For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it;
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—Hab. 2.3.

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THE

REFORMATION

OF THE

CHURCH

To be endeavoured

more then that of the

COMMON-VVEALTH,

Declared,

In a Sermon preached before the Right

Honourable Houſe of LORDS at the

publike Faſt, Auguſt 27. 1645.


By ANTHONY BURGES, Paſtour of Sutton Coldfield,

and now Preacher at Laurence-Jury, London.


LONDON,

Printed by G.M. for T. Underhill at the Bible in Woodſtreet, 1645.

X

TrueCovenanter.com Editor's Introduction.

Dear Reader,

Are you an advocate of political reform?  Are you discontent with economic policies, foreign relations, and domestic disorder in your society?  Is the “state” too big for your liking?  Or do you have a long list of the things you would do differently, and real soon, if you were “in charge of things” in your nation?

It is no surprise if it is so.  But if these things consume our hearts, or dictate our agenda;—if they form our life’s purpose, and our hopeful expectations for our world revolve around our ability to force a change in relation to these things;—then we may be sure of one thing: We have the wrong primary agenda.  It might be the same agenda as famous patriots of the past, but it is off-target and void of permanent usefulness.

Every great reformer, commended to us in Holy Scripture, whether a judge, a king, or otherwise, was a leader who made religion, and the reformation of the Church, priority in his efforts on behalf of his nation.  He imposed a submission to the Law of God, and enforced conformity and uniformity among those over whom he ruled and for whom he cared, as a political father and shepherd.  He inaugurated changes that had respect to the glory of God, as what is of first importance, as well as the good of society, as what is of second importance.

If that’s not the kind of reformation you want, then the reformation you want is one for which you need not pray.  It is not promised in the Word of God.  You may more easily bargain with the devil, than with the Lord, to obtain it.  Perhaps you already have, or your elected representatives have done so for you.

But if change and reformation are things that have a place in your prayers, and the glory of God is something of value to you, then there can be no more bargaining and compromising with the world, the flesh, or the devil.  In our day reformation of the Church and of the religious and philosophical principles of nations should be our desire when it comes to public matters.  Social and economic disorder will be much more easily remedied when right and wrong can be defined properly, and when the Lord’s blessing is welcomed as what is needful, and not merely as a friendly self-compliment.

How far the following sermon may apply to our times, in these matters, the reader may consider and measure through his own examination.  The editor is persuaded much of what is said is what we need to hear.  But one other thing is certain too: much more ought to be said.  Our hearts should lament that we have no such preachers in our day as these of old time, or any rulers who will hear their message with serious attention; and our prayers should include a fervent beseeching of the Lord that he would raise up men in our day with skill and authority to proclaim these truths, and prosecute a full campaign for the reformation of our modern institutions of Church and State.

2013.06.12::JTK.

Die Iovis 28. Auguſt. 1645.

IT is this day ordered by the Lords in Parliament aſſembled, That M. Anthony Burgeſſe, who preached yeſterday before their Lordſhips in the Abbey Church, Weſtminſter, it being the day of the publike Faſt, is hereby thanked for his great pains he took in his ſaid Sermon, and deſired to print and publiſh the ſame, which is only to be done by authority under his hand.

Iohn Brown, Cleric. Parliamentorum.


I Appoint Thomas Vnderhill to print this Sermon.

Anthony Burgeſſ.

TO THE

RIGHT HONOVRABLE

Houſe of PEERS Aſſembled in

PARLIAMENT.

RIGHT HONOURABLE,

THe Scripture taketh notice of those as more noble than others, that enquire and search diligently into the Scripture, concerning the truth of things tendered to be believed. [Acts 17.11.]  And well doth it honour such, because men are apt in matters of Religion (as Seneca speaketh about the opinions of an happy life) Credere magis quà judicare, believe implicitely rather than judge exactly, whereby they walk, Non quâ eundum eſt, ſed quâ itur, not whither we should go, but whither the tract of the path leadeth us.  It was my endeavour in this Sermon to excite your Lordships to a speedy and exact Reformation of the Church from all the corruptions that have defiled her, and herein to attend unto God’s Word, as the only star that will conduct unto Christ.  None are too great to undertake so good a work. Gregory said of David dancing before the Ark, Magis miror Davidem ſaltantem, quàm pugnantem, David {} is more to be admired in his religious worship of God, than in his courageous conquests and slaughters of the Philistines, or other enemies.  Hence, Jer. 9.23,24, where glory in wisdom, riches, and might is forbidden, there is a kind of an holy pride allowed in the knowledge of the Lord.  Let Heathens glory that they are saluted by the Common-wealth, patres patriæ; but let those christians, whom God honoureth with dignity and place, delight to be nursing Fathers unto the Church, by speaking comfortably unto those who teach the good knowledge of God; and by commanding the Levites to carry all the filthiness out of the Temple.  Which that your Lordships may faithfully and zealously do, is the prayer of

Your Lordships’ humble Servant

Anthony Burgesse.


{1}

A SERMON

Preached before the Right Honou-

rable the Houſe of LORDS,

Auguſt 28, 1645.


JUDG. 6.27,28,29.

Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the Lord had said unto him: And so it was, because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the City, that he would not do it by day, that he did it by night.

And when the men of the City rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built.

And they said one to another, Who hath done this thing?  And when they enquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing, &c.

