Page images
PDF
EPUB

can

dren to an early piety, and their parents and guardians by their care to prevent the follies of their youth : but then when we consider that infants receive great blessings from God in this holy ministry, that what is done to them on God's part, is of great effect before the ratification of their vow, this prudential consideration of theirs is light and airy.

And after all this it will be easy to determine which is the surer way. For certainly to baptize infants is hugely agreeable to that charity, which Christ loved in those who brought them to him; and if infants die before the use of reason,

it do them no hurt that they were given to God in a holy designation; it cannot any way be supposed, and is not pretended by any one, to prejudice their eternity: but if they die without baptism, it is then highly questioned whether they have not an intolerable loss. And if it be questioned by wise men whether the want of it do not occasion their eternal loss, and it is not questioned whether baptism does them any hurt or no, then certainly to baptize them is the surer way without all peradventure.

Ad 33.— The last number sums up many words of affrightment together, but no argument, nothing but bold and unjustifiable assertions; against which I only oppose their direct contradictories. But instead of them the effect of the former discourse is this, that whoever shall pertinaciously deny or carelessly neglect the baptism of infants, does uncharitably expose his babes to the danger of an eternal loss, from which there is no way to recover but an extraordinary way, which God hath not revealed to us; he shuts them out of the church, and keeps them out who are more fit to enter than himself ; he, as much as lies in him, robs the children of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and a title to the promises evangelical; he supposes that they cannot receive God's gifts unless they do in some sense or other deserve them, and that a negative disposition is not sufficient preparation to a new creation, and an obediential capacity is nothing, and yet it was all that we could have in our first creation; he supposes that we must do something before the first grace, that is, that God does not love us first, but we first love him; that we seek him, and he does not seek us ; that we are beforehand with him, and therefore can do something without him; that nature can alone bring us to God. For if he did not suppose

all this, his great pretence of the necessity of faith and repentance would come to nothing: for infants might without such dispositions receive the grace of baptism, which is always the first; unless by the superinducing of actual sins upon our nature, we make it necessary to do something to remove the hinderances of God's Spirit, and that some grace be accidentally necessary before that which ordinarily and regularly is the first grace. He, I say, that denies baptism to infants, does disobey Christ's commandment, which being in general and indefinite terms, must include all that can be saved, or can come to Christ; and he excepts from Christ's commandment whom he pleases, without any exception made by Christ; he makes himself lord of the sacrament, and takes what portions he pleases from his fellow-servants, like an evil and an unjust steward; he denies to bring little children to Christ, although our dearest Lord commanded them to be brought; he upbraids the practice and charity of the holy catholic church, and keeps infants from the communion of saints, from a participation of the promises, from their part of the covenant, from the laver of regeneration, from being rescued from the portion of Adam's inheritance, from a new creation, from the kingdom of God, which belongs to them and such as are like them. And he that is guilty of so many evils, and sees such horrid effects springing from his doctrine, must quit his error, or else openly profess love to a serpent, and direct enmity to the most innocent part of mankind.

I do not think the Anabaptists perceive or think these things to follow from their doctrine: but yet they do so really: And therefore the effect of this is, that their doctrine iş wholly to be reproved and disavowed, but the men are to be treated with the usages of a Christian: strike them not as an enemy, but exhort them as brethren. They are with all means Christian and human to be redargued or instructed: but if they cannot be persuaded, they must be left to God, who knows every degree of every man's understanding, all his weaknesses and strengths, what impress every argument makes upon his spirit, and how uncharitable every reason is, and he alone judges of his ignorance or his malice, his innocency or his avoidable deception. We have great reason to be confident as to our own part of the question ;

but it were also well if our knowledge would make us thankful to God, and humble in ourselves, and charitable to our brother. It is pride that makes contention, but humility is

of peace and truth.

the way

SECTION XIX.

