matters of Religion. THE conscience is a tender piece, and either the best friend next to the Physician who can whole broken consciences, or the saddest enemy: if sick, it is like an aching tooth, the more you touch it, the more it pains you. The conscience of its own nature, is a knowing power of the practical understanding, as therefore no illicit acts of the soul can be compelled, neither can conscience act being muzzled and forced; but this hindereth not, but that men and devils in their conscience must know and believe many things in some sense against their will: as the devil out of the natural efficacy of conscience cannot choose, but he must believe that there is a God, yet where there is a trembling, there must be some reluctance in the will and affections. Judas must believe his damnation was approaching, when he hanged himself, but against his heart. The Belgic Arminians, who contend for liberty of conscience in all ways, Apol. 35.p.295. say, By determinations of Synods violence is not offered to conscience, as conscience signifieth a mere internal act of the mind, eminent or abiding within the mind, but as conscience signifieth an act of the mind by which any doth believe he is obliged to teach others which he persuadeth himself to be true and necessary, so the man is compelled by a Synod’s prescription, to dissemble what he believeth he ought to profess, and which he believeth to be false.
Answ. Say that the decision of the Synod be agreeable to the word; the Lord layeth on the coaction to all, to believe and accordingly profess the truth, and that by a Synod as Christ saith, he that heareth you heareth me: so the coaction, such as it is, must come principally from God; instrumentally from the Synod; but it floweth from both by accident, and through men’s abuse, who receive not the truth in love, but for fear of shame, least they should by the godly go for perverters of souls, Act. 15. that they do hypocritically profess what they ought sincerely to believe and profess; may we not say many men of corrupt minds believed circumcision to be necessary, and yet for fear of the Apostles’ censure that they should be judged troublers of souls, liars and false teachers, as they are judged to be Act. 15.24. would dissemble? And they are no other ways by a Synodical truth compelled to lie and dissemble by shame and falling out of the hearts of the Apostles and of all the godly the one way than the other; in that case than in this case. For there be but two ways of working on the mind to drive men to be of another opinion, one by fear either of shame, reproach or censures civil or ecclesiastical, another by mere teaching and instructing.
Now for the liberty of prophesying that Arminians require, and so the liberty of Synods, let us inquire if it be true liberty.
1. They require a full liberty to every man without scruple or fear of danger, to declare his mind in Synods, and to examine what is controverted.
Answ. It is in some respect commendable that heretics be candid and ingenuous to declare, even, what their heretical judgment and indictment of conscience leads them to believe, but a full liberty to question, in the Synod, whether there be a God, or no, or whether Christ died for sinners, ought not to be, for that is license, and heretical license: a point controverted any may question: and these, that Act. 15. held necessity of circumcision, might seek resolution of their arguments and doubts, but under pretext of liberty free of fear and danger, they have not liberty to sin; that is, after they are or may be, (if willfulness stood not in their way) inwardly convinced, they have not liberty obstinately to press sophisms against the truth, for this is an undeniable principle, liberty to sin is fleshly license not liberty.
Armin. In controversies of religion which the scripture doth not evidently decide, what can certainly be determined by the Church, which ever, and in everything which it determines, is believed may err?
Answ. There is nothing that the scripture hath left simple, and in itself controversial. Actu primo the scripture hath determined of all things contained in it, whether fundamentals or not fundamentals; only in regard of our dullness and sinful blindness some things are controverted, and therefore the Church may determine from light of the word some thing that was a controversy to the Fathers ignorant of the original tongues, which is now no controversy. Yea the fallible church may determine infallible points. This is a principle that Libertines proceed upon, that men who are not infallible may err, and therefore can hold forth to others no infallible truth. Which is most false, for prophets and apostles, Nathan, Samuel, David, Peter being deserted of the immediately inspiring Spirit did err as well as the Church and Pastors now deserted of the ordinary Spirit can and do err. For all men, Prophets and Apostles are liars, Rom. 3. yet they may and do carry infallible truth to others; a blind man may hold a candle to others. 3. By this reason Pastors can preach nothing certain in fundamentals, though faith come by hearing, and faith is of a certain and determinate fixed truth of God, more permanent than heaven or earth; why, because by this reason pastors in preaching fundamentals are not infallible . 4. Nor is this a good reason, it is believed the Church may err in Synods, ergo, it doth err and determines nothing that is infallible and certain in Synods; no more than this is a good consequence, David may sin in praying, ergo, he doth sin in praying: a potential ad actum non valet consequential,
Armin. A confession is not a rule of faith it hath not the lowest place in the Church. Answ. The covenant written and sealed in Nehemiah’s time was a secondary rule of faith, and a rule even so far as it agreed with the Law of Moses, for they enter in a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law, not to give their sons and daughters in marriage to the heathen, not to buy victuals from the heathen on the Sabbath, to charge themselves to give money to maintain the service of God, Nehe.9.38. chap.10. 1, 2, 3, 29, 30, 31, 32. Which written Covenant was not Scripture; and Act. 15. the decrees of the Synod was not formally Scripture, yet to be observed as a secondary rule. For so far Arminians.
