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fore, as the benefit of the Church shall require, it will be right to change and abolish former regulations, and to institute new ones. I grant indeed, that we ought not to resort to innovation rashly or frequently, or for trivial causes. But charity will best decide what will injure or edify, and if we submit to the dictates of charity, all will be well.
XXXI. Now such regulations as have been made upon this principle and for this end, it is the duty of Christian people to observe, with a free conscience indeed, and without any superstition, yet with a pious and ready inclination: they must not treat them with contempt or carelessness, much less violate them in an open manner through pride and obstinacy. It will be asked, what kind of liberty of conscience can be retained amidst so much attention and caution? I reply, it will very well be supported, when we consider, that these are not fixed and perpetual laws by which we are bound, but external aids for human infirmity, which though we do not need, yet we all use, because we are under obligations to each other to cherish mutual charity between us. This may be observed in the examples already mentioned. What? does religion consist in a woman’s veil, so that it would be criminal for her to walk out with her face uncovered? Is the solemn decree respecting her silence, such as cannot be violated without a capital offence? Is there any mystery in kneeling, or in the interment of a dead body, which cannot be omitted without sin? Certainly not: for if a woman, in the assistance of a neighbour, finds a necessity for such haste as allows her no time to cover her head, she commits no offence in running to the place with her head uncovered. And it is sometimes as proper for her to speak, as at other times to be silent. And he who from disease is unable to kneel, is quite at liberty to pray standing. Lastly, it is better to bury a dead body in proper season, even without a shroud, than for want of persons to carry it to burial, to suffer it to putrefy without interment. Nevertheless in these things, the customs and laws of the country we inhabit, the dictates of modesty, and even humanity itself, will direct us what to do, and what to avoid: and if an error be incurred through inadvertence or forget
fulness, no crime is committed, but if through contempt, such perverseness deserves to be reprobated. So it is of little importance, what days and hours are appointed, what is the form of the places, what psalms are sung on the respective days. But it is proper that there should be certain days and stated hours, and a place capable of receiving all the people, if any regard be paid to the preservation of peace. For what a source of contentions would be produced by the confusion of these things, if every man were permitted to change at his pleasure what relates to the general order; for it would never happen that the same thing would be agreeable to all, if things were undetermined and left to the choice of every individual. If any one object, and resolve to be wiser on this subject than is necessary, let him examine by what reason he can justify his obstinacy to the Lord. We ought however to be satisfied with the declaration of Paul; “If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the Churches of God."(m)
XXXII. Now it is necessary to exert the greatest diligence to prevent the intrusion of any error, which may corrupt or obscure this pure use of ecclesiastical regulations. This end will be secured, if all the forms, whatever they may be, carry the appearance of manifest utility, if very few are admitted, and principally if they are accompanied with the instructions of a faithful pastor, to shut the door against all corrupt opinions. The consequence of this knowledge is that every person will retain his liberty in all these things, and yet will voluntarily impose some restraint upon his li. berty, so far as the decorum we have mentioned, or the dictates of charity, shall require. In the next place, it will be becessary, that without any superstition we should attend to the observance of these things ourselves, and not too rigidly exact it from others; that we should not esteem the worship of God to be improved by the multitude of ceremonies; and that one Church should not despise another on account of a variety of external discipline. Lastly, establishing no per
petual law of this kind for ourselves, we ought to refer the use and end of all such observances to the edification of the Church, according to the exigence of which we should be content not only with the change of some particular observance, but with the abolition of any that have hitherto been in use among us. For that the abrogation of some ceremonies, not otherwise inconsistent with piety or decorum, may become expedient from the circumstances of particular periods, the present age exhibits an actual proof. For such has been the blindness and ignorance of former times, Churches have heretofore adhered to ceremonies with such corrupt sentiments and such obstinate zeal, that it is scarcely possible for them to be sufficiently purified from monstrous superstitions without the abolition of many ceremonies, for the original institution of which perhaps there was some cause, and which are not in themselves remarkable for any impietv.
