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    No date can be assigned to this letter on the subject of the excommunications. The reader will find an explanation of these cruel processes in a prefatory note to our author’s “Word of Advice to the Citizens of London:” see vol. 42, p. 576. The letter, which is written, especially towards the close, with some point and humor, exposes the prostitution of a gospel ordinance implied in these excommunications by the civil power, and vindicates the character of the Dissenters, against whom they were issued.


    The tract on the administration of church censures appeared in the folio volume of “Sermons and Tracts,” which was published in 1721, but seems to have been previously given to the world. It is of use in explaining and defending Congregational usages in matters of ecclesiastical discipline. —\parED.


    SIR, You judge aright, that at my last being in London I did consider the unusual hurry of excommunications against those called Dissenters; and, because of the novelty of the proceedings therein, I did, moreover, endeavor my own satisfaction as unto the design, causes, and ends of them; and I find it a thing easily attainable, without difficulty or curiosity of inquiry: for, whereas there is no covering of religion, nor any thing appertaining thereunto, save only a name or title cast upon them, they openly discover themselves of what sort they are, and what they belong unto; and among many other indecencies wherewith they are accompanied, one seemed to me to be very notable, and this is, the collection of whole droves together by summons and citations, then dealing with them in such a clamorous manner as makes a representation of a public market or fair for chaffering about souls. But that, I found, which did principally affect the minds of men was the event which these proceedings do tend unto and will produce; and they generally concluded that they would be highly prejudicial, if not ruinous, unto all trust and trade among the peaceable subjects of the kingdom. For they said that if the commissaries would do as in the old Roman proscriptions in the time of Sylla, and of the triumvirate afterward, and set up the names of all that were to be proceeded against in public tables, to be exposed to the view of all, those concerned might shift for themselves as well as they could, and the residue of mankind might be at liberty to follow their own occasions; but whilst they retain an unreasonable reserve in their own breasts, as unto persons to be ruined by them, so as that they know not whose names, their own or of those with whom they are concerned, they shall see the next day affixed on the church-doors in order unto excommunication, it deprives them of all repose in the law of the land or public justice, and breaks all their measures about the disposal of their affairs. How, far this is already come to pass, you, that are in the place, know better than I; but sure I am that the very rumor of it gives a general discomposure unto the minds of men.

    Hearing no other discourse of these things, I was somewhat surprised with your letter, wherein you required my thoughts what influence these excommunications may have on the consciences of them who are so excommunicated; for I did not think there would have been any question made about it: but since you are pleased to make the inquiry, I shall, for the satisfaction of my respects unto you (though as unto any other end I judge it needless), give you a brief account of my judgment concerning these proceedings; which is the same, for the substance of it, with that of all sober persons with whom I ever conversed.

    Excommunication is the name of a divine institution of Christ, wherein, and in whose due and just administration, the consciences of Christians are, or ought to be, highly concerned; and this, as for other causes, so principally because it is the only sure representation of the future judgment of Christ himself: he did appoint it for this end, that so it might be. Providential dispensations are various, and no certain judgment can be made on them, as unto the final and eternal determination of things and causes: “No man knoweth love or hatred by the things” of that nature “that are before him.” But this is ordained by the law of Christ, to be a just representation of his future judgment, with a recognition of the cause which he will proceed upon Therefore it is divinely instructive in what he himself will do in the great day: it is “futuri judicii praejudicium.” But he will scarcely be thought well advised who shall send men to Doctors’ Commons to learn the way and manner of Christ’s judgment of his church, with the causes which he will proceed upon. We himself giveth another account of it, Matthew 25:31 unto the end of the chapter. Of what he there declares, there is neither name nor thing found among men of those practices which we treat about. The mentioning of them would be looked or as a sedition against their authority, or else make them ashamed, as a thief when he is found. But for any sort of persons to undertake the administration and execution of the sentence of excommunication against others, not making it their design to represent the judgment of Christ towards impenitent sinners, is to bid defiance to him and his gospel.

    Wherefore no person whatever, wise or unwise, good or bad, can be concerned in the excommunication in conscience, or on a religious account.

    I speak not only of them who are forced to suffer by them, but of them also by whom they are administered and denounced; for it is impossible that men should be so far forsaken of all understanding as to imagine that the proceedings therein do belong unto the gospel or Christian religion any otherwise ‘but as a debasement and corruption of it: neither is any man ever the less of the communion of the church of England by these excommunications, though he may, by force, be debarred from some advantages that belong thereunto. Neither is the communion of any church to be valued from which a man may be really and effectually expelled by such means; for this excommunication is not only null as to the efficacy of its sentence, on the account of its maladministration, but it is not in any sense that which it is called, and which it pretends to be. Idols are called “gods,” but we know they are “nothing in the world;” so is this proceeding called “excommunication,” but is no such thing at all. If a man should paint a rat or hedge-hog, and write over it that it is a lion, no man would believe it so to be because of its magnificent title. All that it can pretend unto is a political engine, used to apply the displeasure of some, upon an accidental advantage, unto them whose ruin they design; and therein a satisfaction unto revenge, for discountenancing their supposed interest. That there is any acting in it of the authority of Christ, any representation of his love, care, and tenderness towards his church, any thing that is instructive in his mind or will, any “praeludium”of the future judgment, no man, I suppose, does pretend; nor, I am sure, can do so, without reflecting the highest dishonor imaginable on Christ himself and the gospel.

    To make these things yet more evident, and to show how remote the present excommunications are from all possibility of affecting the consciences of any, I shall briefly pass through the consideration of those things which principally belong unto them, and whereinto all their efficacy is resolved. And that which first offereth itself is the persons by whom they are administered. The truth is, there is such a variety of scenes in this tragedy, and such different actors in it, — from [the] apparitor with whom it begins, unto the jailer with whom it ends, — that it seems not easy whom to ascribe the animating power and authority that is in it unto; but yet, on a little consideration, the matter is plain enough. The ministers of the parishes wherein the excommunicated persons are supposed to dwell, by whom the sentence of excommunication is rehearsed out of a paper from the court, have no concernment herein; for they know nothing of the causes or reasons of it, nor of the process therein, nor do pretend unto any. right for the cognizance of them, nor do, for the most part, know the persons at all on whose qualifications alone the validity or invalidity of the sentence doth depend, nor can give an account to God or man of what is done, as to right and equity: and therefore I no way doubt but that those who are learned and pious among them do hardly bear the yoke of being made such properties in those acts and duties which appertain unto their ministerial function. But it is known who they are who begin the work, and carry on the process of it until its final execution; and I shall say no more concerning them but this alone, that how meet soever they may be for the transaction of civil affairs, or for the skillful managing of that work herein which they suppose committed unto them, yet as unto any thing wherein conscience may be affected with the authority of Jesus Christ, they can be of no consideration in it. If any man can but pretend to believe that our Lord Jesus, by an act, grant, law, or institution of his, by any signification of his mind or will, hath committed, or doth commit, the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the power of binding and loosing, of expelling out of and admitting into his church, unto these or such persons, he hath assuredly confidence enough to pretend unto a persuasion of whatever he pleases. They do not believe it themselves, nor among themselves pretend unto any such thing, hut only a power to execute their own laws or canons. They do not judge that any personal, moral, or spiritual qualifications are required unto ecclesiastical administrations, which yet to deny is to undermine all religion; without which they may be fit for all church-duties who are no better than that archdeacon of Oxford, who, being charged with immoralities in his conversation, justified himself by the soundness of his faith, affirming that he believed three Gods in one person, and, besides, he believed all that God himself did believe! Let a man out of interest, or fear, or ignorant superstition, strive never so much to affect his conscience with the excommunications of such men, he will never be able to effect it.

    But be the personal qualifications of those intended what they please, the question is, how they came by that power and authority herein which they pretend unto? They are chancellors, archdeacons, commissaries, offcials, with their court attendants, of whom we speak. I confess these horrid names, with the reports concerning them and their power, are enough to terrify poor harmless men, and make them fear some evil from them. But excommunication is that which no man knows on what grounds to fear from these names, titles, and offices: for that is the name of a divine ordinance instituted by Christ in the gospel, to be administered according to the rule and law thereof; but these names, and those unto whom they do belong, are utterly foreign unto the Scriptures, and, as unto the work, to the practice of the church for a thousand years. What, therefore, is done by them of this kind must of necessity be utterly null, seeing that, as such, they have no place in the church themselves by the authority of Christ.

    But however it be undeniably evident that they have no relation unto the Scripture, nor can have any authority from Christ by virtue of any law or institution of his, nor countenance given unto them by any practice of the primitive church, yet what they do in this kind being pretended acts of power and authority, an authority for them must be pleaded by them. But then it may be justly demanded of them what it is, of what nature and kind, how it is communicated unto them, or derived by them from others.

    This is that which those who are excommunicated by them are principally concerned to inquire into; and which themselves in the first place are obliged to declare and evince. Unless men are satisfied in conscience that those who act against them have just authority so to do, or in what they do, it is utterly impossible they should be concerned in conscience in what is done against them, or be any ways obliged thereby. Here, therefore, they abide until they are satisfied in this just and necessary demand.

    But here all things are in confusion; they can declare neither what authority is required unto what they do, nor how they came to possess that which they pretend unto. If it be from Christ, how comes it to operate on the outward concerns of men, their liberties and estates? If it be merely of man, whence do they give the name and pretense of a divine ordinance unto what they do? If any should follow the clue in this labyrinth, it is to be feared that it would lead them into the abyss of papal omnipotency.

    As they exercise this power in courts of external jurisdiction and forms of law, they will not deny, I suppose, but that it is. from, the king. But why do they not, then, act that power in the king’s name? for what is not done by his name is not done by his authority. Ministers do not preach nor administer sacraments in the name of the king; for they do it not by his authority or by virtue of authority derived from him: nor do parents govern their children or families in his name, but their own; because authority for it is their own by the law of God and nature. But that exercise of power which externally affects the civil rights and liberties of men must be in the king’s name, or the foundations of the government of the nation are shaken. — But I make it not my concernment what name or style they use in their courts. Let it be granted, for their own security, that they have all their power and authority from the king, it must be therewithal granted of what nature it is, — namely, civil, and not spiritual.

    But why, then, doth what they do not go under the name of a civil order, constitution, or penalty, but of an ordinance or institution of Jesus Christ?

    Are not these things in their own nature everlastingly distinct? and is not conscience hereby fully absolved from any respect unto it as such an ordinance; which, on this supposition, it neither is nor can be? It is easily discernible how these things tend unto the utter confusion of all things in religion.

    If it be said that the power of it, as it is excommunication, is originally seated in the prelates, by virtue of their office, and is communicated unto these sorts of persons by commission, delegation, or deputation, under their seals, it will yield no relief; for this fiction of the delegation of officepower, or the power of office, unto any, without giving them the office itself whereunto that power belongs, is gross and intolerable. Let it be tried whether the bishops can delegate the power of ministerial preaching the word and administration of the sacraments unto any persons, without giving them the office of the ministry. If excommunication be an act of office-power, authority to administer it cannot be delegated unto any without the office itself whereunto it doth belong; for these things are inseparable. I certainly believe it is the duty and concernment of some men to state proceedings of this nature on better foundations; that the exercise of such solemn duties of Christian religion be not exposed to utter contempt, nor men led, by a discovery of false pretences of divine institutions, to despise the things themselves that are so abused.

    It were easy, from many other considerations, to demonstrate the nullity of these men’s pretended authority with respect unto excommunication as it is an ordinance of the gospel, in which respect alone the consciences of men are concerned; and as unto their power over the civil rights and interests of men, those troubled by them must shift as well as they can.

    But yet further: the manner of the administration of the present excommunications doth evidence their invalidity and nullity. That which they pretend unto, as hath been said, is a divine ordinance, an institution of Jesus Christ; and this declares in general how it ought to be administered by them who have authority for it and are called thereunto: for it hence followeth that it ought to be accompanied with an humble reverence of him and his authority; diligent attendance unto his law and the rule of his word in all things; with solemn, reiterated invocation of his holy name, for his presence, guidance, and assistance. Where these things are neglected in the administration of any divine ordinances, it is nothing but the taking the name of God in vain, and’ the profanation of his worship. It may be some will despise these considerations; I cannot help it, — they do it at their utmost peril. It is conscience alone which I respect in this discourse; — they who have any such thing will think these things reasonable.

    Again: the especial nature of this institution doth require an especial frame of mind in its administration, for it is the cutting off of a member of the same body with them, which cannot be without sense and sorrow (to cut off any one from a church who was never a member of it by his own consent, nor doth judge himself so to be, is ridiculous); hence St Paul calls the execution of this censure, “bewailing,” 2 Corinthians 12:21, denominating the whole action, from the frame of mind wherewith it ought to be performed. And he that shall dare to decree or denounce this sentence without sorrow and compassion for the sin and on the person of him that is excommunicated, plays a game with things sacred for his advantage, and shall answer for his presumption.

    Besides, as was before observed, it is an instituted representation of the Lord Christ and his judgment in and of the church at the last day. If the consideration hereof be once out of the minds of them by whom it is administered, they must unavoidably err in all that they do, — much more if it be never once in them. But this they ought to take on their souls and consciences, that what they do, Christ himself, if present, would do, and will do the same at the last day; for so he will deal with all impenitent sinners, — he will denounce them accursed, and deliver them to Satan.

    There is undoubtedly required from hence a reverential care and circumspection in all that is done here. To make a false representation of Christ in these things, — that is, his wisdom, authority, holiness, love, and care towards the church, — is the worst and most deformed image that can be set up. What higher indignity can be offered to his gracious holiness than to act and represent him as furious, proud, passionate, unmerciful, and delighting in the ruin of those that openly profess faith in him and love unto him? God forbid that we should think that he hath any concern in such ways and proceedings!

    Whereas, also, the next end of this censure is not destruction, but edification, or the repentance and recovery of lapsed sinners, it ought to be accompanied with continual fervent prayers for this end. This the nature of the thing itself requireth, this the Scripture directs unto, and such was the practice of the primitive church.

