Page images
PDF
EPUB

ment, and knoweth as well the measure of things as the nature of them; it is surely a needless fear. For they need not doubt but your majesty, with the advice of your council, will discern what things are intermingled like the tares ainongst the wheat, which have their roots so enwrapped and entangled, as the one cannot be pulled up without endangering the other; and what are mingled but as the chaff and the corn, which need but a fan to sift and sever them. So much therefore for the first point, of no reformation to be admitted at all.

For the second point, that there should be but one form of discipline in all churches, and that imposed by necessity of a commandment and prescript out of the word of God; it is a matter volumes have been compiled of, and therefore cannot receive a brief redargution. I for my part do confess, that in revolving the Scriptures I could never find

any

such thing: but that God had left the like liberty to the Church government, as he had done to the civil government; to be varied according to time, and place, and accidents, which nevertheless his high and divine providence doth order and dispose. For all civil governments are restrained from God unto the general grounds of justice and manners; but the policies and forms of them are left free : so that monarchies and kingdoms, senates and seignories, popular states, and communalities, are lawful, and where they are planted ought to be maintained inviolate.

So likewise in Church matters, the substance of

[ocr errors]

doctrine is immutable; and so are the general rules of government: but for rites and ceremonies, and for the particular hierarchies, policies, and disciplines of churches, they be left at large. And therefore it is good we return unto the ancient bounds of unity in the Church of God; which was, one faith, one baptism; and not, one hierarchy, one discipline ; and that we observe the league of Christians, as it is penned by our Saviour; which is in substance of doctrine this : " He that is not with us, is against us:” but in things indifferent, and but of circumstance this ; “He that is not against us, is with us.” In these things, so as the general rules be observed ; that Christ's flock be fed ; that there be a succession in bishops and ministers, which are the prophets of the New Testament; that there be a due and reverent use of the power of the keys; that those that preach the gospel, live of the gospel ; that all things tend to edification ; that all things be done in order and with decency, and the like : the rest is left to the holy wisdom and spiritual discretion of the master builders and inferior builders in Christ's Church; as it is excellently alluded by that father that noted, that Christ's garment was without seam; and yet the Church's garment was of divers colours : and thereupon setteth down for a rule; “in veste varietas sit, scissura non sit.”

In which variety, nevertheless, it is a safe and wise course to follow good examples and precedents ; but then by the rule of imitation and example to consider not only which are best, but which are the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

likeliest; as namely, the government of the Church in the purest times of the first good emperors that embraced the faith. For the times of persecution, before temporal princes received our faith, as they were excellent times for doctrine and manners, so they be improper and unlike examples of outward government and policy. And so much for this point: now to the particular points of controversies, or rather of reformation.

CIRCUMSTANCES IN THE GOVERNMENT OF

BISHOPS.

First therefore, for the government of bishops, I for my part, not prejudging the precedents of other reformed churches, do hold it warranted by the word of God, and by the practice of the ancient Church in the better times, and much more convenient for kingdoms, than parity of ministers and government by synods. But then farther, it is to be considered, that the Church is not now to plant or build; but only to be pruned from corruption, and to be repaired and restored in some decays.

For it is worth the noting, that the Scriptur saith, “ Translato sacerdotio, necesse est ut et legi fiat translatio.” It is not possible, in respect of th great and near sympathy between the state civil and the state ecclesiastical, to make so main an altera tion in the Church, but it would have a perilous operation upon the kingdoms; and therefore it is fit that controversy be in peace and silence.

But there be two circumstances in the administration of bishops, wherein, I confess, I could never be satisfied; the one, the sole exercise of their authority; the other, the deputation of their authority.

For the first, the bishop giveth orders alone, excommunicateth alone, judgeth alone. This seemeth to be a thing almost without example in good government, and therefore not unlikely to have crept in in the degenerate and corrupt times. We see the greatest kings and monarchs have their councils. There is no temporal court in England of the higher sort where the authority doth rest in one person. The king's bench, common-pleas, and the exchequer, are benches of a certain number of judges. The chancellor of England hath an assistance of twelve masters of the chancery. The master of the wards hath a council of the court: so hath the chancellor of the duchy. In the exchequer-chamber, the lord treasurer is joined with the chancellor and the barons. The masters of the requests are ever more than one. The justices of assize are two. The lord presidents in the North and in Wales have councils of divers. The star-chamber is an assembly of the king's privy council, aspersed with the lords spiritual and tem. poral: so as in courts the principal person hath ever -ither colleagues or assessors.

The like is to be found in other well-governed commonwealths abroad, where the jurisdiction is yet

1

more dispersed; as in the court of parliament of France, and in other places. No man will deny but the acts that pass the bishop's jurisdiction are of as great importance as those that pass the civil courts :: for men's souls are more precious than their bodies or goods; and so are their good names. Bishops have their infirmities, and have no exception from that general malediction which is pronounced against all. men living, “ Væ soli, nam si occideret, &c.” Nay, we see that the first warrant in spiritual causes is directed to a number, “ Dic Ecclesiæ ;" which is not so in temporal matters : and we see that in general causes of Church government, there are as well assemblies of all the clergy in councils, as of all the states in parliament. Whence should this sole exercise of jurisdiction come ? Surely I do

suppose, and,

, I think, upon good ground, that “ ab initio non fuit ita ;" and that the deans and chapters were councils about the sees and chairs of bishops at the first, and were unto them a presbytery or consistory; and intermeddled not only in the disposing of their revenues and endowments, but much more in jurisdiction ecclesiastical. But it is probable, that the deans and chapters stuck close to the bishops in matters of profit and the world, and would not lose their hold; but in matters of jurisdiction, which they accounted but trouble and attendance, they suffered the bishops to incroach and usurp; and so the one continueth, and the other is lost. And we see that the bishop of Rome, “ fas enim et ab hoste doceri,” and no question in that church the first institutions were excel

« PreviousContinue »