THis book containeth a wonderful alternation and vicissitude of the Israelites troubles, and their deliverances, as also of their sins, and prayers unto God; which old inconstancy of theirs, made Gregory compare them to the grasshoppers, that do on a sudden leap high, and then fall down again to the ground: Thus did the Israelites: and this Chapter containeth the fourth {2} change, wherein we have first described their sin, and then their punishment;—Their sin, verse 1, (The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord:)  This evil was especially Idolatry; hence that is called in Scripture βδηλογμα, the abominable thing; and this Idolatry is either when the true God is not worshipped, or when he is not worshipped in a true manner.  It is not long since in England were found such abominable things, which made the faithful Ministers of God, so zealous for a Reformation; Omnis sermo adaptandus est contra Idolatriam.  In the next place, you have their punishment, they were oppressed by the Midianites: and this was so great, that the Israelites, who had been beasts in their sins, were now made like them in their punishments; for they were forced to hide themselves in dens and caves; and this was not all, they were in danger of scarcity and famine; for they found it very difficult to get corn.  Now the words that do express the misery of war, as clades, strages, and calamitas, are such as are taken from the hurt done to the husbandman, in his corn and grass, as if that were the great evil of war.

In the next place we have Israel’s prayer unto God, verse 6, They cried unto the Lord.  At verse 7, God sendeth a Prophet to them, to inform them of their sin, that the weight thereof might lie heavier upon them, than all outward misery; which also is aggravated by the manifold favours God hath bestowed on them: now it is judged by some, that here is an υστερον προτερον [hysteron proteron] in the history, and that this expostulation, which the Prophet made with them, did precede and cause the prayers and supplications of the Israelites.  What the Prophet was, and whether it was the same with the Angel mentioned, verse 12, I will not discuss.  Upon the Israelites humiliation, God sends {3} them a deliverer, who is described by his name, family, and his present action (he was threshing wheat:) A fit representation of him who was afterwards in the worship of God, to separate the wheat and the chaff.  In the Chapter we have,  1. His call and commission;  2. His humble and modest excuse,  3. His obedience notwithstanding: Now his commission was in two things principally:  First, The destruction of all false worship, with erecting and establishing of the pure:  And secondly, The vindicating and asserting of the Commonwealth from its oppressors:  And my text containeth Gideon’s faithful discharge of the former part of his commission, though he met with much opposition.  Now in this whole fact of Gideon’s, some things are extraordinary, and do not belong as examples to us; but other things are ordinary, and from those I shall gather my present observations:  And first, whereas Gideon doth not only free the Commonwealth from outward violence and oppression, but the Church also from corrupt worship and Idolatry; we may conclude;

Doctrine 1

That it is an happy thing, when those Magistrates, whom God raiseth up to assert the freedoms of a Commonwealth, do also endeavour a reformation of the Church.

In the second place; whereas you see Gideon much opposed, and that by the multitude of people, and the dearest of his friends, insomuch that had he not been endowed with extraordinary piety and magnanimity from above, he could never have performed this great service to God; we may observe;

Doctrine 2

That there is a necessity of the concurrence of many special abilities and graces in those who undertake a Reformation.  I will begin with the first Doctrine.

Before we lay down the grounds of this, take notice, {4} that it lieth as a duty upon Magistrates, to attend to the reformation of all corruptions that creep into the Church, as well as to redress the abuses in a state: Only concerning his power herein, there is a two-fold extremity by way of errour;  first, of Popery, who do not well approve, that the Magistrate should meddle in matters of Religion; but would have him altogether bound up in the determinations of the Pope and his Bishops; and especially they abhor this doctrine, when it extendeth to the reformation of the Ecclesiastical persons;  But we see in the Scripture, the godly Magistrates, Hezekiah, Josiah, and others, demolishing the Altars, encouraging the Priests that taught the good knowledge of God, and punishing Baal’s Priests; and where these things have not been done, there we find the Magistrates reproved: on the other side, the errour may be extreme, when we give them [magistrates] an unlimited power in establishing matters of Religion; as if they were not to be regulated by Scripture, or to take the advice and counsel of those that are Spiritual governours in the Church:  Thus Constantius is branded, who when he would have compelled the Orthodox to Arianism, he uttered that speech full of pride, quod ego volo pro canone sit, what I will, shall stand for a rule:  Thus also we go too far, when we confound Civil power and Ecclesiastick, making the former wholly to devour the latter:  Hence Calvin speaking of the duty of Kings and all in authority, to use the sword for the defence of Religion, and the worship of God; yet addeth, Calv. in Amos, ch. 7 v. 13, [p. 350 of ed. 1846,] that there are inconsiderati homines, &c.  some rash and indiscreet men, who go beyond their bounds in setting up the Magistrate’s power, so that they do abolere omne spirituale regimen, abolish all spiritual government.  By this briefly it may be seen, that it is the Magistrate’s duty, to establish the {5} worship of God, to reform corruptions in the Church; yet with some rules and grounds.  I come therefore to the reasons, why Governours ought to lay to heart, and to be affected with Church matters, as well as those of the state.

[ Reasons why Civil Rulers must be concerned in Church Matters. ]

As 1. Because God’s blessing doth most remarkably follow their other enterprises;  Hence Hag. 1, God bids them consider, whether they did not thrive accordingly as they promoted the building of the Temple; and thus Jehoshaphat, when he bestirred himself in a reformation, fear fell upon all the nations round about, that they dared not to war with him; and on the contrary, how was Solomon’s and Rehoboam’s kingdom shaken, when they corrupted the worship of God?  If we would judge by Scripture, we should see horrible wickedness and impiety in those speeches of men, which say, It is this strictness, this reformation that brings all our calamities upon us: men that will not be persuaded their own oaths, drunkenness, and ungodly practices do make the land miserable, will yet think the prayers and active endeavours of the godly, do bring all our ruin upon us.  1. This is no Scripture judgment.  If therefore we would have God subdue our enemies, and those that hate us, let Magistrates subdue that which is an enemy to God, corrupt worship, defiled administrations of ordinances, these are enemies to God. It is true, sometimes God, to try the constancy of reformers and their faithfulness, hath brought much war and calamity upon them, presently upon finishing the reformation, as 2 Chron. 32.1.

