Now, although the Kingdome of God by CHRIST to be established with a New Covenant, were Heavenly, we must not, therefore, think, that they, who believe in CHRIST would make that Covenant, were not so to be governed here on the Earth too, as that they should persevere in their faith, and obedience promis’d by that Covenant.
Of the Kingdome of God by the new Covenant: 1651
I. There are many cleare prophesies extant in the old Testament concerning our Saviour Jesus Christ, who was to restore the Kingdome of God by a new Covenant, partly foretelling his regall Dignity, partly his Humility and Passion. Among others concerning his Dignity, these; God blessing Abraham, makes him a promise of his sonne Isaac, and addes, And Kings of People shall be of him, Gen. 17. vers. 16. Jacob blessing his sonne Judah, The Scepter (quoth he) shall not depart from Judah, Gen. 49. vers. 10. God to Moyses, A Prophet (saith he) will I raise them up from among their brethren like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him, and it shall come to Passe, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words, which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him, Deut. 18. vers. 18. Isaias, The Lord himselfe shall give thee a signe, Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Sonne, and shall call his name Emanuel, Isai. 7. v. 14. The same Prophet, Unto us a child is born, unto us a Sonne is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderfull, Counsellour, the mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, Isai. 9. vers. 6. And again, There shall come forth a Rod out of the stemme of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots; the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, &c. he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his eares, but with righteousnesse shall he judge the Poor, &c. and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked, Isai. 11. vers. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Furthermore in the 51, 52, 53, 54, 56, 60, 61, 62. Ch. of the same Isaiah, there is almost nothing else contained but a description of the coming, and the works of Christ. Jeremias, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new Covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, Jerem. 31:31. And Baruch, This is our God. &c. Afterward did he shew himselfe upon earth, and conversed with men; Baruch 3. vers. 35, 37. Ezekiel, I will set up one Shepheard over them, and he shall feed them, even my Servant David, And I will make with them a Covenant of Peace, &c. Ezek. 34. vers. 23-25. Daniel, I saw in the night visions, and behold one like the Sonne of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the antient of dayes, and they brought him near before him, and there was given him Dominion, and Glory, and a Kingdome, that all People, Nations, and Languages should serve him, his Dominion is an everlasting Dominion, &c. Dan. 7. vers. 13, 14. Haggai, Yet once it is a little while, and I will shake the Heaven, and the Earth, and the Sea, and the drye Land, and I will shake all Nations, and the desire of all Nations shall come, Haggai 2. v. 8. Zachariah, Under the type of Joshuah the High Priest: I will bring forth my servant the Branch, &c. Zach. 3. v. 8. And again, Behold the man whose name is the Branch, Zach. 6. v. 12. And again, Rejoyce greatly O Daughter of Sion, Shout O Daughter of Jerusalem, behold thy King cometh to thee, he is just, having salvation, Zach. 9. v. 9. The Jewes moved by these, and other Prophesies, expected Christ their King to be sent from God, who should redeem them, and furthermore bear rule over all Nations. Yea this Prophesie had spread over the whole Roman Empire (which Vespasian too, though falsly, interpreted in favour of his own enterprises) That out of Judea should come he that should have dominion.
II. Now the Prophesies of Christs Humility and Passion, amongst others are these. Isa. 53. v. 4 He hath born our griefes, and carried our sorrowes; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, & afflicted, and by and by, He was oppressed, he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; He is brought as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her Shearer is dumb, so opened he not his mouth, &c. vers. 7. And again, He was cut out of the Land of the living, for the transgression of my People was he stricken, &c. vers. 8. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoyle with the strong, because he hath poured out his soule unto death, and he was numbred with the transgressours, and he bare the sinne of many, and made intercession for the transgressours, vers. 12. And that of Zachary, He is lowly, riding upon an Asse, and upon a Colt the foale of an Asse. Zach. 9. vers. 9.
III. In the reign of Tiberius Caesar, JESUS our Saviour a Galilaean began to preach, the sonne (as was supposed) of Joseph, declaring to the people of the Jewes, that the Kingdome of God expected by them, was now come; and that himselfe was a King, that is to say, THE CHRIST: Explaining the Law; choosing twelve Apostles, and seventy Disciples, after the number of the Princes of the Tribes, and seventy Elders (according to the pattern of Moyses) to the Ministry; teaching the way of salvation by himselfe and them; purging the Temple; doing great signes, and fulfilling all those things which the Prophets had foretold of Christ to come. That this man, hated of the Pharisees, (whose false doctrine and hypocriticall sanctity he had reproved) and by their means, of the People accused of unlawfull seeking for the Kingdome, and crucified, was the true CHRIST, and King promised by God, and sent from his father to renew the new Covenant between them and God, both the Evangelists doe shew (describing his Genealogie, nativity, life, doctrine, death, and resurrection) and by comparing the things which he did, with those which were foretold of him, all Christians doe consent to.
IV. Now from this, That CHRIST was sent from God his Father to make a Covenant between him and the people, it is manifest, that though Christ were equall to his Father according to his nature, yet was he inferior according to the Right of the Kingdom; for this office to speak properly, was not that of a King, but of a Viceroy, such as Moyses his Government was. For the Kingdom was not his, but his Fathers; which CHRIST himselfe signified when he was baptized as a subject, and openly profest, when he taught his Disciples to pray, Our Father, Thy Kingdome come, etc. And when he said, I will not drink of the blood of the grape, untill that day when I shall drink it new with you in the Kingdome of my Father, Mat. 26. vers. 29. And Saint Paul. As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive; but every man in his own order; Christ the first fruits, afterward they that are Christs, who beleeved in his coming; Then cometh the end when he shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God even his Father, &c. 1. Cor. 15. vers. 22, 23, 24. The same notwithstanding is also called the Kingdome of Christ: for both the Mother of the sonnes of Zebedie petitioned Christ, saying, Grant that these my two sonnes may sit, the one on thy right hand, the other on thy left, in thy Kingdome, Mat. 20. vers. 21. And the Theef on the Cross, Lord remember me when thou comest into thy Kingdom, Luke 23. vers. 42. And Saint Paul, For this know yee, that no whormonger, &c. shall enter into the Kingdome of God, and of Christ, Ephes. 5. ver. 5. And elsewhere, I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and dead at his appearing, and his Kingdome, &c. 2 Tim. 4. ver. 1. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evill worke, and will Preserve me unto his heavenly Kingdome, ver. 18. Nor is it to be marvelled at, that the same Kingdome is attributed to them both, since both the Father, and the Son, are the same God; and the new Covenant concerning Gods Kingdome, is not propounded in the Name of the FATHER, but in the name of the FATHER, of the SON, and of the HOLY-GHOST, as of one God.
