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were even cut off that trouble you/ seems to be the warrant;
and, by excommunications, evil persons are cut off from the
congregation of the Lord. And it is true, that the ecclesias-
tical authority is a power of jurisdiction, just as excommu-
nication is a sword. But so is the word of God, " sharper
than a two-edged sword ;" and so is a severe reproof, it cuts
to the bone. " Ne censorium stylum, cujus mucronena mul-
tis remediis majores nostri retuderunt, seque posthac, atque
ilium dictatorium gladium pertimescamus," said Cicero ; u
The censor's tongue was a sword, but our ancestors some-
times did not feel it smart ; and we fear it not so much as
the sword of the dictators. But how little there is of pro-
per jurisdiction in excommunication we can demonstrate but
by too good an argument. For suppose Julian robbing of a
church, striking the bishop, disgracing the religion, doing
any thing for which he is ' ipso facto' excommunicate: tell
him of the penalty he incurs, cite him before the bishop, de-
nounce it in the Church ; what have you done to him that
shall compel him to do his duty ? Suppose he will not stay
from the church, that he will go to another, to a strange
country; or that he despises all this : Have you made him
afraid ? have you troubled him ? have you grieved him ? have

" Oral. pro. Cluentio, c. xliv. no. 1 23. YVeiske, p. 90.


you done that which shall make him do so no more? But
Julian was about to renounce Christianity, and thinks it all
a fable. Or suppose less than that : suppose a man that
keeps a concubine, and knowing that he sins, and yet resolves
not to quit the sin, he abstains from the communion and
the public service of the Church, if the bishop admonishes
him to leave the partner of his sin, how, if he will not ?
By what compulsory can the ecclesiastic state enforce him ?
If you threaten to drive him from the communion, he hath
prevented you ; he never comes at it. If from prayers, you
do him a kindness ; for he loves them not. If from sermons,
then he will enjoy his lust without controlment. What
can the Church do in this case ? But suppose yet once more,
that a violent hand shall pull down the whole episcopal
order, what shall the Church do then ? will she excommu-
nicate the men that do it ? They say, ' The order itself is
antichristian ;' and can they fear to be excommunicated by
them ? and who fears to be excommunicated by the presby-
tery, that believes them to be a dead hand and can effect
nothing ? And in the sum of affairs, only the obstinate and
the incorrigible are to be proceeded against by that extreme
remedy. And to them who need that extreme, it is no re-
medy ; for they that need it care not for it : and what com-
pulsion then can this be ? If it be any thing really effective,
let it be persuaded to them that shall deserve it ; for it must
work wholly by opinion, and can affright them only who are
taught to be afraid of it. It can only do effort upon them
who are willing to do good in the way of the Church : for it
is a spiritual punishment ; and therefore operates only upon
the spirit ; that is, upon the will and understanding, which
can have no coercion : so that, in effect, it compels them
who are willing to be compelled ; that is, it does not compel
at all ; and therefore is.but improperly an act of jurisdiction.
15. For that which the ecclesiastics can do, is a suspen-
sion of their own act, not any power over the actions of other
men ; and therefore is but a use of their own liberty, not an
exercise of jurisdiction. He does the same thing in sacra-
ments as he does in preaching : in both, he declares the
guilty person to be out of the way to heaven, to be obnox-
ious to the Divine anger, to be a debtor of repentance ; and
refusing to baptize an evil catechumen, or to communicate



an ill-living Christian, does but say the same thing : he speaks
in one by signs, and in the other he signifies by words. If
he denies to give him the holy communion, he tells him he is
not in a state of grace and the Divine favour, he tells him
that he hath no communion with Christ ; and therefore, by
denying the symbols, says that truth which, by his sermons,
he publishes. All the effect and real event are produced by
the sin of the man; and the minister of religion tells him,
as God's messenger, what he hath done to himself, and what
will come upon him from God. This is " judicium, non juris-
dictio, a judging, not a jurisdiction ;" a judging a man
worthy or unworthy ; which does not suppose a superiority of
jurisdiction, but equals do it to their equals, though, in this, the
clergy hath a superiority and an authority from God to do so.

