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Scripture. No master needs to tell us or to give us signs to
know we are hungry or athirst ; and there can be as little
need that a lawgiver should give us a command to eat, when
we are in great necessity so to do. Every thing is to be
permitted to its own cause and proper principle; nature
and her needs are sufficient to cause us to do that which
is for her preservation ; right reason and experience are com-
petent warrant and instruction to conduct our affairs of
liberty and common life ; but the matter and design of laws
is " honeste vivere, alterum non laedere, suum cuique tri-
buere :" or, as it is more perfectly described by the apostle,
that we should " live a godly, righteous, sober life ;" and


beyond these there needs no law. When nature is sufficient,
Jesus Christ does not interpose ; and unless it be where rea-
son is defective or violently abused, we cannot need laws of
self-preservation, for that is the sanction and great band and
endearment of all laws : and therefore there is no express
law against self-naurder in all the New Testament ; only it is
there and every where else by supposition ; and the laws
take care to forbid that, as they take care of fools and mad-
men ; men that have no use or benefit of their reason or of their
natural necessities and inclinations, must be taken under the
protection of others ; but else when a man is in his wits, or in
his reason, he is defended in many things, and instructed in
more, without the help or need of laws : nay, it was need and
reason that first introduced laws ; for no law, but necessity
and right reason, taught the first ages,

Disperses trahere in populum, migrare vetusto
De nemore, et proavis habitatas linquere silvas,
jEdificare domes, laribus conjungere nostris
Tectum aliud, tutos vicino limine somnos
Ut collata daret fiducia ; protegere arniis
Lapsum.aut ingenti nutantem vulnere civem.
Communi dare signa tuba, defendier isdem
Turribus, atque una portarum clave teneri ; a

' to meet and dwell in communities, to make covenants and
laws, to establish equal measures, to do benefit interchange-
ably, to drive away public injuries by common arms, to
join houses that they may sleep more safe : ' and since laws
were not the first inducers of these great transactions, it is
certain they need not now to enforce them, or become our
warrant to do that without which we cannot be what we can-
not choose but desire to be.

3. But if nothing were to be done but what we have
Scripture for, either commanding or commending, it were
certain that with a less hyperbole than St. John used, " the
world could not contain the books which should be written ;"
and yet in such infinite numbers of laws and sentences no man
could be directed competently, because his rule and guide
would be too big : and every man, in the inquiry after lawful
and unlawful, would be just so enlightened, as he that must
for ever remain blind, unless he take the sun in his hand to

Juvenal, Satyr. 15, 151. Ruperti.


search into all the corners of darkness ; no candlestick would
hold him, and no eye could use him. But supposing that in
all things we are to be guided by Scripture, then from thence
also let us inquire for a conduct or determination even in
this inquiry ; Whether we may not do any thing without
a warrant from Scripture? And the result will be, that if we
must not do any thing without the warrant of Scripture, then
we must not for every thing look in Scripture for a warrant ;
because we have from Scripture sufficient instruction, that
we should not be so foolish and importune, as to require from
thence a warrant for such things, in which we are by other
instruments competently instructed, or left at perfect liberty.

4. Thus St. Paul affirms, " All things are lawful for me ; "
he speaks of meats and drinks, and things left in liberty, con-
cerning which, because there is no law (and if there had been
one under Moses, it was taken away by Christ), it is certain
that every tbing was lawful, because there was no law for-
bidding it : and when St. Paul said, " This speak I, not the
Lord ; " he that did according to that speaking, did according
to his own liberty, not according to the word of the Lord ;
and St. Paul's saying in that manner is so far from being
a warranty to us from Christ, that because he said true,
therefore we are certain he had no warranty from Christ,
nothing but his own reasonable conjecture. But when our
blessed Saviour said, " And why of yourselves do ye not
judge what is right?" he plainly enough said, that to our
own reason and judgment many things are permitted, which
are not conducted by laws or express declarations of God.