A Doctor as a Doctor believeth not, a Doctor believeth as a sheep, not as a shepherd, and his judgment of matters of faith is not public but private and common to teachers with every one of the sheep: and there is a like and equal power in shepherd and every one of the flock of believing; and the sheep in matters of faith are no more obliged to stand to the judgment of the shepherd than the teachers to the judgment of the sheep; the teachers have a privilege of order and honor, above the sheep; but no privilege of Law and power. Then the Church though she believe and certainly know, that she erreth not in her decisions, yea though it fall out she err not, yet ought not to take power to herself to command others to believe that to be true which she believes, or to impose silence upon others, who, cannot in conscience acquiesce to what they command.
Answ. There is something true in this; there is a two-fold Judgment, one saving, and Christian common to all by which both shepherd and sheep believe; and its true of this, that the Sheep are not more to stand to the judgment of shepherds, than the shepherds to the judgment of the sheep in point of Christian believing, which (sure) is common to both shepherd and Sheep: for the alone authority of God speaking in his word. And so the Doctor believes not as a Doctor but as a Christian. But secondly, there is another judgment that is ministerial, official, and authoritative, and this is terminated not on Christian believing, but supposeth a ministerial believing; that what the shepherd teaches others God revealed to him first, and is put forth in a ministerial and official judging either in Synods, or in public Pastoral Sermons and authoritative, but ministerial publishing the will and mind of Christ. Mal. 2.7. They shall seek the Law from his mouth. Heb. 13.7.17. That way the people depends upon the Ministerial judgment of Synods and Pastors: but its most false that Pastors depends on their Ministerial judgment who are sheep, and that there is a like and equal power in shepherds and sheep; and it’s false, that though the Church believes she errs not, and doth not err, yet the Church may not command and in Synods Ministerially and with all authority rebuke, such as pervert souls. Act. 15.22. And that Doctors may not as the heralds and Ministers of Christ rebuke men sharply, avpoto,mwj that they may be sound in the faith, Tit. 1.13. For Pastors and Synods teach fundamentals of faith ministerially to the people, and by hearing of them is faith begotten in the hearers; and they may command, exhort, rebuke with all long suffering, 2 Tim. 4.1,2. 2 Tim. 2.14. Stop their mouths, Tit. 1.11. and authoritatively enjoin them silence. Act. 15. 22, 23, 24, 25. Act 6.4. Though they cannot by reason of an erroneous conscience or a conscience burnt with an hot iron acquiesce to the determination of a Synod; Yea though they be unruly, vain talkers and deceivers, they must be commanded to be silent. Nor must the Church and Angels of the Church of Thyatira, Ephesus, or Pergamos suffer Jezebel to seduce, nor ravening wolves to devour the flock, nor their word to eat as a Canker; For this judgment authoritative as it is in the head of the Church (Christ) as in the fountain and only Law-giver, so it is Ministerially only and by way of office in the Elders, as the will and mind of the King is in the inferior Judge, the Ambassador or Herald, not in the people, And the people are obliged to obey those that are over them in the Lord, who watch for their souls, as those who must give an account. But there is no ground to say the shepherds are obliged to stand to and obey the ministerial and official judgment of the people: and of this it is said, he that heareth you (Ministers of the Gospel, not the people) heareth me, he that dispiseth you dispiseth me. And this is more than a privilege of order and honor, which one Christian hath above another in regard of eminence of graces, gifts, and of wisdom, experience, and age, it is a privilege of office to speak in the name of the Lord, and yet it is inferior to a privilege of the law, because the Lord only imposeth laws upon the conscience, for it is a middle judgment less than Legislative, Supreme and absolute over the conscience, this is in none save only in the King and head of the Church, and is Royal and Princely; Yet is it more (I say not more excellent, it not being saving of itself as in believers) than a privilege of mere honor and order, for though it lay no more bands on the conscience to obtain faith because it is holden forth by men, it having no influence on the conscience because of men, whose word is not the formal object of faith, yet hath it an official authority from Pastors (which is not merely titulary) so as they may ministerially and officially command obedience to their judgment as far as it agrees with the mind of Christ, no farther: and when it is disobeyed may inflict censures, which private Christians cannot do, and putteth these who disobey under another guiltiness, than if private Christians did speak the same word to wit not only in a case of disobedience to the second Command, but in a state of disobedience to the fifth command formally, as not honoring father and mother whereas to disobey that same word by way of counsel in the mouth of a brother, though it be the breach of the fifth command also, Yet not in such a manner as when we refuse to hear the messenger of the Lord of Hosts; and his judgment as a messenger of God is publique and binds as public to highest obedience to the fifth command, but as it is a judgment of faith common to the Doctor with other Christians, it binds as the mind of God holding faith in the second Commandment what we are to believe.