16. Add to this, that the other effects of excommunica-
tion are not any force or impression upon the delinquent,
but are the caution and duty of the Church, or ' sanior pars '
of them that are innocent ; for it is a command to them to
abstain from the society of the criminal : for to him it is no
direct obligation : indirectly it is, as I have already affirmed,
and shall afterward discourse.

17. This discourse cannot lessen the power and authority
of the Church ; it only explicates the nature of it, because it
is useful to many cases of conscience, and does rightly esta-
blish the foundation of this great measure of conscience,
' ecclesiastical laws/ and it adds grandeur to it. For it is
in the ecclesiastical government as it was in the Judaical
before they had a king. They had no king of their own, but
God was their king; and he did exercise jurisdiction, and
appointed judges over them, and wrought miracles for their
punishment or their escape respectively ; and so it is in the
Church : Christ, our head, keeps the spiritual regality and the
jurisdiction in his own hands, but sends us to minister it
according to his laws ; which if we do, they who are found
criminals cannot be smitten by us, but they shall be smitten
by God : and therefore Christ said the same thing to his
missionaries as God did to Samuel: " They have not reject-
ed thee, but me," said God; and " He that despiseth you,
despiseth me," said Christ. And now, although kings have
the sword in their own hand, and can smite the disobedient,
yet we cannot : but God will smite them that are disobedient


to the Church : and that is worse for them that feel it, and
better for them that are but threatened ; for it is true that
by repentance they may escape that which is threatened
by the Church, which in the commonwealth they cannot :
but these that feel it are in a worse condition ; for " it is a
fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God ;" and
" Who can dwell with the everlasting burnings ?" *' For
our God is a consuming fire."


The Church hath Power to make Laws and to give Commands
obliging the Conscience ; that is, tying the Subjects to
Obedience under the Penalty of committing Sin, or of
incurring the Divine Displeasure.

1. BY 'the Church' it is certain I must first mean 'the
Church catholic/ or all the governors of the Christian assem-
blies in the world : because if it be in a part, it is in the
whole ; and if it be neither in a part nor in the whole, it is
nowhere. But yet because the whole catholic Church, that
is, all the governors of churches (for if we speak of the
Church making laws, we must mean the governing part of
the Church) did never meet since the days of the apostles,
who, being few, and united, and absolute, and supreme, could
then do what could never be done since ; it is necessary for
the reducing this rule to practice, that the legislation and the
power of commanding be subjected in some more particular
subject ; and therefore I shall instance in the least. By ' the
Church,' I mean every particular church joined to the head
of union ; and by ' the particular church,' I mean * the angel
of that church,' 'the bishop;' according to that saying of
St. Cyprian: 8 " Scire debes episcopum in Ecclesia esse, et
Ecclesiam in episcopo ; The bishop is in the Church, and
the Church in the bishop :" that is, he is in the Church, as
the bead is part of the body, and the Church is in him as in
their representative ; and all their power is ministered by his
hand, and their interest promoted by him ; and he is the hand
of God and the hand of the people ; this lifted up, and that

1 Epist. ad Florent. Fupian. lib. iv. ep. 9.


let down ; this in the ministry of prayers, and that in the
ministry of blessings. And therefore St. Chrysostom b ex-
pounding those words of Christ, ' Tell it unto the Church/
says, that ' they mean, Tell it to the bishop of the Church,
who is to minister food and discipline to the congregation.'