    If we are Christians, we are concerned in these things as much as we are in the glory of Christ and the salvation of our own souls. If we only make a pretense of religious duties, if we only erect an image of them for our own advantage, we may despise them, but at our peril. How well these, things are observed in the present excommunications is notorious. Once to mention them is to deserve a second thunderbolt! An account of them, as to matter of fact, will be given shortly. At present I shall only say, that there is not any transaction of affairs in any kind, amongst men civilized, wherein there is a greater appearance and evidence of turbulent passions, acting themselves in all manner of irregularities, more profaneness of expression, more insolent insultations, more brawling, litigious proceedings, more open mixtures of money demanded in pretended administrations of right and equity, than there are in the public proceedings about them. Shall any Christian suppose that the Holy Spirit of God, on whom alone depends the efficacy of all divine ordinances unto their proper end, will immix his holy operations in or with this furious exertion of the lusts of men? If this be looked on as the complement of Christian discipline, or the last and utmost actings of the authority of Christ towards men in this world, it must needs be a temptation unto men of atheistical inclinations; certainly greater scandal cannot be given. And it is the interest of some, at least for the preservation of a veneration to their office, to dispose of proceedings in this case in such a way and manner as may administer occasion of consideration unto them concerned, and not so as to be carried on, as at present, with laughter, indignation, and confusion; and if dissenters are to be destroyed, it is desirable that the work were left unto the penal statutes, — which, as now prosecuted and interpreted, are sufficient for it, — rather than that the name of religion and a divine ordinance should, merely for that end, be exposed to contempt.

    The last thing that I shall trouble you with at present is, the considerationof the persons against whom the present excommunications are blustered, with the pretended causes of them. These are they whom they call Dissenters; concerning whom we may inquire what they are, and the cause of this pretended ecclesiastical severity towards them. And as unto the first part of the inquiry, they are such as believe and make open profession of all the articles of the Christian faith; they do so as they are declared in the Scripture; nor is the contrary charged on them. There is nothing determined by the ancient councils to belong unto Christian! faith which they disbelieve; nor do they own any doctrine condemned by them.

    They profess an equal interest of consent in the harmony of protestant confessions with any other Protestants whatever. They own the doctrine of the church of England as established by law, in nothing receding from it; nor have they any novel or uncatholic opinion of their own.

    It is therefore utterly impossible to separate them from the communion of the catholic church in faith, or to cast them from that Rock whereon they are built thereby.

    They do also attend unto divine worship in their own assemblies: and herein they do practice all that is agreed on by all Christians in the world, and nothing else; for they do not only make the Scripture the sole rule of their worship, so as to omit nothing prescribed therein to that purpose, nor to observe any thing prohibited thereby, but their worship is the very same with that of the catholic church in all ages; nothing do they omit that was ever used by it, nothing do they observe that was ever condemned by it. And this must be the principle and measure of catholic union in worship, if ever there be any such thing in the earth; to expect it in any other observances is vain and foolish Offering prayers and praises to God in the name of Jesus Christ, reading the holy Scripture and expounding of it, singing of psalms to God, preaching of the word, with the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper, in a religious observation of the Lord’s day unto these ends, all according as God doth enable them by his Spirit, is the sum and substance of the worship of the catholic church, wherein all Christians are agreed. These things the Scripture doth prescribe, and these things the church in all ages hath observed. All differences about this worship, which have filled the world with inhuman contentions, arose from men’s arbitrary addition of forms, rites, modes, ceremonies, languages, cringings, adorations, which they would have observed in it; whereof the Scripture is silent and primitive antiquity utterly ignorant. And it may be it will be one day understood, that the due observance of this catholic worship, according as God enableth any thereunto (leaving others at liberty to use such helps unto their devotion as they shall think meet), is the only communion of worship in the church which the Scripture requires, or which is possible to be attained. About the imposition of other things, there ever were, since they were, and ever will be, endless contentions. Wherefore, these dissenters practising nothing in the worship of God but what is approved by all Christians, particularly by the church of England, omitting nothing that either the Scripture or catholic tradition directs unto, they are, notwithstanding this pretended excommunication, secure of communion with the catholic church in evangelical worship.

    Moreover, they plead that their conversation is unblamable, — that they are peaceable in the civil government, and useful among their neighbors. If they do evil in these things, let them that prosecute them bear witness of the evil; but if they do well, why are they smitten? If they can be charged with any immoralities, with any disobedience unto the rule and precept of the gospel, those by whom they are thus prosecuted are highly concerned, if not in conscience, yet in honor and interest, to manage the charge against them, that some countenance may be given unto their proceedings: for “the law is not made,” as penal, “for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane;” and if it be otherwise with the laws about these excommunications, they neither belong to nor are derived from the law of God.

    There are, indeed, great clamors against them that they are schismatics and separatists, and things of the like nature, — that is, that they are dissenters; but in this case the whole force of any inference from hence is built on this supposition, that it is the will of Christ that those who profess faith in him and obedience unto him unblamably should be excluded from an interest in and participation of those ordinances of divine worship which are of his own institution, if they will not comply with and observe such rites and practices in that worship as are not so, but confessedly of human invention. But no color of proof can be given hereunto; for it is directly contrary unto express Scripture rule, to the example of the apostolical churches, and unheard of in the world before the branded usurpation of Victor, bishop of Rome. An assertion of it is to prostitute the wisdom, authority, and love of Christ towards his disciples unto the wills of men, oftentimes prepossessed with darkness, ignorance, superstition, and other lusts; as shall be more fully manifested if there be occasion. Let any color be given unto this supposition from Scripture or antiquity, and the whole cause shall be given up. Yet thus is it, and no otherwise, in the matter of the present excommunications: Persons of all sorts, every way sound in the faith, unreprovable in the catholic worship of the gospel, professing love and obedience unto Jesus Christ, without blame, are excluded, — what lies in them who manage these ordinances of divine worship which the Lord Christ hath appointed and enjoined, — without pretense of any other cause or reason but only their not observance, in that worship, of what he hath not appointed. He that can believe this to be the will of Christ neither knoweth him nor his will, as it is revealed in his word; and the consciences of men are sufficiently secure from being concerned in that wherein such an open defiance is bid unto evangelical precepts and rules, with apostolical examples.

    And further to manifest the iniquity of these proceedings, whilst these dissenters are thus dealt withal, all sorts of persons, — ignorant, profane, haters of godliness, and openly wicked in their lives, — are allowed in the full communion of the church, without any disciplinary admonition or control! But as this serves to acquit them from any concernment in what is done against them, so nothing can be invented that tends more directly to harden men in their sins and impenitency; for whilst there is a pretense of church-censures, they will be apt to think that they are sufficiently approved of Christ and the church, seeing their displeasure is no way declared against them. So they are not dissenters, they have reason to judge that they are safe here, and shall be so to eternity! Let them look to themselves who deserve to be excommunicated. Is this the rule of the gospel? Is this the discipline of Christ? Is this the representation of his future judgment? Is this the way and manner of the exercise of his authority in the church, a declaration of what he owns, and what alone he disavows? God forbid that such thoughts should have any countenance given unto them! Ecclesiastical laws have been always looked on as cobwebs that catch the smaller flies, whilst the greater break them at their pleasure; but amongst those lesser, to spare those that are noxious or poisonous, and to cast the net over the innocent and harmless, is that which the spider gives no pattern of, — nor can imitate.

    I shall not mention the avowed end and design of these present excommunications; only I shall say, they are such as [that] many good men tremble to consider the horrible profanation of things sacred which they manifest to be in them.

    There are also many other things which evidence the nullity of these proceedings, which may be pleaded if there be occasion. What hath already been spoken is abundantly sufficient to satisfy my engagement unto you, namely, that the consciences of men are not at all concerned in the present excommunications.

    It may be it will be said that all this while we have been doing just nothing, or that which is to no purpose at all, as not concerning the present case; for those of whom we treat pretend no power in “foro interiori,” or the court of conscience, or unto any thing that should immediately affect it.

    Their authority is only in “foro exteriori,” in the court of the church, which it seems is at Doctors’ Commons. Wherefore, by their sentence of excommunication they oblige men only as unto their outward concernments; as unto what concerns conscience, they leave that unto the preachers of the word. It may be it will be so pleaded; but before they quit their hands well of this business, they will understand that excommunication itself is nothing but an especial way of the application of the word unto the consciences of sinners unto their edification, and that which is not so, pretend what it will, is nothing at all. Unto the dispensers of the word, therefore, it doth alone belong. And whereas the apostle tells us that the weapons of our Christian warfare are not carnal, but mighty, through God, to bring into captivity every thought unto the obedience of Christ, they seem herein to say that the weapons of their warfare are carnal, and mighty, through the aid of somebody, to cast men into prison, or to bring their persons into captivity. And, indeed, this outward court of theirs is part of that court without the temple which is trodden down by the Gentiles, and shall not be measured in the restoration of the worship of God; yea, the distinction itself is silly, if any thing be intended by this outward court but only the outward declaration of what is, or is supposed to be, effected in the inward, or the mind and consciences of men. But let it be what it will, those who have neither name, nor place, nor office in the church, by divine institution, who attend not at all in what they do unto any rule of the Scripture, nor can nor do pretend any authority from Christ in and for what they do, are no way to be heeded in this matter, but only as the instruments of external compulsion; which, for the sake of the public peace, is to be submitted unto with quietness and patience.

    I find, I confess, by the books with me, sent us weekly into the country, that in this state of things some of the reverend clergy do manifest great compassion towards the dissenters, in writing and publishing many discourses containing persuasives unto and arguments for conformity, whereby they may be freed from their troublesome circumstances; — but I must needs commend their prudence in the choice of the season for this work, as much as their charity in the work itself; for the conformity they press needs no other recommendation at this time, nor need they use any other arguments for it, but only that it is better than being hanged, or kept in perpetual durance, or stifled in prisons, or beggared, they and their families, or being starved in exile. And it hath been always observed, that arguments which march with halberts, bills, staves, sergeants, bailiffs, writs, warrants, and capiases, are very forcible and prevalent.

    But I have done, and shall leave it unto others to declare what mischiefs do ensue on these proceedings on civil accounts, and what an inroad is made by them on the government of the kingdom; for a new tenure is erected by them, whereon all men must hold their birthright privileges, especially that which is the root whereon they all do grow, — namely, their personal liberty. They hold them no longer by the law of the land, nor can pretend unto security whilst they forfeit them not by that law: they are all put into the power of chancellors, archdeacons, commissaries, and officials; they may deprive them of them all at their pleasure, against the protection of that law under which they are born, and which hath been looked on as the only rule and measure of the subject’s liberties, privileges, and possessions. These things tend not only to the disturbance, but the ruin of all peace and trust among men, and of all good government in the world.

    And if they should excommunicate all that by the law of Christ are to be excommunicated on the one hand, and all that are to be so by their own law on the other, and then procure capiases for them all, it is to be feared the king might want subjects to defend his realms against his enemies, unless he should do as they did of old at Rome in great distresses, — open the jails, and arm the prisoners; or it may be the lesser part would at length find it troublesome to keep the greater in prison. But these things concern not you nor me. I beg your excuse, as not knowing whether you will judge this hasty writing too little for the cause or too much for a letter. As it is, accept it from, Sir, your, etc, J. O.


    Ques. 1. May a true church of Christ err or mistake in the administration of church-censures? ANS. A true church of Christ may err or mistake in the administration of the censures, or any act of discipline, whereby members of it, who are true members of Christ, may be injured, and sundry other inconveniences may ensue. And this is not unduly supposed: — 1. Because no particular church is absolutely infallible either in doctrine or administrations, especially in such points or things as overthrow not the foundation of faith or worship. 2. Because churches are more obnoxious and liable to error and mistake in their administrations and discipline than in doctrine; for all doctrines of truth are absolutely determined and revealed in the Scripture, so that there is no principle, means, nor cause of mistake about them, but what is only in the minds of men that inquire into them and after them. But the administration of the censures of the church hath respect unto many fallible mediums, requiring testimonies, evidences, and circumstances, which of themselves may lead a church acting in sincerity into many mistakes, especially considering how much in the dark unto us, for the most part, are the principles, causes, and ends of actions, [and] the frames of men’s spirits in and after them; all which, in such cases, deserve much consideration. 3. Churches have erred in not administering the censures of the gospel according unto order and their duty, 1 Corinthians 5:2. 4. The experience of all ages confirms the truth of this supposition. The first church-censure after the death of the apostles that is remaining on any record was that of the church of Corinth against some of their elders; wherein how they miscarried is evident from the epistle of the church of Rome unto them about that matter. Corollary. In case any question arise about the administration of any church-censure in a church of Christ, it ought to be very jealous lest it have, in matter or manner, miscarried therein, seeing absolutely they may do so, and seeing there are so many ways and means whereby they may actually be induced into mistakes.

    Q. 2. Is it necessary that such maladministrations be rectified?

    A . It is necessary such maladministrations should be rectified by some way or means of Christ’s appointment. And it is so, — 1. First on the part of the censures themselves; and that, — (1.) Because of their nullity; for they are null, and bind not, — [1.] “In foro coeli.” They bind not in heaven: for the Lord Christ ratifieth nothing in heaven but what is done in his name, by his commission, and according to his word; in some or all of which every maladministration faileth. [2.] Nor “in foro conscientiae;” for conscience is not bound, nor will bind, on mere external ecclesiastical authority, where the person is indeed free, and judgeth himself to be so according unto rule.

