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granting all that is said, it not being material to the present
inquiry whether it be true or no ; it is a part of Christian
liberty, that the conscience be servant to none but Christ ;
and whatever be the matter of human laws, if it be not also
the matter of a Divine law, the conscience is free from that
matter of itself; because God, being only the Lord of con-
science, and he not having by his law established that
matter, the conscience is free as to the matter. But, then,
when a just authority supervening hath made a law in that
matter, though the conscience was free from that matter, yet
it is not free from that authority ; not that the conscience is
a subject of that authority immediately, but because God
hath subjected it, and commanded it to obey.

Of Christian Liberty.

28. But for the fuller satisfaction of conscience in this
great article, it will not be amiss to give a full but short
account of the nature and pretences of Christian liberty.


In order to which, St. Peter explicates this article most ex-
cellently, saying, " Be subject to every ordinance of man,"
did rbv Kvoiov, " for the Lord ;" that is, for his commandment,
and for the interest of his kingdom, and his power, and his
glory: for it is a portion of his kingdom, it is the deputation
of his power ; and he is glorified by our obedience, 6 when
the princes of the world, by seeing our ready subjection,
have no cause to speak evil of us ; which was the very argu-
ment which the apostle f uses in this question. And therefore
St. Peter, who in this inquiry takes notice of our liberty,
gives express caution, that though we be free from many fet-
ters and hard services, yet we should not pretend Christian
liberty as a cover for sedition, and rebellion, and disobedience,
which he signally calls z.a-/.!a, we render it " maliciousness :"
and if it be used to express the effects and evil consequents,
it is very well ; but it relating here to the principle of the
mischief, it is better rendered, " craftiness," 8 pn u$ Jcr/xaXu^aa
%omg rris xax/ag rr\v eXtvdsgiav, "not making this Christian
liberty a pretence and cover for your craftiness :" for they well
knew the artifices of the devil, and that he would endeavour
to alien the hearts of subjects from their princes, upon pre-
tence of Christian liberty, and of heathen princes from
Christianity upon supposition it was no friend to government ;
and so it fell out in the Gnostics and Valentinians : but
against these evils, the apostles, by the Spirit of God and
the doctrine of the Gospel, made excellent provisions. For
as St. Peter, so also St. Paul, used the same caution in this
article ; for having pressed upon the Galatians to insist upon
their Christian liberty, and not to be brought under the yoke
of Moses, lest they should stumble at the name of liberty,
he charges them not to abuse it, not to extend it beyond its
proper limit, not to use it as an occasion to the flesh ; and
that it may be manifest where it was he intended to fix his
rule, he instances in the matter of government, adding, by
way of explication, " By love serve one another;" 11 that is,
though you Christians be all free, yet there is a bond of cha-
rity, by which you are tied to the rules of government, and
service, and subordination ; in these things if you pretend

8 Isai. xxxiii. Luke, i. Apoc. i. et xix. f 1 Peter, ii. 13.

8 See the Doctrine and Practice of Repentance, c. iv.
h Galat. v. 13.


your liberty, it will be but an occasion to the flesh, and a
dishonour to the Spirit. For our liberty is not a ' carnal'
liberty, but it is a ' spiritual.' 1 If a slave be called to Christ-
ianity, he is the Lord's freeman, but not man's ; he is still
a servant, and commanded to abide in it, if in that state he
be called. And it is an excellent rule which is given by
Calvin k in this particular, " We ought to account that by
Christian liberty there is nothing gotten to us before men,
but only before God." And it is a horrible folly which abuses
some men, they think that they lose their liberty, unless
they get possession of it, by doing against that part which
is forbidden ; not considering, that if the matter be indif-
ferent, then they may as well do that which is by man com-
manded, as do the contrary : they are as free to one as to
the other ; and therefore, for civility, and for government, and
for order, and for humility's sake, since they must use their
liberty one way, let them do it that way which will at least
please God as well, and man better. And for their Christian
liberty, that is in the spirit, and they need no other testimony
but the conscience itself; for the conscience in this also is
a thousand witnesses. And, therefore, truly and plainly the
liberty that the apostles speak of, is but a freedom from the
"dominion of sin," and a freedom from the terrors and ob-
ligation of the law : the first is a freedom of duty, the second
a freedom of privilege ; the first is a commandment, the
second a state of advantage ; that is but a working, this is
completed ; that is designed by Christ, this already wrought,
and is the effect of Christ's death, while the other is the
product of his Spirit, and the business of the kingdom of
grace. But let us see what is the proper and explicit effect
of all this.

