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rished: Whence was it, that in those good old times Chris- SERM. tians did so abound in good works, that they burned with LVII. holy zeal, that they gladly would do, would suffer any thing for their religion? whence but from a mighty respect to their superiors, from a strict regard to their direction and discipline? Did the bishops then prescribe long fasts, or impose rigid penances? willingly did the people undergo them: Did the pastor conduct into danger, did he lead them into the very jaws of death and martyrdom? the flock with a resolute alacrity did follow: Did a prelate interdict any practice scandalous or prejudicial to the Church, under pain of incurring censure? every man trembled at the consequences of transgressing: no terror of worldly power, no severity of justice, no dread of corporal punishment had such efficacy to deter men from ill-doing, as the reproof and censure of a bishop; his frown could avail more than the menaces of an emperor, than the rage of a persecutor, than the rods and axes of an executioner: no rod indeed did smart like the spiritual rod, no sword did cut so deep as that of the Spirit; no loss was then so valuable as being deprived of spiritual advantages; no banishment was so grievous as being separated from holy communion; no sentence of death was so terrible as that which cut men off from the Church; no thunder could astonish or affright men like the crack of a spiritual anathema: this was that which kept virtue in request, and vice in detestation; hence it was that men were so good, that religion did so thrive, that so frequent and so illustrious examples of piety did appear, hence indeed we may well reckon that Christianity did (under so many disadvantages and oppositions) subsist, and grow up; obedience to governors was its guard; that kept the Church firmly united in a body sufficiently strong to maintain itself against all assaults of faction within, of opposition from abroad; that preserved that concord, which disposed. and
b Neque hoc ita dixerim, ut negligatur ecclesiastica disciplina, et permittatur quisquam facere quod velit sine ulla correptione, et quadam medicinali vindicta, et terribili lenitate, et charitatis severitate. Aug. adv. Petil. iii. 4.
SERM. enabled Christians to defend their religion against all fraud LVII. and violence; that cherished the true virtue, and the beautiful order, which begot veneration to religion: to it therefore we owe the life and growth of Christianity; so that through many sharp persecutions it hath held up its head, through so many perilous diseases it hath kept its life until this day. There were not then of old any such cavils and clamours against every thing prescribed by governors; there were no such unconscionable scruples, no such hardhearted pretences to tender conscience devised to baffle the authority of superiors: had there been such, had men then commonly been so froward and factious as now, the Church had been soon shivered into pieces, our religion had been swallowed up in confusion and licentiousness.
If again we on the other hand fix our consideration upon disobedience, (the nature, the sources, the consequences thereof,) it will, I suppose, much conduce to the same effect, of persuading us to the practice of this duty.
It is in itself a heinous sin, being the transgression of a command, in nature and consequence very important, upon which God layeth great stress, which is frequently inculcated in Scripture, which is fenced by divers other precepts, which is pressed by strong arguments, and backed by severe threatenings of punishment upon the transgressors.
It is in its nature a kind of apostacy from Christianity, and rebellion against our Lord; for as he that refuseth to obey the king's magistrates in administration of their office is interpreted to disclaim his authority, and to design rebellion against him; so they who obstinately disobey the ministers of our Lord's spiritual kingdom do thereby appear to disavow him, to shake off his yoke, to impeach his reign over them; so doth he himself interpret and take it : Luke x. 16. He, saith our Lord, that heareth you, heareth me, and he Matt. x. 40. that (i arv, that baffleth) despiseth you despiseth me; and,
If any man neglect to hear the Church, (or shall disobey it, iàv raganobon,) let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican; that is, such a refractory person doth by his contumacy put himself into the state of one removed from the common
wealth of Israel, he forfeiteth the special protection of God, SERM. he becometh as an alien or an outlaw from the kingdom of LVII.
our Lord d
Hos. iv. 4.
Under the Mosaical dispensation those who would do pre- Deut. xvii. sumptuously, and would not hearken unto the priest, that stood to minister before the Lord, did incur capital punishment; those who factiously murmured against Aaron are said to make an insurrection against God, and answerably were punished in a miraculous way, (the Lord made a new Num. xvii. thing, the earth opened, and swallowed them up; they went down alive into the pit.) It was in the prophetical times. an expression signifying height of impiety, My people is as those who strive with the priest. Seeing then God hath no less regard to his peculiar servants now than he had then ; seeing they no less represent him, and act by his authority now, than any did then; seeing their service is as precious to him, and as much tendeth to his honour now, as the Levitical service then did; seeing he no less loveth order and peace in the Church, than he did in the Synagogue; we may well suppose it a no less heinous sin, and odious to God, to despise the ministers of Christ's Gospel, than it was before to despise the ministers of Moses's Law e.