V. But the Kingdome of God, for restitution whereof CHRIST was sent from God his Father, takes not its beginning before his second comming, to wit, from the day of Judgement, when he shall come in Majesty accompanied with his Angels: For it is promis’d the Apostles, that in the Kingdome of God, they shall judge the twelve tribes of Israel. Ye which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Sonne of man shall sit in the Throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve Thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, Mat. 19. ver. 28. which is not to be done till the day of judgement; CHRIST therefore is not yet in the throne of his Majesty, nor is that time when CHRIST was conversant here in the world call’d a Kingdome, but a regeneration, that is to say a renovation, or restitution of the Kingdome of God, and a calling of them who were hereafter to be receiv’d into his Kingdome; And where it is said, When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy Angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all Nations, and he shall separate them one from another, as a Shepheard divideth his Sheep from the Goates, Mat. 25. ver. 31. we may manifestly gather, that there will be no Locall separation of Gods Subjects from his Enemies, but that they shall live mixt together untill CHRISTS second comming. Which is also confirm’d by the comparison of the Kingdome of heaven, with wheat mingled with Darnell; and with a net containing all sorts of fish. But a multitude of men, Enemies and Subjects, living promiscuously together, cannot properly be term’d a Kingdome. Besides, the Apostles, when they askt our Saviour, Whether he would at that time when he ascended into heaven, restore the Kingdome unto Israel? Did openly testifie, that they then, when CHRIST ascended, thought the Kingdome of God not to be yet come. Furthermore, the words of CHRIST, My Kingdome is not of this world; And, I will not drinke, &c. till the Kingdome of God come: And, God hath not sent his Son into the World, to judge the World, but that the World through him might be sav’d. And, If any man heare not my words, and keepe them, I judge him not; for I came not to judge the World, but to save the World. And, Man, who made me a judge or divider betweene you? And the very Appellation of the Kingdome of Heaven testifies as much. The same thing is gathered out of the words of the Prophet Jeremiah, speaking of the Kingdome of God by the new Covenant, They shall teach no more every man his Neighbour, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least of them, to the greatest of them, saith the Lord, Jer. 31. v. 34. which cannot be understood of a Kingdome in this World. The Kingdome of God therefore, for the restoring whereof CHRIST came into the world, of which the Prophets did Prophesie, and of which praying wee say, Thy Kingdome come, (if it must have Subjects locally separated from Enemies, if judicature, if Majesty, according as hath beene foretold,) shall begin from that time, wherein God shall separate the Sheep from the Goats; wherein the Apostles shall judge the twelve Tribes of Israel; wherein CHRIST shall come in Majesty, and glory; wherein Lastly, all men shall so know God, that they shall not need to be taught, that is to say, at CHRIST his second comming, or the day of Judgement. But if the Kingdome of God were now already restor’d, no reason could be rendered why CHRIST having compleated the work for which he was sent, should come againe, or why we should pray, Thy Kingdome come.
VI. Now, although the Kingdome of God by CHRIST to be established with a New Covenant, were Heavenly, we must not, therefore, think, that they, who believe in CHRIST would make that Covenant, were not so to be governed here on the Earth too, as that they should persevere in their faith, and obedience promis’d by that Covenant. For in vaine had the Kingdome of heaven beene promis’d, if we were not to have been led into it. But none can be led, but those who are directed in the way. Moyses, when he had instituted the Priestly Kingdome, himselfe though he were no Priest, yet rul’d, and conducted the People all the time of their Peregrination untill their entrance into the promis’d Land. In the same manner is it our Saviours office (whom God in this thing would have like unto Moyses) as he was sent from his Father, so to governe the future Subjects of his heavenly Kingdome in this life, that they might attaine to, and enter into that, although the Kingdome were not properly his, but his Fathers. But the government whereby CHRIST rules the faithfull ones in this life, is not properly a Kingdome, or Dominion, but a Pastorall charge, or the Right of teaching, that is to say, God the father gave him not a power to judge of Meum and Tuum as he doth to the Kings of the Earth; nor a Coercive power; nor legislative; but of shewing to the world, and teaching them the way, and knowledge of Salvation, that is to say, of Preaching, and declaring what they were to doe, who would enter into the Kingdome of Heaven. That CHRIST had receiv’d no power from his father to judge in questions of Meum and Tuum, that is to say, in all questions of Right among those who beleev’d not; those words above cited doe sufficiently declare: Man, who made me a judge, or divider betweene you? And it is confirm’d by reason; for seeing CHRIST was sent to make a Covenant between God and men, and no man is oblig’d to performe obedience before the Contract be made, if he should have judg’d of questions of Right, no man had been tyed to obey his sentence. But that the discerning of Right was not committed to CHRIST in this world, neither among the faithfull, nor among infidels, is apparent in this, that that Right without all controversie belongs to Princes as long as it is not by, But it is not derogated God himselfe derogated from their authority; before the day of Judgement, as appeares by the words of Saint Paul, speaking of the day of Judgement, Then commeth the end when He shall have delivered up the Kingdome to God even the Father, when He shall have put downe all rule, and all authority, and Power, 1 Cor. 15. ver. 24. Secondly, the words of our Saviour reproving James, and John, when they had said, Wilt thou that we call for Fyer from Heaven, that it may consume them (namely the Samaritans, who had denyed to receive him going up to Jerusalem) and replying, The Son of Man is not come to destroy soules, but to save them; And those words, Behold I send you as Sheep among Wolves; Shake off the dust of your Feet, and the like; And those words, God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world through him might be sav’d; and those, If any man heare my words, and keep them not, I judge him not, for I came not to judge the world, &c. doe all shew, that he had no power given him, to condemne or punish any man. We reade indeed that the Father judgeth no Man, but hath committed all judgement to the Son, but since that both may, and must be understood of the day of future judgement, it doth not at all repugne what hath beene sayed before. Lastly, that he was not sent to make new Lawes, and that therefore by his Office, and mission, he was no Legislatour properly so called, nor Moyses neither, but a bringer and Publisher of his Fathers Lawes, (for God only, and neither Moyses, nor CHRIST, was a King by Covenant) is collected hence, that he sayed, I came not to destroy (to wit the Lawes before given from God by Moyses, which he presently interprets) but to fulfill; And, He that shall break one of the least of these Commandements, and shall teach men so, He shall be called least in the Kingdome of Heaven. CHRIST therefore had not a Royall, or Soveraigne power committed to him from his Father in this world, but consiliary, and doctrinall onely; which himselfe signifies, as well then when he call his Apostles, not Hunters, but Fishers of men; as when he compares the Kingdome of God to a graine of mustard seed, and to a little Leaven hid in meale.
VII. God promis’d unto Abraham first, a numerous seed, the possession of the Land of Canaan, and a blessing upon all Nations in his seed, on this Condition, that he, and his seed should serve him; next unto the seed of Abraham according to the flesh, a Priestly Kingdome, a Government most free, in which they were to be Subject to no humane power, on this Condition, that they should serve the God of Abraham on that fashion which Moyses should teach. Lastly, both to them, and to all Nations, a heavenly, and eternall Kingdome, on Condition that they should serve the God of Abraham, on that manner which Christ should teach. For by the new, that is to say, the Christian Covenant, it’s covenanted on mens part, to serve the God of Abraham, on that manner which JESUS should teach: On Gods part, to pardon their sinnes, and bring them into his caelestiall Kingdome. We have already spoken of the quality of the heavenly Kingdome above in the 5. Article; but it is usually call’d, sometimes the Kingdome of Heaven, sometimes the Kingdome of Glory, sometimes the life Eternall. What’s required on mens part, namely to serve God as CHRIST should teach, containes two things, Obedience to be performed to God, (for this is to serve God) and Faith in JESUS, to wit, That we beleeve JESUS TO BE THAT CHRIST who was promis’d by God: for that only is the cause why his Doctrine is to be followed, rather than any others. Now in holy Scriptures, Repentance is often put in stead of Obedience, because Christ teacheth every where, that with God the Will is taken for the deed; but Repentance is an infallible sign of an obedient mind. These things being understood, it will most evidently appear out of many places of sacred Scripture, that those are the Conditions of the Christian Covenant which we have nam’d, to wit, giving remission of sins, and eternall life on Gods part; and Repenting, and Beleeving in JESUS CHRIST, on Mens part. First, the words, The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent yee and beleeve the Gospell, Mark 1:15. contain the whole Covenant: In like manner those, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance, and remission of sinnes should be preached in his Name among all Nations, begining at Jerusalem, Luke 24. vers. 46, 47. And those, Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come, &c. Acts 3. vers. 19. And sometimes one part is expresly propounded, and the other understood, as here, He that beleeveth in the Sonne, hath everlasting life; He that beleeveth not the Sonne, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him, John 3. vers. 36, Where Faith is exprest, Repentance not mentioned. And in CHRISTS preaching, Repent, for the Kingdome of heaven is at hand, Mat. 4:17. Where Repentance is exprest, Faith is understood. But the parts of this new Contract are most manifestly, and formally set down there, where a certain Ruler bargaining as it were for the Kingdom of God, asketh our Saviour, Good Waster, what shall I doe to inherit eternall life, Luke 18. v. 18. But CHRIST first propounds one part of the price, namely observation of the Commandements, or obedience, which when he answered that he had kept, he adjoynes the other, saying, Yet lackest thou one thing; Sell all that thou hast, and distribute to the Poor, and thou shalt have Treasure in Heaven, and come, follow me, v. 22. This was matter of Faith. He therefore not giving sufficient credit to CHRIST, and his heavenly Treasures, went away sorrowfull. The same Covenant is contained in these words: Hee that beleeveth, and is baptized, shall be saved, he that beleeveth not, shall be damned, Mark 16. vers. 15, 16. Where Faith is exprest, Repentance is supposed in those that are baptized; and in these words, Except a man be born again of water, and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdome of Heaven, John 3. vers. 5. Where to be born of water, is the same with regeneration, that is to say, Conversion to CHRIST. Now that Baptisme is required in the two places cited just before, and in divers others, we must understand, that what Circumcision was to the old Covenant, that Baptisme is to the new: Seeing therefore, that was not of the Essence, but served for a memoriall of the old Covenant, as a Ceremony or signe (and was omitted in the wildernesse) in like manner this also is used, not as pertaining to the Essence, but in memory, and for a signe of the New Covenant which wee make with God; and provided the will be not wanting, the Act through necessity may be omitted; but Repentance and Faith, which are of the Essence of the Covenant, are alwayes required.