Arminians. The word of God is sufficient for the deciding of controversies, its clear, what need is there of decision, if men acquiesce to the decision of God as it lies in Scripture--- if the word of God express the sense of God, or if it have need of interpretation, why is there not a free interpretation left to every man? Do we think our words are clearer than the word of God, we do a mighty injury to the word of God, if we believe that. How much better were it, if we would nourish peace and concord leaving interpretations free to every man? It is most sure to contain ourselves within the speaking of holy scripture, and the form of words of the Holy Ghost, and that no man be troubled who shows himself willing to contain himself within these. Answ. Here is a mere fluctuation and Skepticism even in fundamentals and the faith of them, for all interpretation of Scripture is rejected, there is no distinction in fundamentals or no fundamentals, for in principles of faith, that Christ is God and man, and died for sinners, the Scripture is most plain, and what need then of our interpretation? then let Arians and Socinnians believe him to be God man and to die for sinners in their sense, the Familists in a contrary sense, the Georgians in another contrary sense, the Papists in a third, the Protestants a fourth, and so as many heads, as many faiths, every sect, and man must have some sense, else his faith is non-sense, and if he err from the sense of the Holy Ghost, the scripture is no scripture, if it be believed in a sense contrary to the scripture to him who so believes; and so his faith is no faith, but a vain night-fancy, and seeing the word of God gives us but one faith, and one truth, and one Gospel; if interpretations be left free to every man, these Libertines gives us millions of faiths with millions of senses, and so no faith at all.
Secondly, They give us two decisions, one made by God, and another by the Church contrary to God’s, that has no rule but every man’s private judgment and free fancy, as if the decision of controversies made by the Church in Synods which we suppose is not divided from that of God’s, were some other thing than the decision of the Holy Ghost speaking in the word and declared by the Church in a ministerial way, and if it be any other than this, it is not to be received, nor a lawful decision ministerial of a Synod, but to be rejected.
Thirdly, if there be no need of a decision to expone the word, because the word is clear, and if we wrong the word of God if we think our words are clearer than Gods, it is true, if we had eyes to see and apprehend the mind of God in his word, without an interpretation, then all ministry and preaching of the Gospel is cried down by this, what have any to do to expone the first principles of the Oracles of God to the Hebrews c.5? or what need they teach, exhort, preach in season and out of season? What needeth the Eunuch a teacher, or Cornelius Peter, or Saul Ananias to teach them? had they not the Scriptures? if Timothy, the preachers that speak the word of the Lord to the Hebrews, Philip, Peter, Ananias think their words clearer than the word of God, they do a great injury to the word of God; or if they believed their words were clearer than the words of Isaiah and the Prophets, and they did that which was not necessary, if they opened and expounded the Prophets and decided controversies; for they should have acquiesced to the decision of God as it lieth in the Scripture, and not have preached but read the Prophets, and left if free to the hearers to put on the words of Scripture, what interpretation and sense they thought best.
Fourthly, That no confessions ought to be but in express words of Scripture, shall free all men and consequently all Churches from obedience to that which Peter commands. 1 Pet.3. 15. Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. When Stephen Acts 7. and Paul Acts 26. were accused of
heresy and speaking against Moses and the temple, they made a confession of their faith not in words of Scripture, but in deductions and necessary consequences drawn from Scripture and applied to themselves, and those in Nehemiah’s time who wrote and sealed or subscribed a Covenant, did not write and seal the express, Decalogue and ten Commandments, nor the words of the Covenant of Grace. I will be thy God and the God of thy seed, but entered into a curse and into an oath to walk in God’s Law which was given by Moses the servant of God and to observe, and to do all the Commandments of the Lord our God and his judgments and his statutes and that (say they) we would not give our daughters to the people of the Land, not take their daughters for our sons, and if the people of the Land bring ware or victuals on the Sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them and Nehemiah c. 10. v. 29,30,31,32,33,34. etc... compared with Nehemiah c.9.v.38. Which words are not a confession nor Covenant in express Scripture, save that they are historically inserted in the Cannon of the Scripture by the Holy Ghost. In which sense the law and decree of Nebuchadnezzar Daniel 6. And of other heathen Kings as Daniel 3.29.30 Ezra.1. 2,3. c.7. 11,12,13,14, etc... Are Scriptures; but they are not the express words of the law, for there is nothing in the express law touching the Sabbath, of no buying ware and victual from the heathen of the land that Nehemiah speaks of, which warranteth us to enter in the like Covenant, and make the like confession of faith to defend and stand to the Protestant Religion, and that Christ was God and man, and man in one person, and that we shall not buy ware or victuals from the Anabaptist and Familists of England who trample on the Sabbath day though these be not express words of Scripture. It is true, Libertines say men have made apologies and confessions of faith for their own defense as Steven and Paul but they enjoined not these by authority and command as a rule of faith upon others, and wrote them not as a fixed standard of the faith of others, and that warrants no Church to impose a faith upon others.
