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were before, and in right of their character continue the common guardians of religion. And that of the prince is thus far the case of every subject too. His submission to Christ does not set him free from any relative duty: he no more ceases to be a subject than to be a father, a husband, or a master. Christianity makes no change in the natural ties of allegiance: the Christian
Again c. vi. s. 13. thus:
"Christ in His church hath not appointed any such law concerning temporal power, as God did of old deliver unto the commonwealth of Israel; but leaving that to be at the world's free choice, his chiefest care was that the spiritual law of the gospel might be published far and wide.
They that received the law of Christ were for a long time scattered in sundry kingdoms, Christianity not exempting them from the laws that they had been subject unto, saving only in such cases as those laws did enjoin that which the religion of Christ forbade. Hereupon grew their manifold persecutions throughout all places where they lived: as oft as it thus came to pass, there was no possibility that the emperors and kings under whom they lived, should meddle any whit at all with making laws for the church. From Christ therefore having received power, who doubteth, that as they did, so they might bind themselves to such orders as seemed fittest for the maintenance of their religion, without the leave of high or low in the commonwealth; for as much as in religion it was divided utterly from them, and they from it?
"But when the mightiest began to like of the Christian faith, by their means whole free states and kingdoms became obedient unto Christ. Now, the question is, Whether kings by embracing Christianity do therein receive any such law, as taketh from the weightiest part of that sovereignty, which they had even when they were heathens? Whether being infidels they might do more in causes of religion, than now they can by the law of God, being true believers? For whereas in regal states the king or supreme head of the commonwealth had before Christianity a supreme stroke in making of laws for religion; he must, by embracing Christian religion, utterly thereof deprive himself, and in such causes become subject to his subjects, having even within his own dominions them whose commandment he must obey; unless this power be placed in the hand of some foreign spiritual potentate; so that either a foreign or domestical commander upon earth, he must needs admit more now than before he had; and that in the chiefest things whereupon commonwealths do stand; but apparent it is unto all men, which are not strangers in the doctrine of Jesus Christ, that no state in the world, receiving Christianity, is by any law therein contained bound to resign the power which they lawfully held before; but over what persons and in what causes soever the same hath been in force, it may so remain and continue still: that which as kings they might do in matter of religion, and did in matter of false religion, being idolatrous or superstitious kings, the same they are now even in every respect as fully authorized to do in all affairs pertinent unto the state of true Christian religion." Vol. iii. part i. p. 517-9.
is as much bound to obey as the Pagan and the Jew. And the case is still the same whatever post he fills: the pastor is as much a subject to the higher power as the people committed to his charge; and in some cases in those instances wherein they may pretend to act by the authority of Christ.
For our Saviour, who as the great prophet and instructor of mankind laid the foundation of that society which He thought fit to honour and distinguish by the name of His body the church, and who appointed His ministers to go out into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and commanded the people to hear His law from their mouths and with meekness to receive the ingrafted word; to submit to those who watch for their souls; and even to obey those who rule over them in the Lord; does yet compare His church to a field that should consist of tares as well as good seed, and foretold that ravening wolves should come in sheep's clothing and deceive many. And His apostles by the same spirit foresaw that the seat of God would fall into the hands of antichrists, and deceivers arise who would set themselves above all that was called God; or in other words, that the ministers of Christ would be subject to error, and might endeavour to impose their mistakes upon the world. Therefore at the same time they command us to believe and obey the gospel, they caution us not to believe every spirit, and not to receive any other doctrine but that of Christ, though it come attested by an angel of light; to consider whether the doctrine be of God; to try all things and hold fast that which is good. Thus far every Christian is for himself1 made a judge of the faith of Christ, and by the same authority too which commands him to receive it; and he is under the same obligation to reject the error, however it come recommended, as he is to provide for the welfare of his own soul.
The case of the Christian magistrates is very different. They are obliged to encourage the worship of God upon rules of the gospel; to see that subjects be duly taught; to keep them from the danger of false teachers, and provide them such pastors as Christ has appointed. And if it happen through human frailty, corruption, mistake, or worldly interest, that the pastors of the church preach themselves instead of Christ, teach the people
1 For himself.] See Hooker's Preface, chap. iii. § 1-3, and chap. vi. § 5, 6; or Christian Institutes, vol. iv. p. 380—2, and 415—7.
idolatry or superstition, or any doctrine which may endanger their salvation or the peace of his dominions; the supreme power in such cases is under the same obligation to remove the deceivers and provide true pastors, as he is to protect the church, to secure the truth and honour of religion, the institutions of Christ, the welfare of his people, and the peace of his country.