2. Herein are concerned the souls of men: certainly this ought much to inflame, and kindle your affections in a Church-reformation, that hereby you may preserve the souls of thousands from everlasting perdition.  Monopolies {6} and illegal taxes, these only waste the outward estates of men; but corrupt worship, doth [waste] the souls of men.  You do bemoan those thousands that have lost their blood in the field, since the wars began; but (had not God stirred up Governours to reform) how many thousands of souls would have perished through ignorance and superstition?  So that Joseph was never in more mercy raised up by God to preserve his Father and Brethren from famine in time of dearth, than when God moved the hearts of divers in eminent places, to cause the plenty of God’s Word.  Know therefore (Right Honourable) that by your places and power, which God hath committed to you, you may save the souls of many.  Look upon it, as the least thing, that the people of England may by your means have their bodies and estates securely provided for; but account it the greatest obligation, and tie upon you, to provide for their souls and spiritual happiness.  There are spiritual plunderings as well as corporal; and there is the firing of souls as well as houses and towns: therefore let your thoughts and consultations be to prevent these.

3. The devil useth all his malice and power for the subverting of this rather than the other.  Wherein doth the devil’s great enmity and rage appear against men? It is not against their purses, their bodies, their outward comforts, so much as against their souls.

The devil and his instruments they chiefly labour, that there may be no pure doctrine, no holy discipline, no godliness promoted; to stop this, all the power of hell combine: so that the greatest, and the most dangerous part of our war at this time is with the powers of darkness, which stir up instruments to promote that kingdom of darkness. {7}

As they report of the Basilisk, it hateth man so much, that wheresoever it seeth the image or picture of him, it endeavours to tear it in pieces; such is the hatred of Satan and his instruments to anything of God, appearing in doctrine, worship, or discipline, that he would pull all into pieces; and certainly the confusions that the devil hath brought upon Churches by heresies and impieties, are more dreadful and terrible than all the devastations and desolations he hath brought upon States and Common-wealths, by the sword or other calamities.  Let this therefore awaken men in place and authority; and let them think, what is that which hell, which the devils, which wicked men would so gladly have, and they shall see it is nothing, but a dissolute, careless, and impenitent life, without any check from the Word of God.

4. God’s care about his Church is far above that to the Common-wealth.  Therefore learn from God, let your affections and thoughts be most about that, which God hath the greatest care about from all eternity.

He looks to the Common-wealth in the way of providence, as a God absolutely considered; but to his Church, in the decree of Election, and acts of Justification and Salvation, as a gracious Father; therefore God, he doth either bless, or afflict Common-wealths, and the Governours thereof, as they are either froward and churlish, or kind and merciful to his people, Psalm 87.2, Jehovah loveth the gates of Sion more than the dwelling places of Jacob; the place of his worship and ordinances, more than all other places.  Think therefore, that if God’s love, and works, in a remarkable manner be for his people, worship, and ordinances, how effectual and strong ought the resolutions and endeavours of those be, who by reason of their place and office are called gods? and if it was accounted {8} such an honour among the Heathens unto Hercules, that he cleansed their Augean stable, and conquered their many-headed Hydra, how much more will it be matter of honour and glory, to cleanse the temple of God from all defilements, and to subdue all heresies, that rise up against the truths of Christ? let us therefore all imitate God, in our places and relations, by our love and thoughts of good to the Church and ordinances of God.

5. The Common-wealth is in reference and subordination to that: the Church is not for the Common-wealth, but the Common-wealth for the Church.  Hence a Common-wealth is made glorious, when it becometh holy and Christian, as jewels, which they say have their being at first in the sea, yet have more affinity with the heavens, whose colour they represent; so a State when once become the Church of God, doth more depend on heaven, from whence it hath its original, than on the earth, in which it liveth.  And then do all Governours contradict this principle, when they make the Scripture subordinate to State-ends or policies: Thus Jeroboam makes the worship of God subordinate to the outward peace of the Kingdom; and this hath been the fatal miscarriage of many Governours; they have not consulted what God and his Word speaketh, but what are the maxims and principles of State.  If therefore your hearts and affections be for the Common-wealth, how much more ought it be for the Church, seeing God made the world at first, and doth still preserve it, because of his Church that is in it? and if Christ thought not his own blood too much to give for the ransom of it, how much less should we judge our pains and thoughts too much for it? Psalm 2.  There is a forcible exhortation to all the governours of the earth, to receive Christ, and to submit to his government, {9} let none think himself too great to be in Christ’s yoke; nay, this is the end why Christ hath given greatness and power to men, that they might serve his Church; and therefore he suffers her to be in a weak and indigent estate: when the Lord promiseth, that Kings and Queens shall be nursing fathers, and nursing mothers, [Isa. 49.23,] it supposeth the Church to be like a poor helpless orphan: now when we speak thus of helping the Church of God, we mean not in such a manner, as they in Popery plead for the outward dignity and carnal privileges, as also unlawful authority, which are not of Christ’s kingdom; but we speak of the people of God, the Ordinances, the true Doctrine, and the wholesome discipline thereof; we desire these to be established and promoted by you.  Who seeth not a vast difference between the spirit of a proud Thomas Becket, obstinately dying for the outward pomp and usurped power of the Church (as they call it) and the zeal of a Calvin, choosing punishment, yea (a hundred deaths) as he saith, rather than to suffer the publick profanation of the Lord’s Supper.  Plato said, magis amandam esse patriam quàm matrem, quia patria quiddam divinum est: how much rather then are we to love the Church of God, above the Commonwealth, because that is indeed divine, being the immediate plant of Christ himself?