Answ. 1. This will prove that as one man accused of heresy may publish a confession of his faith which may clear his innocence and the soundness of his faith to others and remove the scandal according to that of I Pet. 3.15. And by the same reason, Independents, Libertines, Familists, Antinomians, Anabaptists and all the Sects of England, upon the same ground that the Albigenses went upon, should by some confession and Covenant give an account of their faith and hope with meekness and fear. And what particular persons are obliged to do that Churches when they are slandered as unsound in the faith are obliged to do: and so I look at a form or confession of faith as
a necessary apology for clearing of the good name of a Church defamed with heresies, and new sects, but for the imposing of this confession upon other, these others are either neighbor Churches, or their own Members.
As concerning neighbor-Churches they have no authority over them. Yet may they declare that Familists who say Christ is not come in the flesh are the Spirit of the Antichrist, and for these, of their own Church, if they go out from them and separate to an Antichristian side, after the example of the Apostles and Elders they may command them to abstain from such and such heretical opinions, and after they have convicted them as perverters of souls, proceed to excommunication against them as refusers to consent to the form of wholesome words: as may be proved from Math. 18.15, 16, 17, etc... Rom. 16. 17, 1 Thes. 2.13, 14, 15. And other Scriptures as Reve. 2. 1, 2, 3. v. 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20. Now that it is not sufficient that they be put to subscribe a confession of faith in only scripture words is clear, 1. because the Jews will swear and seal the Old Testament in their own sense, but their sense makes the old Testament to be the word of man, not the word of God. The Sadducees acknowledged the five books of Moses to be the word of God, yet because they denied the resurrection of the dead; Christ argueth them Math. 22.45. Ignorant both of the power of God asserted in the books of Moses and of the scriptures, especially of that scripture which God spake out of the bush to Moses; I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, etc... Exod. 3.6. Yet would the Sadducees have sworn and subscribed all the book of Exodus as the undoubted word of God, but when they denied the resurrection, sure these words I am the God of Abraham etc... making the Covenant of grace to die when Abraham died, and Abraham to have perished in soul and body as they expounded it, was not the word of God; and Papists will subscribe the old and new Testament and the three creeds, the Nicene Creed, the Creed of Athanasius, and that which commonly is called the Apostles Creed. Yet as they expound the word and these Creeds, we say they transform the word of God into the doctrine of devils and most abominable Idolatry, the greatest heretics that were, Arrius, Nestorius, Appollinaris, Macedonius, the Treithite acknowledge the scripture to be the word of God, and will swear and subscribe the word of God and contain themselves intra sacre scripture lecutiones, within the words of scripture. But their faith is not the faith of the scripture, and this makes ten thousand and millions of faiths whereas the word saith there is but one faith. For Arrius hath one faith, Apollinaris another, Nestorius another, and every heretic a faith according to the sense that he falsely puts on the scripture, and all may swear one confession of faith in scripture words.
Arminians say, no man after he hath received a decree of a Synod is longer obliged to it, nor upon any other condition, but in so far and so long as he judgeth in his conscience that it is true. Answ. This is mere skepticism, and to make the conscience whether erroneous, or not erroneous to be a bible and a rule of faith. For though the erroneous conscience say, it is service to God to kill the innocent Apostles John 16.1. Yet the sixth commandement lies upon these murderers with equal strength, thou shalt not kill, otherwise they are not guilty of murder. For if a Synod decree to kill Peter and John, because they preach that the Son of Mary is the Messiah, is bloody persecution. Then so soon as Scribes and Pharisees in their erroneous conscience (for Libertines make exceptions of no consciences, an erroneous more than another, not erring in fundamentals more than of another.) shall judge it service to God to kill the Apostles they are loosed from the sixth commandment and no longer obliged to this (thou shalt not murder.) So the author of the tractate called Armini. Where men’s scope is any way to remove controveries, there is there no care or little at all of the truth of God, and where the external peace of the common-wealth is heeded precisely, there peace of conscience is of none or of little value, the truth is not there persuaded, but crushed.
Ans. The learned and renowned professors of Leiden answer the end of Synods is not by any means good or bad to remove controversies but to bury them by the power of the word. 2 Only external peace separated from truth should not be intended, but conjoined with truth and peace of conscience. 3. The end of Synods is not effectually and actu secundo to silence heretics and gain-sayers of the truth, not is it Christ’s scope in convincing the Sadducees that the dead must rise Math. 22. to persuade the truth, so as there shall never be on earth a Sadducee again who denies the resurrection, for in Paul’s and in the Apostles’ time the Sadducees still denied the resurrection, after the Synod of Jerusalem Acts 15. There arose many that said we must keep the law of Ceremonies, but the end of Synods is to do what may actu primo, remove controversies and silence heretics by clearing scripture, and truth, but the end is not to remove obstinacy that is not the scope of Synods nor of preaching, nor of the scriptures, but of all these are in the event as God blesseth them and concurreth with them: the end of Synods is not to oppress or deprive ministers, the end of despised and obstinately refused truth is such.