1. It is true that we are freed from sin, that is, we are
asserted into the liberty of grace and pardon ; the band of
sin is broken, and we may be rescued from the power and
from the punishment of it: and what then? St. James 1 an-
swers this inquiry, " Whoso looketh into the perfect law of
liberty, must be a doer of the work," that is, of the righte-
ousness evangelical; and " this man shall be blessed in his
deed." For it is Christ who hath set us free ; but yet be

1 1 Cor. vii. 20, 21, 24. k Lib. iii. Instit. c. 19, sect. 10.

1 James, i. 25.


servants of Christ ; his Spirit hath made us free, and
asserted us " into the glorious liberty of the sons of God; m
therefore we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the
flesh," but we must live a spiritual life, for to do so is to
persist in our liberty ; it is entering upon that possession
which God hath given us : but this is like the gift given to the
sons of Israel ; all the land of Canaan was their portion,
but they were to fight for it, and win it by degrees ; but it
was long before they were in quiet possession ; and so shall
we, when we are in the land of promise.

2. It is also true, that we are freed from the curse of the
law and the spirit of bondage or servile fear, which was pro-
duced by the curses threatened to every transgressor with-
out the abatements of infirmity and the allowances of repent-
ance ; and we are adopted into a liberty of the sons of God,
we can "cry, 'Abba, Father;'" and God will use us not
with the severe rights of a Lord, but with the sweetest mea-
sures of a Father's government. And what then ? what is the
effect of this liberty ? By the Spirit of God we cry, * Abba,
Father;' by him we have this liberty, therefore "we must
live in the Spirit :" for though we be not under fear, yet we
are under love ; we are not under the curse of the law, yet
we are under the duty ; not under the coercive power of the
first covenant, yet under the directive power of the eternal
commandment. For the Spirit of God makes us sons, yet
none are sons but such as are " led by the Spirit ;" n and we are
freed from the curse and condemnation of the law ; but not
unless we " walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

3. It is also true that we are freed from the ceremonial
law, the law of circumcision, of meats and drinks, and carnal
ordinances. And what then? " Use it charitably, and take
heed lest this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to
them that are weak." Some there are that extend this to
a liberty from all things that are indifferent, as meats, and
garments, and days, and ceremonies, and the like. Now if
they mean that we are not bound to these things by any law
of God under the Gospel, it is very true ; that is, Christ
gave us no commandment concerning them. But if it be
meant, that these things are left so free that there can be no
accidental and temporary obligation, rule, or limit, made

m Rom. Yiii. 12. "Rom. Yiii. 1, 14. 1 Cor. yiii. 9.


concerning them, this is that I am now disputing against.
But that this is no part of Christian liberty purchased by the
blood of Christ, is evident ; because things in their nature
indifferent, that is, concerning which there was no command-
ment given, were always free ; and to say otherwise were a
contradiction in the terms ; and no drop of Christ's blood
could so vainly fall as to purchase for us what was done
already by the nature of the thing. He only rescinded the
laws of Moses concerning the instances commanded there ;
that is, those which were not indifferent, as being positively
commanded, he returned to their own nature, to be used in
another dispensation, to be disposed of in another govern-
ment, in a distinct manner, to other purposes, or, as occasion
should serve, to be wholly let alone. But although Christ
broke the yoke of Moses, and so left the instances and mat-
ters there used to their own indifference, yet he left it as
indifferent to the lawgivers to make laws concerning them ;
for he gave no commandment that they should always be
left indifferent as to external usages. Under Moses they
were tied upon the conscience by God himself, and therefore
unchangeably during that whole period ; but now they are
left to a temporary transient use and ministry, to do good,
or to promote order, or to combine government ; and if
governors had not a freedom to use them in government, as
well as private persons to use them, if they would, in their
own persons, Christian liberty had been made for subjects,
and denied to Christian princes and Christian priests.