2. Now all the power of commanding and making eccle-
siastical laws, that is, laws of religion, is wholly in the
pastors and bishops in the supreme order of ecclesiastics. If
there be two orders of Divine institution, it is certain that
one is the superior ; and therefore one only is to rule in emi-
nence, and the other can rule but in minority and substitu-
tion : and that which is appointed to rule, is the superior.
Now the case then is clear as to the present purpose : the
presbyters were under bishops, and might be accused before
them, and rebuked by them ; we see it plain in the case of
Timothy and Titus, to whom St. Paul gave rules of court,
and measures of taking cognizance of causes brought before
them. There was plainly the judging order and the judge ;
the elders or presbyters were judged ; over them were over-
seers placed. " Par in parem potestatein non habet." Since
therefore a judicatory was placed in the Church, though it
was a spiritual only and without temporal coercion, yet it
had a just authority ; and, therefore, must suppose a distinc-
tion in the clergy of superior and inferior. Now because
there can be no union political without government, and the
government which was appointed, was that of the av8ge$
Jiyovpsvoi, " the ruling clergy," it follows, that, the bishop be-
ing the head of spiritual union in the first institution of the
Church, every society of Christians is reckoned one by the
unity of the bishop ; and, therefore, that society of a bishop
and his parish is the least indeed, but it is a Christian com-
monwealth. Now the practice apostolical and primitive
administering this power by one and one in every church
where there were many presbyters, it must be evident, that
he who was superior to the presbyters was to rule in every
congregation ; and because there was none superior to him
by Divine or apostolical appointment, all the legislative or
commanding power in the Church is founded in the episcopal
order ; and therefore that one bishop hath in his own charge
a legislative or power of command ; and therefore much more

b Homil. Ixi. in Matt.


when many bishops meet together. A diocess is the least
circuit of government, but it is an entire body subject to
distinct commands ; that is, every diocess hath one set over
them in the Lord, to whom the people are, by the commands
of Jesus Christ, tied to give obedience.

3. Whether the diocess be little or great, allowed or dis-
allowed, in city or in country, divided into parishes or not
divided, under metropolitans or not under, of many churches
or but one, it matters not : where there is a bishop and a
congregation, there is a diocess, and there is a power of com-
manding and a necessity of obeying, ' intra limites disci-
plinae, within that pale,' in which they have warranty and
power to govern and to give commandments. As for
parishes in the late sense of the word, that is the charge of
a single presbyter ; it is no body politic, of apostolical or
Divine appointment : for the presbyters were called ' in par-
tern solicitudinis, into the help of the ministry ;' but they
had no cure of souls, save only by delegation, and special and
temporary appointment, for some whole ages in the Church :
and therefore the governing and the commanding authority
cannot be extended to parishes and to their curates, which
are of late date, and received no power from Christ but that
of ministry, which is also conveyed by the bishop's hands.
But then because, above the bishop, there is no appointment
in the whole religion, it is necessary that the legislative be
established in him : if we go higher, we can never come to a
society of apostolical or Divine institution in the Church ;
because, between the whole catholic Church, either in diffu-
sion or representation, and a single diocess, all the iuter-
medial unions, as of metropolitans, primates, patriarchs,
council provincial or oecumenical, are by consent and posi-
tive and human institution, but they directly establish no
Divine government. This only is properly such. And though
this can suffer alteration as to the administration of it, yet
the proper seat of the authority is the bishop by virtue of his
order. Whether the bishop of Rome received the power into
himself alone, and so conveys it to all other bishops, is not
material to our present inquiry; for that is a question of the
manner of receiving it, not of the power when it is received.
I shall, in order to other purposes, discover the unreasonable-
ness of that fond pretence and novelty. But that which I


say is, that those persons, who, by Christ's appointment to
or by the apostles, were authorized to govern the Church, are
the heads of Christian societies, and every such society is a
distinct government ; and that this cannot be the division of
parishes, because that division was later than the authority :
and though this be true also of diocesses, as they are now
divided, yet that division being but accidental to the
charge, and the charge being an appointed relation, that
which is accidental and superinduced, cannot prejudice
the nature and institution of it, but that a bishop and his
charge, more or less, is an entire society or commonwealth,
as much as the thing can be ; that is, according to the nature
and capacity of the subject-matter, it is an entire govern-
ment, and prelate and people make the parts of the
integral constitution.

4. To the verification, therefore, of the power thus sub-
jected, all those titles of eminence and superior office
recorded in Scripture do aptly minister: as that they are
called ' pastors,' and ' rulers,' and * prsepositi,' and Icr/Vxo-Tro/,
* bishops ' or * overseers ' of the Church : he that hears
them, hears Christ, who hath sent them, as himself was sent.
Upon the account of these, the first rulers of churches in
Scripture did give laws to their people, and threatened the
disobedient not only by the force of their extraordinary
power, but by the effects of their ordinary ministry. The par-
ticular instances of command I shall enumerate when I give
account in what things they have power to make laws ; but
these words of power were sufficient warrant, and were like
seals to their commissions and monitors of their duty. But
so the rulers of the Church did practise their power, and
taught the necessity of obedience.