    Only such censures may be said to bind for a season, in some cases, in the church, but that “quod ordinem exteriorem et mere ecclesiasticum,” with respect unto outward order, that the peace of the church be not troubled, until mistakes may be rectified; but not “quoad ordinem internum et mere spiritualem,” with reference unto the dependence of the whole church on Christ the head. (2.) Because of the consequents of them. Disadvantage to the gospel, prejudice to the ways of Christ, and the utter impairing the authority of all church-censures, must needs ensue, if there be no way to rectify such mistakes, or if they are left unrectified; as may easily be manifested. 2. This is also necessary on the part of the church supposed to have erred; for whereas all church-power is for edification, that which is unduly put forth and exercised is rather for destruction, the guilt whereof every church ought to rejoice in being delivered from, especially considering that there is much more evil in condemning the righteous than in acquitting the wicked, though both of them be an abomination. 3. On the part of the persons unduly or unjustly separated from the church by such censures. This is so evident that it needs no confirmation. 4. On the account of all other churches holding communion with the church which hath (as it is supposed to have) miscarried. The reasons hereof will afterward be made to appear. Corol. This relief, by what means soever it is to be obtained, is of great use to the churches of Christ, and of great concernment unto their peace and edification.

    Q. 3. How may such [mal]administrations be rectified?

    A . The rectifying such maladministrations may be (and is ordinarily no otherwise to be expected) by the advice and counsel of other churches, walking in the same fellowship and ordinances of the gospel with that church so failing, as is supposed; and this to be given upon the hearing and understanding of the whole proceedings of that church in the administration supposed irregular.

    This, being the principal thing aimed at, must be further considered. And, — 1. The way or means whereby other churches come to the knowledge of such supposed miscarriages in any church of their communion may be considered. Now, this is either, — (1.) By public report. So the Israelites took notice of the fact of the Reubenites, and the Gadites, [and the half tribe of Manasseh,] in building an altar; which thereupon they sent to inquire about: they heard say they had done it, Joshua 22:11. So the apostle took notice of the miscarriage of the church of Corinth in the case of the incestuous person, <460501> Corinthians 5:1. And this is a sufficient ground of inquiry, or of desiring an account of any church in such cases. (2.) By information of particular persons whom they judge holy and faithful. So the apostle took notice of the dissensions in the church of Corinth: they were “declared unto him by them of the house of Chloe,” 1 Corinthians 1:11. (3.) By an account given unto them by any church requiring their advice in any case of difficulty, either before or after the administration of censures.

    So the church at Antioch gave an account of their troubles and differences to the church at Jerusalem, Acts 15. (4.) By the addresses of the persons injured, or supposing themselves to be so: which to make, whilst they judge themselves innocent, is their indispensable duty, either directly by seeking advice or counsel from them, or by desiring admission into the fellowship of the gospel with them; which they cannot grant without an inquiry into the causes of their separation from any other church or society. Corol. Where there is a concurrence of the most ways or means of information, there ought to be the more diligence in the inquiry.

    Hence it follows, that it is the duty of churches walking in the same order and fellowship of the gospel, upon such information or complaint as before mentioned, of any undue administration of church-censures, especially of excommunication by any church amongst themselves, to inquire by their messengers into the cause and manner of it, to the end that they may give their joint advice and counsel in the matter. And it is the duty of the church complained of or informed against to give them an account of all their proceedings in that case, with their reasons for their procedure, and to hearken unto and consider the advice that shall be offered and given unto them. 2. This will appear sufficiently confirmed if we consider, in order unto a right judgment of the grounds whereon this way and practice is asserted, — (1.) That this advice of churches in communion to be given and taken is no ordinary or standing ordinance of the church as to its practice, though it be as unto its right, but is only to be made use of in extraordinary cases, and such as should not occur, — although they will; and for this cause it is more sparingly mentioned in the Scripture. (2.) That it is, and may be fully proved to be, the duty of all churches, by previous advice with other churches in cases of difficulty, to prevent this consequent counsel; which, being after a sentence given, must needs be attended with many difficulties. (3.) That the practice of the churches as to discipline is no longer recorded in the Scripture than they had the direction and help of the apostles, which supplied all extraordinary emergencies among them; so that many instances of this practice amongst them are not to be expected, — and it is of the care and wisdom of our Lord Jesus that we have any. (4.) That we must here be content with such arguments and testimonies as we act upon in other ordinances and things belonging to the worship and order of the churches; such as the distribution of elders into teaching and ruling, the administration of the sacraments by officers only, gesture in the sacrament of the supper, observation of the first day of the week, and the like.

    These things being premised, the order above expressed is confirmed, — I. From the light and law of nature, with the unalterable reason of the thing itself. Hence are churches directed unto this order and practice.

    There is somewhat that is moral in all ordinances. Some of them are wholly so as to their matter and substance, and founded in the light of nature, being only directed as to their principle, manner, and end, in the gospel. Such is excommunication itself, as might easily be made to appear.

    And from hence a direction unto duty and an indispensable obligation unto obedience do arise. That which is moral in any ordinance doth no less oblige us to an observation of it than that which is of mere institution; and it obligeth us because it is moral. And the Lord Christ being in all things the Lord of our consciences, what we do therein we do it in obedience unto him.

    Now, that the order established is thus grounded and warranted appears by the ensuing rules, taken from the light of nature: — 1. “Quod omnes tangit, ab omnibma tractari debet.” All men are to consider that wherein the concernment of all doth lie, according to their respective interests. What is the ground and reason why all the members of a church do consider, determine, give their counsel and consent, in the case of any person being cast out of their society? It is warranted by virtue of this rule. They all have communion with such a person, and must all withdraw communion from him, and therefore must consider the reason of his excision or cutting off. Now, a church in its censures doth not eject any one from the enjoyment of ordinances numerically only, that is, in that one society; but specifically, that is, from the ordinances of Christ in all churches. Hence it becomes the concernment of other churches, even as many as the person ejected may seek communion from; and therefore it is to be considered by them with respect unto their own duty of walking towards him. 2. “Cujus est judicare, ejus est cognoscere.” Whosoever is to judge is to take cognizance of the fact, and the reason of it. This is to be done according to the several interests that men may have in the matter under consideration; — which in some is of jurisdiction, which in this case we admit not of; in others, of counsel and advice. Now, other churches are not allowed in this case to be merely passive and indifferent, but must make a determination in it. This is evident on supposition of the injured person’s offering himself to their communion; for they must reject him or receive him. In both they judge, and therein must take cognizance, by hearing the matter from the church, and so on both sides. And unless this be allowed, no church can or ought to expect that any other church will reject from communion any whom they reject, merely because they are rejected, unless they suppose their judgment to be absolutely a rule unto any other churches to walk by in their observation of the commands and institutions of Christ. 3. On the part of the persons supposed to be injured, every man by the law of nature is obliged to undertake “inculpatam sui tutelam,” the just defense of his own innocency by all lawful ways and means. And as absolutely the way, means, and measure of this defence are left unto a man’s own prudence, so there is a rule given unto it, — Wherever the glory of God or the good of his neighbor is concerned. If either of these suffer by his wrong, he is obliged to vindicate his own innocency, nor is at liberty to suffer false imputations to lie upon him. It is in such cases a man’s sin not to do so. And in the case under consideration, this can be done only by an address unto other persons for their assistance, according to their interest, An interest of jurisdiction, in civil courts or in churches, in this case there is none. The interest of private persons herein is of compassion, prayer, and private advice; the interest of churches is a cognizance of the cause, with advice and judgment thereon. And for persons or churches not to give assistance in this case, according to truth and equity, is their sin.

    That these are principles of the light of nature and the natural reason of such things, appears from the general allowance of them so to be, and their constant practice amongst all men walking according to that light and law. Corol. If churches, as they are assemblies and societies of men in communion for the same end, observe not the indispensable rules of societies, they cannot, as such, be ordinarily preserved in their being and communion.

    II. The way and order laid down is directed unto, warranted, and confirmed, by general rules of the Scripture. 1. On the part of the church supposed to err in its administrations. There are sundry general rules which declare it to be their duty to give an account unto other churches of their proceedings therein, and to consider their advice. Some of these may be named, as, — (1.) That they “give none offense to the church of God,” 1 Corinthians 10:32. “Give no offense in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed,” 2 Corinthians 6:3. Upon a supposition, or information, or complaint of maladministration of any ordinance, offense may be taken, and that, if accompanied (as it may be) with much appearing evidence, justly. And in this case the church hath no way to clear itself from having indeed given offense but by giving an account of their proceedings, and the reason thereof. And without this it cannot be avoided but that offenses will be multiplied amongst the churches of Christ, and that to the utter ruin of their mutual communion. Thus when Peter, by the special command and direction of God, went and preached the gospel to the Gentiles, many, not knowing the grounds of his so doing, nor his warrant for it, took offense at it, and charged him with irregular walking, Acts 11:2,8. In this case, he doth not defend himself by his apostolical authority and privilege, nor in a few words tell them he had a warrant for what he did; but, to remove all doubts, questions, and causes of offense, he distinctly repeats the whole matter, and all the circumstances of it; — an example of so great importance, that the Holy Ghost thought meet at large to express his account and defense, though the matter of it was set down immediately before, Acts 10,11. (2.) That they “be ready always to give an answer” (that is, an account) “to every man that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them” (and, consequently, of their practice suitable thereunto) “with meekness and fear,” 1 Peter 3:15. This proves it “a minore ad majus;” if they should be ready thus to answer every man, much more many churches of God, and that in and about things of their mutual edification. (3.) That, in particular, they clear themselves when suffering under any imputation, or being in danger of so doing: “What carefulness it wrought in you, what clearing of yourselves!

    In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter,” 2 Corinthians 7:11.

    And this on many accounts is the duty of a church in the case proposed.

    The glory of God, the honor of Christ, their own peace and edification, with the peace and credit of all other churches, require it of them. Nor can this duty be any otherwise performed but by this giving an account of their own proceeding, and receiving the advice of other churches therein.

    And if this be not done freely, with readiness and submission of mind, there is no way left to preserve the peace and communion of churches.

    Those who suppose they may in such cases act in a way of jurisdiction and church-power can attain the end by them aimed at, by virtue of the censures which they do administer. But in this way of counsel and advice, unless those who are concerned to give an account of themselves will do it with meekness, gentleness, mutual trust and confidence, suitable unto the conduct of the Spirit of Christ, in obedience unto his institutions, the whole end of it will be in danger to be frustrated. 2. On the part of other churches. (1.) All churches walking in the same order and fellowship of the gospel are mutually debtors to each other for their good and edification: “Their debtors they are,” Romans 15:27. And this debt, in this case, can no otherwise be paid but by the way prescribed. (2.) What the apostles did, might do, and ought to do, towards one another, who were all equal by virtue of their common interest in the same work, that one church may do, and ought to do, towards another, or many churches towards one; but one apostle might take cognizance of the ways and walking of another, and withstand, advise, or reprove him, if in any thing he failed, and walked not with a right foot, Galatians 2:11,14. Corol. General rules, containing the grounds and reasons of particular institutions, are sure guidance and direction in and unto their observation.

    III. The way and order expressed is warranted by necessity, as that without which the peace of communion and edification of the churches cannot be preserved and carried on; as, — 1. On the part of the church whose administrations are questioned. The persons censured (which is ordinary) may, in their own vindication, or by way of undue reflection, not to be discovered without a just examination, impair their reputation with other churches, or many members of them, whereby they may suffer and be exposed to sundry inconveniences. In this case, a church can have no relief but by reporting the matter unto other churches, so seeking their advice and counsel; whereby they may receive great encouragement, comfort, and boldness in the Lord, if found to have proceeded according unto rule. 2. On the part of other churches. A church may, either causelessly or with just cause, cast out or withdraw communion from such a number of their members as, bearing themselves on their own innocency and right, may continue in a society, and plead that the power, authority, and privilege of the church do abide with them. How, in this case, shall other churches know with which of these societies they may and ought to hold communion, unless they may and ought to examine and consider the causes of the dissension between them? And they may justly, and ought to withhold communion from that party of them, which shall refuse to tender their case unto such consideration. 3. On the part of the persons supposed to be injured, and that either for their restoration or their conviction and humiliation; for, — (1.) If they are innocent, it is meet that they should be heard (as the Israelites heard the Reubenites), and necessary that they should be restored. Now, it being supposed that the church which hath rejected them will not rescind their own act without new light and evidence, — which, for many reasons, is not likely to spring from among themselves, — this is the only way left for that necessary relief which the Lord Christ requires to be given; for what is our duty towards a person repenting, in reference to his restoration, is certainly our duty towards a person who hath not sinned, when his innocency shall be discovered. (2.) For their conviction and humiliation, if they be found offenders.

    Whilst they see not right the regularity of the church’s proceedings with them, whilst they are able to justify themselves in their own consciences, and their hearts condemn them not, it is not to be expected that the sentence of excommunication, which works only by the means of men’s light and conviction, will have its effect upon them. But when there shall be the concurrence of many churches in the approbation of the censure inflicted on them, which probably will be accompanied with a contribution of new light and conviction, it is a most useful means to bring them to humiliation and repentance. It was an aggravation of the censure inflicted on the incestuous Corinthian that it was given out against him by “many,” 2 Corinthians 2:6, — that is, by the common consent of the church; and it will add thereunto when the censure shall be confirmed and approved by the concurrent advice of many churches. Corol. The Lord Christ having provided all things necessary for the peace and edification of his church in all things that are evidently of that importance, his mind and will is diligently to be inquired after.

    IV. This whole order and practice are grounded on especial warrant and approbation, recorded Acts 15.; concerning which we may observe, — 1. That the occasion there mentioned fell out in the providence of God, and the practice upon it was guided by the Holy Ghost, that it might be an example and rule for the churches of Christ in cases of a like concernment unto them in all ages, and so have the force and warranty of an institution: as it was in the case that gave occasion unto deacons, Acts 6, — a matter of fact, wherein was some disorder, rectified by a practice answering the necessity of the church, became an institution for order in all future ages. 2. That in that synod things were not determined by immediate inspiration, but the truth was searched out, and the mind of the Holy Ghost searched into by reasonings, arguings, and the consideration of Scripture testimonies; whereby they were guided in their conclusion and determination. 3. That the institution and rule given is not in its exercise to be confined to that particular case and instance there mentioned (which to do would overthrow many other rules and observations which we admit), hut it is to he extended, in proportion and parity of reason, unto all cases of a like nature: for the reason of any law is the rule of its interpretation; and so it is of any institution. That that which gives offense and trouble unto any church, — that wherein many churches are concerned, that which in any church hinders edification and disturbs the faith or peace of any of its members, whether it he in doctrine or practice, that which is not or cannot be composed in any one church, — should be considered, advised upon, and determined, by more churches holding communion together, and meeting for that purpose by their messengers, is the senses meaning, design, and importance of this institution. Corol . To deny an institution of so great necessity to the peace and edification of the churches, will give great countenance unto men who, supposing such defects, are ready to supply them with their own inventions.