6. God in laying down a law, doth command those things first, that concern him and his worship; so his promises to his Church, are chiefly about the spiritual means of salvation; this consideration may also be a great motive in the work of reformation.  God in his commands, first doth establish the duties of worship and service to him, and then the offices and duties towards man; how happy then is it, when we make laws proportionably to God? {10}

Thus Moses, as soon as he had delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt, before they were a settled Commonwealth, he prescribeth them all the form and manner of God’s worship; and here Gideon in the text, before he subdueth the Midianites, he destroyeth their Idols.  And as you have God’s commands, so also his promises to his Church are chiefly in respect of spiritual things, Hag. 2.6,7.  One would not have thought that the glory there prophesied of for the Temple, should have been the reformation that Christ did bring into it, but rather would have expected some outward material magnificence: Even as in Popery, adorned Temples, goodly Images, and costly vestments, are accounted the glory of a Church: but we see the promise is otherwise: So Zach. 12, and Mal. 1, the promises of God to his people under the Gospel, are not that they shall live free from taxes and pillaging, but that they shall have a refining Ministry, pure Ordinances, and gracious affections in the use of them.

7. The oppressions in worship and Religion are far more grievous than those of the outward man; therefore ought Magistrates to ease the godly in these respects, rather than in any other.  No doubt to the godly Israelites, Gideon was more welcome, in that he destroyed Altars, than in that he vanquished the Midianites.  Conscience is the eye of a man, and any little crumb of dust blown into that is very grievous; This made our godly ancestors, lying under the burdens of Popery, to cry out, like David, for the water of Bethlehem; Who will give us to drink of the pure waters of God’s ordinances? How many have found an hell in their hearts, for communicating with false worship? Our worthy reformers at first, if it had been matter of purse or state, they could have born {11} it; but when oppressions were in doctrine and worship, this made them choose reproaches with Christ, rather than the treasures of Rome.  It is true, there are men whose consciences are like the Leviathan’s skin, no spear can enter into them; let there be an Image set in the room of David, any Idols in the place of Christ, they are not much troubled.  That is observable in the Jews, though senseless enough under their Idolatry, while they were in outward prosperity, yet being in captivity, how tender are they? Psalm 137.3,4.  In that Psalm many things are observable to our purpose; as first, though they were by the pleasant river’s side, yet they could not but mourn for Jerusalem’s sake.  Again, it’s observed by Calvin, as a great testimony of their faith and godly zeal, that they carried their harps with them into so strange a land from their own country, as their dearest household-stuff, which they would keep till God restored them to their worship in Jerusalem again.  Further, you may take notice of their refusal to sing in a strange land; the publick worship of God, and the legal Sacrifices, might not be celebrated in a polluted land.  Hereupon, see into what an holy passion the Church breaks out, verse 6, If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning; If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; If I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy: Here are spiritual, and heavenly hearts, that can rejoice more in the restitution of the worship and ordinances of God, than in all their own private advantages: By this Psalm you see, what an oppression and misery is upon those, who groan under Church-pollutions.  Now one of the main burdens that hath borne down the backs of the godly Ministers in this kingdom, hath been the want of holy and powerful discipline; England was a good school, {12} wherein truths were taught, but there wanted a rod to correct vice; the want of this is a grievous burden.  It’s a passage of Calvin’s to Farell, speaking of the Sacrament to be with them the next Lord’s day, Cogita (saith he) quantis angustiis constringer, utinam me absente posset celebrari, hâc conditione, ut ad vus usque vel manibus reptarem. [Translated in Calvin’s Letters, part 2, page 71.]  What is the cause then, that men may be earnest for the one, and not for the other?

1. The state reformation agreeth most with our sensible good; hence we shall see the Romans and other Heathens, have adventured themselves for the Commonwealth, and have gloried in being the assertors of its liberties; but to promote Christ’s ways, that is contrary to our corrupt hearts: therefore men may be forward to have monopolies and taxes removed, that yet cannot endure to have the sanctification of the Sabbath, the powerful and soul-saving preaching of God’s Word established.[1]  How few are like Theodosius, of whom Ambrose saith, Dilexi virum, qui cum corpore solveretur, magis de statu Ecclesiarum, quàm de propriis periculis angebatur; he was more careful about the Church than his own affairs.

2. Christ hath yokes, and Commonwealths are unwilling to receive these; In Psalm 2, verse 3, see the resolution of the governours of the earth; Let us break their bonds, and cast their cords from us: The orders of Christ are so holy, so heavenly, so self-denying, that few states will arise to the obedience of them: And this made the Heathens object, though very falsely, that Commonwealths and the Christian religion cannot stand together: And this made some profane men profess, when the reformation began in Luther’s time, that they had rather live under the government of the Turk, than where all things should be ordered according to God’s Word; but {13} this is to be ignorant of the great happiness, both spiritual and temporal, which the ways of Christ bring to a people.

Besides the former, there are also extrinsical causes.

1. God leaveth them to their own carnal wisdom; this is a great judgment of God, when they are left, in matters of Religion, to their own hearts, as in Jeroboam and others: some have said, the head of every sacrifice was to be thrown away, and not offered, to signifie, that our own carnal apprehensions must be laid aside in the worship of God: Now the Church of God scarce ever had a reformation, wherein men have not been in part left to this, as appeareth by that frequent passage; Nevertheless the high places were not taken away, [1 Kings 22.43; 2 Kings 12.3, etc.]: therefore to reform, is God’s great work upon the hearts of men, as he poured his Spirit upon Zerubbabel; and take the best reformers, while they have no more than man in them, they are like Sampson without his hair, fearful, worldly, self-seeking as others.

