« PreviousContinue »
ence are two words, which are very unfit in great variety of Cases to be joyned together. I shall readily grant, that to act against our Conscience is always a sin; but then I shall add this further, That it is very frequently a grievous sin to act according to it: Conscience may in some cases condemn, but there are very many cases wherein it cannot justifie. I know nothing by my self (faith St. Paul) yet am I not hereby justified ; and farther, I my self thought verily that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus, &c. The Scripture tells us of feared Consciences, Reprobate Minds, Men whose minds and Consciences are defiled. From all which Expressions, it is very clear, That Conscience is not a safe Rule for any man to act by in his private Capacity.
And in the next place, as Conscience is very far from being a safe Rule for any man to act by in his private Capacity; so it is by no means ad. visable, that men should be so far trusted, as to teach according to it in any Publick Places : St. Paul assures
us, that by this permission dangerous Contentions shall arise, by reason of the perverseness of men, when in the nature of the things there was no real Cause for them, 2 Tim. 2. 14. They will strive about words to no purpose, to the subversion of the hearers : And, I Tim. 4. 1. he tells us of seducing spi. rits, who teach the doctrine of devils : 2 Tim. 3. for many Verses together, he describes a sort of very wicked men, of whom in the close he gives this Character, That they have a form of godlines, but deny the power thereof; that they creep into houses and lead captive silly women laden with divers lusts : And again we read of those who bring in damnable Heresies; and again, which directly cometh up to the point in hand about Tolerati, on, whose mouths must be stopped. Thus far therefore our way is clear ; 1. That according to the Doctrine of the New Testament, Conscience is not its own Rule, is not entirely left to it self in its own way of acting : 2. That those who are allowed to be publick Prea. chers are not to be intrusted with an
absolute Liberty of propagating whatever Opinions themselves either real ly are, or shall pretend to be of; of which I have already spoke , and therefore shall add no more upon that point belides the laying down some of the many Inconveniencies which will unavoidably arise upon the granting of any such Liberty in these Two Respects, 1. Of Religion, 2..OF Government.
First, as to Religion ; and here the Case is very clear, that such a Liberty is the most ready way in the World to make Religion weak and despicable, by being crumbled into an unaccountable and every day encreasing variety of Sects and Schisms : What one other Contrivance can possibly be thought upon, whereby to expose Religion to the frequent and seemingly just scorn of Unbelievers than this? That it should by publick Authority be openly exposed to all manner of ridiculous and incongruous pretences unto it, to all kinds of dotage and imposture, to all the folly and all the falleness which is to be met with among the fors of men: That every one who hath but a Freak in his Brain shall have free Liberty, if he pleaseth, to Christen it a motion of the Spirit, and every humour though never so unheard of and extravagant , shall have by Law a Priviledge (if it will but claim it) to recommend its self as a degree of further Light: Here we Thall see men fbaking all day, as if the Spirit came to them in Convulsions, and as the humour increaseth we shall see them run naked about the Streets, as if with the Old Man, they had put off all degrees of Modesty : The Scripture shall be frequently so interpre. ted, as that no man in his Wits can poffibly understand it, it both hath and may be allegorized so far as to leave no manner of Sence or Truth in any one Word of all the History of it; its Laws may be so commented upon, as to carry in them no manner of Obligation: Among our selves the Family of Love had gotten a Fancy that Christ was not any one Person, but a quality whereof many are partakers, that to be raised is nothing
elle, but to be regenerated or endued with the said Quality, and the separation from them which have it, and them which have it not, is Judgment: Now where ever this Liberty is indulged, the Grand and concerning Articles of our Faith, our Saviours taking Humane Nature upon him, the Resurrection from the Dead, and the last Judgment , are all given away in Exchange for two or three fanciful Expressions. The History of the Creation hath of old been made but an Allegory ; the Garden of Eden a fine Trope; it is to little purpose to alledge that with equal Reason it might be said, that by the whole Race of mankind was not to be understood any real Beings, but only so many handsome Figures, and by the Universe is not to be understood a Creation, but a Strain of Wit, for Reason in such like Cases will be no more harkned to, than Scripture: So likewise it hath been taught, that Christ shall descend from Heaven in a Metaphor, and we be catched upinto the Air in a Moral way; The New Heavens and the New