Armini. Synods should not aim at setting up their own authoritity which in matters of faith is none at all, such decisions are the heart of Popery, and makes all religion without Synods to be uncertain. Ans. Synods should take care that no man despise their authority, as Timothy is exhorted by Paul but their authority in matters of faith is conditional, and so not nul. 2. Synods are necessary ad bene esse, not absolutely, for many are saved, both persecuted churches, and believers who never had help of Synods to clear their faith. 3. But none more contend then Libertines do for a faith as uncertain as the weather which may change with every new moon. The same also may be said of preaching and a ministry which the Lord Jesus ascending on high gave for the edifying his body the Church, that religion is uncertain without it. For Pastors in public should convince gainsayers and so remove heretics. Tit. 1.9, 10, 11. 1 Tim. 6.3, 4 as well as Synods, and Libertines in their conscience know Protestant Synods Lord over the faith of none as if they took to themselves infallibility as Popish Synods do.
Armini. Since Synods may err, how then place they religion in security? Obj. But Pastors oblige not men to receive what they say, under pain of censures, as Synods do. Answ. Under pain of divine if not Ecclesiastical punishment, and the one is that way as binding to the conscience as the other, yea more, for it is a greater obligation for Pastors to subject men to divine wrath, if they receive not what they preach, than for Synods to bind them only to Ecclesiastical censures and yet none can say that Pastors exercise tyranny over the conscience: for the former, Ergo neither can Synods justly be deemed Lords over the conscience for the latter.
Armin. Very often fewer; and provincial Synods do determine more soundly then many and Ecumenical Synods.
Answ. That is by accident; one Michaiah saw more than four hundred prophets of Baal. But this objection is against the safety that is in a multitude of counselors and in the excellency of two convened in the name of Christ above one.
Armin. Decision of Synods cannot oblige men while they know that the decision was rightly made, it is not enough to oblige any to consent that that which is decided is true and agreeable to the word of God, of necessity every man’s private judgment must go before, otherwise its an implicit faith. Answ. That many should duly, and as he ought believe, and receive the decision of a Synod, it must be both true, and he must believe and know that it is true, but that it may oblige him and doth oblige him, whether his conscience be erroneous, or no, is as true, for then this Commandment (Thou shalt not kill) (Honour they father and thy mother) should lay no obligation on a man that believes it is service to God to kill the Apostles, as John 16. some do. For no man is exempted from an obligation to obey God’s Law, because of his own sinful and culpable ignorance, for we speak not now of invincible ignorance of these things which we are not obliged to know or believe. But if our sinful and erroneous conscience free us from actual obligation to be tied by a law, then our erroneous conscience freeth us from sinning against a law, and so from punishment, for whatever freeth a man from actual obligation freeth him also from actual sinning, for all sin is a doing against a Law-obligation, and if so, then are none to be led by any rule but their own conscience, the written Law and Gospel is not henceforth our rule any more.
Arminians. The last condition of a Synod is, that the subject of a Synodical decision be ever left to a free examination, and to a farther free discussion and revise. The learned professors of Leyden answer that which is once true and fixed in the word of God, is ever true and fixed in the
word of God. The Arminians reply, what is true and fixed in the word of God is ever so, and ought to remain so, for the word is beyond all danger erring. But what is believed to be fixed and fixed and ratified in a Synod is not so, because it is obnoxious to error.
Answ. They require that before we come to a Synod where fundamental truths are Synodically determined, we be as a razed table and as clean paper in which no thing is written, and so must we be after a Synod hath determined according to the word of God, that is be still Skeptics and believe nothing fixedly, and be rooted in no faith; nay not in the faith of the fundamentals that are most clear in the word of God; for it is impossible that we can believe the clearest fundamentals, as that God created the world, and Christ God-Man redeemed it, but we must believe them by the intervening and intermediation of our own sense or the Church’s sense, or the sense of some Godly Doctor; now because all these senses are fallible, and we see Familists put one sense on fundamentals, Papists another sense, and all private men may do the like, it is not possible that any man can be rooted in any faith at all by this way, for all senses are fallible; and though the scripture giveth clear and evident senses yet such is the heretical dullness of men, that reject these infallible senses as false; and those others that by their own confession are fallible and so can neither be established by the word, nor by the interpretations of men, though senses of Scripture rendered by Synods be fallible in the way they come to us, because men delivering them may err, yet being agreeable to the word, they are in themselves infallible. And so the old and new Testament in the way they come to us may be fallible, because printers are not prophets but may miscarry and dream; but it followeth not they are not the infallible word of life in themselves, when the Spirit witnesseth to us that God, divinitie, transforming glory are in these books: as a spouse knoweth the hand-writ style, loveliness of a letter from her husband to be certainly no counterfeit but true, though the bearer be a rogue and can deceive.