2. The people are unwilling and unprepared: thus it was in Josiah’s time, insomuch that one would wonder to read the story in Josiah’s time, to see what a general compliance there was in the whole kingdom with his reformation, yea, an universal submission thereunto; and to observe the prophecy of Zachary, which is said to be at the same time; for in this latter, God by the Prophet, complaineth of them as a very wicked people, yet they gave way to the reformation by Josiah; only this did not last, for Josiah is immediately killed, and all the people fall back to their false worship again, so that the inward rottenness and hypocrisy of their hearts, do either stop a reformation, intended by governours; or else throweth down immediately whatsoever is built up. {14}

3. A corrupt Ministry doth always oppose this; Magistrates have not been always able to reform as they would, because of the wickedness of the Ministry, who should indeed have laid the first stones of every spiritual building;—Thus Christ, whom the zeal of God’s house did consume, by whom was he contradicted in a most violent manner, but by the Priests and Pharisees?  Thus Luther professed he found more enemies in the Cloisters and Monasteries, than out of wicked and profane places; And is not this to be found in England? had not corrupt Ministers, brokers for Popery, like the Philistines, thrown earth into all our springs that we were to drink of? yet do they repent and humble themselves for all their superstitious pollutions to this very day? or are they not rather obstinate and hardened in the maintaining of them?  So then it’s no wonder, if the governours of a Commonwealth do not so willingly and fully reform, when great learned scholars, and men much admired for their knowledge shall oppose it.

It was a witty speech of Luther’s, Monachica theologia nihil videt in Scripturis nisi cucullos; and it’s true still: great scholars corrupted in their judgments, see nothing in the Scripture, but what they think maketh for Altars, and Ceremonies, and such vanity.

Use.

This is a reproof to those who are willing for the one, but cannot abide the other: By what hath been delivered you may see how happy and blessed a thing it is to a Commonwealth, when governours and people are as desirous to have the liberties which Christ hath given his Church confirmed, as their state liberties;—when they desire to see the Church of God in her spiritual beauty, as well as the Commonwealth in flourishing prosperity.  But this is the great eye-sore and trouble to many; they {15} would have it better with the state, and are not affected with a reformation in the Church; and this carnal disposition was of old.  Augustine speaks much to this purpose about the Heathens, who cried out of the Christian religion, as the cause of all their troubles and miseries; They would have peace again, though they had thereby, mala savis pejora hostibus; and he bringeth in an Heathen, saying, Let us have our feasts again, our merry meetings, reges non curent quam bonis, sed quam subtitis regnant; non jubeantur dura, non prohibeantur impura; Let no hard duties be commanded, no impure ways forbidden, [City of God, Book 2, chapter 20]; Ille sit publicus inimicus cui hæc felicitæs displicetBook 1, The City of God, chapter 30.  I fear these things lie in the bottom of many men’s hearts, who yet are very willing to have all state grievances taken away.

The means to be such Magistrates and people, are these:

1. Be affected with God’s Word, take that for a rule; adore the majesty and fullness of the Scripture; consider not, what this or that carnal principle suggesteth to you, but say, how is it written? and how do we read in the Scripture?  The Church of God is tied to the Scripture, to fetch all nourishment and support from it, as the child is fastened by the navel to the mother, for the relief and maintenance of it: What hath made men heretics in the mysteries of the Trinity and Deity of Christ, but only attending to reason, and not Scripture? they will have us shew the like in the creatures; but the Father said well to the Arian that demanded so, Da mihi alium Deum, & aliam Trinitatem tibi ostendam. [Give me another God, and I will show you another Trinity.]

2. Get an heavenly heart and mind, which will prize the ordinances of God;—till this be in men, they will not move, or stir in any Temple-work.  It’s no marvel if David have such a desire to build an house to God, when {16} he crieth out, How amiable are thy Tabernacles, O Lord? Psalm 84.1. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, &c.  So when he is in banishment, what is that which he so longeth for? is it to have his peace and outward tranquility again, or not rather to see the power and glory of God, as he had seen it in the sanctuary? Psalm 6.31,32.

3. Humble yourselves for former known pollutions, or for negligence and remissness in reformation, when opportunities have been offered.  Who knoweth whether much of this work that is now to do, might not have been dispatched heretofore, if the hearts of men in place had been for it?  Can we say, that it is not the sin of Parliaments and governours heretofore, that the Ark is not already settled? and how necessary our humiliations are for former known defilements and superstitions, appeareth, Ezek. 43.10,11.

4. Remember these considerations.

1. What the thoughts are which God hath about a worship that is none of his, John 4, You worship you know not what; men do they know not what, howsoever they dote most upon their own invented worship.  There is a Papist Raymundus saith, There are as many mysteries in the Mass, as drops in the sea, Angels in Heaven, Stars in the firmament, atoms in the Sun-beams, or sand in the seashore; but that which is highly esteemed among men, is abominable before God. [Luke 16.15.]

2. The danger of our own hearts in such thing; God doth frequently forbid our own wisdom and discretion, in matters concerning him; and the wiser men are, the more absurd they have been in their worship, when they have not been guided by the light of the Scripture, as in the Egyptians, who were noted to be a fountain of the arts, and much knowledge; they were of all the Heathens {17} most ridiculous about their gods.  And all Popery may sufficiently advertise us, how dangerous it is to leave God’s word, and to follow our own imaginations: In things of this life, a Magistrate de jure suu tantum remittere potest, quantum pacis studium requiret: sed alia est ratio spiritualis regiminis. [May by law release what is his own, as much as a desire of peace will require: but there is another rule for the spiritual government.]

3. The unprofitableness of any such way for a spiritual benefit; whatsoever doctrine, worship, or ordinance is not of the Lord’s institution, can never be blessed to any spiritual effect upon the soul: The word of promise doth always suppose a word of institution.

4. Godly men cannot rejoice in outward blessings; if this be wanting, as you heard before of David, though he might have his country, his liberty again, yet that was not so great a good, as to enjoy God again; it is riches and the Gospel, peace and the Gospel that makes a people happy.