VIII. In the Kingdome of God after this life there will be no Lawes; partly because there is no roome for Lawes, where there is none for sinne; partly because Laws were given us from God, not to direct us in Heaven, but unto Heaven. Let us now therefore enquire what Laws CHRIST (establisht not himselfe, for he would not take upon him any Legislative authority, as hath been declared above in the sixth Article, but) propounded to us for his Fathers. Wee have a place in Scripture, where he contracts all the Lawes of God publisht till that time, into two Preceps, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy minde: this is the greatest, and first Commandement. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy Neighbour as thy selfe. On these two Commandements hangs all the Law, and the Prophets, Mat. 22. vers. 37, 38, 39, 40. The first of these was given before by Moyses in the same words, Deut. 6. vers. 5. And the second even before Moyses; for it is the naturall Law, having its begining with rationall nature it selfe. And both together is the summe of all Lawes: for all the Lawes of divine naturall worship, are contained in these words, Thou shalt love God; and all the Lawes of divine worship due by the old Covenant, in these words, Thou shalt love thy God, that is to say, God as being the peculiar King of Abraham, and his seed; and all the Lawes naturall, and civill, in these words, Thou shalt love thy Neighbour as thy selfe. For he that loves God and his neighbour, hath a minde to obey all Lawes, both divine, and humane. But God requires no more than a minde to obey. Wee have another place, where CHRIST interprets the Lawes, namely, the fifth, sixth, and seventh entire Chapters of Saint Matthewes Gospell. But all those Lawes are set down, either in the Decalogue, or in the morall Law, or are contained in the faith of Abraham; as that Law of not putting away a wife is contained in the faith of Abraham: for that same, Two shall be one flesh, was not delivered either by CHRIST first, or by Moyses, but by Abraham, who first publisht the Creation of the world. The Lawes therefore which CHRIST contracts in one place, and explaines in another, are no other than those to which all mortall men are obliged, who acknowledge the God of Abraham. Beside these, we read not of any Law given by CHRIST, beside the institution of the Sacraments of Baptisme, and the Eucharist.
IX. What may be said then of these kinde of Precepts: Repent, Be Baptized, Keep the Commandements, Beleeve the Gospell, Come unto me, Sell all that thou hast, give to the Poor, follow me, and the like? We must say that they are not Lawes, but a calling of us to the faith, such as is that of Isa. Come, buy wine, and milk without monie, and without Price, Isai. 55. vers. 1. Neither if they come not, doe they therefore sinne against any Law, but against prudence onely; neither shall their infidelity be punisht, but their former sinnes. Wherefore Saint John saith of the unbeleever, The wrath of God abideth on him; he saith not, The wrath of God shall come upon him; And, He that beleeveth not, is already judged; he saith not, shall be judged, but is already judged. Nay it cannot be well conceived, that remission of sinnes should be a benefit arising from faith, unlesse we understand also on the other side, that the punishment of sinnes is an hurt proceeding from infidelity.
X. From hence, that our Saviour hath prescribed no distributive Lawes, to the Subjects of Princes, and Citizens of Cities, that is to say, hath given no rules whereby a Subject may know, and discerne what is his owne, what another mans, not by what forms, words, or circumstances, a thing must be given, delivered, invaded, possest, that it may be known by Right to belong to the Receiver, Invader, or Possessour, we must necessarily understand that each single subject (not only with unbeleevers, among whom CHRIST himselfe denyed himselfe to be a judge and distributer, but even with Christians) must take those rules from his City, that is to say, from that Man, or Councell, which hath the supreme power. It followes therefore, that by those Lawes, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steale, Honour thy Father and Mother, nothing else was commanded, but that Subjects, and Citizens, should absolutely obey their Princes in all questions concerning Meum & Tuum, their own and others Right. For by that Precept, Thou shalt not kill, all slaughter is not prohibited; for he that said, Thou shalt not kill, said also, Whosoever doth work upon the Sabbath, shall be put to death, Exod 35. vers. 2. No, nor yet all slaughter the cause not being heard; for he said, Slay every man his Brother, and every man his Companion, and every man his Neighbour, Exo. 32. v. 27. And there fell of the People about three thousand men, v. 28. Nor yet all slaughter of an innocent Person; for Jephte vowed, Whosoever cometh forth, &c. I will offer him up for a burnt offering unto the Lord, Jud. 11. vers. 31. and his vow was accepted of God. What then is forbidden? Onely this: that no man kill another, who hath not a Right to kill him, that is to say, that no man kill, unlesse it belong to him to doe so. The Law of CHRIST therefore concerning killing, and consequently all manner of hurt done to any man, and what penalties are to be set, commands us to obey the City only. In like manner, by that Precept, Thou shalt not commit adultery, all manner of Copulation is not forbidden, but only that of lying with another mans wife; but the judgment which is another mans wife, belongs to the City, and is to be determined by the rules which the City prescribes: This precept therefore commands both male and female to keep that faith intire which they have mutually given, according to the statutes of the City. So also by the precept, Thou shalt not steal, all manner of invasion, or secret surreption is not forbidden, but of another mans only. The subject therefore is commanded this only, that he invade not, nor take away ought which the City prohibits to be invaded or taken away; and universally not to call any thing murder, adultery, or theft, but what is done contrary to the civill Lawes. Lastly, seeing CHRIST hath commanded us to honour our Parents, and hath not prescribed, with what Rites, what appellations, and what manner of obedience they are to be honoured, it is to be supposed that they are to be honoured with the will indeed, and inwardly, as Kings and Lords over their Children, but outwardly, not beyond the Cities permission, which shall assign to every man (as all things else, so also) his honour. But since the nature of justice consists in this, that every Man have his own given him, its manifest, that it also belongs to a Christian City to determin what is justice, what injustice, or a sinne against justice; Now what belongs to a City, that must be judg’d to belong to him or them who have the Soveraigne power of the City.
XI. Moreover, because our Saviour hath not shewed Subjects any other Lawes for the government of a City beside those of nature, that is to say, beside the Command of obedience, no Subject can privately determine who is a publique friend, who an enemy, when Warre, when Peace, when Truce is to be made; nor yet what Subjects, what authority, and of what men, are commodious, or prejudiciall to the safety of the Common-weale. These, and all like matters therefore are to be learned, if need be, from the City, that is to say, from the Soveraign powers.