The Jurisdiction of the Church, and its Abuse under the
Papacy. . WE come now to the third branch of the power of the Church, and that which is the principal one in a well regulated state, which we have said consists in jurisdiction. The whole jurisdiction of the Church relates to the discipline of manners, of which we are about to treat. For as no city or town can exist without a magistracy and civil polity, so the Church of God, as I have already stated, but am now obliged to repeat, stands in need of a certain spiritual polity; which however is entirely distinct from civil polity, and is so far from obstructing or weakening it, that, on the contrary, it highly conduces to its assistance and advancement. This power of jurisdiction therefore will in short be no other than
an order instituted for the preservation of the spiritual polity. For this end, there were from the beginning judiciaries appointed in the Churches, to take cognizance of manners, to pass censures on vices, and to preside over the use of the keys in excommunication. This order Paul designates in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, when he mentions“ governments;” (12) and to the Romans, when he says, " He that ruleth,” let him do it “with diligence.” () He is not speaking of magistrates or civil governors, for there was at this time no Christian magistrates, but of those who were associated with the pastor in the spiritual government of the Church. In the First Epistle to Timothy, also, he mentions two kinds of presbyters or elders, some “who labour in the word and doctrine,” others who have nothing to do with preaching the word, and yet "rule well." (0) By the latter class, there can be no doubt that he intends those who were appointed to the cognizance of manners, and to the whole excrcise of the keys. For this power, of which we now speak, entirely depends on the keys, which Christ has conferred upon the Church in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew; where he commands that those who shall have despised private admonitions, shall be severely admonished in the name of the whole Church; and that if they persist in their obstinacy, they are to be excluded from the society of the faithful. (9) Now these admonitions and corrections cannot take place without an examination of the cause; hence the necessity of judicature and order. Wherefore unless we would nullify the promise of the keys, and entirely abolish excommunication, solemn admonitions, and every thing of a similar kind, it is necessary to allow the Church some jurisdiction. Let it be observed, that the passage to which we have referred, relates not to the general authority of the doctrine to be preached by the apostles, as in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew and the twentieth chapter of John; but that the power of the sanhedrim is for the future transferred to the Church of Christ. Till that time, the Jews had their own method of
(o) Rom. xii. 8.
(p) 1 Tim. v. 17.
(1) 1 Cor. xii. 28.
(9) Matt. xviij. 15--18. VOL. III.
government, which, as far as regards the pure institution, Jesus Christ established in his Church, and that with a severe sanction. For this was absolutely necessary, because the judgment of an ignoble and despised Church might otherwise be treated with contempt by presumptuous and proud men. And that the readers inay not be embarrassed by the circumstance of Christ having used the same words to express different things, it will be useful to solve this difficulty. There are two places which speak of binding and loosing. One is in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew, where Christ, after having promised Peter that he would “give” him “the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” (r) immediately adds, -“ Whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” In these words he means precisely the same as he intends in other language recorded by John, when, being about to send forth his disciples to preach, after having “breathed on them,” he said, “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” (s) I shall offer an interpretation of this passage, without any subtilty, violence, or perversion, but natural, suitable, and obvious. This command respecting the remission and retention of sins, and the promise made to Peter respecting binding and loosing, ought to be wholly referred to the ministry of the word, which when our Lord committed to the apostles, he at the same time invested them with the power of binding and loosing. For what is the sum of the gospel, but that, being all slaves of sin and death, we are loosed and delivered by the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, and that those who never receive or acknowledge Christ as their Deliverer and Redeemer, are condemned and sentenced to eternal chains? When the Lord delivered this embassy to his apostles, to be conveyed to all nations, in order to evince it to be his, and to have proceeded from him, he honoured it with this remarkable testimony, and that for the particular confirmation both of the apostles themselves, and of all those to whom it was to be