« AnteriorContinuar »
thought fit to be filled rather with some grave sound, than with a still silence; which was the reason of the playing upon the organs after the Scriptures read: all which was decent and tending to edification. But then the curiosity of division and reports, and other figures of music, have no affinity with the reasonable service of God, but were added in the more pompous times.
For the cap and surplice, since they be things in their nature indifferent, and yet by some held superstitious; and that the question is between science and conscience, it seemeth to fall within the compass of the apostle's rule, which is, that the stronger do descend and yield to the weaker. Only the difference is, that it will be materially said, that the rule holdeth between private man and private man ; but not between the conscience of a private man, and the order of a Church. But yet since the question at this time is of a toleration, not by connivance, which may encourage disobedience, but by law, which may give a liberty; it is good again to be advised whether it fall not within the equity of the former rule: the rather, because the silencing of ministers by this occasion is, in this scarcity of good preachers, a punishment that lighteth upon the people as well as upon the party. And for the subscription, it seemeth to me in the nature of a confession, and therefore more proper to bind in the unity of faith, and to be urged rather for articles of doctrine, than for rites and ceremonies, and points of outward government. For howsoever politic considerations and reasons of state may require uniformity, yet Christian and divine grounds look chiefly upon unity.
TOUCHING A PREACHING MINISTRY.
To speak of a learned ministry: it is true that the worthiness of the pastors and ministers is of all other points of religion the most summary; I do not say the greatest, but the most effectual towards the rest: but
herein, to my understanding, while men go on in zeal to hasten this work, they are not aware of as great or greater inconvenience, than that which they seek to remove. For while they inveigh against a dumb ministry, they make too easy and too promiscuous an allowance of such as they account preachers; having not respect enough to their learnings in other arts, which are handmaids to divinity; not respect enough to years, except it be in case of extraordinary gift; not respect enough to the gift itself, which many times is none at all. For God forbid, that every man that can take unto himself boldness to speak an hour together in a Church, upon a text, should be admitted for a preacher, though he mean never so well. I know there is a great latitude in gifts, and a great variety in auditories and congregations; but yet so as there is aliquid infimum, below which you ought not to descend. For you must rather leave the ark to shake as it shall please God, than put unworthy hands to hold it up. And when we are in God's temple, we are warned rather to put our hands upon our mouth, than to offer the sacrifice of fools. And surely it may be justly thought, that amongst many causes of atheism, which are miserably met in our age; as schisms and controversies, prophane scoffings in holy matters, and others; it is not the least that divers do adventure to handle the word of God, which are unfit and unworthy. And herein I would have no man mistake me, as if I did extol curious and affected preaching; which is as much on the other side to be disliked, and breedeth atheism and scandal as well as the other: for who would not be offended at one that cometh into the pulpit, as if he came upon the stage to play parts or prizes? neither on the other side, as if I would discourage any who hath any tolerable gift.
But upon this point I ground three considerations: first, whether it were not requisite to renew that good exercise which was practised in this Church, some years, and afterwards put down by order indeed from the Church, in regard of some abuse thereof, inconvenient for those times; and yet against the advice and
opinion of one of the greatest and gravest prelates of this land, and was commonly called prophesying; which was this: That the ministers within a precinct did meet upon a week-day in some principal town, where there was some ancient grave minister that. was president, and an auditory admitted of gentlemen, or other persons of leisure. Then every minister successively, beginning with the youngest, did handle one and the same part of Scripture, spending severally some quarter of an hour or better, and in the whole some two hours: and so the exercise being begun and concluded with prayer, and the president giving a text for the next meeting, the assembly was dissolved. And this was, as I take it, a fortnight's exercise; which, in my opinion, was the best way to frame and train up preachers to handle the word of God as it ought to be handled, that hath been practised. For we see orators have their declamations, lawyers have their moots, logicians their sophisms; and every practice of science hath an exercise of erudition and initiation before men come to the life; only preaching, which is the worthiest, and wherein it is most danger to do amiss, wanteth an introduction, and is ventured and rushed upon at the first. But unto this exercise of the prophecy, I would wish these two additions: the one, that after this exercise, which is in some sort public, there were immediately a private meeting of the same ministers, where they might brotherly admonish the one the other, and especially the elder sort the younger, of any thing that had passed in the exercise, in matter or manner, unsound and uncomely; and in a word, might mutually use such advice, instruction, comfort, or encouragement, as occasion might minister; for public reprehension were to be debarred. The other addition that I mean is, that the same exercise were used in the universities for young divines, before they presumed to preach, as well as in the country for ministers. For they have in some colleges an exercise called a common-place; which can in no degree be so profitable, being but the speech of one man at one time. And if it be feared
that it may be occasion to whet mens speeches for controversies, it is easily remedied, by some strict prohibition, that matters of controversy tending any way to the violating or disquieting the peace of the Church, be not handled or entered into; which prohibition, in regard there is ever to be a grave person president or moderator, cannot be frustrated. The second consideration is, whether it were not convenient there should be a more exact probation and examination of ministers: namely, that the bishops do not ordain alone, but by advice; and then that ancient holy order of the Church might be revived; by the which the bishop did ordain ministers but at four set times of the year; which were called Quatuor tempora; which are now called Ember-weeks: it being thought fit to accompany so high an action with general fasting and prayer, and sermons, and all holy exercises; and the names likewise of those that were to be ordained, were published some days before their ordination; to the end exceptions might be taken, if just cause were. The third consideration is, that if the case of the Church of England be, that were a computation taken of all the parochian churches, allowing the union of such as were too small and adjacent, and again a computation to be taken of the persons who were worthy to be pastors; and upon the said account if it fall out that there are many more churches than pastors, then of necessity recourse must be had to one of these remedies; either that pluralities must be allowed, especially if you can by permutation make the benefices more compatible; or that there be allowed preachers to have a more general charge, to supply and serve by turn parishes unfurnished: for that some churches should be provided of pastors able to teach, and others wholly destitute, seemeth to me to be against the communion of saints and Christians, and against the practice of the primitive Church.
TOUCHING THE ABUSE OF EXCOMMUNICATION.
EXCOMMUNICATION is the greatest judgment upon earth; being that which is ratified in heaven; and being a precursory or prelusory judgment of the great judgment of Christ in the end of the world. And therefore for this to be used irreverently, and to be made an ordinary process, to lackey up and down for fees, how can it be without derogation to God's honour, and making the power of the keys contemptible? I know very well the defence thereof, which hath no great force; that it issueth forth not for the thing itself, but for the contumacy. I do not deny, but this judgment is, as I said before, of the nature of God's judgments; of the which it is a model. For as the judgment of God taketh hold of the least sin of the impenitent, and taketh no hold of the greatest sin of the convert or penitent; so excommunication may in case issue upon the smallest offence, and in case not issue upon the greatest: but is this contumacy such a contumacy as excommunication is now used for? For the contumacy must be such as the party, as far as the eye and wisdom of the Church can discern, standeth in state of reprobation and damnation as one that for that time seemeth given over to final impenitency. Upon this observation I ground two considerations: the one, that this censure be restored to the true dignity and use thereof; which is, that it proceed not but in causes of great weight; and that it be decreed not by any deputy or substitute of the bishop, but by the bishop in person; and not by him alone, but by the bishop assisted.
The other consideration is, that in lieu thereof, there be given to the ecclesiastical court some ordinary process, with such force and coercion as appertaineth; that so the dignity of so high a sentence being retained, and the necessity of mean process supplied, the Church may be indeed restored to the ancient vigour and splendour, To this purpose, joined with