If the error spread farther and become general, and involve the governing part of a national church, this case may require more caution and prudence; but if the matter be notorious and the offenders obstinate, the mischief cries so much louder for a remedy. For by permitting the guides thereof to involve themselves in the common guilt, and thereby depriving his church of the ordinary means of redress, God points out the duty of the magistrate, and calls the supreme power, to whom He has committed a general care of His glory, to exert the authority which He lodged in his hands. They are in this case under the same obligation to control the error, and secure the truth and honour of religion, as they are to obey God rather than men. And the reason is plain; the guides in this case go beyond their commission, and, as the apostle well distinguishes, it is the man and not the Lord that speaks by them. For it is certain that Christ never gave men authority to preach the idolatry which His gospel forbids; and when this is the case, it is the wolf and not the shepherd which the magistrate drives away from the flock.
Besides, this seems to be the only provision which God has made to secure the purity and succession of national churches. His promises to be with His church till the end of the world, and that the gates of hell should not prevail against it, are limited to the catholic church; and though they afford us ground enough to believe that the church of Christ shall never fail, but continue visible till His second coming, yet these promises are not applicable to particular national churches. The present state of Africa makes it but too plain, that a national church may be extinguished and if one looks to the condition of some western nations as they stand at this day, and to the general state thereof as they stood some ages since, it will be out of doubt that Christianity may be corrupted'; that the guides and pastors
1 May be corrupted.] "As the churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred; so also the church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith." Art. XIX. of the Church of England.
of national churches may avow the corruption, and propagate the idolatry which the gospel has forbidden; may require the worship of an image, a relic, or a piece of bread; deny the use of the sacraments which Christ instituted, or impose new ones of their own; deny their people the use of the Scriptures in a language they understand, and command them to pray to God in one they do not; an impostor may call himself the vicar of Christ, and under colour of His authority usurp the rights of princes and oppress their people; and the spiritual guides of national churches may countenance and defend their claims and errors. Now whenever this happens to be the case, if the natural right which God has given to men to take care of their own souls, or the general commission which He has entrusted to supreme powers to provide for His honour, to minister wrath to evil doers and encourage truth and holiness, be not authorities enough to remove the blind guides and justify the redress, the mischief would be incurable; a church might degenerate into a den of thieves, and souls perish and nations be ruined without the hopes of a remedy.
They who bar the exercise of this power by advancing a pretence of a spiritual relation betwixt the pastor and his flock, and raise up this relation above the reach of princes, and upon this ground pretend to tell us, that the secular power can neither nominate nor deprive a bishop, seem wholly to mistake this affair, and apply that to a particular local and legal, or at most a canonical relation, which is only applicable to the relation of a bishop or a priest to the whole Christian church. For the first is only human and prudential; the latter flows from the Order, and has its foundation in the commission of Christ. For according to the way of speaking amongst the ancients there is but one episcopate, and every bishop is a bishop of the whole Christian church, and as such has a spiritual and pastoral relation to the whole flock of Christ; and this is founded in the Order, goes along with the person, and without change or addition of character equally entitles him to discharge the offices of his holy function throughout the whole Christian church; and this relation continues as long as the character upon which it is founded. And all the forms of consecrating bishops, used by the Christian church, come up to the grounds of this opinion: they confer the Order, and the relation which flows from it.
But the relation of a bishop or a priest to a people of a particular diocese or parish springs from a different fountain, and
must for that reason be of a different nature, and subject to different rules and measures. For it is certain, that a relation peculiar and appropriated to a person cannot flow from his character; for then it must lie common, and extend itself to the whole Order and if it arise from a national establishment, it is then no other than a legal and local relation, and must of necessity be subject to the same authority which gave it a beginning. And to one who considers how frequently this relation is dissolved by the voluntary acts of bishops, priests, or their people, in removing from one diocese or one parish to another, and new relations acquired without assuming a new character, and all this, not only to serve the ends of edification, but sometimes for purposes of a very different nature; it will seem somewhat strange to have it said, that a relation which so often gives way to covetousness and ambition, vapour, resentment, ease, or the little conveniences of human life, cannot be dissolved to serve the ends of peace or justice, or the safety of a nation, or the greater ends of truth and holiness. But if the distinct nature and grounds of the aforesaid different relations of the same men to the Christian church and to a particular people were duly weighed, all the difficulties which arise from this head would presently vanish.
The reason and grounds of the present dispute about the authority of princes, have been considered in another place'. But it may not be amiss, before I end this digression occasioned thereby, to observe, that that which generally misleads learned men in their reasonings about the supremacy of princes and the dependence of the church upon the state, is the want of a due attention to the difference betwixt churches, considered in their proper natures and as they are incorporated into states and kingdoms; and challenging those powers and privileges as the inherent rights of the church taken in the first sense, which are only applicable to churches in the second sense, and are derived from the concessions of the civil power.
Churches considered as pure spiritual societies are founded upon the commission of Christ, and can have no head but Him on whose authority and doctrine they are built, and by whose spirit they are governed, and from whom they expect protection and rewards and though that as such they have proper inherent rights, seems as evident as any part of our common Christianity,
In another place.] Preface to vol. ii. p. v. &c., or above, p. 7.