It is a sin indeed pregnant with divers sins, and involving the breach of many great commands, which are frequently proposed and pressed in the New Testament, with design in great part to guard and secure it: that of doing all things 1 Cor. xvi, in charity; of doing all things without murmurings and Phil. ii. 14, dissensions; of pursuing peace so far as lieth in us; of Rom. xii, maintaining unity, concord, unanimity in devotion; avoiding schisms, and dissensions, and the like: which are all notoriously violated by this disobedience; it includeth the most high breach of charity, the most formal infring
of 2 Tim, ii.
* Nec putent sibi vitæ aut salutis constare rationem, si episcopis et sacerdotibus, obtemperare noluerint; cum in Deutron. Deus dicat, &c. Cypr. Ep. 61. • Quo exemplo ostenditur, et probatur obnoxios omnes et culpæ et pœnæ fu turos, qui se schismaticis contra præpositos et sacerdotes irreligiosa temeritate miscuerint. Cypr. Ep. 76.
SERM. ing peace, the most scandalous kind of discord that can be, LVII. to cross our superiors f.
It is also a practice issuing from the worst dispositions of soul, such as are most opposite to the spirit of our religion, and indeed very repugnant to common reason and humanity; from a proud haughtiness or vain wantonness of mind; from the irregularity of unmortified and unbridled passion; from exorbitant selfishness, (selfishness of every bad kind, selfconceit, self-will, self-interest;) from turbulent animosity, froward crossness of humour, rancorous spite, perverse obstinacy; from envy, ambition, avarice, and the like ill sources, the worst fruits of the flesh and corrupt nature: to such dispositions the rejecting God's prophets of old, and the non-compliance with the Apostles are ascribed in Scripture; and from the same the like neglect of God's messengers now do proceed; as whoever will observe, may easily discern; do but mind the discourses of factious people, you shall perceive them all to breathe generally nothing but ill
The fruits also which it produceth are extremely bad; manifold great inconveniencies and mischiefs, hugely prejudicing the interest of religion and the welfare of the Church. It is immediately and formally a violation of order and peace; whence all the woful consequences of disorder and aliunde, &c. faction do adhere thereto.
Vid. Cypr. Ep. 55. Ne-. que enim
It breedeth great disgrace to the Church and scandal to religion; for what can appear more ugly than to see among the professors of religion children opposing their fathers, scholars contesting with their masters, inferiors slighting and crossing their superiors? what can more expose the Church and religion to the contempt, to the derision of atheists and infidels, of profane and lewd persons, of wild heretics and schismatics, of all enemies unto truth and piety, than such foul irregularity g?
An esse sibi cum Christo videtur, qui adversus sacerdotes Christi facit? &c. Cypr. de Unit. Eccl. p. 258.
Inde schismata, et hæreses oborta sunt, et oriuntur, dum episcopus, qui
It corrupteth the minds and manners of men: for when SERM. that discipline is relaxed which was ordained to guard truth LVII. and promote holiness; when men are grown so licentious and stubborn as to contemn their superiors, to disregard their wholesome laws and sober advice, there can be no curb to restrain them, but down precipitantly they run in- Ecclesiæ to all kind of vicious irregularities and excesses; when gloria præpositi gloria those mounds are taken away, whither will men ramble? est. Cypr. when those banks are broken down, what can we expect Ep. 7. 55. but deluges of impious doctrine and wicked practice, to overflow the ignorant and inconsiderate people?
Doth not indeed this practice evidently tend to the dissolution of the Church and destruction of Christianity? for when the shepherds are (as to conduct and efficacy) taken away, will not the sheep be scattered, or wander Matt. xxvi. astray, like sheep without a shepherd, being bewildered in 31. various errors, and exposed as a prey to any wild beasts; to the grievous wolves, to the ravenous lions, to the wily foxes? here a fanatical enthusiast will snap them, there a profane libertine will worry them, there again a desperate atheist will tear and devour them h.
Consult we but obvious experience, and we shall see what spoils and mines of faith, of good conscience, of common honesty and sobriety, this practice hath in a few years caused; how have atheism and infidelity, how have profaneness and dissoluteness of manners, how have all kinds of dishonesty and baseness grown up since men began to disregard the authority of their spiritual guides! what dismal tragedies have we in our age beheld acted upon this stage of our own country! what bloody wars and murders, (murders
unus est, et ecclesiæ præest superba quorundam præsumptione contemnitur. Cypr. Ep. 69.
Hæc sunt initia hæreticorum, et ortus atque conatus schismaticorum male cogitantium ut sibi placeant, ut præpositum superbo tumore contemnant. Sic de ecclesia receditur, sic altare profanum foris collocatur, sic contra pacem Christi, atque unitatem Dei rebellatur. Cypr. Ep. 65.
n Τῦτο πάντων τῶν κακῶν αἴτιον, ὅτι τὰ τῶν ἀρχόντων ἠφανίσθη, ἐδεμία αἰδῶς oudsis pótos, &c. Chrys, in 2 Tim. Or. 2.