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and more proportionable to the religion, calls upon us for an offering and voluntary contribution, if the instance be in a matter as proportionable to the gospel as that was to the law of Moses, the excellency of the religion and the dignity of the work and the degree of our grace and love, require of us to be more ready and more liberal in equal proportions.
10. (8.) In those graces, which are proper to the gospel, that is, such which are the peculiar of Christians, literally and plainly exacted of us, and but obscurely insinuated, or collaterally and by the consequence of something else required of them, it cannot be but that the obedience which we owe, should be more ready, the actions more frequent, the degrees more intense; because every advantage in the commandment hath no other end but to be an advance of our duty; and what was obscurely commanded, can be but dully paid; while the Christian's duty must be brisk and potenț and voluntary and early and forward and intense, in proportion to greater mercies received, to a better law, to a more determined conscience, to a clearer revelation, to more terrible threatenings, and to the better promises of the gospel: all which are so many conjugations of aid, and instances of a mighty grace. And therefore Christians are to be more humble, more patient, more charitable, mor eb untiful, greater despisers of the world, greater lords over all their passions, than the Jews were obliged to be by the consequences of their law.
11. (9.) When this comes to be reduced to practice in any particular inquiry of conscience, every Christian is not to measure his actions by proportion to the best, and the rare persons under the Mosaic law, in their best and heroic actions. For who can do more than David did, after he had procured the waters of Bethlehem to cool his intolerable thirst, but to deny his appetite, and refuse to drink the price of blood? who can do more than he did, and would have done, towards the building of the temple? who can give better testimony of duty to his prince than he did to Saul? who can, with more valour and confidence, fight the battles of the Lord? who can, with more care, provide for the service of God, and the beauty and orderly ministries of the tabernacle? who can, with more devotion, compose and sing hymns to the honour of God; in these and such as these David was exem
plary; and so was Moses for meekness, and Job for patience, and Manasses for repentance, and Abraham for faith, and Jacob for simplicity and ingenuity, and Enoch for devotion: these, in their several periods, before and under the law, were the great lights of their ages, and set in eminent places to invite forward the remiss piety of others, alluring them by the beauty of their flames to walk in their light and by their example. And it is well, if Christians would do as well as these rare personages in their several instances. But as some women are wiser than some men, and yet men are the more understanding sex, and have the prerogative of reason and of government; so though some persons of the old religions were better than many of the new (of the religion of Jesus Christ), yet the advantage and the increase must be in the Christian church, which must produce some persons as exemplary in many graces as any of these hath been in any one.
12. (10.) But then as to single persons; 1. Every man must observe those increases of duty, which our blessed Saviour, either by way of new sanction, or new interpretation, superadded to the old, in the sermon upon the mount.
2. Every man must do in proportion to all the aids of the Spirit, which the gospel ministers, all that he can do: which proportion if he observes, it will, of itself, amount to more than the usual rate of Moses's law, because he hath more aids.
3. He must be infinitely removed from those sins, to which they were propense, and which made God to remove them out of his sight; such as were, idolatry, the admitting of strange gods, infidelity, obstinacy, hypocrisy, and sensual low appetites: because these were the crimes of an ignorant uninstructed people in respect of what the Christian is; and for a Christian to be an idolater, or easily divorced, or incredulous, as they were, is therefore the more intolerable, because it is almost removed from his possibilities; he can scarce be tempted to such things, who knows any thing of the doctrine of the gospel.
4. There is no other positive measures of his duty, but that which can have no measure itself, and that is love; and a Christian must therefore exceed the righteousness of the subjects of Moses's law, because they must do all their works in faith and love; in faith, to make them accepted, though they be imperfect; in love, to make them as perfect as they can
be. Now he that loves, will think every thing too little : and he that thinks so, will endeavour to do more, and to do it better and Christians,-that have greater experience of God, and understand the nature of charity, and do all of them, explicitly and articulately, long after the glories of an eternal love, and know that all increase of grace is a proceeding towards glory,-need no other argument to enforce the duty, and no other measure to describe the duty of this rule, but to reflect upon the state of his religion, the commandments, the endearments, the aids, the example, the means: all which are well summed up by St. John; " Beloved, we are the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be; but we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is: and every man that hath this hope, purifieth himself as God is pure:"-that is, we are, for the present, children of God by adoption, sealed with his Spirit, renewed by regeneration, justified by his grace, and invited forward by most glorious promises, greater than we understand. Now he that considers this state of things, and hopes for that state of blessings, will proceed in duty and love towards the perfections of God, never giving over till he partake of the purities of God and his utmost glories.