5. This is a great argument to prevail with God; what an argument is this in prayer; Lord bless these Magistrates, this Parliament, for they set up thy Kingdom? and consider that every time you pray that petition in the Lord’s prayer, that the Kingdom of God would come; the meaning is, that the powerful preaching of God’s word, and the wholesome dispensation of the ordinances may every where be settled.

But against all these Arguments for a Reformation, there are many objections brought;—I will instance in three only.

First, Some say, this is to make all Religion ridiculous; what a vanity and inconstancy doth this seem to be, to have on year, one kind of service and worship of God, and another the next year?  Now to this I answer these things. {18}

1. It is indeed a very hard thing to take men off from their religious usages, though they have no solid ground to retain them.  Thus Augustine [Epistle 93] he complained, Genus est morbi gravissimi, corum qui dicunt nobis, verè quidem dicitur non est quod respondeatur, sed durum est nobis traditioné parentá relinquere, [Another form of most serious distemper is that of those who say, “What you affirm is true, nothing can be said against it; but it is hard for us to leave off what we have received by tradition from our fathers,”]; This doth much trouble men to leave customs, which by long tract of time have made an awful impression upon their conscience.  And thus, Augustine, at another time, Sensi sæpe dolens & gemens, &c. he often perceived with much grief, that many perturbations and contentions were raised in many things, one reason whereof was, because it was not their custom in their country to do so.  Therefore this must be acknowledged, that people will generally startle and be astonished, if an old custom be denied them, though they have no Scripture for it.

2. It may fall out, that it is so far from being mutability, that it is a duty to leave off such things as have been practiced: Thus when the kingdom of Israel had set up many idolatricall practices, was it their sin, because they made their change, or not rather their duty? and thus in Popery, when God caused the light of Reformation to shine out of that thick darkness; was this levity and mutability, because there were no Altars, no Images, no Mass, where they were used to be for many hundred years?  No, God commanded them to leave Babylon.

3. There is an alteration essential and destructive, and an alteration accidental and perfective.  Where the Churches of God retain the true Doctrine, there is not an essential alteration, nor can Religion properly be said to be changed.  And thus when calumniatours say, that we are setting up a new Religion, it’s but a slander, for the doctrine that hath heretofore been retained in England (I speak not of Papizing and Arminianizing persons) is not {19} changed; we still retain the Doctrine of the Scriptures, of the Trinity, of Christ, of justifying faith: therefore all the alteration is accidental, concerning rituals and discipline, which alteration makes to the perfection and well-being of the Doctrine, for the Doctrine that is anima, and Discipline that is the nerves whereby the body is compact together.

4. No Reformers that ever God raised up in the Church would own themselves so far perfect, as that there needed no addition; we should do wrong to the blessed Reformers, if so be that we should think they themselves thought they had attained to such a Reformation, as needed no further a Reformation.  It’s expressed in the Common-prayer book, That till the primitive Discipline may be restored again, they ordered for the present thus, and thus.  Nay certainly were the godly Martyrs commanded to come out of their graves, and to see what is now doing in England, they would exceedingly rejoice to see the fruit of their prayers.

5. It lieth as a duty upon Churches to improve their talents, as well as particular persons.

If persons are to grow in knowledge and Reformation, then why not Churches? not as if that Academical principle of the Socinians were to be received, that it is lawful every month to alter our opinions in the Doctrine of Religion; that is to bring in Atheism at last: yet notwithstanding there is to be a growth in the clearer knowledge even of essentials; as when a child groweth, he doth not get new members or parts: only they grow in their kind: It is profectus, not alteratio, as Lyrinenſis called it; and as for those things that are not absolutely essential; we see by experience what need there is, that Churches should daily increase in their knowledge.  And so much for this Objection. {20}

The next Objection is of those, who say, It’s no such dangerous thing to live and die in errours, therefore there needeth not so much strictness and accurateness herein;—and the handling of this is necessary in these times, when it is thought that heresy is but a theological fiction, and that it is great innocency.  Now though great care ought to be used, for the declining of all tyranny in Discipline against errours; and in opinions of less concernment, a Magistrate is not to make the major proposition; a jailor, the minor, and a prison the conclusion; yet the people may be more afraid & tremble about errour than they do.  It is good to consider, first, a man may pervert Scripture to his own damnation by errour, 2 Pet. 3.16, Which the unlearned and unstable wrest to their own damnation: So that a man may damn himself by errours, as well as by a wicked life.  Yea Oecumenius makes it as great a sin to wrest and mangle the Scripture, as to take the bodies of the holy Pen-men, and to murder them;—consider that place, Prov. 30.6, Add thou not to his words, lest he reprove thee.  By reproving, is meant a real chastisement and affliction; now when thou liest under heavy troubles, thou enquirest, what sin have I done?  What iniquity is it that I have committed, for which God doth thus heavily afflict me? never considering that it may be for a sinful and carnal opinion.  If therefore errour may be the poison and damnation of a man’s soul, it is not to be judged, as a thing of pardon, rather than of blame, as some would have it.

2. Heresies and errours come from damnable causes; therefore they are not to be sleighted: the general cause of them is made to be the flesh, Gal. 5.20, and reckoned in the nature of them with gross sins, murders, whoredoms, &c. and joined in the damnable effect of them, They that do {21} these things shall never inherit the Kingdom of heaven; neither is there any necessity of that forced interpretation, to take heresies (there spoken of) for contentions and strifes, seeing though the word may denote some wilfull pertinacy, yet it frequently signifieth some pertinacy about religious matters. By this therefore it appeareth, that a man may be carnal by his head-sins, as well as by his hand-sins;—then there are more particular causes mentioned by Scripture of errour, which are damnable, as obstinacy, covetousness, pride, and vain-glory, as in Marcion, when he said, he would throw the fire-balls of contention, which should be unquenchable like those of hell: especially these errours are of a damnable cause, when they come from a looseness of heart, as those that dispute against the morality of the Sabbath, and the strict keeping of it, and against the obligation of the moral law, and the divinity of the Scriptures;—therefore go to the fountain of every errour, and see how dangerous that is.