5. To this purpose are those words of St. Clement to St.
James, the brother of our Lord: " These things, most dear
brother, I have received from the mouth of holy Peter, who
gave the commands, and I have endeavoured to shew them
to thee, that thou mayest command them all to be kept invio-
late, because ecclesiastical affairs ought not to be done care-
lessly, but with diligence. Therefore let no man think that,
without danger, he can neglect these precepts, or dissemble
them ; ' quia in judicio De iignis aeterni tormenta sustinebit

c Epist. Clem. i. in fine.


qui ecclesiastica decreta neglexerit ; because, in the judg-
ment of God, he shall suffer the torments of an eternal fire
who shall neglect the decrees of the Church.' But he that
shall hear thee as the minister of Christ commanded, shall
receive glory : but he that shall not hear thee, or rather the
Lord speaking by thee, shall receive to himself damnation."

6. St. Ignatius' 1 is very frequent and express in this par-
ticular : " Be subject to the bishop as to the Lord. For he
watches for your souls, as he that must give an account to
God. For it is necessary that you do nothing without the
bishop. For he that is disobedient to bishops, will be alto-
gether without God, impious, and a despiser of Christ, and a
disparager of his ordinance." And again: 6 "It is fit that
you obey your bishop, and in nothing to contradict him. For
he that does, despises not him that is visible ; but, in him,
despises the invisible God, who cannot be despised of any
one. For the bishop hath not his promotion from men, but
from God."

7. Tertullian/ speaking of the power and judicatory of
the Church, saith, " Ibidem etiam exhortationes, castigationes,
et censura Divina ; nam et judicatur magno cum pondere, ut
apud certos de Dei conspectu ; There are exhortations,
chastisements, and a Divine censure; for the judgment of the
Church is with great weight and efficacy, because it is amongst
them who are certain that they shall appear before God :
and it is the greatest forerunner of the great judgment, if
any one sins so that he be banished from the communion of
prayers, assemblies, and all holy intercourse."

8. To which if we add the words of St. Cyprian, g we shall
find not only the power and authority warranted, but the sub-
ject of the power declared to be the bishop : " Since there are
such and so great and many other examples and precedents,
by which the authority of the bishop and his powers are esta-
blished by Divine ordinance, what sort of men do you sup-
pose them to be, who, being enemies of bishops and rebels
against the catholic Church, are not affrighted with the
threatening of God admonishing them, nor yet with the re-
venge of the future judgment? For heresies have arisen and
schisms commenced from no other cause than this, that men

d Epist. ad Tralliau. Epist. ad Magnes.

' In Apologet. ( Ep. ad Cornel. Papam, lib. i. ep. 5.


do not obey [the bishop] the priest of God : neither do they
consider that there is in the Church for a time a judge instead
of Christ, to whom if all the brethren would obey according
to the commands of God, no man would move any thing
against a college of bishops ; no man would, after the Divine
judgment is passed, after the suffrage of the people, and the
judgment of the bishops his assessors, make himself a judge
not of the bishop, but indeed of God himself; no man would
divide the unity of the Church ; no man, by a self-pleasure
and pride, would make a new heresy apart by himself."

9. I only add the testimony of St. Jerome,* 1 it being in a
clear case as to the thing itself; and the difficulty being
only in the measures, the manner, and instances, of obedience.
*' Episcopus vester cui ecclesise commissum est regimen,"
&c. " Your bishop to whom the government of the Church
is committed, whom God hath placed as the surveyor of his
vineyard, the shepherd of the sheep, the director of the flock,
the leader of the people both in the city and the country in
which ye live, let him nourish you with a singular care, and
feed you with the meat of holy doctrine, and in the presence
of God take especial care of your souls : let all men,
devoutly, and with an even mind as to God, obey him to
whom all the city is committed."

But because I have given a larger account of this duty
in general, in a discourse 1 on purpose, I shall more properly
consider in what particular cases the conscience is, or is not,
bound to obey the Church-governors.


The Church hath Power to make Laws in all Things of
necessary Duty, by a direct Power and a Divine Authority.