I add no more but this, that, in the measures of the practice of this rule, there is no difficulty, but what is made by the careless lives of Christians and their lazy and unholy principles. At the rate as Christians usually do live, it is hard to know how, and in what instances, and in what degrees, our obedience ought to be more humble and more diligent than that of Moses's disciples. But they that love, will do the thing, and so understand the rule. "Obedite, et intelligetis;"" Obey, and ye shall understand."
Concerning the interpretation of the laws of the most holy Jesus, I know of no other material consideration here to be inserted. Only there are several pretences of exterior and accidental means of understanding the laws of Christ, which because they are derived from the authority or from the discourses of men, they are more properly to be considered in the rules concerning human laws, which is the subject of the next book, where the reader may expect them.
1 John, iii. 2, 3.
· OBLIGATION AND RELAXATION:
AND OF THE
COLLATERAL, INDIRECT, AND ACCIDENTAL,
BANDS OF CONSCIENCE.
OF HUMAN LAWS IN GENERAL; AND WHAT OBLIGATION THEY PASS UPON THE CONSCIENCE,
The Conscience is properly and directly, actively and passively, under Pains of Sin and Punishment, obliged to obey the Laws of Men.
1. THAT the laws of God and man are the great measures of right and wrong, of good and evil, of that which is to be followed, and what is to be avoided in manners of men, and the intercourses of societies,-is infinitely certain and universally confessed. Since therefore human laws are one moiety of the rule and measure of conscience, and that we are bound to obey our lawful superiors in what they command,—it is naturally consequent to this, that we acknowledge the conscience bound,—and that, in human laws as well as in divine, though according to their several proportions, the conscience ought to be instructed. And indeed there is more need of preachers in the matter of divine laws, and more need of
wise and prudent guides in the matter of human laws. For the laws of God are wiser and plainer, few and lasting, general and natural, perceived by necessity, and understood by the easiest notices of things; and therefore men have more need to be called upon to obey, than taught how; and therefore here the preacher's office is most necessary and most required. But human laws are sometimes intricate by weakness, sometimes by design, sometimes by an unavoidable necessity they are contingent, and removed far from the experiences of most men; they are many and particular, difficult and transient, various in their provisions, and alterable by many parts and many ways: and yet because the conscience is all the way obliged, she hath greater need of being conducted than in the other, where every wise man can better be a guide in the little intrigues, and every child can walk in the plain way.
2. But our first inquiry is, Whether the conscience be obliged or no. For if conscience be not, then nothing is concerned but prudence, and care that a man be safe from the rods and axes: but then the world would quickly find, that fear would be but a weak defence to her laws; which force, or wit, or custom, or riches, would so much enervate, or so often evacuate. And therefore the greatest case of conscience in this whole matter is, 'Whether it be a matter of conscience as well as of prudence and security to obey the laws of man.'-And this question is so dubious and unresolved, that Cajetan and Henricus de Gandavo did suppose it fit to be determined by the pope in cathedra,' as thinking it otherwise to be indeterminable. The reasons of doubting are these;
3. (1.) Because God only is Lord of consciences, he only can discern the secret that is there, and he only can punish there; and therefore to suppose any band upon conscience from human laws, would be to divest God of his royalty: none but he who is Kapdtoyvworns, the Searcher of the heart' and mind of man, can give laws to it; for none else can take cognizance, or give a compulsory.
4. (2.) The conscience is seated in the understanding, as I have already a proved: but that is an imperious faculty that acknowledges no superior but God; because he only being
Lib. 1. rule 1.