XII. Furthermore, all these things, to build Castles, Houses, Temples; to move, carry, take away mighty weights; to send securely over Seas; to contrive engines, serving for all manner of uses; to be well acquainted with the face of the whole world, the Courses of the Starres, the seasons of the yeare, the accounts of the times, and the nature of all things; to understand perfectly all naturall and civill Rights; and all manner of Sciences, which (comprehended under the Title of Philosophy) are necessary partly to live, partly to live well; I say, the understanding of these (because CHRIST hath not delivered it) is to be learnt from reasoning, that is to say by making necessary consequences, having first taken the beginning from experience. But mens reasonings are sometimes right, sometimes wrong, and consequently that which is concluded, and held for a truth, is sometimes truth, sometimes errour. Now, errours even about these Philosophicall points doe sometimes publique hurt, and give occasions of great seditions, and injuries: It is needfull therefore, as oft as any controversie ariseth in these matters contrary to publique good, and common Peace, that there be some body to judge of the reasoning, that is to say, whether that which is inferred, be rightly inferred or not, that so the controversie may be ended. But there are no rules given by CHRIST to this purpose; neither came he into the world to teach Logick. It remaines therefore that the Judges of such controversies be the same with those whom God by nature had instituted before, namely those who in each City are constituted by the Soveraign. Moreover, if a controversie be raised of the accurate and proper signification (i.e.) the definition of those names or appellations which are commonly us’d, in so much as it is needfull for the peace of the City, or the distribution of right, to be determin’d, the determination will belong to the City; for men by reasoning doe search out such kind of definitions in their observation of diverse conceptions, for the signification whereof, those appellations were us’d at divers times, and for divers causes. But the decision of the question whether a man doe reason rightly, belongs to the City. For Example, if a woman bring forth a Child of an unwonted shape, and the Law forbid to kill a man, the question is, whether the Childe be a man. It is demanded therefore what a man is. No man doubts, but the City shall judge it, and that without taking an account of Aristotles definition, that man is a rationall Creature. And these things (namely Right, Politie, and naturall Sciences) are Subjects concerning which CHRIST denies that it belongs to his Office to give any Praecepts, or teach any thing, beside this onely, that in all Controversies about them, every single Subject should obey the Lawes, and determinations of his City. Yet must we remember this, that the same Christ as God could not onely have taught, but also commanded what he would.
XIII. The summe of our Saviours Office was to teach the way, and all the meanes of Salvation, and aeternall life; but justice and civill obedience, and observation of all the naturall Lawes is one of the meanes to Salvation. Now these may be taught two wayes; one, as Theorems by the way of naturall reason, by drawing Right and the natural Lawes from humane Principles, and contracts; and this Doctrine thus deliver’d is subject to the censure of civill powers: The other, as Lawes, by divine authority, in shewing the will of God to be such; and thus to teach, belongs onely to him to whom the Will of God is supernaturally knowne, that is to say, to Christ. Secondly, it belong’d to the Office of Christ to forgive sinnes to the Penitent, for that was necessary for the Salvation of men who had already sinn’d; neither could it be done by any other; for remission of sinnes followes not Repentance naturally, (as a Debt) but it depends (as a free gift) on the will of God supernaturally to be reveal’d. Thirdly, it belongs to the Office of Christ to teach all those Commandements of God, whether concerning his worship, or those points of faith which cannot be understood by naturall reason, but onely by revelation; of which nature are those that he was the Christ; that his Kingdome was not terrestriall, but celestiall; that there are rewards, and punishments after this life; that the soule is immortall; that there should be such, and so many Sacraments, and the like.
XIV. From what hath beene sayed in the foregoing Chapter, it is not hard to distinguish betweene things Spirituall, and Temporall. For since by Spirituall, those things are understood which have their foundation on the authority, and Office of CHRIST, and unlesse CHRIST had taught them, could not have beene known; and all other things are temporall; it followes, that the definition, and determination of whats just, and unjust, the cognizance of all controversies about the meanes of Peace, and publique defence, and the Examination of doctrines, and books in all manner of rationall science, depends upon the temporall Right. But those which are mysteries of faith, depending on CHRIST his word, and authority onely, their judgements belong to spirituall Right. But it is reasons inquisition, and pertaines to temporall Right to define what is spirituall, and what temporall, because our Saviour hath not made that distinction; For although Saint Paul in many places distinguish betweene spirituall things, and carnall things, and calls those things spirituall, which are of the spirit, to wit, the word of wisdome, the word of knowledge, faith, the gift of healing, the working of miracles, Prophesie, divers kindes of tongues, interpretation of tongues, Rom. 8:5. 1 Cor. 12:8,9. All supernaturally inspired by the Holy Ghost, and such as the carnall man understands not, but he only who hath known the mind of CHRIST, 2. Cor. 2:14-16. And those things carnall which belong to worldly wealth, Rom. 15:27. And the men carnall men, 1 Cor. 3. vers. 1, 2, 3. yet hath he not defined, nor given us any rules whereby we may know what proceeds from naturall reason, what from supernaturall inspiration.
XV. Seeing therefore it is plain that our Saviour hath committed to, or rather not taken away from Princes, and those who in each City have obtained the Soveraignty, the supreme authority of judging & determineing al manner of controversies about temporall matters, we must see henceforth to whom he hath left the same authority in matters spirituall. Which because it cannot bee known, except it be out of the word of God, and the Tradition of the Church, we must enquire in the next place what the word of God is, what to interpret it, what a Church is, and what the will and command of the Church. To omit that the word of God is in Scripture taken sometimes for the Sonne of God, it is used, three manner of wayes; First, most properly for that which God hath spoken; Thus whatsoever God spake unto Abraham, the Patriarchs, Moses, and the Prophets, our Saviour to his Disciples, or any others, is the word of God. Secondly, whatsoever hath been uttered by men on the motion, or by Command of the Holy Ghost; in which sense we acknowledge the Scriptures to be the word of God. Thirdly, in the New Testament indeed the word of God most frequently signifies the Doctrine of the Gospell, or the word concerning God, or the word of the Kingdome of God by CHRIST: as where it is said that CHRIST preach’t the Gospell of the Kingdome, Mat. 4. vers. 23. Where the Apostles are said to preach the word of God, Acts 13. vers. 46. Where the word of God is called the word of life, Acts 5. vers. 20. The word of the Gospell, Acts 15. vers. 7. The word of faith, Rom. 10. vers. 8. The word of truth, that is to say, (adding an interpretation) The Gospel of salvation, Eph. 1:13. And where it is called the word of the Apostles; For Saint Paul sayes, If any man obey not our word, &c. 2. Thess. 3. vers. 14. which places cannot be otherwise meant than of the doctrine Evangelicall. In like manner where the word of God is said to be sowen, to encrease, and to be multiplied, Acts 12. vers. 24. and Chap. 13. vers. 49. it is very hard to conceive this to be spoken of the voyce of God, or of his Apostles; but of their doctrine, easie. And in this third acception is all that doctrine of the Christian faith which at this day is preacht in Pulpits, and contained in the books of divines, the word of God.
XVI. Now the sacred Scripture is intirely the word of God in this second acception, as being that which we acknowledge to be inspired from God. And innumerable places of it, in the first. And seeing the greatest part of it is conversant either in the prediction of the Kingdome of Heaven, or in prefigurations before the incarnation of CHRIST, or in Evangelization, and explication after, The sacred Scripture is also the word of God, and therefore the Canon and Rule of all Evangelicall Doctrine, in this third signification, where the word of God is taken for the word concerning God, that is to say, for the Gospel. But because in the same Scriptures we read many things Politicall, Historicall, Morall, Physicall, and others which nothing at all concern the Mysteries of our faith, those places although they contain true doctrine, and are the Canon of such kind of doctrines, yet can they not be the Canon of the Mysteries of Christian Religion.
XVII. And truly it is not the dead voyce, or letter of the word of God, which is the Canon of Christian doctrine, but a true and genuine determination; For the minde is not governed by Scriptures, unlesse they be understood. There is need therefore of an Interpreter to make the Scriptures Canon. And hence followes one of these two things, that either the word of the Interpreter is the word of God, or that the Canon of Christian doctrin is not the word of God. The last of these must necessarily be false; for the rule of that doctrine which cannot be knowne by any humane reason, but by divine revelation only, cannot be lesse than divine; for whom we acknowledge not to be able to discern whether some doctrin be true or not, its impossible to account his opinion for a rule in the same doctrine. The first therefore is true, That the word of an Interpreter of Scriptures, is the word of God.