1. ST. IGNATIUS, discoursing of the bishop's power, com-
mands subjection to him in so large and comprehensive
terms, that they seem to put an end to all further inquiries
in this rule of conscience, by making all inquiries to be use-
less ; because an obedience universal is due. " Necesse est

h In Regul. Monacbor. c. xvii. ' Episcopacy Asserted.


ut quicquid facitis, nihil sine episcopo tentetis, et in nullo
illi refragari :" a and again ; b " Aec quicquam videatur vobis
consentaneum, quod sit praeter illius judicium ; quod enim
tale est, Deo inmricum est; It is necessary that whatso-
ever ye do, ye do nothing without the bishop ; that ye be
obedient to him, and be refractory against him in nothing:
neither let any thing please you, that is besides his judg-
ment; for whatsoever is so, is an enemy to God.'' The
same also he repeats in other places, and gives it in com-
mand to other churches. But this is too general to guide
any man, and therefore of itself requires a limit : and there-
fore himself does explicate it in his letter to the Church of
Smyrna : " Sine episcopo, nemo quicquam faciat eorum,
quae ad Ecclesiam spectant ; Without the bishop, let no
man do any thing of that which belongs to the Church ;"
that is, whatsoever is intrusted to the bishop's charge, the
conduct of souls, the duties of religion, the commandments
of God, the sacraments of the religion, the orders of the
Divine institution, the interior actions of grace, and the exter-
nal which are of necessary ministry and relation to them,
are under the discipline and legislation of the Church. For
in these things only, his charge, and therefore, in these
only, his authority, does lie.

2. Thus the bishop hath power to command his subject
or parishioner to put away his concubine ; and if he does
not, he not only sins by uncleanness, but by disobedience
too. For the authority of the Church being spiritual, it hath
power over the spirit, and introduces guilt upon the soul if
it be disobeyed. So that it is but folly and ignorance to
think the bishop hath no power, because he is to command
only in those things where God hath commanded already.
For though he is God's minister, and commands not by his
own will, but by God's, yet he hath the authority of God
given to him to do that : and besides that it is not reason-
able to think, that God would give the Church-rulers his
authority for trifling and needless purposes; it is also evident
in the thing itself, that it is of great effect, because even in
these things he is the voice of God, and judges in the place
of God, and affrights sinners with the accents of his displea-
sure, and, upon this account, brings a burden upon the

Ad Tralliaii. b Ad Magnes. Ephes.


disobedient, which was never brought upon him before the
command and sentence of the Church.

3. Whatsoever, therefore, the bishop commands us as
from God, in that his power and legislation are properly exer-
cised : and it is absolutely to be obeyed without any other
condition or reserve, but that it be indeed the will and com-
mandment of God. So St. Bernard ; d " Quicquid vice Dei
preelatus homo praecipit, quod non sit tamen certum displi-
cere Deo, haud secus omnino recipiendum est ac si praeci-
piat ipse Deus; Whatsoever the prelate, in the stead of
God, commands, provided you are certain it does not dis-
please God, it must be received as if God himself com-
manded it. For what difference is it whether God by him-
self, or by men, his ministers, or by his ministering angels,
make his will and pleasure known unto us?" Where it is
observable, that he does not give leave to disobey, if we
question whether it be God's will or no ; for if it be a ques-
tion, the presumption is for the authority imposing it : and
in that case, though it be a doubt in theory, yet that must
not hinder the practical obedience ; because it is as certain
that our lawful superior hath power to command us to obey,
when we are not certain of the thing, as it is certain that it
is a sin if we do it in a doubting conscience by our own
authority. For " the authority of God in the hand of the
prelate" is warrant enough to determine us, when we know
nothing to the contrary, though " our own will is not." If
we have a doubting conscience, we have nothing, while the
doubt remains, to oppose against it but our will, and that is
not sufficient ; but a Divine authority is. Now although, in
the present case, it does not work to the clearing of the mate-
rial doubt, yet it does operate to the clearing of the duty :
and therefore St. Bernard said well, " Quod non sit tamen
certum displicere Deo ; Unless you are sure (that is, be

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 13) → online text (page 56 of 61)