Add to this, that because it is certain in all theology, that
' whatsoever is not of faith, is sin,' that is, whatsoever is done
against our actual persuasion, becomes to us a sin, though
of itself it were not ; and that we can become a law unto
ourselves, by vows and promises, and voluntary engagements
and opinions ; it follows, that those things which of themselves
infer no duty, and have in them nothing but a collateral and
accidental necessity, are permitted to us to do as we please,
and are in their own nature indifferent, and may be so also in
use and exercise : and if we take that which is the less per-
fect part in a counsel evangelical, it must needs be such a
thing as is neither commanded nor commended, for nothing
ofitis commanded at all; and that which is commended, is the


more, not the less, perfect part ; and yet that we may do that
less perfect part, of which there is neither a commandment
nor a commendation, but a permission only, appears at large
in St. Paul's 6 discourse concerning virginity and marriage.
But a permission is nothing but a not prohibiting, and that is
lawful which is not unlawful, and every thing may be done,
that is not forbidden ; and there are very many things which
are not forbidden, nor commanded ; and therefore they are
only lawful and no more.

5. But the case in short is this ; In Scripture, there are
many laws and precepts of holiness, there are many prohibi-
tions and severe cautions against impiety; and there are
many excellent measures of good and evil, of perfect and
imperfect : whatsoever is good, we are obliged to pursue ;
whatsoever is forbidden, must be declined ; whatsoever is
laudable, must be loved, and followed after. Now if all that
we are to do, can come under one of these measures, when
we see it, there is nothing more for us to do but to conform
our actions accordingly. But if there be many things which
cannot be fitted by these measures, and yet cannot be let
alone ; it will be a kind of madness to stand still, and to be
useless to ourselves and to all the world, because we have
not a command or a warrant to legitimate an action which
no lawgiver ever made unlawful.

6. But this folly is not gone far abroad into the world ;
for the number of madmen is not many, though possibly
the number of the very wise is less : but that which is of
difficulty, is this,

Quest. Whether, in matters of religion, we have that li-
berty as in matters of common life? or whether is not every
thing of religion determined by the laws of Jesiis Christ, or
may we choose something to worship God withal, concern-
ing which he hath neither given us commandment nor inti-
mation of his pleasure?

Of Will-Worship.
To this I answer by several Propositions.

7. (1.) All favour is so wholly arbitrary, that whatsoever
is an act of favour, is also an effect of choice, and perfectly
voluntary. Since therefore that God accepts any thing from us

b 1 Cor. vii. 6.


is not at all depending upon the merit of the work, or the na-
tural proportion of it to God, or that it can add any moments
of felicity to him, it must be so wholly depending upon the
will of God, that it must have its being and abiding only from
thence. He that shall appoint with what God shall be wor-
shipped, must appoint what that is by which he shall be pleased ;
which because it is unreasonable to suppose, it must follow
that all the integral constituent parts of religion, all the fun-
damentals and essentials of the Divine worship, cannot be
warranted to us by nature, but are primarily communicated
to us by revelation. " Deum sic colere oportet, quomodo
ipse se colendum praecepit," said St. Austin. Who can tell
Avhat can please God but God himself? for to be pleased
is to have something that is agreeable to our wills and our
desires : now of God's will there can be no signification but
God's word or declaration ; and therefore by nothing can he
be worshipped, but by what himself hath declared that he is
well pleased with : and therefore when he sent his eternal
Son into the world, and he was to be the great Mediator be-
tween God and man, the great instrument of reconciling us to
God, the great angel that was to present all our prayers, the
only beloved by whom all that we were to do would be ac-
cepted, God was pleased with voices from heaven and mighty
demonstrations of the Spirit to tell all the world, that by him
he would be reconciled, in him he would be worshipped,
through him he would be invocated, for his sake he would
accept us, under him he would be obeyed, in his instances
and commandments he would be loved and served ; saying,
" This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."