3. The several acts, or nature, wherein it consisteth, is damnable.  There is a learned man, that confidently maintaineth the word Heresy is never used in the Scripture in a middle or indifferent sense, but always in an ill notion: I shall not call that into question now; only we say, as it is taken ecclesiastically, the acts of it are very heinous, as that it’s putting a lie upon the holy Ghost. If the false prophets were so threatened for saying, Thus saith the Lord, when the Lord did not say so; then must the like condemnation fall upon them, who say, Thus saith the Scripture, when it saith it not.  Again, God’s Word is the publick Standard; it’s the testament of Christ: now how heinous a thing is it judged to falsify the last will of a man?  Again, God’s Word is precious and dear {22} to him, and he will hear the words and the groans, as it were, which this corrupt heart makes in it.

4. The consequents of it are damnable, for errour is like the plague and infection, which destroyeth many others.  Arius una ſcintilla fuit, [Arius was a spark]; and yet how did it fire the whole world? and how well were it, if Luther’s temptation were upon many men, Tune solus ſapis? art thou only wise?  what if thou be damned, and drawest many thousands to hell with thee? therefore it is a true saying, Quicquid in religionem divinam committitur, in omnium fit injuriam. [Justiniani Codicis lib. 1. title 5. 4. 1. Whatever is committed against the divine religion is productive of injury to all persons.]  Again, these sins of errours pollute the mind and understanding, which are the choicest parts of man: always the sins that are majoris infamiæ, great reproach among men, are not presently majoris reatus, of the greater guilt before God.  Is not the devil called an unclean spirit? yet he hath no bodily wickedness, therefore doctrine being the foundation of practice it is dangerous to err there.  And then lastly, such sins we are hardly convinced of.  An outward gross sin natural conscience may condemn, but it cannot do so in matters of faith, because they are supernaturally revealed.  These things duly considered, may make men pray, and again, pray that God would not leave them to their own understandings.

Lastly, There is no solid excuse, or plea can be made for it.  Not that it is a man’s ignorance, and therefore we are to do with them as blind men, whom we pity, and not beat, for by this means the Jews who opposed Christ should have been excused; and those who thought they did God good service in killing of the Prophets: insomuch that a man may be under much guilt by errour, and yet be persuaded he is in the right way; neither doth this excuse him, that he cannot help it, or remove his errour no more than he can remove a mountain into the sea, for then this {23} would excuse those also who are captivated to any sinful way; and certainly the commands of God are as much to understand the truth, and to believe what God hath revealed, as to embrace in our will and affections what is good;—neither doth this excuse them, that they have good intentions and ends, for the Socinians profess they dare not hold Christ to be the true God, equal with the Father, out of reverence and respect to the Father, lest they should dishonour him.  Nor lastly, that every man is fallible, and therefore no man may judge another to err, for if because all may err, it would follow that they do err, then all truths in Religion would be quite overthrown.

The last Objection is, wherein should England be reformed?  Hath not the Church thereof been famous for her orthodoxy? what can be done more to her?  I answer, to settle wholesome orders, and spiritual discipline against sin.  It’s not enough for a Church to be orthodox, but she ought to be holy also, and the Scripture is not only a rule for faith, but for our life also: now take those places of Scripture, 1 Cor. 5.11.  2 Thess. 3.6, what little influence had they upon our Kingdom? O, but this will bring men into bondage and slavery! no more than to have Physicians in the Common-wealth, than to have Pilots in a ship: these orders of Christ are merely medicinal, utiliter vincitur, cui licentia iniquitatis eripitur. [Augustine, Letter (138) to Marcellinus: He is vanquished with benefit to himself, from whom is taken away the freedom which he abuses in doing wrong.]

Again, these orders of Christ are not terrible, for he hath commanded them to be administered, with all love, tenderness, and compassion.  Luther said, while he was still leavened with Popish principles of contrition, and their penance, there was no more bitter word in all the Scripture than resipisce, repent: but when he understood the Gospel, then it was precious and welcome.  Thus it may be with the orders of Christ, while they are looked upon as made odious {24} by the calumnies of men, they are ready to reject them; but if once understood according to the institution, use, and end of them, then with Moses, you may take this Serpent that you were afraid of, and it will become a rod.

Further consider, that it’s no bondage to take Christ’s yoke, [Matt. 11.29]: but to be under the command of sin, that is a slavery.  To be servum tot Dominorum, quot vitiorum [servant of as many masters as vices]; this is indeed a great vassalage.

Again, For want of spiritual order and government in a Church, many sins go unreformed, which yet do much dishonour God; for commonly States, in making of laws, consider a sin, as it is destructive to the Common-wealth, and as injurious to others, and do not for the most part attend to a sin, as it is offensive to God: now what a sad thing is it to consider that the sea is not fuller of water, or the air of flies, than towns and cities are full of wretched oaths, and blasphemous cursings, which certainly do much provoke God against us, whereas spiritual order would be a special means to remove these.

And lastly, lay to heart seriously how far Popery hath prevailed with Kingdoms and States, to debase and wrong themselves indeed, in their outward liberties, to set up that; and shall not Christ prevail to have his doctrine and orders settled, which will indeed be no detriment, but a preservation of all honour and dignity?

And thus have I answered the three main Objections.

