objecting something or other against their obedience, and are so obstinate in their way, as thinking it is for their salvation, that all ages and nations have been fain to govern them by force as beasts, which they have called persecution”.’
* Le Blanc in his Travels, p. 88. saith of some heathen kings, They are all jealous of our religion, holding, that the Christians adore one God, great above the rest, that will not suffer any others, and that he sets a greater esteem and value upon innocent, poor and simple people, than upon the rich, kings and princes, and that princes had need to preserve to themselves the affections and esteem of their subjects, to reign with greater ease.
y So Bishop Bilson of Subjection, p. 243 Princes be supreme; not in respect that all things be subject to their wills, which were plain tyranny, not Christian authority : but that all persons within their realms are bound to obey their laws, or abide their pains. So p. 242,
* The differences are oft among the lawyers which set the commonwealth on fire, and then they are charged on the divines, e.g. Grotius de Imper. p. 55. Siarmain eos reges sumpta sunt in quos totum populijus translatum crat, acqui proinde non precario sed proprio jure imperabant, laudari salva pietate non possunt, quemcunque tandem praetextum aut eventum habuerint. Sin alicubi reges tales fuere qui pactis, sive positivis legibus, et senatus alicujus aut ordinum decretis astringerentur, in hos ut summum imperium non obtinent, arma ex optimatum tanquam superiorum sententia, sumi, justis de causis potuerint. Multi enim reges, etiam qui sanguinisjure succedunt, reges sunt nomine magis quam imperio-- Sed fallit imperitos quod illam quotidianam et maxime in oculos incurrentem rerum administrationem, quaesape in optimatum statu penes unum est, ab interiore reipublicae constitutione non satis discernunt. Quod de regibus dixi, idem multo magis de iis acceptum volo, quiet re et nomine non reges sed principes fuere, h. e. non summi, sed primi. p. 54. * James iii. 15–17. Matt. v. 6-8.
Answ. There is no doctrine in the world so much for love, and peace and concord as the doctrine of Christ is. What doth it so much urge and frequently inculcate? What doth it contain but love and peace from end to end ? Love is the sum and end of the Gospel, and the fulfilling of the law. To love God above all, and our neighbours as ourselves, and to do as we would be done by, is the epitome of the doctrine of Christ and his apostles. 2. And therefore Christianity is only the occasion, and not the cause of the divisions of the earth. It is men's blindness and passions and carnal interests rebelling against the laws of God, which is the make-bait of the world, and filleth it with strife. The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits: it blesseth the peacemakers and the meek. But it is the rebellious wisdom from beneath, that is earthly, sensual, and devilish, which causeth envy and strife, and thereby confusion and every evil work". So that the true, genuine Christian is the best subject and most peaceable man on earth. But seriousness is not enough to make a Christian; a man may be passionately serious in an error; understanding must lead and seriousness follow. To be zealous in error is not to be zealous in Christianity; for the error is contrary to Christian verity. 3. As I said before, it is a testimony of the excellency of the religion that it thus occasioneth contention. Dogs and swine do not contend for crowns and kingdoms, nor for sumptuous houses or apparel; nor do infants trouble the world or themselves with metaphysical, or logical, or mathematical disputes; ideots do not molest the world with controversies, nor fall thereby into sects and parties. Nor yet do wise and learned persons contend about chaff, or dust, or trifles. But as excellent things are matter of search, so are they matter of controversy, to the
most excellent wits. The hypocritical Christians that you speak of, who make God and their salvation give place to the unjust commands of men, are indeed no Christians; as not taking Christ for their sovereign Lord: and it is not in any true honour of magistracy that they are so ductile, and will do any thing, but it is for themselves, and their carnal interest; and when that interest requireth it, they will betray their governors, as infidels will do. If you can reduce all the world to be infants, or idiots, or brutes, yea, or infidels, they will then trouble the state with no contentions for religion or matters of salvation. But if the governed must be brutified, what will the governors be? 4. All true Christians are agreed in the substance of their religion; there is no division among them about the necessary points of faith or duty. Their agreement is far greater than their disagreement; which is but about some smaller matters, where differences are tolerable; therefore they may all be governed without any such violence as you mention. If the common articles of faith, and precepts of Christian duty be maintained, then that is upheld which all agree in ; and rulers will not find it needful to oppress every party or opinion save one, among them that hold the common truths. Wise and sober Christians lay not men's salvation upon every such controversy; nor do they hold or manage them unpeaceably to the wrong of church or state, nor with the violation of charity, peace, or justice. 5. Is there any of the sciences which afford not matter of controversy 2 If the laws of the land did yield no matter of controversy, lawyers and judges would have less of that work than now they have. And was there not greater diversity of opinions and worship among the heathens than ever was among Christians ? What a multitude of sects of philosophers and religions had they? And what a multitude of gods had they to worship 2 And the number of them still increased, as oft as the senate pleased to make a god of the better sort of their emperors when they were dead. Indeed one emperor, (of the religion of some of these objectors,) Heliogabalus, bestirred himself with all his power to have reduced all religion to unity, that is, he would have all the worship brought to his god, to whom he had been priest. Saith Lampridius in his life, “ Dicebat Judaeorum et Samaritanorum religiones et Chriswd L. W.I. G
tianam devotionem, illuc transferendam,” &c. And therefore he robbed, and maimed, and destroyed the other gods, “id agens nequis Romae Deus nisi Heliogabalus coleretur.” But as the effect of his monstrous, abominable filthiness of life was to be thrust into a privy, killed, and dragged about the streets, and drowned in the Tiber; so the effect of his desired unity, was to bring that one god or temple into contempt, whereto he would confine all worship. The differences among Christians are nothing in comparison of the differences among heathens". The truth is, religion is such an illustrious, noble thing, that dissensions about it, like spots in the moon, are much more noted by the world, than about any lower, common matters. Men may raise controversies in philosophy, physic, astronomy, chronology, and yet it maketh no such noise, nor causeth much offence or hatred in the world: but the devil and corrupted nature have such an enmity against religion, that they are glad to pick any quarrel against it, and blame it for the imperfections of all that learn it, and should practise it. As if grammar should be accused for every error or fault that the boys are guilty of in learning it : or the law were to be accused for all the differences of lawyers, or contentions of the people: or physic were to be accused for all the differences or errors of physicians: or meat and drink were culpable because of men's excesses and diseases. There is no doctrine or practice in the world, by which true unity and concord can be maintained, but by seriousness in the true religion. And when all contention cometh for want of religion, it is impudence to blame religion for it, which is the only cure. If rulers will protect all that agree in that which is justly to be called the Christian religion, both for doctrine and practice, and about their small and tolerable differences, will use no other violence but only to compel them to live in peace, and to suppress the seditious, and those that abuse and injure government or one another; they will find that Christianity tendeth not to divisions, nor to the hindrance or disturbance of government or peace. It is passion, and pride, and selfishness that doth this, and not religion; therefore let these and not religion be restrained. But if they will
" Jactavit caput inter precisos phanaticos et genitalia sibi devinxit, &c. Lamprid.