8. (2.) Now it matters not by what means God does con-
vey the notices of his pleasure; cro/x/Xaj, xal TroXurgoVwj,
" in sundry ways and in sundry manners" God manifests his
will unto the world : so we know it to be his will, it matters
not whether by nature or by revelation, by intuitive and
direct notices, or by argument or consequent deduction, by
Scripture or by tradition, we come to know what he requires,
and what is good in his eyes ; only we must not do it of our
own head. To worship God is an act of obedience and of

e St. August, de Vera Relig. c. Iv. Non sit nobis religio in phantasmatibus
nostris. Melius est enim qualecunque verum, quam omno quicquid arbitrio cogi
potest. Lib. i. de Consens. Evangl c. 18.


duty, and therefore must suppose a commandment ; and is
not of our choice, save only that we must choose to obey.
Of this God forewarned his people: he gave them a law, d
and commanded them to obey that entirely, without addition
or diminution ; neither more nor less than it ; " Whatsoever I
command you, observe to do it ; thou shalt not add thereto
nor diminish from it : " and again ; "Ye shall not do after all
the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is
right in his own eyes : " that is, ' This is your law that is
given by God ; make no laws to yourselves or to one another,
beyond the measures and limits of what I have given you :
nothing but this is to be the measure of your obedience and
the Divine pleasure.' So that, in the Old Testament, there
is an express prohibition of any worship of their own
choosing; all is unlawful, but what God hath chosen and

9. (3.) In the New Testament we are still under the same
charge ; and RtXctigfaxeia, or ' will-worship,' is a word of an
ill sound amongst Christians, most generally meaning thereby
the same thing which God forbade in Deuteronomy, viz.
sx,affro$ rb agsffrbv evuiriov auroo ffgarrsi, as the LXX. expresses it,
"when every man does that" not which God commands or
loves, but " which men upon their own fancies and inventions
think good," that " which seems good in their own eyes ;"
or as our blessed Saviour 6 more fully, " teaching for doc-
trines the traditions, the injunctions or commandments, of
men:" the instance declares the meaning. The pharisees
did use to wash their hands before meat, cleanse the outside
of cups and dishes, they washed when they came from the
judgment-hall ; and these they commanded men to do, say-
ing that by such things God was worshipped and well pleased.
So that these two together, and indeed each of them seve-
rally, is will-worship in the culpable sense. He that says,
'An action which God hath not commanded, is of itself
necessary ; ' he that says, ' God is rightly worshipped by an
act or ceremony, concerning which himself hath no way ex-
pressed his pleasure,' is superstitious, or a will-worshipper.
The first sins against charity ; the second against religion :
the first sins directly against his neighbour; the second
against God : the first lays a snare for his neighbour's foot ;
d Deut. xii. 32, and 8. e Matt. xv. 8, 9. Mark, vii. 7.


the second cuts off a dog's neck, and presents it to God : the
first is a violation of Christian liberty ; the other accuses
Christ's law of imperfection. So that thus far we are cer-
tain, 1. That nothing is necessary but what is commanded
by God. 2. Nothing is pleasing to God in religion that is
'merely of human invention. 3. That the commandments of
men cannot become the doctrines of God ; that is, no direct
parts of the religion, no rule or measures of conscience.

10. But because there are many actions, which are not
under command, by which God in all ages hath been served
and delighted, and yet may as truly be called J3?uftpjj<j>.?/a,
or ' will-worship,' as any thing else ; and the name is general
and indefinite, and may signify a new religion, or a free-will
offering, an uncommanded general or an uncommanded par-
ticular ; that is, in a good sense, or in a bad; we must make
a more particular separation of one from the other, and not
call every thing superstitious that is in any sense a will-
worship, but only that which is really and distinctly for-
bidden, not that which can be signified by such a word which
sometimes means that which is laudable, sometimes that
which is culpable. Therefore,

What voluntary or uncommanded Actions are lawful or

11. (1.) Those things which men do, or teach to be done,
by a probable interpretation of what is doubtful or ambigu-
ous, are not will-worship in the culpable sense. God said
to the Jews, that they should rest, or keep a Sabbath, upon
the seventh day. How far this rest was to be extended, was
to be taught and impressed not by the law, but by the inter-
pretation of it ; and therefore when the doctors of the Jews had
rationally and authoritatively determined how far a Sabbath-
day's journey was to extend, they who strictly would observe
the measure, which God described not, but the doctors did
interpret, all that while were not to be blamed, or put off
with a ' Quis requisivit? Who hath required these things
at your hands T for they were, all that while, in the pursuance
and in the understanding of a commandment. But when the
Jew, in Synesius, who was the pilot of a ship, let go the helm
in the even of the Sabbath, and did lie still till the next
even, and refused to guide the ship, though in danger of