    V. The order asserted is confirmed by the practice of the first churches, after the decease of the apostles; for when the church of Corinth had, by an undue exercise of discipline, deposed some of their elders, the church of Rome, taking cognizance of it, wrote unto them reproving their rashness, and advised their restoration. And when the church of Antioch was afterward troubled with the pride and false opinions of Paulus Samosatenus, the neighboring bishops or elders came unto the church, and joined their consent in his deposition.

    Some things are, or may he, objected unto this course of proceeding amongst the churches of Christ; which shall therefore be briefly considered and answered. Objection 1. This way of proceeding will abridge the liberty and destroy the privileges of particular churches, which ought to be carefully preserved, as the ground and foundation of the whole superstruction of church-order. Ans . 1. Particular churches have certainly no liberties or privileges that are inconsistent with and do contradict either the light of nature, moral equity, general rules of the Scripture, or the reasons and ends of all institutions, and the edification of the whole body of Christ. And on these, as hath been declared, is this way and course of proceeding grounded. 2. Other churches taking care about their own concernments and duty, according to the will and appointment of Christ, — namely, in considering whom they receive into, and whom they are to deny communion unto, with the causes thereof, — do not, nor can truly, abridge the liberties or privileges of any church whatever; for the duty of many churches will never interfere with the due liberty of any one. And this is all upon the matter that they do in this case; which must be granted them, unless we will say that the actings of one church, and those it may be irregular, shall not only abridge all other churches of their liberty, but hinder them also from performing their duty. 3. I do not see how counsel and advice can abridge the liberty of any church or person. Certainly to guide, direct, and assist any in the acting of their liberty, is not to abridge it, but rather to strengthen it; for liberty acted not according to rule is licentiousness. A man in the use of his liberty may be going to do himself some notable injury; he that shall stop him by counsel and persuasion, with the prevalency and authority of reason, doth not take away his liberty, but guide him aright in the use of it. 4. Wherein is the abridgment pretended? Is a church by this means hindered from the free use and acting of its own judgment, in taking in what members to it seems good, in watching over them according to the rule, in admonishing, reproving, or casting them out, if it find just and sufficient cause so to do? To hinder or obstruct a church in any of these acts or actings, by any authority, sentence, or determination, by any act or acts whatever, is utterly disclaimed: so that this is but a pretense. 5. When a case hath difficulty in it, — and such mostly, if not universally, have all cases wherein there will be found the least appearance of a grievance in the execution of censures, or pretense for seeking redress, — a church hath not liberty, hath no privilege, to secure it from previously seeking the advice of other churches; which is their duty by many rules of Scripture. We must not pretend unbounded liberty against known duty.

    And as a church doth not seek previous advice from other churches, that they may obtain power to execute their censures, which they have in themselves, no more doth this following advice any way cut them short in the use or execution of their power, but only direct them. And if a church have not this liberty by rule before censure in difficult cases, as it hath not, no more hath it after a censure, whereby the necessity of advice and counsel may be increased. Obj. 2. This way of proceeding will erect a jurisdiction or judicature in some churches over others; which is not to be allowed.

    So some have spoken, who have not, it may be, duly weighed either what jurisdiction, properly so called, is, or how great an evil it is to cast a reproach upon the right ways of the Lord. In answer I say, — Ans . 1. Excommunication itself, whatever men may suppose, is no proper act of jurisdiction; for jurisdiction in any sense is an adjunct of office, and the acts of it are acts of office and power. But so is not excommunication; for it is not an authoritative act of the officers of the church, but a judicial sentence of the whole church. Now the whole church is not in office; the whole body is not an eye. What is done, then, by it is no act of officepower, but a declaration of a judgment according to especial institution.

    And if excommunication itself may be exercised without any jurisdiction, surely that exercise may be consulted and advised about without any pretense thereunto. 2. To constitute a jurisdiction, it is required that there be, first, an officepower stated in them that claim it, and a duty in others on the same account to submit unto them; secondly, an authoritative acting by virtue of that office-power, with an obligation from that authority, formally considered, unto obedience; with sundry other things, which in this matter are utterly disclaimed. 3. A right understanding of the true state of the question, of what is granted and what asserted in this matter, will, with them that love peace and truth, fully obviate such objections as these; for, — (1.) It is granted that all church power and authority, for the administration of all the ordinances and institutions of the gospel, is intrusted with a particular congregation. (2.) That there is no judicature, no church assembly, vested with church power and authority, without, above, or beyond a particular church, that should either contribute authority unto such a church for its actings, or authoritatively control it in its actings, to order or change its proceeding in any thing, as by virtue of any authority received unto that purpose. (3.) That in case any person be not satisfied with the administration of the church whereof he is a member, but finds himself aggrieved thereby, he cannot appeal unto any Church, or churches, or assemblies of churches, as having power or authority to revoke or disannul the sentence or act of the church wherewith he is offended, either in pretense that the church without their concurrence and consent had not power to pass any such act, or that they have authority to control their acts, or can on any account authoritatively interpose in their administrations. (4.) It is granted, then, that the power of excommunication, in the preceding acts unto it and full execution of it, is placed in a particular congregation, without respect unto any superior authority but that of Christ and his word. These things are acknowledged. But that it should hence follow, that, in case of supposed maladministration of ordinances, and the complaint of persons pretending to be injured thereby, other churches are not, by virtue of Scripture rules, institution of our Lord Jesus, warrant of the light of nature, on their communion and common interest, to inquire into the matter and take cognizance of it, that no offense be given or taken, that they may know how to discharge aright their duty towards both the church and the persons aggrieved, and give their advice in the common concernment of all the churches, there is no pretense to surmise. And for a church to say that because they have power to do what they do, they will therefore in such things neither desire advice, nor take advice, nor hearken unto counsel, nor give account of their proceedings to them that are or may be offended or that require an account of them, is scarce agreeable to the Spirit of Christ or the rule of his word. Obj. 3. This is the way to frustrate the sentence of excommunication, and to prevent the due efficacy of it upon the persons censured, yea, to harden them in their sin and offense. Ans . 1. Concerning whom are these things feared? Were the advice mentioned, and the counsel to be had and given, to be among heathens, enemies of the church or of the ways of Christ, or of the especial way and order of church-fellowship which in this discourse is supposed, such events might be feared: but to pretend to fear that other churches of Christ, walking in the same order and communion with ourselves, and whom we ought to look on in all things as like-minded with ourselves, as to their aim at the glory of God and edification of the church, should, by their counsel and advice, frustrate the end of any ordinance of Christ, is a surmise that ought not to be indulged unto; yea, we have herein cause to admire the wisdom and bless the care of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath provided this help for us, to strengthen and confirm us in the ways of truth and righteousness, or to direct us where we are or may be mistaken. 2. Where excommunication is not administered but in a due manner and for just causes, there will appear little trouble or difficulty in this matter. Let the cause or matter of it be as it ought to such a sin or sins as the mind or conscience of a believer, of an enlightened person, free from open prejudices, will at first view condemn in himself and others, and this or these sins persisted in after due admonition, — and there will indeed be left no pretense of grievance or complaint in those that are censured. But if it be administered in dubious cases, we shall find that this way of counsel is so far from being an obstruction of its efficacy as that it is the only means to render it effectual. 3. No man will complain, or address himself unto the relief declared, if he be convinced in his conscience that he is not injured, but that he is indeed guilty of the crimes charged on him, and that by Scripture rule they are such as deserve that censure. In this case no man will be so foolish or obstinate as to seek for relief; and if he should do so, he can possibly expect nothing but to have his bands made strong. But now suppose that a person be not so convinced, neither before nor after sentence denounced against him, but looks on himself as innocent and injured, either in part or in whole, in matter or manner of proceeding, — what effect can be expected of his excommunication? We are deceived if we look that this ordinance should have any effect upon men but by the conviction of their minds and consciences. It worketh doctrinally only, though peculiarly by virtue of especial institution. And in this case it is evident how this way may further, and that it cannot possibly obstruct, the effects of this censure; as was in part before declared. 4. The address being but once to be made, this is the only way to bind the guilty person, and that without delay, and to give him a sense of his sin, which it is supposed that before he had not. 5. It is our duty not to cast even persons that are excommunicated under new temptations, Now, he that is aggrieved with the sentence denounced against him, and supposeth himself injured (which whilst he doth so he cannot be humbled for his sin), if he suppose he hath no way of relief left unto him, — that is, that his case can no more come under advice or counsel, — he will be exposed unto temptations to irregular ways, and so cast off the yoke which he supposeth grievous and injurious. Obj. 4. The pattern urged for this course of proceeding, Acts 15, concerneth only doctrines, and not the administration of censures, which was not then or there in question; and therefore in the like case only may the like course be taken. Ans . 1. The way of mutual counsel and advice amongst churches pleaded for is not built only upon that instance and, example, as hath before been evinced. There are many more grounds of it, reasons for it, and directions about it, than what are or can be comprised in any one particular instance. 2. There is frequently, if not always, some doctrinal mistake in the bottom of all maladministration; for whereas the nature of the sin proceeded against, and the rule proceeded by, ought in the first place to be doctrinally and dogmatically stated, here usually is the beginning of the mistake and error of any church. This, therefore, falls confessedly under that example of Acts 15. 3. Though that assembly made a doctrinal determination of the things in difference, yet the formal reason of the consideration of those things was the offense that was given, and that the churches were troubled: so that the pattern is to be extended unto all things whereby the peace of the church is disturbed. 4. Maladministration may tend to the subversion of the church, and the ruin of the souls of men, no less than false doctrines; as suppose a church should admit known Arians or Socinians into their society, supposing they have liberty so to do, may not other churches both consider the fact, and, unless they alter their proceeding, withhold communion from them?

    Instances innumerable of the same kind may be given. Obj. 5. Churches have the sole power of admitting members into their society; by virtue of which admission they are not only received into a participation of the privileges of the church in that particular society whereof they are members, but also into the communion of all other churches of Christ. Now, this is daily practiced by churches, without any further inspection into their actions by others. Those admitted are received upon their testimony unto their admission. And why shall not churches have the same trust reposed in them as to the exclusion of any members from them, and expect that their testimony alone to the fact should satisfy for their exclusion from all other churches and their communion? Ans . 1. The cases, indeed, are parallel, and the power of every church is no less for the exclusion of any of their members than for their admission, nor ought their testimony to be of less weight in the one [case] than in the other. 2. Ordinarily, and where there is no ground of further consideration, the actings of a church of Christ in both these cases are, and ought to be, granted and taken to be according unto rule, so that other churches do acquiesce as to their concernments in the judgment of all the several churches of their communion. 3. There may be mistakes in [the] admission as well as in the exclusion of members; and some there are who do very much scruple complete communion with many churches principally upon this account, that they proceed not on right grounds in their admission of members; and such cannot but grant that, on occasion, the grounds of their own admission may and ought to be questioned and examined. 4. No church hath such an absolute power in the admission of members, but that in cases of difficulty, and such as may in their determination one way or other give offense, they are bound to seek and to take the advice of other churches with whom they hold communion. 5. Suppose it be reported or intimated, by any of the ways that were before mentioned, that a church in communion with others had admitted into their society an Arian or Socinian, a seducer or a person of a flagitious life, given to corrupt the manners of others; shall not the other churches of the same communion, to whom the matter is so reported or declared, and who are offended thereat, require an account of that church’s proceeding therein, to know whether it be as it is reported or no? And is not that church so represented or reported of obliged to give a full and punctual account of their proceedings, and to receive advice thereupon? Let any consider the instances before given, the nature of the thing itself, the rule of the Scripture in such cases, and determine. The case is directly the same as to excommunication. “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God,” 1 Corinthians 11:16.


    AN ANSWER UNTO TWO QUESTIONS: with TWELVE ARGUMENTS AGAINST ANY CONFORMITY TO WORSHIP NOT OF DIVINE INSTITUTION. Should ye not hear the words which the Lord hath cried by the former prophets? — Zechariah 7:7.

    Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth. — Romans 14:22 II.






    Mr. Orme thus explains the origin and history of the following treatise, which first appeared in the Sermons of Owen, published by Marshall, in 1720: — “About the time of the Doctor’s death, a small manuscript was handed about, containing twelve arguments against conformity to worship not of divine institution. The leading object of these arguments is to point out the unlawfulness of those who had separated from the Church of England uniting in its public services, as those services are of a very different nature from the worship which Christ hath appointed. This manuscript occasioned a very violent discussion. It was sent to Baxter, as that which had satisfied many of the impropriety of joining in the liturgy. ‘I hastily answered them,’ he says, ‘but found after that it had been most prudent to have omitted his name; for on that account a swarm of revilers in the city poured out their keenest censures, and three or four wrote against me, whom I answered.’ No wonder that Owen’s friends were displeased, as he was scarcely in his grave when this attempt was made by Baxter to convict him of no less than forty-two errors in the space of ten pages! It reminds us of the controversy between Erasmus and Natalis Bedda. The latter extracted from the writings of Erasmus two hundred erroneous propositions; who revenged himself in the same way, by calculating that Bedda had been guilty of a hundred and eighty-one lies, three hundred and ten calumnies, and forty-seven blasphemies! Owen’s Twelve Arguments are printed in the octavo edition of his Sermons, published in 1720. Baxter’s reply is in his ‘Defence of Carbolic Communion.’

    The occasional conformity controversy gave a great deal of trouble to the Dissenters, both then and afterwards, to which Baxter’s conduct and writings very largely contributed. Owen’s tract is one of the best things on the other side.”