I come to the second Doctrine, which is,

Doctrine 2 Explained

That the work of Reformation, requireth the concurrence and conflux of many noble and excellent graces.  It’s like the choice compound of ointment, which Aaron was to make.  As

First, A clear understanding of God’s will out of his Word.  Thus the King he was to write God’s Word, and {25} to be acquainted familiarly with it, [Deut. 17.18-20,] that so he might be the more able to reform all abuses that may creep into the worship of God: it’s a great fault, when men in place and power think that matters of Religion do not at all belong to them; whereas they cannot discharge their duties, if they know not by the Word what to do.

2. Zeal for God’s glory, and his pure worship.  Such as was in David, and Hezekiah, and most remarkably in Christ himself.  It’s an excellent thing, when Magistrates lay to heart God’s dishonour more than their own, and are more sollicitous that the laws of Christ may be best, than their own laws.  It was an ingenuous way of reproving, which one orthodox Bishop used to an Arian Emperour, who being called into the Emperour’s presence, where his son also was, the Bishop made his low obeisance to the Emperour, but took no notice at all of the Emperour’s son; at which there was great offence taken; but the Bishop replied, that if he would not honour the Son of God, why should he regard his son: So why should we look upon it as an heinous thing, when men will not keep our Laws, if we do not God’s?

3. Publick Affections, and love to the souls of others.  Unless a man be clothed with a public spirit, he cannot labour for a Reformation.  Nehemiah, though it was well with him, yet how deeply and sadly is he affected, because the Temple lieth desolate? and thus Christ himself at that very time, when he was received with the greatest acclamations, he doth not mind them, but weeps for Jerusalem. [Matt. 23.37-39.]  Then hath God dealt graciously with your hearts, when neither riches, honours, or any personal dignity can do you any good, till Jerusalem be settled a praise in the earth, as it was with David.

4. Sincerity and pure aims.  For though Governours {26} may be carried far in a Reformation, yet if pure love to God and his Ordinances be not the Star which leadeth them, the issue will be very uncomfortable;—you have a sad instance in Jehu, who though he did all according to God’s heart (as the Scripture saith, [2 Kings 10.30-31,]) yet Hosea 1, God threatens to be avenged on him.  Take heed therefore of corrupt, political designs in promoting God’s work.  Nazianzen complained of some that were χριστειπιροι and χρισοχαπηλοι: This hath made God many times let his own Ark fall into the hands of the Philistines, not but that his cause was dear to him, only those who managed it, had selfish and particular interests.

5. Humility under all the honours God puts upon them.  This was wonderful in Gideon and David, whereas men, who are lifted up by any success that God bestoweth on them, are like a blazing star, that make a great lustre at first, but at last end in slime.  John the Baptist that wrought a great Reformation, and the eyes of the world was upon him, yet he rejoiced, because he must decrease, and Christ increase. [John 3.29,30.]

6. Exemplary Holiness of Life.  This obligation cometh upon all Reformers, by that general rule, He which reproveth others, ought himself to be free from those sins.  The examples of Reformers, they are to others, as the particoloured sticks to Jacob’s sheep, [Gen. 30.37-43]: and indeed how uncomely is it, when Governours make laws against impiety, profanation of the Sabbath, contempt of holiness,—and such sins be found in their lives, or in their families?  Now this is a great part of Reformation, when the lives and families of men are changed, as well as when Reformation is in the publick worship and Ordinances.

7. Fortitude and Courage, accompanied with Faith.  For all Reformations meet with much opposition and contempt.  When Hezekiah sent messengers up and down for {27} the pure keeping of the Passover, they were mocked and scorned. [2 Chron. 30.]  Now to go through all the accusations and calumnies of men, yea and many exercises from God himself, this requireth, as humility and patience to be under them, so faith and courage, to be above them.

8. Prudence and Singular Wisdom.  This fact of Gideon, going with some few men in the night, is questioned by some as a weakness in him, whereas indeed it was his great prudence.  Any that hath read ecclesiastical Histories may observe that the imprudence of men, hath much hindered the propagation of truth; only there must be care that prudence do not degenerate into carnal and mere State-wisdom; God hath made such wisdom in the end great folly, especially when it is accompanied with the corruption of his worship.

Use of Doctrine 2.

The Use is for Exhortation, to be filled with all these excellent qualifications,—God hath put an opportunity into our hands, and we have all covenanted according to our places and callings to set upon this work.  Let us therefore be humbled and ashamed this day, that we have with no more zeal promoted it.  How have Governours, and others, who have not had such advantages, such interests in the Kingdom, done much for Christ and his Ordinances?—and do these things speedily, lest hereafter you may in the anguish and grief of your spirits call for the time and opportunities again, but cannot obtain them; let not the generation to come say, our Governours indeed delivered a Commonwealth from thraldom, but beset the faithful Ministers, and the godly people of the land, under as many groans and troubles as ever before.

FINIS.


Footnotes:

1. It should be observed that this description is largely applicable to modern societies, even in lands blessed with the light of the Christian religion.  To operate under the now-common God-ignoring outlook on life and society is the strictly resolved-and-observed agenda of the United States, and has been so since its revolution. The people and children of that nation are carefully indoctrinated with this man-centered way of thinking and glory in its ungodliness as what makes them superior (as they suppose) to nations more obviously affected by religious strife. Sadly, even the professing Christians of modern societies are very largely conformed to the description given by our author in the above point and that which follows. It is of great importance, therefore, that Christians make use of every opportunity to demonstrate a God-focused and faith-directed agenda for advancing the kingdom of Christ;—not only that it might be done, but that others may learn by our example to resist the contrary man-centered way of thinking, talking, planning, and acting: that the eyes of both believers, and present-unbelievers, may be opened in beholding the lives and confessions of those who believe that Jesus Christ is even now King over every nation, and has a full and proper right to their national obedience.—JTK.