XVIII. Now that Interpreter whose determination hath the honour to be held for the word of God, is not every one that translates the Scriptures out of the Hebrew, and Greek tongue, to his Latine Auditors in Latine, to his French, in French, and to other Nations in their mother tongue; for this is not to interpret. For such is the nature of speech in generall, that although it deserve the chiefe place among those signes whereby we declare our conceptions to others, yet cannot it perform that office alone without the help of many circumstances; For the living voice hath its interpreters present, to wit, time, place, countenance, gesture, the Counsell of the Speaker, and himselfe unfolding his own meaning in other words as oft as need is. To recall these aids of interpretation, so much desired in the writings of old time, is neither the part of an ordinary wit, nor yet of the quaintest, without great learning, and very much skill in antiquity. It sufficeth not therefore for interpretation of Scriptures, that a man understand the language wherein they speak. Neither is every one an authentique Interpreter of Scriptures, who writes Comments upon them: For men may erre, they may also either bend them to serve their own ambition, or even resisting, draw them into bondage by their forestallings; whence it will follow that an erroneous sentence must be held for the word of God. But although this could not happen, yet as soon as these Commentators are departed, their Commentaries will need explications, and in processe of time, those explications, expositions; those expositions new Commentaries without any end: so as there cannot in any written Interpretation whatsoever be a Canon, or Rule of Christian doctrine, whereby the Controversies of Religion may be determined. It remains, that there must bee some Canonicall Interpreter whose legitimate Office it is to end Controversies begun, by explaining the word of God in the judgements themselves; and whose authority therefore must be no lesse obeyed, than theirs who first recommended the Scripture it selfe to us for a Canon of faith; and that one, and the same Person be an Interpreter of Scripture, and a supreme Judge of all manner of doctrines.
XIX. What concerns the word Ecclesia, or Church: originally it signifies the same thing that Concio, or a congregation does in Latin; even as Ecclesiastes, or Church man, the same that concionator, or Preacher, that is to say, He who speaks to the Congregation. In which sense wee read in the Acts of the Apostles, of a Church confused, and of a Lawfull Church, Acts 19. vers. 32, 39. that, taken for a Concourse of people meeting in way of tumult; this, for a convocated Assembly. But in holy writ by a Church of Christians, is sometimes understood the Assembly, and sometimes the Christians themselves, although not actually assembled, if they be permitted to enter into the Congregation, and to communicate with them. For example, Tell it to the Church, Mat. 18. vers. 17. is meant of a Church assembled; for otherwise it is impossible to tell any thing to the Church: But, Hee laid waste the Church, Acts 8. vers. 3. is understood of a Church not assembled. Sometimes a Church is taken for those who are baptized, or for the professors of the Christian faith, whether they be Christians inwardly, or feignedly, as when we reade of somewhat said or written to the Church, or said or decreed, or done by the Church; sometimes for the Elect onely, as when it is called holy, and without blemish, Ephes. 5. vers. 27. But the Elect, as they are militant, are not properly called a Church; for they know not how to assemble, but they are a future Church, namely in that day when sever’d from the reprobate, they shall bee triumphant. Againe a Church may bee sometimes taken (for all Christians collectively,) as when Christ is called the head of his Church, and the head of his body the Church, Eph. 5. vers. 23. Colos. 1. vers. 18. sometimes for its parts, as the Church of Ephesus, The Church which is in his house, the seven Churches, &c. Lastly, a Church as it is taken for a Company actually assembled, according to the divers ends of their meeting, signifies sometimes those who are met together to deliberate, and judge, in which sense it is also called a Councell, & a Synod; sometimes those who meet together in the house of prayer to worship God, in which signification it is taken in the 1 Cor. 14. vers. 4, 5. 23. 28. &c.
XX. Now a Church which hath personall Rights, and proper actions attributed to it, and of which that same must necessarily be understood, Tell it to the church, and, he that obeys not the church, and all such like formes of speech, is to be defin’d so, as by that word may be understood, A Multitude of men who have made a new Covenant with God in Christ, (that is to say, a multitude of them who have taken upon them the Sacrament of Baptisme) which multitude, may both lawfully be call’d together by some one into one place, and he so calling them, are bound to be present either in Person, or by others. For a multitude of men, if they cannot meet in assembly, when need requires, is not to be call’d a Person; For a Church can neither speak, nor discerne, nor heare, but as it is a congregation. Whatsoever is spoken by particular men, (to wit, as many opinions almost as heads) that’s the speech of one man, not of the Church; farthermore, if an assembly be made, and it be unlawfull, it shall be considered as null. Not any one of these therefore who are present in a tumult shall be tyed to the decree of the rest, but specially if he dissent; and therefore neither can such a Church make any decree; for then a multitude is sayd to decree somewhat, when every man is oblig’d by the decree of the major part. We must therefore grant to the definition of a Church (to which we attribute things belonging to a Person) not onely a possibility of assembling, but also of doing it lawfully. Besides, although there be some one who may lawfully call the rest together, yet if they who are called may lawfully not appeare (which may happen among men who are not subject one to another) that same Church is not one Person. For by what Right they, who being call’d to a certaine time, and place, doe meet together, are one Church; by the same, others flocking to another place appointed by them, are another Church. And every number of men of one opinion is a Church, and by Consequence there will be as many Churches as there are divers opinions, that is to say, the same multitude of men will at once prove to be one, and many Churches. Wherefore a Church is not one, except there be a certaine, and known, that is to say, a lawfull power, by meanes whereof every man may be oblig’d to be present in the Congregation, either himselfe in person, or by Proxie. And that becomes One, and is capable of personall functions, by the union of a lawfull power of convocating Synods, and assemblies of Christians; not by uniformity of Doctrine: and otherwise, it is a multitude, and Persons in the plurall, howsoever agreeing in opinions.
XXI. It followes what hath beene already said by necessary connexion, that a City of Christian men, and a Church, is altogether the same thing, of the same men, term’d by two names, for two causes: For the matter of a City & a Church is one, to wit the same Christian men. And the forme which consists in a Lawfull power of assembling them is the same too; for ’tis manifest that every Subject is oblig’d to come thither, whither he is summon’d by his City. Now that which is call’d a City, as it is made up of men, the same, as it consists of Christians, is styled a Church.
XXII. This too is very cohaerent with the same points, If there be many Christian Cities, they are not altogether personally one church. They may indeed by mutuall consent become one Church, but no otherwise, than as they must also become one City; For they cannot assemble but at some certaine time, and to some place appointed. But Persons, places, and times, belong to civill Right; neither can any Subject or stranger lawfully set his foot on any place, but by the permission of the City, which is Lord of the place. But the things which cannot lawfully be done but by the permission of the City, those, if they be lawfully done, are done by the Cities authority. The Universall church is indeed one mysticall body, whereof CHRIST is the head, but in the same manner, that all men together acknowledging God for the Ruler of the world, are one Kingdome, and one City, which notwithstanding is neither one Person, nor hath it one common action, or determination. Farthermore where it is said that CHRIST is the head of his body the Church, it manifestly appeares, that that was spoken by the Apostle of the Elect, who as long as they are in this world, are a Church onely in potentia, but shall not actually be so before they be separated from the reprobate, and gather’d together among themselves, in the day of Judgement. The Church of Rome of old was very great, but she went not beyond the bounds of her Empire; and therefore neither was she Universall, unlesse it were in that sense, wherein it was also said of the City of Rome, Orbem jam totum victor Romanus habebat, when as yet he had not the twentieth part of it. But after that the civill Empire was divided into parts, the single Cities thence arising were so many Churches; and that power which the Church of Rome had over them, might perhaps wholy depend on the authority of those Churches, who having cast off the Emperours were yet content to admit the Doctours of Rome.