    II. AND III.

    THE tracts on “Marriage,” etc., and on “Infant Baptism,” etc., were published in the folio volume of “Sermons and Tracts” by Owen, which was printed in 1721. —ED.


    QUESTION 1. WHETHER persons who have engaged unto reformation and another way of divine worship, according to the word of God, as they believe, may lawfully go unto and attend on the us of the prayer book in divine worship?

    ANSWER. 1. We suppose herein all that hath been pleaded against that kind of service, as to its matter, form, imposition, use end, and consequents; which are all of them duly to be considered before the practice inquired after can be allowed. But, — 2. The present question is not about the lawfulness or unlawfulness of forms of prayer in general; nor about the lawfulness of that form or those forms which are prescribed in the Common-prayer book, as unto their matter and manner of composure, absolutely considered; nor yet about the expediency of the whole system of worship limited thereunto: but it respects all these things, and the like, with reference unto the persons described in the inquiry. And as unto the persons intended in the inquiry, we judge this practice unlawful unto them, as contrary unto sundry rules of the Scripture, and wherein it is condemned. 1. It is contrary unto that general rule in those eases given us by the apostle, Galatians 2:18, “If I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.” To “destroy” or dissolve any thing in the worship of God, is to lay it aside and remove it out of that worship, as that which we have no divine obligation unto: so the apostle destroyed the legal ceremonies whereof he there speaks, and no otherwise. To “build again,” is to admit into the worship of God as useful unto the edification of the church. And these are contrary, so that if the one be a duty, the other, in the same case, or with respect unto the same things, is a sin. If it were a duty to destroy, it is a sin to build; and if it be a duty to build, it was a sin to destroy. He that doth both makes himself unavoidably a transgressor.

    But we have in this sense, as unto ourselves, destroyed this form of worship; that is, we have omitted it, and left it out in the service of the church, as that which we had no divine obligation unto, and as that which was not unto edification. If we now build it again, as it is done in the practice inquired after, we make ourselves transgressors, either by destroying or building.

    And there is strength added unto this consideration, in case that we have suffered any thing on the account of the forbearance of it; as the same apostle speaks in the same case, “Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain,” Galatians 3:4. It is a great folly to lose our own sufferings: “Are ye so foolish?” verse 3. 2. It is contrary unto that great rule, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” Romans 14:23; for that any thing which a man doth in the worship of God may be of faith, it is necessary that he be convinced or persuaded that it is his duty so to do, Matthew 28:20; Isaiah 1:12; Deuteronomy 4:2.

    It is no rule in the worship of God, that we should do what we can, or that we have a liberty to do this or that, which we yet suppose, all circumstances considered, that we are not divinely obliged to do. In all things in general, and in particular duties or instances, we must have an obligation on our consciences from the authority of God that so we ought to do, and that our not doing of it is a neglect of a duty, or it is not of faith.

    The performance of any thing in the worship of God hath in it the formal nature of a duty, given it by its respect unto divine authority; for a duty to God that is not an act of obedience with respect unto his authority is a contradiction.

    Wherefore, no man can (that is, lawfully and without sin) go to and attend on this kind of religious worship but he who judgeth his so doing to be a duty that God requireth of him, and which it would be his sin to omit, every time he goes unto it. God will not accept of any service, from us on other terms. Whether this be the judgment of those who make the inquiry as unto what they do, they may do well to consider. 3. It is contrary to the rule delivered, Malachi 1:13,14, “Ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the\parLORD. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto theLORD a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts.”

    We are obliged, by all divine laws, natural, moral, and positive, to serve God always with our best. The obligations hereunto are inseparable from all just conceptions of the divine nature, and our relation thereunto. No man can think aright of God, and that it is his duty to serve him, but must think it to be so with the best that he hath. To offer him any thing when we have that which is better, or which we judge to be better, is an act of profaneness and not obedience. In all sacrifices the blood and the fat were to be offered unto God. Wherefore, he that attends unto this service doth avow to God that it is the best that he hath; and if it be not so, he is a deceiver.

    If it be objected, hereon, that “by virtue of this rule, so understood as that we are always obliged to the use of that which we judge best in the worship of God, we are bound to leave this or that ministry or church, if we judge that the administrations are better amongst others,” it is answered, that the rule respects not degrees, where the whole administration is according to the mind of God, but different kinds of worship, as worshipping by a limited prescribed form and worshipping by the assistance of the Spirit of God are. 4. It is contrary unto that rule, “Let all things be done unto edifying,’’ Corinthians 14:26. Whatsoever doth not promote edification is excluded out of the worship of the church by virtue of this rule, nor can it be a duty in us to give countenance thereunto or to make use of it. It is said that “prayer is the worship of God; these forms of it are only a determination of the manner of it, or an outward means of that worship.” Let it be supposed so; although it be certain that, as prescribed, they are parts of the service. They are therefore means that are a help and furtherance unto edification in prayer, or they are an hinderance of it, or they are of no use or signification one way or the other. If it be said that “they are a help unto edification, and are found so by experience, in the exclusion of any other way of worship,” then I ask why they are not constantly used? — why do we at any time, in any place, refuse the aid and help of them unto this great end of all things that are done in the church? But this can be pleaded only by those who contend for the constant use of them in the worship of God, with whom at present we are not concerned. If it be acknowledged that “indeed they are an hinderance unto edification, which is more promoted without them, yet are they not in themselves unlawful,” I say, as before, that is not the present question; we inquire only whether the use of them by those who judge them hinderances unto edification be not contrary to the rule mentioned, “Let all things be done unto edifying.”

    For the things of the third sort, that are of no use nor signification at all, they can have no place nor be of any consideration in the worship of God. 5. It is inconsistent with that sincerity in profession that is required of us.

    Our public conjunction with others in acts and duties of religious worship is a part of that profession which we make; and our whole profession is nothing but the declaration of the subjection of our souls unto the authority of Christ, according unto the gospel.

    Wherefore, in this conjunction in worship we do profess that it is divinely required of us, and that it is part of that obedience which we owe to Jesus Christ; and if we do not so judge it, we are hypocritical in what we do, or the profession that we make. And to deny that our practice is our profession in the sight of God and men, is to introduce all manner of licentiousness into religion. 6. Such a practice is, in very many instances, contrary unto the great rule of not giving offense [ 1 Corinthians 10:32]; for it is unavoidable but that many will be given and taken, and some of them of pernicious consequence unto the souls of men. In particular, — First, “Woe will be unto the world because of these offenses:” for hence our adversaries will take occasion to justify themselves in their most false and injurious charges against dissenters, unto the hardening of them in their ways; as, — (1.) They accuse them as factious and seditious, in that they will not do what they can do, and what, by the present practice, they own to be the mind of God that they should do (or else expressly play the hypocrite), for the sake of peace, order, and obedience unto magistrates. (2.) That they pretend conscience wherein indeed it is not concerned in their own judgment, seeing, on outward considerations which conscience can have no regard unto, they can do what is required. On these apprehensions they will justify themselves in their security, and harden themselves in their sins, it may be to their perdition. Woe be unto them by whom such offenses come!

    Secondly, By this practice we cast in our suffrage on the part of persecutors against the present sufferers in the nation; for we justify what is done against them, and condemn them in their sufferings, as having no just cause or warranty for what they do, as we declare by our practice of what they refuse. There is no man who complies in this matter but it is a part of his profession that those who refuse so to do, and are exposed to sufferings thereon, do not suffer according to the will of God, nor do their sufferings redound unto his glory; and no offense or scandal can be of a higher nature.

    Thirdly, Differences and divisions will on this practice unavoidably arise between churches themselves and members of the same church, which will be attended with innumerable evil consequences, unto the dishonor of the gospel, and, it may be, to the loss of all church-communion.

    Fourthly, Many will be induced, on the example of others, especially if they be persons of any reputation in the church who shall so practice, to follow them against their own light, having the great weight of the preservation of their liberties and goods lying on the same side; and experience will quickly show what will be the event hereof, either in total apostasy, or that terror of conscience which they will find no easy relief under, as it hath fallen out with some already. And, — Fifthly, It is a justification of our adversaries in the cause wherein we are engaged, — (1.) In their church-state; (2.) In a reading ministry; (3.) In their casting us out of communion on the present terms; (4.) In their judgment concerning us on the point of schism; as might easily be manifested.

    Lastly, There is in this practice a visible compliance with the design of the prescription of this form of service unto the sole use of the church in the duties of divine worship. And this, in the nature of the thing itself, is an exclusion of the exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in that worship, which is given and continued by Christ to this very end, that the church may be edified in divine worship and the due performance of it. And whether this answers our loyalty unto Christ in his kingly office ought to be well inquired into.

    And we shall hereby, on a mere act of outward force, join with them in church-communion who have cast us out of their communion by the imposition of principles and practices in divine worship no way warranted by the Scripture or authority of Christ, who allow us no church-state among ourselves, nor will join in any one act of church-communion with us! who persecute us even unto death, and will not be satisfied with any compliance without a total renunciation of our principles and practice in the worship of God, and giving away our whole cause about the state of the church and other divine institutions! Besides, we shall seem to be influenced by a respect unto their excommunications; which, as they are managed and administered at present, are not only a high profanation of a sacred ordinance, but suited to expose Christian religion unto scorn and contempt.

    QUESTION 2. A second inquiry is, Whether the persons before mentioned and described may lawfully, and in a consistency with or without a renunciation of their former principles and practice, go to and receive the sacrament of the Lord’s supper in the parish churches, under their present constitution and administration?


    It appears that they may not, or cannot so do; for, — 1. Their so doing would be an ecclesiastical incorporation in the church wherein they do partake; for a voluntary conjunction in the highest, act of communion with any church, according to its order and institution, warranted by its own authority, is an express corporation with it, whereby a man is constituted a formal member of it unto all ends and purposes of privilege, right, and duty. The church-state is owned hereby, its authority submitted unto in its right and exercise; nor is it otherwise interpreted of them unto whom they so join themselves. But this is a virtual, yea, an express renunciation of their own present church-state in any other society, and necessitates a relinquishment of their former practice.

    It will be said that “a member of one particular church may partake of the sacrament of the Lord’s supper in another, without incorporating or becoming a stated member of that church wherein he doth so partake.”

    It is answered, that he may do so by virtue of that communion which is between the church whereof he is a member and that church wherein he doth so partake; for he is admitted unto that participation by virtue of that communion, and not on his own personal account. If it be otherwise, where any one is received unto the participation of this ordinance, there he is admitted unto entire membership, and is engaged unto all the duties thereunto belonging.

    And thus is it in this case; for those unto whom they join themselves herein, if but occasionally, do, — (1.) Own no church-state in this nation but their own; (2.) Admit of none unto this sacrament by virtue of their communion with any other church, or any churches not of their own constitution; nor, (3.) Will administer it unto any hut those whom they claim to be their own, as living in their Parishes, in opposition unto any other church-state whatever.

    Wherefore, it is impossible that any man should be a member of one church and communicate in this ordinance with another which condemns that whereof he is [a member] as schismatical, and receiveth him as one belonging unto itself only, but he doth professedly renounce the communion of that church wherein he was, and is by them that receive him esteemed so to do. And no reserves of a contrary judgment or resolution in his own mind will relieve any man, in conscience or reputation, against the testimony of his practical profession. 2. They do hereby profess a spiritual incorporation with those or that church wherein they do so communicate, — namely, that they are “one bread and one body” with them, that they all “drink into one Spirit,” Corinthians 10:17, 12:13. How they can do this in those places where they judge the generality of them to be profane and ignorant, without sinning against their own light, is not to be understood.

    It is said that “no persons, in this or any other ordinance of divine worship, are polluted or made guilty by the sins of others with whom they do communicate.” It is answered, that this is not at present inquired into. That which such persons are charged with is their own sin only, in making a profession of spiritual incorporation, or becoming of one body, one bread with them, and of drinking into the same Spirit with them, when they do not esteem them so to be, in the exercise of love without dissimulation. The neglect also of other express duties, which we owe unto those who stand in that union with us, will necessarily follow hereon.

    Neither do such persons as so communicate intend to take on themselves an obligation unto all those duties which are required of them towards those with whom they profess themselves to be one spiritual body; which is an open prevarication against Scripture rule. 3. They would hereby not only justify the whole service of the liturgy, but the ceremonies also enjoined to be used in the administration of the sacrament; for the rule of the church wherewith they join is that whereby they are to be judged. Any abatement that may be made of them in practice is on both sides an unwarrantable self-deceiving, inconsistent with Christian ingenuity and sincerity. But hereby they do not only condemn all other present dissenters, but all those also of former days and ages, ministers and others, who suffered under deprivation, imprisonment, and banishment, in their testimony against them.

    If they shall say they do not approve what is practiced by others, though they join in the same worship and duties of it with them, I say this is contrary to the language of their profession, unto Scripture rule, Romans 14:22, and is indefensible in the sight of God and good men, and unworthy of that plain, open, bold sincerity which the gospel requireth in the professors of it. 4. The posture of kneeling in the receiving of this sacrament is a peculiar act of religious adoration, which hath no divine institution or warranty; and is therefore at best an act of will-worship, not to be complied withal.

    It is said that “kneeling is required not as an act of worship or religious adoration, but only as a posture decent and comely, because the sacrament is delivered with a prayer unto every one.” But, — (1.) That delivery of it with a prayer unto every one is uninstituted, without primitive example, contrary to the practice at the first institution of the ordinance, unsuited unto the nature of the communion required, and a disturbance of it. (2.) He that prays stands, and he that doth not pray kneels, which must be on another consideration; for, — (3.) Prayer is not the proper exercise of faith in the instant of receiving of this sacrament, as is evident from the nature and use of it. (4.) The known original of this rite cloth render it not only justly to be suspected, but to be avoided.

    On these considerations, which might be enlarged, and many others that might be added, it is evident that the practice inquired into, with respect unto the persons at first intended, is unlawful, and includes in it a renunciation of all the principles of that church-communion wherein they are engaged. And whereas some few have judged it not to be so, they ought to rectify their mistake in their future walking.