4. There is yet another liberty p called "the liberty of
glory," or " the glorious liberty of the children of God ;" that
is, the "redemption of our bodies" from disease and pain,
from death and corruption ; but for this we must stay till
the last adoption : for what Christ is by generation and pro-
per inheritance, that we shall be by adoption, if we belong to
him. Now of Christ in his resurrection it was said, q " Thou
art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." That was the
last generation or right of sonship, to which, when we are
adopted, we shall be partakers of the glory : but that was at
Christ's resurrection, and this shall be in ours.

5. Now there being in the days of the apostles so much
talk of liberty, and that in so many instances, and, without

P Rom. viii. 21. i Acts, xiii. 33.


question, made the subject of many sermons, and much table-
talk, and many disputes, and used as an argument to per-
suade strangers, and to comfort the faithful, and the devil
being so ready to make use of any prepared lust, or mistake,
or ignorance, or fancy ; it could not be but many weak and
many false persons did instantly dream of a temporary
liberty, that sons were free from the laws of parents ; wives,
of husbands; servants, of masters; subjects, of princes : the
apostles, knowing how great a confusion this would be to all
relations and states of men, and what an infinite reproach it
would be to the religion, stopped this avenue of mischief,
and not only dogmatically described the duties of all infe-
riors, but took care also to do it in those places where they
had occasion to speak of Christian liberty, that there might
be no pretence to do evil. For Christianity neither could
nor ought to have been received, if the preachers of it had
destroyed governments. The effect of this discourse is
plainly this, that Christian liberty does not warrant disobe-
dience to human laws, or liberty from their obligation.
Whereas, therefore, the apostle 1 " says, " Ye are bought with
a price, be not ye the servants of men," it is not to be under-
stood of the conscience or mind of men, as the objection
affirms, but only is an advice of prudence, to the purpose of
the preceding words (in the twenty-first verse), " If thou
mayestbe made free, use it rather ;" that is, ' Since it is more
convenient for the advantages of religion, and the service of
Christ, by the price, of whose blood you are redeemed, that
ye may serve him all your days, therefore you are free, be
not easy to give or part with your liberty, but use your state
of liberty for the advantage of the service of Christ ;' for that
nothing else is meant, appears in the words 3 he immediately
subjoins, " Brethren, let every man wherein he is called,
therein abide with God ;" that is, your being the servants
of men is not inconsistent with your service of God, nor that
servitude incompossible with Christian liberty. But yet sup-
pose that the interpretation used in the objection be right,
and that, " Be not ye the servants of men," is to be under-
stood of the conscience or mind of man ; yet, save only that
it was not so intended by the apostle, it can do no harm to
this question : for the understanding and the mind may be
r 1 Cor. vii. 23. Verse 24.


free, when the hands are tied ; and a man may have the
liberty of opening and judging, when he may not have the
liberty of acting, which is all is pretended to by the empire
of human laws. For as Origen excellently, " This is nothing
but an intellectual liberty, concerning which let a man con-
tend in an intellectual and evangelical manner, that is, by
good arguments and the spirit of meekness, and there is no
harm done." This is the whole sura of the doctrine of
Christian liberty. Concerning which if any man desire to
read more words, and longer discourses, and some intrigues,
he may please to see them in Driedo, who hath written three
books ; and Belliolanus, who hath written twenty books, of
Christian liberty.'