XXIII. They may be called Church-men who exercise a publique office in the Church. But of offices there was one a Ministery, another a Maistery; The office of the Ministers was to serve Tables, to take care of the temporall goods of the Church, and to distribute (at that time when all propriety of riches being abolisht, they were fed in common) to each man his portion; The Maisters according to their order, were called some Apostles, some Bishops, some Presbyters, that is to say Elders; yet not so, as that by the name of Presbyter, the age, but the office might be distinguisht; For Timothy was a Presbyter although a young man; but because for the most part the Elders were receiv’d into the Maistership, the word, denoting age, was us’d to signifie the office. The same Maisters, according to the diversity of their employments were called some of them Apostles, some Prophets, some Evangelists, some Pastors or Teachers. And the Apostolicall worke indeed was universall; the Propheticall to declare their owne revelations in the Church; the Evangelicall to preach, or to be publishers of the Gospell among the infidels; that of the Pastors to teach, confirme, and rule the minds of those who already beleev’d.
XXIV. In the Election of Church-men two things are to be considered, the Election of the Persons, and their consecration, or institution, which also is called ordination. The first twelve Apostles CHRIST himselfe both elected, and ordain’d. After CHRISTS ascension Matthias was elected in the roome of Judas the Traitour, the Church (which at that time consisted of a Congregation of about one hundred and twenty men) choosing two men: And they appointed two, Joseph and Matthias; but God himselfe by lot approving of Mathias. And Saint Paul calls these twelve the first, and great Apostles, also the Apostles of the Circumcision. Afterward were added two other Apostles, Paul, and Barnabas; ordain’d indeed by the Doctours, and Prophets of the Church of Antioch, (which was a particular Church) by the imposition of hands, but elected by the command of the Holy Ghost. That they were both Apostles is manifest in the 13. of the Acts v. 2, 3. That they receiv’d their Apostleship from hence, namely because they were separated by command of the spirit for the work of God, from the rest of the Prophets, and Doctours of the Church of Antioch, Saint Paul himselfe shewes, who calls himselfe for distinctions sake an Apostle separated unto the Gospell of God, Rom. 1. ver. 1. But if it be demanded further; by what authority it came to passe that that was receiv’d for the command of the Holy Ghost, which those Prophets and Doctours did say proceeded from him, it must necessarily be answer’d; by the Authority of the church of Antioch. For the Prophets & Doctours must be examined by the Church before they be admitted; For Saint John saith, Beleeve not every Spirit, but try the Spirits, whether they are of God, because many false Prophets are gone out into the world; but by what Church, but that to which that Epistle was written? In like manner Saint Paul reprooves the Churches of Galatia, because they Judaized, Gal. 2. v. 14. although they seemed to doe so by the Authority of Peter; for when he had told them that he had, reprehended Peter himselfe with these words, If thou being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as doe the Jewes, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as doe the Jewes? Not long after he questions them, saying, This onely would I learne of you: Received ye the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith? Gal. 3. ver. 2. Where it is evident, that it was Judaisme which he reprehended the Galathians for, notwithstanding that the Apostle Peter compelled them to Judaize. Seeing therefore it belonged to the Church, and not to Peter, and therefore also not to any man, to determine what Doctors they should follow, it also pertained to the authority of the Church of Antioch to elect their Prophets and Doctors. Now because the Holy Ghost separated to himself the Apostles Paul & Barnabas, by the imposition of hands from Doctors thus elected; its manifest, that imposition of hands, & consecration, of the prime Doctors in each Church, belongs to the Doctors of the same Church. But Bishops, who were also called Presbyters, although all Presbyters were not Bishops, were ordain’d somtimes by Apostles (for Paul & Barnabas when they had taught in Derbe, Lystra, and Iconium, ordained Elders in every Church, Acts 14. v. 23.) sometimes by other Bishops, for Titus was by Paul left in Crete, that he should ordain Elders in every City, Tit. 1. v. 5. And Timothy was advised not to neglect the gift that was in him, which was given him by Prophesy with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, 1. Tim. 4. v. 14. And he had rules given him concerning the Election of Presbyters. But that cannot be understood otherwise, than of the ordination of those who were elected by the Church; for no man could constitute a Doctor in the Church, but by the Churches permission. For the duty of the Apostles themselves was not to command, but to teach; and although they who were recommended by the Apostles, or Presbyters, were not rejected, for the esteem that was had of the recommenders, yet seeing they could not be elected without the will of the Church, they were also suppos’d elected by the authority of the Church. In like manner Ministers, who are called Deacons, were ordained by the Apostles; yet elected by the Church. For when the seven Deacons were to bee elected, and ordained, the Apostles elected them not, but look yee out, (say they) among you Brethren seven men of honest report, &c. And they chose Stephen, &c. And they set them before the Apostles, Acts 6. vers. 3, 5, 6. It is apparent therefore by the custome of the Primitive Church under the Apostles, that the ordination, or consecration of all Church-men, which is done by Prayer, and imposition of hands, belonged to the Apostles, and Doctors; but the Election of those who were to be consecrated, to the Church.
XXV. Concerning the power of binding, and loosing, that is to say of remitting, and retaining of sinnes, there is no doubt, but it was given by Christ to the Pastors then yet for to come, in the same manner as it was to the present Apostles. Now the Apostles had all the power of remitting of sins given them, which Christ himselfe had; As the Father hath sent me (sayes Christ) so send I you, John 20. vers. 21. and he addes, Whose soever sins yee remit, they are remitted, and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. vers. 23. But what binding and loosing, or remitting and retaining of sinnes, is, admits of some scruple. For first, to retain his sinnes who being baptized into remission of sins, is truly penitent, seems to be against the very Covenant it selfe of the new Testament, and therefore could not be done by Christ himselfe, much lesse by his Pastors. And to remit the impenitent, seems to be against the will of God the Father, from whom Christ was sent to convert the world, and to reduce men unto obedience. Furthermore, if each Pastor had an authority granted him to remit and retain sinnes in this manner, all awe of Princes, and civill Magistrates, together with all kind of civill Government would be utterly destroyed. For Christ hath said it, nay even nature it selfe dictates, that we should not feare them who slay the body, but cannot kill the soule; but rather feare him who can cast both soule and body into hell, Mat. 10. vers. 28. Neither is any man so mad as not to choose to yeeld obedience rather to them who can remit, and retain their sinnes, than to the powerfullest Kings. Nor yet on the other side, it is to be imagined, that remission of sinnes is nothing else but an exemption from Ecclesiasticall punishments; for what evill hath excommunication in it, beside the eternall pains which are consequent to it? Or what benefit is it to be received into the Church if there were salvation out of it? We must therefore hold, That Pastors have Power, truly, and absolutely to forgive sinnes, but, to the penitent; and to retain them, but, of the impenitent. But while men think that to Repent, is nothing else but that every one condemn his Actions, and change those Counsels which to himselfe seem sinfull, and blameable, there is an opinion risen, that there may be repentance before any Confession of sinnes to men, and that repentance is not an effect, but a cause of Confession; and thence, the difficulty of those who say that the sins of the penitent are already forgiven in Baptisme, and theirs who repent not, cannot be forgiven at al, is against Scripture, and contrary to the words of Christ, Whose soever sins ye remit, &c. We must therefore to resolve this difficulty know in the first place, that a true acknowledgement of sin is Repentance; for he that knows he hath sinned, knows he hath erred, but to will an errour is impossible; therefore he that knowes he hath sinned, wishes he had not done it, which is to repent. Farther, where it may be doubtfull, whether that which is done be a sin or not, we must consider, that repentance doth not precede confession of sins, but is subsequent to it: for there is no repentance but of sinnes acknowledged. The penitent therefore must both acknowledge the fact, and know it to be a sinne, that is to say, against the Law. If a man therefore think, that what he hath done, is not against the Law; its impossible he should repent of it. Before repentance therefore, its necessary there be an application of the facts unto the Law. But its in vain to apply the facts unto the Law without an Interpreter; for not the words of the Law, but the sentence of the Law-giver is the rule of mens actions; but surely either one man, or some men are the Interpreters of the Law, for every man is not judge of his own fact whether it be a sin or not; wherefore the fact of which we doubt whether it be a sinne or not, must be unfolded before some man or men, and the doing of this is confession. Now when the Interpreter of the Law hath judged the