Secondly, this answer still supposeth that Synods do give senses contrary to the word of God, and, so we grant they are not only fallible but false and erroneous, and are to be examined of new again in that case; but we hold, when lawful Synods convened in the name of Christ do determine according to the word of God they are to be heard as Ambassadors who in Christ’s stead teach us, and what is once true and ratified in Synods in this manner is ever true and ratified as the reverend professors say and never subject to any further exanimation, and new discussion, so as it must be changed and retracted as false. For this is to subject the very word of God to retraction and change, because a Synod did declare and truly determine it in a Ministerial way to be the word of God. For what Synods determine being the undeniable word of God is intrinsically infallible, and can never become fallible, though fallible and sinful men that are obnoxious to error and mistakes do hold it forth Ministerially to others: and it is false that we are to believe that what Synods determine according to the word of God, we are to believe it is fallible and liable to error, and may an untruth, because they so determine, for then when a Synod determines, there is but one true God, this principle of faith is believed to be subject to Retraction and falsehood, because a Synod hath determined it to be a truth. But the truth is we are to believe truths determined by Synods to be infallible, and never again liable to retraction or discussion, because they are and were in themselves and without any Synodical determination infallible, but not for this formal medium, because, so faith the Synod, but because so faith the Lord. It is true, new heretics pretending new light may arise as Math. 24.24. And call in question all fundamentals that are determined that are cleared in former Synods, but it follows not but these truths are still in themselves fixed and unmovable as the Pole-Star, though evil men bring them under a new Synodical examination as Familists do now raze the foundations of Christianity, yet Daniel and Christ are innocent, though wicked men accuse them judicially as deceivers: nor is it enough that Libertines say it may be the word of God and the infallible word of God which the Synod determineth, but it is not so to us, we are to believe it with a reserve, because we cannot know it so to be.
But I answer this concludes not only against a Synodical determination, but against all scripture, and all prophetical and Apostolic determinations in the scripture, for that there is one God not three as the Treithits dream, is believed by some to be false, by others to be true. Yet undeniably it is in itself, true that there is but one God, nor is it therefore to be believed with a reserve, because the Synod hath so determined according to the word of God: and this were some answer if we should teach that men should believe, because so saith a Synod. But all the mystery is, though a Synod should determine a truth an hundred times according to the word, yet if the conscience say it is no truth, the determination of a Synod doth not oblige at all (say Libertines) because the conscience according to the mind of Libertines is the nearest obliging rule, but any thing obligeth not to obedience and faith as it appears either true or good to our conscience, for to kill the Apostles appears lawful, to commit adultery and murder appeareth good to many, yet are not men obliged to kill the Apostles, or to commit adultery.
Armini. If a thing be determined out of the word of God by a Synod, then was that thing before determined in the word of God, and yet that must be examined in a Synod which is supposed to be decided in the word, what need is there of a Synodical examination of that which is supposed to be liable to no error, for so must the word of God be examined.
Answ. What the Bereans heard the Apostle Paul preach Act. 17. 11, 12. was the very Gospel determined in the Scriptures of the Prophets, what then needed they try the Gospel or examine what is infallible in private among themselves more than in public Synods? This argument is against the Apostles rule, Try all things, and try the Spirits whether they be of God or not, for sure these rules warranted them to examine Paul, Peter and John’s doctrine and Spirits and finding them to be truths decided in the word to receive them, therefore after there is a Scriptural decision it doth not follow that there should not be a Declarative or Ministerial decision by Synods and by pastors preaching the Gospel. For this doth close subvert all ministry and preaching, and all trying of the spirits, nor is it hence concluded that, we examine the word of God, as if it could be false, but that we are both in private and in public to examine and try whether that which is proposed to us as the word of God be the word of God or no: But we examine and suspect the credit of men; who may and can lie.
Secondly, but this supposeth that what ever is brought under a Synodical discussion is false or at least fallible, which is a most false principle of Libertines, and that nothing which is the word of God should fall under a Synodical discussion, to be tried which is true: thus far the word of God as it is the word of God is not to be tried, nor determined but in reference to messengers who are but sinful men and can deceive, and to our dullness and sinful ignorance, there is need that a ministry and Synods help us with declarative and ministerial declarations until we be where they shall not need a Temple. And what Libertines say, the same said Anabaptists, so Bullinger saith Anabaptists taught that the Evangelist should be recited without Words casting it (that is without preaching) and that every man was free to interpret the Scripture as he will, and that the interpretation of Scripture is not the word of God. So that the peoples conscience and private sense is their Scripture and rule of faith; we need not then Scripture, every man’s sense is his Rule, which yet is not so good divinity as the heathen Melytus accused Socrates of, and thought Socrates was worthy to die, for that such as the people believeth to be gods, he believeth to be nothing such, but thinketh there be some new Deities: and was it a crime that Socrates thought the people’s lust was no good rule in divinity?