29. To the fourth I have already answered, both in the
beginning and end of the answer to the former ; and it proves
nothing but what is gran ted. For to use the same instance ;
you may fast when you are commanded by your superior,
but you must not think that fasting is a part of the Divine
service. It is true, it is no part of Divine service, the fasting
of itself is not, but the fasting in obedience is. For though
man commands fasting now, or so, and God does not ; yet
God commands that we should obey those commands of
men ; and then the conscience is ffvvsidqffis 0goD, " the con-
science of God," or "towards God,"" it is his subject and
servant, and his liegeman : and yet at the same time the law
of man pretends not to rule the conscience immediately, and
therefore the conscience is free," and may judge the thing
of itself to be no Divine commandment ; but the will is not
free, and the duty is bound upon that when the understand-
ing is at liberty. " Errat, si quis existimat servitutem in totum
hominem descendere ; pars melior ejus exceptaest. Corpora
obnoxia sunt, et adscripta dominis : mens quidem sui juris
est," said Seneca ; y and from him Aquinas. 2 The whole

1 Vide etiam Francisci de Silvestris Opusculum de Evangelica Libertate.

1 Pet. ii. 19.

x It" any man hare but a right understanding that it is all one before God to eat
flesh or eggs, milk or fish ; that to him it matters not whether you wear a red or a
white garment in your times of solemn prayer ; this is enough, says Calvin, lib. iii.
c. 19. sect. 10. Instit. ; he need not tie himself to either : but if he does, his con-
science is still free, though his action or choice be determined. And so it is thought
the law of his superior determines him.

i De Benefic. iii. 20. 1. Ruhkopf, vol. iv. p. 114. 2. 2 q. 104, art. 5.


man is not in subjection ; the body indeed is under lords
and laws, but the mind is as free as air.

30. To the fifth I answer, by denying the consequence of
the argument. For though human laws do bind the con-

o o

science, yet it follows not that it is put into the power of man
to save or damn his brother ; because human laws bind the
conscience, but not by force of human authority precisely,
or in itself, but by virtue of the Divine commandment : and
therefore a prince cannot make a law and threaten damna-
tion to the breakers of it, because he cannot inflict it ; but he
may say, that he that breaks it will sin against God, and
God will inflict damnation upon the rebellious and disobe-
dient. But then whereas it is objected, that this makes the
broad way to hell broader, it is a mere scare-crow ; for God
only can enlarge or straiten this way efficiently and formally ;
but * objective et occasionaliter,' by way of instance and
occasion, by giving new laws to endear obedience in new
instances when it is for the public good, hath in it no incon-
venience: every minister of the word and sacraments, by
every invitation of his people to a more strict religion, does
make the damnation of the disobedient greater, and by every
check of conscience, and by every opinion of our own, we
become a law unto ourselves, and make the way of our con-
versation narrower; and every offer of grace, and every call
of the Spirit, does add moments to the eternal misery of them
that do resist ; and yet it were not well to be without them,
for fear of that accidental evil. For it is to be considered
that these aids, and all good laws, are intended for good to
us, and will bring good to us if we obey ; but the very re-
ward itself being offered, makes also our punishment just
and reasonable if we refuse. " Ex te tua perditio." The law
is not in fault, but the rebellious man ruins himself, who, by
occasion of the law, might have received an increase of glory,
if he had pleased.

31. To the sixth the answer is given in the premises:
Human authority does not make the action of disobedience
to be a sin. It makes that the not compliance of the subject
is disobedience ; but it is the authority of God, who makes
disobedience to be a sin : and though no human power can
give or take grace away, yet we may remember that we


ourselves throw away God's grace, or abuse it, or neglect it,
when we will not make use of it to the purposes of humility,
charity, and obedience ; all which are concerned in our sub-
ordination to the laws.

32. The seventh objection hath two parts ; the one con-
cerns the civil power, the other the power ecclesiastical.
Concerning the civil, it is affirmed to be unreasonable that
the power which cannot remit sins should bind to sin ; and
therefore the civil power cannot bind the conscience, because
it cannot remit the sin, to which it binds. In which argu-
ment there are four terms : and therefore it is a perfect fal-
lacy.- For it is true, that it is reasonable that the power which
binds should also loose : but that the civil power cannot
loose in the same sense in which it can bind, is false ; for
the civil power can untie that which it hath tied, unless, by
tying, be meant tying to one thing, and loosing be meant of
another. The civil power binds to obey ; the same power
can untie this band, by dispensing with the person or abro-
gating the law. But when it is said, the civil power cannot
remit the sin, therefore not bind to sin, it is a sophism, be-
cause binding and loosing do not signify in the same manner.
For it does but accidentally bind to sin, and in the same
manner it does also ease the conscience : it makes the law
to which God binds the conscience ; it takes off the law, and
from the conscience God takes off the obligation. But be-
cause it does not by itself bind the conscience, but occasions
the conscience to be bound by God, therefore it hath nothing
to do to remit the sin, for that must be the act of God ; but
the law can loose what it bound, and where it bound, and as
it bound, that is, not the sin, but the subject-matter, the in-
stance, and the occasion. But now concerning the ecclesias-
tical power, the objection saith that it hath no power to make
laws, but such as are in the matter already decreed by God ;
and therefore it doth not bind but what God hath bound
already ; and consequently hath of itself no power to bind
the conscience. To this I answer, 1. That it is true, neither
the ecclesiastical nor the civil power does by its innate au-
thority oblige the conscience ; but both powers can make
laws, to the observation of which God does oblige conscience.
2. It is an error to say, that the ecclesiastic power cannot
make laws in things not decreed by God. For the supreme