fact to bee a sinne, if the sinner submit to his judgement, and resolve with himselfe not to do so any more, tis repentance; and thus, either it is not true repentance, or else it is not antecedent, but subsequent to confession. These things being thus explained, it is not hard to understand what kinde of power that of binding and loosing is. For seeing in remission of sinnes there are two things considerable, one the Judgement or Condemnation whereby the fact is judged to be a sinne; the other, (when the Party condemned does acquiesce, and obey the sentence, that is to say, Repents) the remission of the sinne, or, (if he repent not) the Retention: The first of these, that is to say, the Judging whether it be a sinne or not, belongs to the Interpreter of the Law, that is, the Soveraign Judge; the second, namely Remission, or retention of the sinne, to the Pastor, and it is that concerning which the power of binding and loosing is conversant. And that this was the true meaning of our Saviour Christ in the institution of the same power, is apparent in the 18 of Mat. vers. 15, 16, 17, 18. thus, He there speaking to his Disciples, sayes, If thy Brother sinne against thee, goe, and tell him his fault betweene thee and him alone, (where we must observe by the way, that if thy Brother sinne against thee, is the same with, if he doe thee injury; and therefore Christ spake of those matters which belonged to the civill Tribunall) he addes, if he heare thee not (that is to say, if he deny that he hath done it, or if having confest the fact, he denies it to be unjustly done) take with thee yet one or two, and if he refuse to heare them, tell it the Church. But why to the Church, except that she might judge whether it were a sinne or not? But if he refuse to hear the Church, that is, if he doe not submit to the Churches sentence, but shall maintain that to be no sin, which She Judges to be a sinne, that is to say, if he repent not (for certain it is that no man repents himselfe of that action which She conceives not to be a sinne) he saith not, Tell it to the Apostles, that we might know that the definitive sentence in the question, whether it were a sin or not, was not left unto them, but to the Church; but let him be unto thee (sayes he) as an Heathen, or Publican, that is, as one out of the Church, as one that is not baptized, that is to say, as one whose sinnes are retained. For all Christians were baptized into remission of sinnes. But because it might have been demanded who it was that had so great a power, as that of withholding the benefit of Baptisme from the impenitent, Christ shewes that the same Persons to whom he had given authority to baptize the penitent into the remission of sinns, and to make them of heathen men, Christians, had also authority to retain their sins who by the Church should be adjudged to be impenitent, and to make them of Christian men Heathens; and therefore presently subjoynes, Verily I say unto you, Whose soever sinnes yee shall binde upon Earth, they shall bee bound also in Heaven, and whose soever sins yee shall loose upon Earth, they shall be loosed also in Heaven. Whence we may understand, that the power of binding, and loosing, or of remitting, and retaining of sinnes, which is called in another place, the power of the keyes, is not different from the power given in another place in these words, Goe, and teach all Nations, Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Sonne, and of the Holy Ghost, Mat. 28. ver. 19. And even as the Pastours cannot refuse to Baptize him whom the Church judges worthy, so neither can they retaine his sinnes whom the Church holds fitting to be absolv’d, nor yet remit his sinnes whom the Church pronounceth disobedient. And it is the Churches part to judge of the sinne, the Pastours, to cast out, or to receive into the Church those that are judg’d. Thus Saint Paul to the Church of Corinth (1 Cor. v. 12):Do not ye judge, saith he, of those that are within? Yet he himself pronounc’t the sentence of Excommunication against the incestuous Person, I indeed (saith he, verse 3) as absent in body, but present in Spirit, &c.
XXVI. The act of retaining sinnes is that which is called by the Church Excommunication, and by Saint Paul, delivering over to Satan. The word Excommunication, sounding the same with aposunagogon poiein, casting out of the Synagogue, seems to be borrowed from the Mosaicall Law, wherein they who were by the Priest adjudged leprous, were commanded to be kept apart out of the Camp, untill by the judgement of the Priest they were againe pronounc’t cleane, and by certaine rights (among which the washing of the body was one) were purified, Levit. 13. ver. 46. From hence in processe of time it became a custome of the Jewes, not to receive those who passed from Gentilisme to Judaisme, (supposing them to be uncleane) unlesse they were first washed; and those who dissented from the Doctrine of the Synagogue, they cast out of the Synagogue. By resemblance of this custome, those that came to Christianity, (whether they were Jewes, or Gentiles) were not receiv’d into the Church without Baptisme; and those that dissented from the Church were depriv’d of the Churches Communion. Now, they were therefore said to be deliver’d over to Satan, because all that was out of the Church, was comprehended within his Kingdome. The end of this kind of Discipline was, that being destitute for a time of the grace and spirituall priviledges of the Church, they might be humbled to salvation. But the effect in regard to secular matters, that being excommunicated, they should not onely be prohibited all Congregations, or Churches, and the participation of the mysteries, but as being contagious they should be avoided by all other Christians, even more than Heathen: for the Apostle allowed to accompany with Heathen, but with these not so much as to eate, 1 Cor. 5. ver. 10, 11. Seeing then the effect of Excommunication is such, it is manifest in the first place, that a Christian city cannot be excommunicated. For a Christian City is a Christian Church, as hath been declar’d above in the 21. Art. and of the same extension. But a Church cannot be excommunicated; For either she must excommunicate her selfe, which is impossible; or she must be excommunicated by some other Church, and this, either universall, or particular. But seeing an Universall Church is no Person, (as hath been prov’d in the 22. Artic.) and therefore neither acts, nor does any thing, it cannot excommunicate any man. And a particular church by excommunicating another Church doth nothing; for where there is not one common Congregation, there cannot be any Excommunication. Neither if some one Church (suppose that of Jerusalem) should have excommunicated an other (suppose that of Rome) would it any more have excommunicated this, than her selfe: for he that deprives another of his Communion, deprives himselfe also of the Communion of that other. Secondly, No man can excommunicate the subjects of any absolute government all at once, or forbid them the use of their Temples, or their publique worship of God. For they cannot be excommunicated by a Church which themselves doe constitute; for if they could, there would not onely not remain a Church, but not so much as a common-weale, and they would be dissolved of themselves; and this were not to be excommunicated, or prohibited. But if they be excommunicated by some other Church, that church is to esteem them as Heathen. But no christian Church by the doctrine of Christ, can forbid the Heathen to gather together, and Communicate among themselves, as it shall seem good to their Cities, especially if they meet to worship Christ, although it be done in a singular custome, and manner: therefore also not the excommunicated, who are to be dealt with as Heathen. Thirdly, a Prince who hath the Soveraign Power, cannot be excommunicated. For by the doctrine of Christ, neither one, nor many subjects together can interdict their Prince any publique, or private places, or deny him entrance into any Assembly whatsoever, or prohibit him the doing of what hee will within his own jurisdiction. For it is Treason among all Cities, for any one, or many subjects joyntly to arrogate to themselves any authority over the whole City; but they who arrogate to themselves an authority over him who hath the supreme power of the City, doe arrogate the same authority over the City it selfe. Besides, a Soveraign Prince, if he be a Christian, hath this farther advantage, that the City whose Will is contained in His, is that very thing which we call a Church; the Church therefore excommunicates no man, but whom it excommunicates by the authority of the Prince: but the Prince excommunicates not himselfe, his subjects therefore cannot doe it. It may be indeed that an Assembly of rebellious Citizens or Traytors, may pronounce the sentence of excommunication against their Prince, but not by Right. Much lesse can one Prince be excommunicated by another, for this would prove not an excommunication, but a provocation to Warre by the way of affront. For since that is not one church which is made up of Citizens belonging to two absolute Cities, for want of power of lawfully assembling them, (as hath been declar’d before in the 22. Art.) they who are of one Church are not bound to obey an other, and therefore cannot be excommunicated for their disobedience. Now, what some may say, that Princes, being they are members of the Universall church, may also by the authority of the Universall church be excommunicated, signifies nothing: because the Universall church (as hath beene shewed in the 22. Art.) is not one Person, of whom it may be said that shee acted, decreed, determin’d, excommunicated, absolv’d, and the like personall attributes; neither hath she any Governour upon Earth at whose command she may assemble, and deliberate: For to be guide of the Universall church, and to have the power of assembling her, is the same thing as to be Governour, and Lord over all the Christians in the world, which is granted to none, but God onely.