shipwreck, he was a superstitious fool, and did not expound,
but prevaricate the commandment. This is to be extended to
all probable interpretations so far, that, if the determination
happen to be on the side of error, yet the consequent action
is not superstitious, if the error itself be not criminal. Thus
when the fathers of the Primitive Church did expound the
sixth chapter of St. John's Gospel of sacramental manduca-
tion, though they erred in the exposition, yet they thought
they served God in giving the holy communion to infants ;
and though that was not a worship which God had appointed,
, yet it was not superstition, because it was (or for aught we
know it was) an innocent interpretation of the doubtful
words of a commandment. From good nothing but good
can proceed, and from an innocent principle nothing but
what is innocent in the effect. In fine, whatsoever is an
interpretation of a commandment, is but the way of under-
standing God's will, not an obtruding of our own ; always
provided the interpretation be probable, and that the gloss
do not corrupt the text.

12. (2.) Whatsoever is an equal and reasonable defini-
tion or determination of what God hath left in our powers,
is not an act of a culpable will-worship or superstition.
Thus it is permitted to us to choose the office of a bishop, or
to let it alone ; to be a minister of the Gospel, or not to be a
minister. If a man shall suppose that by his own abilities,
his inclination, the request of his friends, the desires of the
people, and the approbation of the Church, he is called by
God to this ministry, that he should please God in so doing,
and glorify his name, although he hath no command or law
for so doing, but is still at his liberty, yet if he will deter-
mine himself to this service, he is not superstitious or a will-
worshipper in this his voluntary and chosen service, because
he determines by his power and the liberty that God gives
him, to a service which in the general is pleasing to God ; so
that it is but voluntary in his person, the thing itself is of
Divine institution.

13. (3.) Whatsoever is done by prudent counsel about
those things which belong to piety and charity, is not will-
worship or superstition. Thus when there is a command-
ment to worship God with our body, if we bow the head, if
we prostrate ourselves on the ground, or fall flat on our face,


if we travel up and down for the service of God, even to
weariness and diminution of our strengths, if we give our
bodies to be burned, though in these things there is no
commandment, yet neither is there superstition, though we
design them to the service of God ; because that which we do
voluntarily, is but the appendage, or the circumstance, or the
instance, of that which is not voluntary, but imposed by God.
14. (4.) Every instance that is uncommanded, if it be the
act or exercise of what is commanded, is both of God's
choosing and of man's ; it is voluntary and it is imposed ;
this in the general, that in the particular. Upon this ac-
count, the voluntary institution of the Rechabites in drink-
ing no wine, and building no houses, but dwelling in tents,
was pleasing to God ; because although he nowhere required
that instance at their hands, yet because it was an act or
state of that obedience to their father Jonadab which was
enjoined in the fifth commandment, God loved the thing,
and rewarded the men. So David poured upon the ground
the waters of Bethlehem, which were the price of the young
men's lives ; " he poured them forth unto the Lord :" and
though it was an uncommanded instance, yet it was an excel-
lent act, because it was a self-denial and an act of mortifi-
cation. The sfifj,srpct rot vo'^ou, the abundant expressions of
the duty contained in the law, though they be greater than
the instances of the law, are but the zeal of God, and of
religion ; the advantages of laws, and the enlargements of a
loving and obedient heart. 'Charity is a duty, and a great
part of our religion. He then that builds almshouses, or
erects hospitals, or mends highways, or repairs bridges, or
makes rivers navigable, or serves the poor, or dresses child-
ren, or makes meat for the poor, cannot, though he intends
these for religion, be accused for will-worship ; because the
laws do not descend often to particulars, but leave them to
the conduct of reason and choice, custom and necessity, the
usages of society, and the needs of the world. That we
should be thankful to God, is a precept of natural and essen-
tial religion ; that we should serve God with portions of our
time, is so too : but that this day, or to-morrow, that one day
in a week, or two, that we should keep the anniversary of a
blessing, or the same day of the week, or the return of the
month, is an act of our will and choice ; it is ' the worship