    POSITION. — It is not lawful for us to go to and join in public worship by the Common-prayer, because that worship itself, according to the rule of the gospel, is not lawful.

    Some things must be premised to the confirmation of this position: as, — 1. The whole system of liturgical worship, with all its inseparable dependencies, are intended; for as such it is established by law, and not in any part of it only, and as such it is required that we receive it and attend unto it. It is not in our power, it is not left to our judgment or liberty, to close with or make use of any part of it, as we shall think fit.

    There are in the Mass-book many prayers and praises directed to God only by Jesus Christ; yet it is not lawful for us thereon to go to mass, under a pretense of joining only in such lawful prayers. As we must not affect their drink-offerings of blood, so we must not take up their names into our lips, Psalm 16:4; we must have no communion with them. 2. It is to be considered as armed with laws; — first, such as declare and enjoin it as the only true worship of the church; secondly, such as prohibit, condemn, and punish, all other ways of the worship of God in church-assemblies. By our communion and conjunction in it, we justify those laws. 3. This conjunction by communion in the worship of the liturgy is a symbol, pledge, and token of an ecclesiastical incorporation with the church of England in its present constitution. It is so in the law of the land, it is so in the common understanding of all men. And by these rules must our profession and practice be judged, and not by any reserves of our own, which neither God nor good men will allow of. 4. Wherefore, he that joineth in the worship of the Common-prayer doth, by his practice, make profession that it is the true worship of God, accepted by him, and approved of him, and wholly agreeable to his mind; and to do it with other reserves is hypocrisy, and worse than the thing itself without them. “Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth,” Romans 14:22. 5. There may be a false worship of the true God as well as a worship of a false god: such was the worship of Jehovah the Lord by the calf in the wilderness, Exodus 32:5,6; such was the feast unto theLORD ordained by Jeroboam “in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month,” the which “he devised of his own heart,” 1 Kings 12:32,33.

    On these suppositions, the proposition laid down is proved by these, following arguments: — First Argument . — Religious worship not divinely instituted and appointed is false worship, not accepted with God; but the liturgical worship intended is a religious worship not divinely instituted nor appointed: ergo, not accepted of God.

    The proposition is confirmed by all the divine testimonies wherein all such worship is expressly condemned; that especially where the Lord Christ restraineth all worship to his alone command, Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Jeremiah 7:31; Isaiah 29:13; Matthew 28:20.

    It is answered to the minor proposition, “That the liturgical worship is of Christ’s appointment as to the substantials of it, namely, prayers and praises, though not as to its accidentals, not as unto its outward rites and forms, which do not vitiate the whole.” But it is replied, — 1. There is nothing accidental in the worship of God; every thing that belongs to it is part of it, Matthew 23:23. Some things are of more use, weight, and importance, than others, but all things that duly belong unto it are parts of it, or of its substance. Outward circumstances are natural and occasional, not accidental parts of worship. 2. Prayers and praises, absolutely considered, are not an institution of Christ; they are a part of natural worship, common to all mankind. His institution respecteth only the internal form of them, and the manner of their performance; but this is that which the liturgy taketh on itself, — namely, to supply and determine the matter, to prescribe the manner, and to limit all the concerns of them to modes and forms of its own; which is to take the work of Christ out of his hands! 3. Outward rites and modes of worship divinely instituted and determined do become thereby necessary parts of divine worship, Leviticus 1:1-6; therefore such as are humanly instituted, appointed, and determined, are thereby made parts of worship, — namely, of that which is false, for want of a divine institution. 4. Prayer and praise are not things prescribed and enjoined in and by the liturgy; it is so far from it, that thereby all prayers and praises in churchassemblies, merely as such, are prohibited; — but it is its own forms, ways, and modes, with their determination and limitation alone, that are instituted, prescribed, and enjoined by it; but these things have no divine institution, and therefore are so far false worship.

    Second Argument. — That which was in its first contrivance, and hath been in its continuance, an invention or engine to defeat or render useless the promise of Christ unto his church of sending the Holy Spirit in all ages, to enable it unto a due discharge and performance of all divine worship in its assemblies, is unlawful to be complied withal, nor can be admitted in religious worship; but such is the liturgical worship: ergo, etc.

    That the Lord Jesus Christ did make such a promise, that he doth make it good, that the very being and continuance of the church (without which it is but a dead machine) doth depend thereon, I suppose will not be denied; it hath been sufficiently proved. Hereon the church lived and acted for sundry ages, performing all divine worship in its assemblies by virtue of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, and no otherwise.

    When these things were neglected, when the way of attaining them and the exercise of them appeared too difficult to men of carnal minds, this way of worship by a prescribed liturgy was insensibly brought in, to render the promise of Christ and the whole work of the Holy Spirit in the administration of gifts useless; and thereupon two things did follow: — 1. A total neglect of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the administration of church worship and ordinances. 2. When a plea for the work of the Holy Spirit began to be revived, it produced all that enmity, hatred, and contempt of and against the Spirit of God himself, and his whole work in the church, which the world is now filled withal. All the reproaches that are daily cast upon the Spirit of prayer, all that contempt and scorn which all duties of religious worship performed by his aid and assistance are entertained withal, arise from hence alone, — namely, from a justification of this devised way of worship as the only true way and means thereof. Take away this, and the wrath and anger of men against the Spirit of God and his work in the worship of the church will be abated, yea, the necessity of them will be evident.

    This we cannot comply with, lest we approve of the original design of it, and partake in the sins which proceed from it.

    Third Argument. — That in religious worship which derogates from the kingly office of Jesus Christ, so far as it doth so, is false worship.

    Unto this office of Christ it inseparably belongs that he be the sole lawgiver of the church in all the worship of God. The rule of his government herein is, “Teach men to observe and do whatsoever I command.” But the worship treated about consisteth wholly in the institutions, commands, prescriptions, orders, and rules of men; and on the authority of men alone do all their impositions on the practice of the church depend. What is this but to renounce the kingly office of Christ in the church?

    Fourth Argument. — That which giveth testimony against the faithfulness of Christ in his house as a Son, and Lord of it, above that of any servant, is not to be complied withal; let all his disciples judge.

    Unto this faithfulness of Christ it doth belong to appoint and command all things whatever in the church that belong to the worship of God, as is evident from his comparison with Moses herein, and his preference above him. But the institution and prescription of all things in religious worship, of things never instituted or prescribed by Christ, in the forms and modes of them, ariseth from a supposition of a defect in the wisdom, care, and faithfulness of Christ; whence alone a necessity can arise of prescribing that in religious worship which he hath not prescribed.

    Fifth Argument. — That which is a means humanly invented for the attaining of an end in divine worship which Christ hath ordained a means for, unto the exclusion of the means so appointed by Christ, is false worship, and not to be complied withal.

    The end intended is the edification of the church in the administration of all its holy ordinances This the Service-book is ordained and appointed by men for, or it hath no end or use at all. But the Lord Christ hath appointed other means for the attaining the end, as is expressly declared, “He hath given gifts unto men, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body,” Ephesians 4:8,12; that is, in all gospel administrations: but the means ordained by Christ, — namely, the exercise of spiritual gifts in gospel administrations, unto the edification of the church, — are excluded, yea, expressly prohibited, in the prescription of this liturgical worship.

    The pretense of men’s liberty to use their gifts in prayer before their sermons, and in preaching, is ridiculed; they are excluded in all the solemn worship of the church.

    Sixth Argument. — That which hath been and is obstructive of the edification of the church, if it be in religious worship, it is false worship, for the end of all true worship is edification; but such hath been and is this liturgical worship: for, — 1. It putteth an utter stop to the progress of the reformation in this nation, fixing bounds to it that it could never pass 2. It hath kept multitudes in ignorance. 3. It hath countenanced and encouraged many in reviling and reproaching the Holy Spirit and his work. 4. It hath set up and warranted an ungifted ministry. 5. It hath made great desolations in the church: — (1.) In the silencing of faithful and painful ministers; (2.) In the ruin of families innumerable; (3.) In the destruction of souls!

    It is not lawful to be participant in these things, yea, the glory of our profession lies in our testimony against them.

    Seventh Argument. — That practice whereby we condemn the suffering saints of the present age, rendering them false witnesses for God, and the only blamable cause of their own sufferings, is not to be approved; but such is this practice. And where this is done on a pretense of liberty, without any plea of necessary duty on our part, it is utterly unlawful.

    Eighth Argument. — That practice which is accompanied with unavoidable scandal, engaged in only on pretense of liberty, is contrary to the gospel; but such is our joining in the present public worship.

    It were endless to reckon up all the scandals which will ensue hereon. That which respecteth our enemies must not be omitted. Will they not think, will they not say, that we have only falsely and hypocritically pretended conscience for what we do, when we can, on outward considerations, comply with that which is required of us? Woe to the world because of such offenses! — but woe to them also by whom they are given!

    Ninth Argument. — That worship which is unsuited to the spiritual relish of the new creature, which is inconsistent with the conduct of the Spirit of God in prayer, is unlawful; for the nature, use, and benefit of prayer are overthrown hereby in a great measure.

    Now, let any one consider what are the promised aids of the Holy Spirit with respect unto the prayers of the church, whether as to the matter of them, or as to the ability for their performance, or as to the manner of it, and he shall find that they are all rejected and excluded by this form of worship, comprising (as is pretended) the whole matter, limiting the whole manner, and giving all the abilities for prayer that are needful or required; and this hath been proved at large.

    Tenth Argument. — That which overthrows and dissolves our church-covenant, as unto the principal end of it, is, as unto us, unlawful This end is, the professed joint subjection of our souls and consciences unto the authority of Christ, in the observation of all whatever he commands, and nothing else, in the worship of God. But by this practice this end of the church-covenant is destroyed, and thereby the churchcovenant itself is broken, for we do and observe that which Christ hath not commanded; and while some stand unto the terms of the covenant which others relinquish, it will fill the church with confusion and disorder.

    Eleventh Argument. — That which contains a virtual renunciation of our church-state, and of the lawfulness of our ministry and ordinances therein, is not to be admitted or allowed.

    But this also is done by the practice inquired into, for it is a professed conjunction with them in church communion and worship by whom our church state and ordinances are condemned as null. And this judgment they make of what we do, affirming that we are gross dissemblers if, after such a conjunction with them, we return any more into our own assemblies. In this condemnation we do outwardly and visibly join.

    Twelfth Argument. — That which depriveth us of the principal plea for the justification of our separation from the church of England in its present state ought not justly to be received or admitted; but this is certainly done by a supposition of the lawfulness of this worship, and a practice suitable thereunto, as is known to all who are exercised in this case. Many other heads of arguments might be added to the same purpose, if there were occasion.


    IT is confessed by all that adultery is a just and sufficient cause of a divorce betwixt married persona This divorce, say some, consists in a dissolution “vinculi matrimonialis,” and so removes the marriage relation as that the innocent person divorcing or procuring the divorce is at liberty to marry again.

    Others say that it is only a separation “a mensa et thoro,” and that on this account it doth not nor ought to dissolve the marriage relation.

    I am of the judgment of the former; for, — First, This divorce “a mensa et thoro” only is no true divorce, but a mere fiction of a divorce, of no use in this case, nor lawful to be made use of, neither by the law of nature nor the law of God; for, — 1. It is, as stated, but a late invention, of no use in the world, nor known in more ancient times: for those of the Roman church who assert it do grant that divorces by the law of nature were “a vinculo,” and that so they were also under the old testament; and this fiction they would impose on the grace and state of the gospel, which yet makes indeed no alteration in moral relations and duties, but only directs their performance. 2. It is deduced from a fiction, — namely, that marriage among Christians is a sacrament of that signification as renders it indissolvable; and therefore they would have it to take place only amongst believers, the rest of mankind being left to their natural right and privilege. But this is a fiction, and as such in sundry cases they make use of it.

    Secondly, A divorce perpetual “a mensa et thoro” only is no way useful to mankind, but hurtful and noxious; for, — 1. It would constitute a new condition or state of life, wherein it is not possible that a man should either have a wife, or not have a wife lawfully, in one of which estates yet really every man capable of the state of wedlock is and must be, whether he will or no; for a man may, as things may be circumstantiated, be absolutely bound in conscience not to receive her again who was justly repudiated for adultery, nor can he take another on this divorce. But into this estate God calls no man. 2. It may, and probably will, cast a man under a necessity of sinning: for suppose he hath not the gift of continency, it is the express will of God that he should marry for his relief; yet on this supposition, he sins if he does so, and in that he sins if he doth not so.

    Thirdly, It is unlawful; for if the bond of marriage abide, the relation still continues. This relation is the foundation of all mutual duties; and whilst all that continues, none can dispense with or prohibit from the performance of those duties. If a woman do continue in the relation of a wife to a man, she may claim the duties of marriage from him. Separation there may be by consent for a season, or upon other occasions, that may hinder the actual discharge of conjugal duties; but to make an obligation unto such duties void, whilst the relation doth continue, is against the law of nature and the law of God. This divorce, therefore, supposing the relation of man and wife between any, and no mutual duty thence to arise, is unlawful.

    Fourthly, The light of nature never directed to this kind of divorce.

    Marriage is an ordinance of the law of nature; but in the light and reason thereof there is no intimation of any such practice. It still directed that they who might justly put away their wives might marry others. Hence some, as the ancient Grecians, and the Romans afterward, allowed the husband to kill the adulteress. This among the Romans was changed “lege Julia,” but the offense [was] still made capital. In the room hereof, afterward, divorce took place purposely to give the innocent person liberty of marriage. So that this kind of divorce is but a fiction.