civil power is also ecclesiastical, if it be Christian, and hath
a power in the external regiment of the Church ; and there-
fore to make laws in such parts and accidents of government,
in which God hath left no special direction : and for the
proper power of the ecclesiastics, that also extends beyond
the giving commandments in matters of express duty com-
manded by God ; as I shall make appear in its own place.
3. If it were granted that the Church could not make laws in
things not decreed by God, yet when God hath decreed the
thing, the Church can make laws concerning the order of the
things, the measure and the manner, the number and the
weight, the adjuncts and the circumstances; and that is a
field large enough for her to make laws to oblige the con-
science. And therefore, although it were ridiculous and con-
temptible, injurious and uncharitable, for the Church to pass
her greatest censures upon persons that transgress " bono
animo," or through unavoidable infirmity, in small inconsi-
derable instances, circumstances and unconcerning forms of
law and unconsidered ceremonies ; yet the smallest thing
may be placed so as to be of great concernment ; and when
these things accidentally become great, the censures of the
Church may be prudently and charitably inflicted. But what
power the Church hath in making laws, will afterward be
considered in its place ; thus much was of present necessity
for the answer of the objection.

33. To the last there might be many answers given. It
may suffice that the argument is expressly false ; for sup-
posing that human laws do directly bind the conscience, it
does not follow that it is" as great a sin to break the laws of
man, as so violate the laws of God : that it is a sin it does
follow, but not that it is so great. For the law of God against
idle words does oblige the conscience, but it does not there-
fore follow, that it Js as great a sin to talk idly as to kill a
man. But this sophism relies upon this false supposition,
that all things that bind the conscience, do bind in the same
degree, to the same measures of iniquity. For if they do not,
then human laws may bind the conscience ; and yet they may
be broken at an easier rate than the commandments of God.
2. But then I add, that this is according to the subject-mat-
ter, and the evil consequent of the action. For suppose a
prince oppressed by a rebel party, as Pompey was by Caesar ;


Photinus, that told the king of Egypt where he lay hid, did
a greater fault than if he had railed upon Pompey, expressly
against the commandment, " Thou shalt not speak evil of the
ruler of the people." To open the secrets of a king may be
a greater sin, and do more mischief, and proceed from greater
malice, than to call my brother fool. For a soldier to desert
his station may be a greater crime than to steal a shilling.
3. And yet it cannot be denied, but there is great difference
between the laws of God and the laws of man in their obliga-
tion. Concerning which, in order to many cases of conscience,
it is fit that I give account.

The Difference of Divine and Human Laws in their Obligation.

34. (1 .) The law of God binds the conscience immediately,
and by the right of God ; the law of man binds the con-
science mediately, and by the interposition of the Divine
authority : so that we must obey man for God's sake, and
God for his own.

35. (2.) The laws of God bind the will and the understand-
ing ; that is, we are bound to obey, and bound to think them
good. But human laws meddle not with the understanding ;
for that is a prince, and can be governed as he can be per-
suaded, but subject to the empire of none but God : but the
will is the subject of human laws; not only that the will be
bound to command the inferior faculties and members to obey
and do the work of the law, but of itself precisely it is bound :

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 13) → online text (page 26 of 61)