XXVII. It hath beene shewed above in the 18. Art. that the authority of interpreting the Holy Scriptures consisted not in this, that the interpreter might without punishment, expound, and explicate his sentence & opinion taken thence, unto others, either by writing, or by his owne voice; but, that others have not a Right to doe, or teach ought contrary to his sentence; insomuch asthe interpretation we speak of is the same with the power of defining in all manner of controversies to be determined by sacred Scriptures. Now we must shew that that power belongs to each Church, and depends on his, or their authority who have the Supreme command, provided that they be Christians. For if it depend not on the civill authority, it must either depend on the opinion of each private Subject, or some forraigne authority. But among other reasons, the inconveniencies that must follow private opinions cannot suffer its dependance on them; of which this is the chiefe, that not onely all civill obedience would be taken away (contrary to Christ his praecept) but all humane society and peace would be dissolved (contrary to the Lawes of nature;) for seeing every man is his owne interpreter of Scripture, that is to say, since every man makes himselfe judge of what is pleasing and displeasing unto God, they cannot obey their Princes before that they have judg’d whether their commands be conformable to the Word of God, or not. And thus either they obey not, or they obey for their owne opinions sake, that is to say, they obey themselves, not their Soveraigne; civill obedience therefore is lost. Againe, when every man followes his owne opinion, it’s necessary that the controversies which rise among them will become innumerable, and indeterminable; whence there will breed among men (who by their own naturall inclinations doe account all dissention an affront) first hatred, then brawles and warres, and thus all manner of peace and society would vanish. We have farthermore for an example, that which God under the old Law required to be observed concerning the book of the Law, namely, that it should be transcrib’d, and publiquely us’d, and he would have it to be the Canon of Divine doctrine: but the controversies about it not to be determined by private Persons, but onely by the Priests. Lastly, it is our Saviours Precept, that if there be any matter of offence between private Persons, they should hear the Church. Wherefore it is the Churches duty to define controversies; it therefore belongs not to private men, but to the Church, to interpret Scriptures. But that we may know that the authority of interpreting Gods Word, that is to say, of determining all questions concerning God, and Religion, belongs not to any forraign Person whatsoever, we must consider first what esteem such a power carries in the mindes of the subjects, and their civill actions. For no man can be ignorant that the voluntary actions of men by a naturall necessity, doe follow those opinions which they have concerning good, and evill, Reward, and Punishment; whence it happens that necessarily they would chuse rather to obey those by whose judgement they beleeve that they shall be eternally happy, or miserable. Now, by whose judgement it is appointed what Doctrines are necessary to salvation, by their judgement doe men expect their eternall blisse, or perdition; they will therefore yeeld them obedience in all things. Which being thus, most manifest it is, that those subjects who believe themselves bound to acquiesce to a forraign authority in those Doctrines which are necessary to salvation, doe not per se constitute a City, but are the subjects of that forraign power. Nor therefore although some Soveraign Prince should by writing grant such an authority to any other, yet so, as he would be understood to have retained the civill power in his own hands, shall such a Writing be valid, or transferre ought necessary for the retaining, or good administration of his command. For by the 2. Chap. 4. artic. no man is said to transferre his Right, unlesse he give some proper sign, declaring his Will to transferre it; but he who hath openly declared his will to keep his Soveraignty, cannot have given a sufficient sign of transferring the means necessary for the keeping it. This kinde of Writing therefore will not be a sign of Will, but of Ignorance in the contractors. We must consider next how absurd it is for a City, or Soveraign, to commit the ruling of his Subjects consciences to an enemy. For they are, as hath been shewed above in the 5. Chap. 6. artic. in an hostile state, whosoever have not joyn’d themselves into the unity of one Person. Nor contradicts it this truth that they doe not alwayes fight: (for truces are made between enemies) it is sufficient for an hostile minde, that there is suspition, that the Frontiers of Cities, Kingdomes, Empires, strengthned with Garisons, doe with a fighting posture and countenance, though they strike not, yet as enemies mutually behold each other. Lastly, how unequall is it to demand that, which by the very reason of your demand, you confesse belongs to anothers Right? I am the Interpreter of Scriptures to you who are the Subject of anothers Realme: Why? By what Covenants past between you and me? By Divine authority. Whence knowne? Out of holy Scripture. Behold the Book, read it. In vain, unlesse I may also interpret the same for my self; That interpretation therefore doth by Right belong to me, and the rest of my private fellow-subjects; which we both deny. It remains therefore that in all christian Churches, that is to say, in all christian Cities, the interpretation of sacred Scripture depend on, and derive from the authority of that man, or Councell, which hath the Soveraign power of the City.
XXVIII. Now because there are two kindes of controversies, the one about spirituall matters, that is to say, questions of faith, the truth whereof cannot be searcht into by naturall reason; such are the questions concerning the nature, and office of Christ, of rewards and punishments to come, of the Sacraments, of outward worship, and the like: the other, about questions of humane science, whose truth is sought out by naturall reason, and Syllogismes, drawne from the Covenants of men, and definitions (that is to say, significations received by use, and common consent of words) such as are all questions of Right, and Philosophy. For example, when in matter of Right its questioned whether there be a Promise, and Covenant, or not? That is nothing else, but to demand, whether such words spoken in such a manner be by common use, and consent of the Subjects, a Promise or Covenant; which if they be so called, then it is true that a Contract is made, if not, then it is false: that truth therefore depends on the compacts, and consents of men. In like manner when it is demanded in Philosophy whether the same thing may entirely be in divers places at once; the determination of the question depends on the knowledge of the common consent of men about the signification of the word entire: for if men when they say a thing is entirely somewhere doe signifie by common consent that they understand nothing of the same to be elsewhere, it is false that the same thing is in divers places at once: that truth therefore depends on the consents of men, and by the same reason in all other questions concerning Right, and Philosophy. And they who doe judge that any thing can be determin’d, (contrary to this common consent of men concerning the appellations of things) out of obscure places of Scripture, doe also judge that the use of speech, and at once all humane society, is to be taken away; for he who hath sold an whole field, will say, he meant one whole ridge, and will retaine the rest as unsold; nay, they take away reason it selfe, which is nothing else but a searching out of the truth made by such consent. These kinde of questions therefore need not be determined by the City by way of interpretation of Scriptures; for they belong not to Gods Word, in that sense wherein the Word of God is taken for the Word concerning God, that is to say, for the Doctrine of the Gospell; neither is he who hath the Soveraigne Power in the Church, oblig’d to employ any Ecclesiastical Doctours for the judging of any such kind of matters as these. But for the deciding of questions of Faith, that is to say, concerning God, which transcend humane capacity, we stand in need of a divine blessing (that we may not be deceiv’d at least in necessary points) to be derived from CHRIST himselfe by the imposition of hands. For, seeing to the end we may attaine to eternal Salvation, we are oblig’d to a supernatural Doctrine, & which therefore it is impossible for us to understand; to be left so destitute, as that we can be deceiv’d in necessary points, is repugnant to aequity. This infallibility our Saviour Christ promis’d (in those things which are necessary to Salvation) to his Apostles untill the day of judgement; that is to say, to the Apostles, and Pastors succeeding the Apostles who were to be consecrated by the imposition of hands. He therefore who hath the Soveraigne power in the City, is oblig’d as a Christian, where there is any question concerning the Mysteries of Faith, to interpret the Holy Scriptures by Clergy-men lawfully ordain’d. And thus in Christian Cities the judgement both of spirituall and temporall matters belongs unto the civill authority. And that man, or councell who hath the Supreme power, is head both of the City, and of the Church; for a Church, and a Christian City is but one thing.
Source: De Cive by Thomas Hobbes Chapter XVII.
Thomas Hobbes 1588-1679