Armini. All should be admitted to Synods because Religion concerneth the conscience of all, or if it be confusion to admit all to come, yet should no decision be, except first all the church be acquainted with the business.
Answ. God never appointed all and every one to lay burdens and Directories or Laws upon themselves as is clear. Act. 15. God keeps ever that order in his Church of some to teach and some to be taught, of some to obey and some to be over others in the Lord: that before Laws be made that concern the conscience, there should be a reference of all made to the people, and they acquainted with reasons form the word of God before a decision we shall not condemn, but it is nothing against us.
Armini. These that come to Synods ought to be engaged to no Church, or to no confession. But every way free. Answ. Then such as convened in a Synod in the Church of Pergamus and Thyatira should not be principled in the faith of Christ and his truth against the deeds of the Nicolaitans, with whom fornication went for a thing indifferent, or against such as hold the doctrine of Balaam, or Jezebel, they must all come as indifferent to absolve as to condemn the Nicolaitans and the false Prophetess Jezebel. But Paul and Barnabas came to the Council of Jerusalem as members thereof, being sore engaged to condemn circumcision as not necessary to salvation, and had preached against such a necessity and yet were not biased voters in the assembly, and by this reason if Fundamentals be to be established in a Synod, and the contrary errors to be refuted, when Doctors come to a Synod they must leave faith and soundness of faith at home, and come to the Synod with purpose to buy and bargain there for a new faith. And let all men come thither as Skeptics and Nullifidians, and go so also away believing with a reserve, that that the Synod hath determined, may be a lie. But as Arminians take true liberty of free-will to be an absolute power to do ill or well, stand or fall eternally, so they judge that Liberty of prophesying is a Liberty to teach and believe indifferently either lies or truth, heresies or sound doctrine, whereas liberty to do ill in any sense is licentiousness, not liberty.
Armini. The question is not, whether a man when he judges right can err, for who can assume that? But whither either a man or a church who judgeth rightly according to the word of God, have any law or power to command and enjoin others to receive and believe, what they have rightly judged, and that without controversy, for no man is obliged to receive and believe a truth, which a Synod unanimously or for the most part, hath truly judged, because the Synod hath so judged, or saith so.
Answ. But Libertines make such a question, for they affirm that a Synod doth never judge so rightly, but we must believe what they judge with a reserve, and so that what they determine is false, or may the next day be false.
Secondly, we conceive that God hath given to some one single Pastor, and far more to a Synod of Pastors and Doctors a power to rebuke, teach, exhort with all authority 2.
Tim. 4 1.2. To charge Tit. 2.14 them before the Lord. 1. Tim. 6. 17. to lay on burdens and decrees Act. 15.28.c.16.4. And that all that hear them believe and receive as true what they speak in the Name of the Lord, according to that, he that heareth you heareth me; he that despiseth you, despiseth me. He that will not hear an Ambassador as an Ambassador speaking from his Master and Prince, refuseth to hear the Prince that sent him, yet we say not that they are to be heard without controversy as they object, that is, peremptorily, absolutely as if their word were the very Oracle of God, but they are to be heard, but not but after trying and searching, and not but conditionally in so far as they carry the mind of God along with them, so that there may be an appeal to the Scripture; and place left for examining and trying of their doctrine whether it be so or not.