That there may be no Toleration of Doctrines inconsistent with

Piety, or the public Good. 1. But then for their other capital opinion, with all its branches, that it is not lawful for princes to put malefactors to death, nor to take up defensive arms, nor to minister an oath, nor to contend in judgment, it is not to be disputed with such liberty as the former. For although it be part of that doctrine which Clemens Alexandrinus P says was delivered "per secretam traditionem apostolorum, non licere Christianis contendere in judicio, nec coram gentibus nec coram sanctis; et perfectum non debere jurare;" and the other part seems to be warranted by the eleventh canon of the Nicene council, which enjoins penance to them that take arms after their conversion to Christianity : yet either these authorities are to be slighted, or be made receptive of any interpretation, rather than the commonwealth be disarmed of its necessary supports, and all laws made ineffectual and impertinent. For the interest of the republic and the wellbeing of bodies politic, is not to depend upon the nicety of our imaginations, or the fancies of any peevish or mistaken priests; and there is no reason a prince should ask John-a-Brunck whether his understanding would give him leave to reign, and be a king. Nay, suppose there were divers places of Scripture which did seemingly restrain the political use of the sword; yet since the avoiding a personal inconvenience hath by all men been accounted sufficient reason to expound Scripture to any sense rather than the literal, which infers an unreasonable inconvenience (and therefore the 'pulling out an eye,' and the 'cutting off a hand,' is expounded by mortifying a vice, and killing a criminal habit), much rather must the allegations against the

P Lib. 7. Strom.

power of the sword endure any sense rather than it should be thought that Christianity should destroy that which is the only instrument of justice, the restraint of vice and support of bodies politic. It is certain that Christ and his apostles and Christian religion, did comply with the most absolute government, and the most imperial that was then in the world, and it could not have been at all endured in the world if it had not; for indeed the world itself could not last in regular and orderly communities of men, but be a perpetual confusion, if princes and the supreme power in bodies politic were not armed with a coercive power to punish malefactors: the public necessity and universal experience of all the world, convince those men of being most unreasonable that make such pretences which destroy all laws, and all communities, and the bands of civil societies, and leave it arbitrary to every vain or vicious person, whether men shall be safe, or laws be established, or a murderer hanged, or princes rule. So that in this case men are not so much to dispute with particular arguments, as to consider the interest and concernment of kingdoms and public societies. For the religion of Jesus Christ is the best establisher of the felicity of private persons, and of public communities : it is a religion that is prudent and innocent, humane and reasonable, and brought infinite advantages to mankind, but no inconvenience, nothing that is unnatural, or unsociable, or unjust. And if it be certain that this world cannot be governed without laws, and laws without a compulsory signify nothing; then it is certain that it is no good religion that teaches doctrine whose consequents will destroy all government: and therefore it is as much to be rooted out as any thing that is the greatest pest and nuisance to the public interest. And that we may guess at the purposes of the men, and the inconvenience of such doctrine; these men that did first intend by their doctrine to disarm all princes and bodies politic, did themselves take up arms to establish their wild and impious fancy. And indeed that prince or commonwealth that should be persuaded by them, would be exposed to all the insolences of foreigners, and all mutinies of the teachers themselves, and the governors of the people could not do that duty they owe to their people, of protecting them from the rapine and malice, which will be in the world as long as

the world is. And therefore here they are to be restrained from preaching such doctrine, if they mean to preserve their government: and the necessity of the thing will justify the lawfulness of the thing. If they think it to themselves, that cannot be helped; so long it is innocent as much as concerns the public: but if they preach it, they may be accounted authors of all the consequent inconveniences, and punished accordingly. No doctrine that destroys government, is to be endured. For although those doctrines are not always good that serve the private ends of princes, or the secret designs of state, which by reason of some accidents or imperfections of men may be promoted by that which is false and pretending; yet no doctrine can be good that does not comply with the formality of government itself, and the well-being of bodies politic. “ Augur cùm esset Cato, dicere ausus est, optimis auspiciis ea geri, quæ pro reipublicæ salute gererentur; quæ contra rempublicam ferrentur contra auspicia ferrig." Religion is to meliorate the condition of a people, not to do it disadvantage: and therefore those doctrines that inconvenience the public, are no parts of good religion. Ut respublica salva sit,' is a necessary consideration in the permission of prophesyings; for according to the true, solid, and prudent ends of the republic, so is the doctrine to be permitted or restrained, and the men that preach it according as they are good subjects and right commonwealth's men. For religion is a thing superinduced to temporal government, and the church is an addition of a capacity to a commonwealth, and therefore is in no sense to disserve the necessity and just interests of that, to which it is superadded for its advantage and conservation.

2. And thus by a proportion to the rules of these instances all their other doctrines are to have their judgment as concerning toleration or restraint: for all are either speculative or practical, they are consistent with the public ends or inconsistent, they teach impiety or they are innocent; and they are to be permitted or rejected accordingly. For in the question of toleration, the foundation of faith, good life and government are to be secured: in all other cases the former considerations are effectual.

4 Cicero de Senectute. 4, 4. Wetzel. p. 28.

« PreviousContinue »