of the will,' but yet of reason too and right religion. Thus
the Jews kept the feast of Purim, the feast of the fourth, the
fifth, the seventh, the tenth month, the feast of the dedica-
tion of the altar ; and Christ observed what the Maccabees
did institute: and as it was an act of piety and duty in the
Jews to keep these feasts, so it was not a will-worship or
superstition in the Maccabees to appoint it, because it was
a pursuance of a general commandment by symbolical but
uncommanded instances. Thus it is commanded to all men
to pray : but when Abraham first instituted morning-prayer,
and Isaac appointed in his family the evening-prayer, and
Daniel prayed three times a-day, and David seven times, and
the Church kept her canonical hours, nocturnal and diurnal
offices, and some Churches instituted an office of forty hours,
and a continual course of prayer, and Solomon the perpetual
ministry of the Levites, these all do and did respectively
actions which were not named in the commandment; but
yet they willingly and choosingly offered a willing but an
acceptable sacrifice, because the instance was a daughter of
the law, encouraged by the same reward, serving to the
same end, warranted by the same reason, adorned with the
same piety, eligible for the same usefulness, amiable for the
same excellence, and though not commanded in the same
tables, yet certainly pleasing to him, who as he gave us laws
for our rule, so he gives us his Spirit for our guide, and our
reason as his minister.

15. (5.) Whatsoever is aptly and truly instrumental to
any act of virtue or grace, though it be nowhere signified in
the law of God, or in our religion, is not will-worship in the
culpable sense. I remember to have read that St. Benedict
was invited to break his fast in a vineyard : he, intending to
accept the invitation, betook himself presently to prayer ;
adding these words, " Cursed is he who first eats before he
prays." This religion also the Jews observed in their solemn
days ; and therefore wondered and were offended at the dis-
ciples of Christ, because that early in the morning of the
Sabbath they ate the ears of corn. This and any other of the
like nature may be superadded to the words of the law, but
are no criminal will-worship, because they are within the
verge and limits of it ; they serve to the ministries of the
chief house. Tims we do not find that David had received


a commandment to build a temple ; but yet the prophet
Nathan f told him from God, that "he did well,J)ecause it
was in his heart to build it :" it was therefore acceptable to
God, because it ministered to that duty and religion in
which God had signified his pleasure. Thus the Jews
served God in building synagogues, or places of prayer,
besides their temple ; because they were to pray besides their
solemn times ; and therefore it was well if they had solemn
places. So Abraham pleased God in separating the tenth of
his possessions for the service and honour of God ; and
Jacob pleased the Lord of heaven and earth, by introducing
the religion of vows ; which indeed was no new religion, but
two or three excellences of virtue and religion dressed up
with order and solemn advantages, and made to minister to
the glorification of God. Thus fasting serves religion ; and
to appoint fasting-days is an act of religion and of the wor-
ship of God, not directly, but by way of instrument and mi-
nistry. To double our care, to intend our zeal, to enlarge our
expense in the adorning and beautifying of churches, is also
an act of religion or of the worship of God ; because it does
naturally signify or express one virtue, and does prudently
minister to another ; it serves religion, and signifies my love.
16. (6.) To abstain from the use of privileges and liber-
ties, though it be nowhere commanded, yet it is always in
itself lawful, and may be an act of virtue or religion, if it
be designed to the purposes of religion or charity. Thus
St. Paul said, " he would never eat flesh while he did live,
rather than cause his brother to offend :" and he did this
\vith a purpose to serve God in so doing; and yet it was
lawful to have eaten, and he was nowhere directly com-
manded to have abstained ; and though, in some cases, it
became a duty, yet when he extended it, or was ready to
have extended it, to uncommanded instances or degrees, he
went not back in his religion, by going forwards in his will.
Thus, not to be too free in using or requiring dispensations,
is a good handmaid to piety or charity, and is let into the
kingdom of heaven, by being of the family and retinue of
the king's daughters, the glorious graces of the Spirit of

Online LibraryJeremy TaylorThe whole works of the Right Rev. Jeremy Taylor (Volume 13) → online text (page 8 of 61)