    The first opinion, therefore, is according to truth; for, — First, That which dissolves the form of marriage and destroys all the forms of marriage doth dissolve the bond of marriage; for take away the form and end of any moral relation, and the relation itself ceaseth. But this is done by adultery, and a divorce ensuing thereon. For the form of marriage consisteth in this, that two become “one flesh,” Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:6; — but this is dissolved by adultery; for the adulteress becometh one flesh with the adulterer, 1 Corinthians 6:16, and no longer one flesh in individual society with her husband, and so it absolutely breaks the bond or covenant of marriage. And how can men contend that is a bond which is absolutely broken, or fancy a “vinculum” that doth not bind? and that it absolutely destroys all the forms of marriage will be granted. It therefore dissolves the bond of marriage itself.

    Secondly, If the innocent party upon a divorce be not set at liberty, then, — 1. He is deprived of his right by the sin of another; which is against the law of nature; — and so every wicked woman hath it in her power to deprive her husband of his natural right. 2. The divorce in case of adultery, pointed by our Savior to the innocent person to make use of, is, as all confess, for his liberty, advantage, and relief. But on supposition that he may not marry, it would prove a snare and a yoke unto him; for if hereon he hath not the gift of continency, he is exposed to sin and judgment.

    Thirdly, Our blessed Savior gives express direction in the case, Matthew 19:9, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery.” Hence it is evident, and is the plain sense of the words, that he who putteth away his wife for fornication and marrieth another doth not commit adultery.

    Therefore the bond of marriage in that case is dissolved, and the person that put away his wife is at liberty to marry. While he denies putting away and marrying again for every cause, the exception of fornication allows both putting away and marrying again in that case; for an exception always affirms the contrary unto what is denied in the rule whereunto it is an exception, or denies what is affirmed in it in the case comprised in the exception; for every exception is a particular proposition contradictory to the general rule, so that when the one is affirmative, the other is negative, and on the contrary. The rule here in general is affirmative: He that putteth away his wife and marries another committeth adultery. The exception is negative: But he that putteth away his wife for fornication and marrieth another doth not commit adultery. Or they may be otherwise conceived, so that the general rule shall be negative, and the exception affirmative: It is not lawful to put away a wife and marry another; it is adultery. Then the exception is: It is lawful for a man to put away his wife for fornication, and marry another. And this is the nature of all such exceptions, as I could manifest in instances of all sorts.

    It is to no purpose to except that the other evangelists ( Mark 10:11,12, Luke 16:18) do not express the exception insisted on; for, — 1. It is twice used by Matthew, chap. 5:32, and chap. 19:9, and therefore was assuredly used by our Savior. 2. It is a rule owned by all, that where the same thing is reported by several evangelists, the briefer, short, more imperfect expressions, are to be men, red and interpreted by the fuller and larger. And every general rule in any place is to be limited by an exception annexed unto it in any one place whatever; and there is scarce any general rule but admitteth of an exception.

    It is more vain to answer that our Savior speaketh with respect unto the Jews only, and what was or was not allowed among them; for, — 1. In this answer he reduces things to the law of creation and their primitive institution. He declares what was the law of marriage and the nature of that relation antecedent to the law and institution of Moses; and so, reducing things to the law of nature, gives a rule directive to all mankind in this matter. 2. The Pharisees inquired of our Savior about such a divorce as was absolute, and gave liberty of marriage after it; for they never heard of any other. The pretended separation “a mensa et thoro ‘ only was never heard of in the old testament. Now, if our Savior doth not answer concerning the same divorce about which they inquired, but another which they knew nothing of, he doth not answer them, but delude them; — they ask after one thing, and he answers another in nothing to their purpose. But this is not to be admitted; it were blasphemy to imagine it. Wherefore, denying the causes of divorce which they allowed, and asserting fornication to be a just cause thereof, he allows, in that case, of that divorce which they inquired about, which was absolute and from the bond of marriage.

    Again: the apostle Paul expressly sets the party at liberty to marry who is maliciously and obstinately deserted, alarming that the Christian religion doth not prejudice the natural right and privilege of men in such cases: Corinthians 7:15, “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases.”

    If a person obstinately depart, on pretense of religion or otherwise, and will no more cohabit with a husband or wife, it is known that, by the law of nature and the usage of all nations, the deserted party, because, without his or her default, all the ends of marriage are frustrated, is at liberty to marry. But it may be it is not so among Christians. What shall a brother or a sister that is a Christian do in this case, who is so departed from? Saith the apostle, “They are not in bondage, they are free, — at liberty to marry again.”

    This is the constant doctrine of all protestant churches in the world; and it hath had place in the government of these nations, for Queen Elizabeth was born during the life of Queen Katharine, from whom her father was divorced.



    I. THE question is not whether professing believers, Jews or Gentiles, not baptized in their infancy, ought to be baptized; for this is by all confessed.

    II. Neither is it whether, in such persons, the profession of saving faith and repentance ought not to go before baptism. This we plead for beyond what is the common practice of those who oppose us.

    Wherefore, testimonies produced out of authors, ancient or modern, to confirm these things, which consist with the doctrine of infant baptism, are mere tergiversations, that belong not to this cause at all; and so are all arguments produced unto that end out of the Scriptures.

    III. The question is not whether all infants are to be baptized or not; for, according to the will of God, some are not to be baptized, even such whose parents are strangers from the covenant, But hence it will follow that some are to be baptized, seeing an exception confirms both rule and right.

    IV. The question is only concerning the children or infant seed of professing believers who are themselves baptized. And, — First, They by whom this is denied can produce no testimony of Scripture wherein their negation is formally or in terms included, nor any one asserting what is inconsistent with the affirmative; for it is weak beneath consideration to suppose that the requiring of the baptism of believers is inconsistent with that of their seed. But this is to be required of them who oppose infant baptism, that they produce such a testimony.

    Secondly, No instance can be given from the Old or New Testament since the days of Abraham, none from the approved practice of the primitive church, of any person or persons born of professing, believing parents, who were themselves made partakers of the initial seal of the covenant, being then in infancy and designed to be brought up in the knowledge of God, who were not made partakers with them of the same sign and seal of the covenant Thirdly, A spiritual privilege once granted by God unto any cannot be changed, disannulled, or abrogated, without an especial divine revocation of it, or the substitution of a greater privilege and mercy in the room of it; for, — 1. Who shall disannul what God hath granted? What he hath put together who shall put asunder? To abolish or take away any grant of privilege made by him to the church, without his own express revocation of it, is to deny his sovereign authority. 2. To say a privilege so granted may be revoked, even by God himself, without the substitution of a greater privilege and mercy in the room of it, is contrary to the goodness of God, his love and care unto his church, [and] contrary to his constant course of proceeding with it from the foundation of the world, wherein he went on in the enlargement and increase of its privileges until the coming of Christ. And to suppose it under the gospel is contrary to all his promises, the honor of Christ, and a multitude of express testimonies of Scripture.

    Thus was it with the privileges of the temple and the worship of it granted to the Jews; they were not, they could not be, taken away without an express revocation, and the substitution of a more glorious spiritual temple and worship in their room.

    But now the spiritual privilege of a right unto and a participation of the initial seal of the covenant was granted by God unto the infant seed of Abraham, Genesis 17:10,12.

    This grant, therefore, must stand firm for ever, unless men can prove or produce, — 1. An express revocation of it by God himself; which none can do either directly or indirectly, in terms or any pretense of consequence. 2. An instance of a greater privilege or mercy granted unto them in the room of it; which they do not once pretend unto, but leave the seed of believers, whilst in their infant state, in the same condition with those of pagans and infidels; expressly contrary to God’s covenant.

    All this contest, therefore, is to deprive the children of believers of a privilege once granted to them by God, never revoked, as to the substance of it, assigning nothing in its room; which is contrary to the goodness, love, and covenant of God, especially derogatory to the honor of Jesus Christ and the gospel.

    Fourthly, They that have the thing signified have right unto the sign of it, or those who are partakers of the grace of baptism have a right to the administration of it: so Acts 10:47.

    But the children of believers are all of them capable of the grace signified in baptism, and some of them are certainly partakers of it, namely, such as die in their infancy (which is all that can be said of professors): therefore they may and ought to be baptized. For, — 1. Infants are made for and are capable of eternal glory or misery, and must fall, dying infants, into one of these estates for ever. 2. All infants are born in a state of sin, wherein they are spiritually dead and under the curse. 3. Unless they are regenerated or born again, they must all perish inevitably, John 3:3. Their regeneration is the grace whereof baptism is a sign or token. Wherever this is, there baptism ought to be administered.

    Fifthly, God having appointed baptism as the sign and seal of regeneration, unto whom he denies it, he denies the grace signified by it.

    Why is it the will of God that unbelievers and impenitent sinners should not be baptized? It is because, not granting them the grace, he will not grant them the sign. If, therefore, God denies the sign unto the infant seed of believers, it must be because he denies them the grace of it; and then all the children of believing parents dying in their infancy must, without hope, be eternally damned. I do not say that all must be so who are not baptized, but all must be so whom God would have not baptized.

    But this is contrary to the goodness and law [love?] of God, the nature and promises of the covenant, the testimony of Christ reckoning them to the kingdom of God, the faith of godly parents, and the belief of the church in all ages.

    It follows hence unavoidably that infants who die in their infancy have the grace of regeneration, and consequently as good a right unto baptism as believers themselves.

    Sixthly, All children in their infancy are reckoned unto the covenant of their parents, by virtue of the law of their creation.

    For they are all made capable of eternal rewards and punishments, as hath been declared.

    But in their own persons they are not capable of doing good or evil.

    It is therefore contrary to the justice of God, and the law of the creation of human kind, wherein many die before they can discern between their right hand and their left, to deal with infants any otherwise but in and according to the covenant of their parents; and that he doth so, see Romans 5:14.

    Hence I argue, — Those who, by God’s appointment, and by virtue of the law of their creation, are, and must of necessity be, included in the covenant of their parents, have the same right with them unto the privileges of that covenant, no express exception being put in against them. This right it is in the power of none to deprive them of, unless they can change the law of their creation.

    Thus it is with the children of believers with respect unto the covenant of their parents, whence alone they are said to be holy, 1 Corinthians 7:14.

    Seventhly, Christ is “the messenger of the covenant,” Malachi 3:1, — that is, of the covenant of God made with Abraham; and he was the “minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers,” Romans 15:8. This covenant was, that he would be “a God unto Abraham and to his seed.”

    Now if this be not so under the new testament, then was not Christ a faithful messenger, nor did confirm the truth of God in his promises.

    This argument alone will bear the weight of the whole cause. against all objections; for, — 1. Children are still in the same covenant with their parents, or the truth of the promises of God to the fathers was not confirmed by Christ. 2. The right unto the covenant, and interest in its promises, wherever it be, gives right unto the administration of its initial seal, that is, to baptism, as Peter expressly declares, Acts 2:38,39. Wherefore, — The right of the infant seed of believers unto baptism, as the initial seal of the covenant, stands on the foundation of the faithfulness of Christ as the messenger of the covenant, and minister of God for the confirmation of the truth of his promises.

    In brief, a participation of the seal of the covenant is a spiritual blessing.

    This the seed of believers was once solemnly invested in by God himself This privilege he hath nowhere revoked, though he hath changed the outward sign; nor hath he granted unto our children any privilege or mercy in lieu of it now under the gospel, when all grace and privileges are enlarged to the utmost. His covenant promises concerning them, which are multiplied, were confirmed by Christ as a true messenger and minister; he gives the grace of baptism unto many of them, especially those that die in their infancy, owns children to belong unto his kingdom, esteems them disciples, appoints households to be baptized without exception. And who shall now rise up, and withhold water from them?

    This argument may be thus further cleared and improved: — Christ is “the messenger of the covenant,” Malachi 3:1, — that is, the covenant of God with Abraham, Genesis 17:7; for, — 1. That covenant was with and unto Christ mystical, Galatians 3:16; and he was the messenger of no covenant but that which was made with himself and his members. 2. He was sent, or was God’s messenger, to perform and accomplish the covenant and oath made with Abraham, Luke 1:72,73. 3. The end of his message and of his coming was, that those to whom he was sent might be “blessed with faithful Abraham,” or that “the blessing of Abraham,” promised in the covenant, “might come upon them,” Galatians 3:9,14.

    To deny this, overthrows the whole relation between the old testament and the new, the veracity of God in his promises, and all the properties of the covenant of grace, mentioned 2 Samuel 23:5.

    It was not the covenant of works, neither originally nor essentially, nor the covenant in its legal administration; for he confirmed and sealed that covenant whereof he was the messenger, but these he abolished.

    Let it be named what covenant he was the messenger of, if not of this.

    Occasional additions of temporal promises do not in the least alter the nature of the covenant.

    Herein he was the “minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers,” Romans 15:8; that is, undeniably, the covenant made with Abraham, enlarged and explained by following promises. This covenant was, that God would be “a God unto Abraham and to his seed;” which God himself explains to be his infant seed, Genesis 17:12, — that is, the infant seed of every one of his posterity who should lay hold on and avouch that covenant as Abraham did, and not else. This the whole church did solemnly for themselves and their posterity; whereon the covenant was confirmed and sealed to them all, Exodus 24:7,8. And every one was bound to do the same in his own person; which if he did not, he was to be cut off from the congregation, whereby he forfeited all privileges unto himself and his seed.

    The covenant, therefore, was not granted in its administrations unto the carnal seed of Abraham as such, but unto his covenanted seed, those who entered into it and professedly stood to its terms.

    And the promises made unto the fathers were, that their infant seed, their buds and offspring, should have an equal share in the covenant with them, Isaiah 22:24, 44:3, 61:9. “They are the seed of the blessed of theLORD, and their offspring with them,” chap. 65:23. Not only themselves, who are the believing, professing seed of those who were blessed of the Lord, by a participation of the covenant, Galations 3:9, but their offspring also, their brads, their tender little ones, are in the same covenant with them.

    To deny, therefore, that the children of believing, professing parents, who have avouched God’s covenant, as the church of Israel did, Exodus 24:7,8, have the same right and interest With their parents in the covenant, is plainly to deny the fidelity of Christ in the discharge of his office.