Another Libertine saith, it is in vain said, Try all things, if a Synod may impose: for either the trial relates to a particular judgment to be made, and that judgment to a practice to be confirmed, or not, if not, as good not try, if I try only for trial’s sake, and if when I have tried, I am but where I was, to wit, I must be concluded by others vote and imposition; if yea, then to what purpose is the imposition? For if I approve it, the imposition is needless, if I reject ’tis fruitless. Answ. 1. There is no doubt, but trying all things 1 Thess. 5. relates to judgment and practice, nor is it more against the Ministerial and conditional imposition of a Synod, to you to try, than it is against the imposition and commanding power of the Prophets, Jeremiah, or others, or the Apostles, Paul Act. 17. or John 1 John 3.1. For prophets and Apostles impose Scriptures as Paul did Act. 17. on the Bereans; but conditionally after they find it agreeable to the Scripture, and the Prophets and Apostles, conclude by their vote and sentence, yet better you try as not try. For this argument is more against the Bereans’ trying of Paul who had Apostolic power to impose and place the poor Bereans in the place they were in before they tried, and so as good the Bereans not try Paul’s doctrine, as try it; for they are concluded by Paul’s vote, if they miscarry in their trying and find, though mistakenly and ignorantly (as this Gamaliel argueth) that Paul’s doctrine is contrary to the Scriptures, are they not concluded under unbelief in refusing the Gospel and in stumbling at the stone laid on Zion? Sure they are. 2. If you approve Paul’s doctrine, the imposition, or peremptory command of Paul to receive it, else he will shake the dust off his feet against you and leave death at your door, the imposition is not needless, but the commanding power in the Ambassador of Christ, be they one as a single pastor, or many, as a Synod, is not needless but useful and fruitful, and is the power of God and the savour of life in itself. Should an ignorant man say the commanding ministerial power of the Gospel which saith, except ye believe ye shall die in your sins, needless? when it bringeth forth fruit. Suppose Paul say to Elimas (as in effect he did) if thou wilt not believe, and cease to pervert others from believing, I will smite thee with blind nesse. If this imposing had wrought faith in Elimas, as by the grace of God it might, had this imposing been needless? The man might as well say: because this tree brings forth fruit being digged and branched, and pruned, therefore digging was needless. But he supposeth vainly that imposing and commands issuing from Synods under penalties and censures are contrary to trying all things, because imposing concludes men under censures, though they try the decrees of Synods to be unjust, but the imposing of Synods is conditional, not absolute as Libertines suppose, for after Synods impose, if believers after trying and due examining, shall find that truly and really the decrees are beside or contrary to the word of truth, the imposing neither is a just Imposing, nor any imposing at all. For neither Prophet, nor Apostle, nor Angel from heaven, nor Church can lay commands upon men imposing or binding under pain of censures to that which is unsound and false or unjust or wicked, and if people shall find their decrees truly to be so after trial they have power to reject them. And 3. the last part of the argument if I reject the imposing command of a Synod, it is fruitless, is a poor one like the wit of the author. For if I reject these imposing commands, when just and lawful they are fruitless to me, and the savour of death as the despised Gospel is: But not simply fruitless on God’s part, as the argument supposeth, except the author with Arminians’ dream that God intendeth obedience in all lawful Ordinances, but he cometh short of his end in the Reprobate. But Ordinances are not fruitless to God, for they prosper ever in the errand they are sent for Isaiah 55.11. 2 Cor. 2.16, 17. If they render men inexcusable, they are not fruitless, for they clear the justice of God.
2. They that have right (saith the author) and power of imposing, are Lords of my faith, but so are not any men, the Apostles themselves assumed it not; for by faith ye stand. Take away a Christian’s judicious faith, and you take away his legs, his standing under him.
Answ. So do all the ignorant and heady Libertines in England argue, but not one of them had a head ever to prove this consequence. For the apostles had ministerial right to impose and command in the name of the Lord under pain of censures, yet are not either prophets or apostles lords of men’s faith, but ministers and mere servants: it is just as if you would say such a Justice of peace imposeth, that is commandeth you obey such laws under penalties, ergo this Justice of peace takes on him to be Sovereign Prince and King over these whom he thus imposingly commandeth.
2. This imposing takes not away judicious believing, all is a beggarly suiting of the question. If imposing were a commanding that we receive absolutely what they say, be it good, or ill, without examining the argument were concludent as God himself requires Abraham to kill his son, Abraham was without examination to give absolute obedience, and this proveth God to be Lord of the conscience, for knowing his word to be his word we are not to examine it by the Scripture or Law of nature, because if we know who speaks, we are not to examine what is spoken. But though we know who speaks among Creatures, be it a Prophet, an Apostle, an Angel, yet must we examine both who speaks and what is spoken.
3. In vain (saith he) did the Bereans try the Apostle’s doctrine, and unduly were they commended, if that doctrine were imposed upon them.
Answer. It follows only in vain did the Bereans try Paul’s doctrine, if Paul took God’s room and commanded the Bereans to receive his Gospel hand over head, whether it was agreeable to the scriptures or no: the ignorance of the nature of Protestant Synods and of Popish Synods begetteth many ignorant and foolish objections in Libertines. It is true Papists say, their Synods but impose ministerially upon men, not as lords of men’s faith, but they take away what they give. For 1. they will have none to examine and try the decrees of their Synods, which we leave to all. 2. Though they say they propose nothing in Synods, but what is agreeable to the word of God, yet will they be the sole, and only infallible judges of what is the word of God, what not, what is Scripture, what is the word of God in the breast of the Church, and they must be the only infallible Expositors of the word of God, and what is agreeable to the word of God (or which is all one to men’s traditions) what not, and so they by consequence make themselves lords over men’s faith. Which the apostle Paul would not do for he said not to the Bereans, when you have tried, whither my doctrine be agreeable to the Scripture, or no, yet I and the Apostles are the only sole infallible judges both of our own doctrine, and of all your tryings, and you have not so much as a private judgment left to you.