    It may be it will be said, that although children have a right to the covenant, or do belong unto it, yet they have no right to the initial seal of it. This will not suffice; for, — 1. If they have any interest in it, it is either in its grace or in its administration. If they have the former, they have the latter also, as shall be proved at any time. If they have neither, they have no interest in it; — then the truth of the promises of God made unto the fathers was not confirmed by Christ. 2. That unto whom the covenant or promise doth belong, to them belongs the administration of the initial seal of it, is expressly declared by the apostle, Acts 2:38,39, be they who they will. 3. The truth of God’s promises is not confirmed if the sign and seal of them be denied; for that whereon they believed that God was a God unto their seed as well as unto themselves was this, that he granted the token of the covenant unto their seed as well as unto themselves. If this be taken away by Christ, their faith is overthrown, and the promise itself is not confirmed but weakened, as to the virtue it hath to beget faith and obedience.

    Eighthly, Particular testimonies may be pleaded and vindicated, if need be, and the practice of the primitive church. f13 A VINDICATION OF TWO PASSAGES IN IRENAEUS AGAINST THE EXCEPTIONS OF MR TOMBS.

    The passages are these: — Adversus Haereses, lib. 2, cap. 22, sect. 4: “Magister ergo existens, magistri quoque habebat aetatem, non reprobans nec supergrediens hominem, neque solvens suam legem in se humani generis, sed omnero aetatem sanctificans per illam quae ad ipsum erat similitudinem. Omnes enim venit per semetipsum salvare, omnes inquam, qui per eum renascuntur in Deum, infantes, et parvulos, et pueros, etjuvenes, et seniores. Ideo per omnem venit aetatem; et infantibus infans factus, sanctificans infantes; in parvulis, parvulus, sanctificans hanc ipsam habentes aetatem, simul et exemplum illis pietatis effectus, et justitiae et subjectionis; in juvenibus juvenis, exemplum juvenibus fiens, et sanctificans Domino; sic et senior in senioribus, ut sit perfectus magister in omnibus, non solum secundum expositionem veritatis, sed et secundum aetatem sanctificans simul et semores, exemplum ipsis quoque fiens; deinde et usque ad mortem pervenit, ut sit primogenitus ex mortuis, ipse primatum tenens in omnibus, princeps vitae, prior omnium, et praecedens omnes.”

    Lib. 1: cap. 18: \Osoi ga>r eijsi tau>thv th~v gnw>mhv mustagwgoi< , tosau~tai kai< ajpolutrw>seiv . \Oti mernhsin tou~ baptis>matov th~v eijv Qeosewv , kai< pa>shv th~v pi>stewv ajpo>qesin uJpoze>zlhtai to< ei+dov tou~ uJpo< tou~ satana~ , ejle>gcontev aujtoumen ejn tw~| prosh>konti to>pw| .

    Mr Tombs tells us, “This proves not infant baptism, because though it be granted that in Justin Martyr, and others of the ancients, to be regenerated is to be baptized, yet it doth not appear that Irenaeus meant it so in this place, unless it were proved it is so only meant by him and the ancients.

    Nor doth Irenaeus, lib. 1, cap. 18, term baptism ‘regeneration;’ but saith thus, ‘To the denying of baptism of that regeneration which is unto God.’

    But that indeed the word ‘renascuntur,’ ‘are born again,’ is not meant of baptism is proved from the words and the scope of them; for, — “1. The words are, ‘Per eum renascuntur,’ ‘By him,’ that is, Christ, ‘are born again.’ And it is clear, from the scope of the speech about the fullness of his age, as a perfect master, that ‘By him’ notes his person according to his human nature. Now, if then, ‘By him are born again,’ be as much as ‘By him are baptized,’ this should be Irenaeus’ assertion, that by Christ himself, in his human body, infants, and little ones, and boys, and young men, and elder men, are baptized unto God.

    But this speech is most manifestly false; for neither did Christ baptize any at all in his own person, ( John 4:1,2, ‘Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,’) nor did the disciples baptize any infant at all, as may be gathered from the whole New Testament. “2. The word which Irenaeus expresseth whereby persons are born again to God by Christ is applied to the example of his age, as the words and scope show. But he was not in his age an example of every age by his baptism, as if he did by it sanctify every age, for then he should have been baptized in every age; but in respect of the holiness of his human nature, which did remain in each age, and so exemplarily sanctify each age to God, so as that there was no age but was capable of holiness by conformity to his example. “3. Irenaeus’ words are, ‘Omnes enim venit per semetipsum salvare, omnes, inquam, qui per eum renascuntur in Deum, infantes, et parvulos,’ etc. Now, if the meaning were, that Christ came to save all that were baptized by him or by his appointment, then he came to save Simon Magus, or whoever are or have been baptized rightly. But in that sense the proposition is most palpably false; and therefore that sense is not to be attributed to his words. “4. Christ is by Irenaeus said to sanctify as ‘a perfect master, — not only according to the exposition of truth, but also as an example to them of piety, justice, and subjection.’ But this is to be understood not in respect of his baptism only, but his whole life, in which he was an example; even as an infant, for then he did willingly empty himself, — ‘Took upon him the form of a servant,’ etc., Philippians 5 7, 8. “By all which reasons,” saith Mr Tombs, “I presume the readers who are willing to see truth will perceive this passage of Irenaeus to be wrested by Pedobaptists against its meaning, to prove a use of pedobaptism in his time.” Ans . 1. The phrase of “Renascuntur in Deum” is so constantly used by the ancients for baptism that it may be referred to the conscience of Mr Tombs or any one who hath been conversant in their writings, whether they would not have judged and granted that it was here intended, if mention had not been made of infants and little ones. The ensuing exceptions, therefore, are an endeavor to stifle light in favor of an opinion; — which is not unusual with some. 2. “Per eum” is the same with “Per semetipsum,” in the words immediately foregoing; that is, “By himself,” in his mediation, grace, and ordinances. And to suppose that if baptism be intended, he must baptize them in his own person, is a mere cavil; for all that are born to God by baptism to this day are so by him. 3. The words, Eijv ejxa>rnhsin tou~ bapti>smatov th~v eijv Qeosewv , “Unto the denial of the baptism of regeneration unto God,” do plainly declare that by “renascuntur” he intends the baptism of regeneration, as being the means and pledge of it, in allusion to that of the apostle, Lou>tron paliggenesi>av , Titus 3:5. 4. It is remarkable in the words of Irenaeus, that in expressing the way and means of the renascency of infants, he mentions nothing of the example of Christ, which he adds unto that of all other ages. 5. The example of Christ is mentioned as one outward means of the regeneration of them who were capable of its Use and improvement. Of his being an example of baptism nothing is spoken. Nor was Christ in his own person an example of regeneration unto any; for as he was not baptized in all ages, so he was never regenerated in any, for he needed no regeneration. 6. It is well that it is so positively granted that Christ doth sanctify infants; which, seeing he doth not do so to all universally, must be those of believing parents; which is enough to end this controversy. 7. The meaning of Irenaeus is no more but that Christ, passing through all ages, evidenced his design to exclude no age, to communicate his grace unto all sorts and ages; and he mentioneth old men, because his judgment was that Christ was fifty years old when he died. 8. It was the constant opinion of the ancients that Christ came to save all that were baptized; not intending his purpose and intention with respect unto individuals, but his approbation of the state of baptism, and his grant of the means of grace.


    Ba>ptw , used in these scriptures, Luke 16:24, John 13:26, Revelation 19:13, we translate “to dip.” It is only “to touch one part of the body.” That of Revelation 19:13 is better rendered, “stained by sprinkling.”

    In other authors it is “tingo, immergo, lavo,” or “abluo;” but in no other author ever signifies “to dip,” but only in order to washing, or as the means of washing. It is nowhere used with respect unto the ordinance of baptism.

    The Hebrew word, lb’f; , is rendered by the LXX., Genesis 37:31, by molu>nw , “to stain by sprinkling” or otherwise; mostly by ba>ptw . Kings 5:14 they render it by bapti>zw , and nowhere else. In verse 10, Elisha commands Naaman “to wash;” therefore that in verse 14 is that “he washed.” Exodus 12:22 is, to put the top of the hyssop into blood, to sprinkle it; 1 Samuel 14:27, is to take a little honey with the top of a rod. In neither place can dipping or plunging be intended. Leviticus 4:6,17, 9:9, and in other places, it is only to touch the blood, so as to sprinkle it. bapti>zw signifies “to wash,” and instances out of all authors may be given, — Suidas, Hesychius, Julius Pollux, Phavorinus, and Eustathius.

    It is first used in the Scripture, Mark 1:8, John 1:33, and to the same purpose, Acts 1:5. In every place it either signifies “to pour,” or the expression is equivocal “I baptize you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost; which is the accomplishment of that promise, that the Holy Ghost should be poured on them.

    For the other places, Mark 7:3,4, ni>ptw , and bapti>zw are plainly the same, both “to wash.” Luke 11:38 is the same with Mark 7:3. No one instance can be given in the Scripture wherein bapti>zw doth necessarily signify either “to dip” or “plunge.” bapti>zw may be considered either as to its original, natural sense, or as to its mystical use in the ordinance.

    This distinction must be observed concerning many other words in the New Testament, as ejkklhsi>a , ceirotoni>a , and others, which have a peculiar sense in their mystical use.

    In this sense, as it expresseth baptism, it denotes “to wash” only, and not “to dip” at all: for so it is expounded, Titus 3:5; Ephesians 5:26; Hebrews 10:22; 1 Peter 3:21. And it signifies that communication of the Spirit which is expressed by “pouring out” and “sprinkling,” Ezekiel 36:25, and expresseth our being washed in the blood of Christ, Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:15,19,23.

    Wherefore, in this sense, as the word is applied unto the ordinance, the sense of dipping is utterly excluded. And though as a mere external mode it may be used, provided the person dipped be naked, yet to urge it as necessary overthrows the nature of the sacrament.

    For the original and natural signification of it, it Signifies “to dip, to plunge, to dye, to wash, to cleanse.”

    But I say, — 1. It doth not signify properly “to dip” or “plunge,” for that in Greek is ejmza>ptw and ejmzapti>zw . 2. it nowhere signifies “to dip,” but as a mode of and in order to washing. 3. It signifies the “dipping” of a finger, or the least touch of the water, and not plunging the whole. 4. It signifies “to wash,” also, in all good authors.

    I have not all those quoted to the contrary. In the quotations of them whom I have, if it be intended that they say it signifies “to dip,” and not “to wash,” or “to dip” only, there is neither truth nor honesty in them by whom they are quoted.

    Scapula is one, a common book, and he gives it the sense of “lavo, abluo,” “to wash” ad “wash away.”

    Stephanus is another, and he expressly, in sundry places, assigns “lavo” and “abluo” to be also the sense of it.

    Aquinas is for dipping of children, provided it be done three times, in honor of the Trinity; but he maintains pouring or sprinkling to be lawful also, affirming that Laurentius, who lived about the time 250, so practiced.

    But he meddles not with the sense of the word, as being too wise to speak of that which he understood not; for he knew no Greek.

    In Suidas, the great treasury of the Greek tongue, it is rendered by “malefacio, lavo, abluo, purgo, mundo.”

    The places in the other authors being not quoted, I cannot give an account of what they say. I have searched some of them in every place wherein they mention baptism, and find no one word to the purpose. I must say, and will make it good, that no honest man who understands the Greek tongue can deny the word to signify “to wash,” as well as “to dip.”

    It must not be denied but that in the primitive times they did use to baptize both grown persons and children oftentimes by dipping, but they affirmed it necessary to dip them stark naked, and that three times; but not one ever denied pouring water to be lawful.

    The apostle, Romans 6:3-5, is dehorting from sin, exhorting to holiness and new obedience, and gives this argument from the necessity of it and our ability for it, — both taken from our initiation into the virtue of the death and life of Christ, expressed in our baptism, — that by virtue of the death and burial of Christ we should be dead unto sin, sin being slain thereby, and by virtue of the resurrection of Christ we should be quickened unto newness of life; as Peter declares, 1 Peter 3:21. Our being “buried with him,” and our being “planted together in the likeness of his death” and “in the likeness of his resurrection,” Romans 6:4,5, is the same with “our old man being crucified with him,” and the “destroying of the body of sin,” verse 6, and our being raised from the dead with him; which is all that is intended in the place.

    There is not one word nor one expression that mentions any resemblance between dipping under water and the death and burial of Christ, nor one word that mentions a resemblance between our rising out of the water and the resurrection of Christ. Our being “buried with him by baptism into death,” verse 4, is our being “planted together in the likeness of his death,” verse 5. Our being “planted together in the likeness of his death” is not our being dipped under water, but “the crucifying of the old man,” verse 6.

    Our being “raised up with Christ from the dead” is not our rising from under the water, but our “walking in newness of life,” verse 4, by virtue of the resurrection of Christ, 1 Peter 3:21.

    That baptism is not a sign of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, is clear from hence, because an instituted sign is a sign of gospel grace participated, or to be participated. If dipping be a sign of the burial of Christ, it is not a sign of a gospel grace participated; for it may be where there is none, nor any exhibited.

    For the major: If all gospel ordinances are signs and expressions of the communication of the grace of Christ, then baptism is so; but this is the end of all gospel ordinances, or else they have some other end, or are vain and empty shows.

    The same individual sign cannot be instituted to signify things of several natures; but the outward burial of Christ, and a participation of the virtue of Christ’s death and burial, are things of a diverse nature, and therefore are not signified by one sign.

    That interpretation which would enervate the apostle’s argument and design, our comfort and duty, is not to be admitted; but this interpretation, that baptism is mentioned here as the sign of Christ’s burial, would enervate the apostle’s argument and design, our comfort and duty: and therefore it is not to be admitted.

    The minor is thus proved: The argument and design of the apostle, as was before declared, is to exhort and encourage unto mortification of sin and new obedience, by virtue of power received from the death and life of Christ, whereof a pledge is given us in our baptism. But this is taken away by this interpretation; for we may be so buried with Christ and planted into the death of Christ by dipping, and yet have no power derived from Christ for the crucifying of sin and for the quickening of us to obedience.


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