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Scriptures, I can report no deficience; but by way of remembrance this I will add: in perusing books of divinity, I find many books of controversies, and many of commonplaces and treatises, a mass of positive divinity, as it is made an art: a number of sermons and lectures, and many prolix commentaries upon the Scriptures, with harmonies and concordances: but that form of writing in divinity which in my judgment is of all others most rich and precious, is positive divinity, collected upon particular texts of Scriptures in brief observations; not dilated into commonplaces, not chasing after controversies, not reduced into method of art; a thing abounding in sermons, which will vanish, but defective in books, which will remain; and a thing wherein this age excelleth. For I am persuaded, (and I may speak it with an “ Absit invidia verbo,"'') and no ways in derogation of antiquity, but as in a good emulation between the vine and the olive, that if the choice and best of those observations upon texts of Scriptures, which have been made dispersedly in sermons within this your majesty's island of Britain by the space of these forty years and more, leaving out the largeness of exhortations and applications thereupon, had been set down in a continuance, it had been the best work in divinity which had been written since the apostles' times.
The matter informed by divinity is of two kinds; matter of belief and truth of opinion, and matter of service and adoration; which is also judged and directed by the former: the one being as the internal soul of religion, and the other as the external body thereof. And therefore the heathen religion was not only a worship of idols, but the whole religion was an idol in itself; for it had no soul, that is, no certainty of belief or confession; as a man may well think, considering the chief doctors of their church were the poets: and the reason was, because the heathen gods were no jealous gods, but were glad to be admitted into part, as they had reason. Neither did they respect the pureness of heart, so they might have external honour and rites.
But out of these two do result and issue four main branches of divinity; faith, manners
liturgy, and government. Faith containeth the doctrine of the nature of God, of the attributes of God, and of the works of God. The nature of God consisteth of three persons in unity of Godhead. The attributes of God are either common to the Deity, or respective to the persons. The works of God summary are two, that of the creation and that of the redemption; and both these works, as in total they appertain to the unity of the Godhead, so in their parts they refer to the three persons : that of the creation, in the mass of the matter, to the Father; in the disposition of the form, to the Son; and in the continuance and conservation of the being, to the Holy Spirit : so that of the redemption, in the election and counsel, to the Father; in the whole act and consummation to the Son; and in the application, to the Holy Spirit; for by the Holy Ghost was Christ conceived in flesh, and by the Holy Ghost are the elect regenerate in spirit. This work likewise we consider either effectually, in the elect; or privately in the reprobate; or according to appearance, in the visible church.
For manners, the doctrine thereof is contained in the law, which discloseth sin. The law itself is divided, according to the edition thereof, into the law of nature, the law moral, and the law positive; and according to the style, into negative and affirmative, prohibitions and commandments. Sin, in the matter and subject thereof, is divided according to the commandments; in the form thereof, it referreth to the three persons in Deity: sins of infirmity against the Father, whose more special attribute is power; sins of ignorance against the Son, whose attribute is wisdom; and sins of malice against the Holy Ghost, whose attribute is grace or love. In the motions of it, it either moveth to the right hand or to the left; either to blind devotion or to profane and libertine transgression ; either in imposing restraint where God granteth liberty, or in taking liberty where God imposeth restraint. In the degrees and progress of it, it divideth itself into thought, word, or act. And in this part I commend much the deducing of the law of God to cases of conscience; for that I take indeed to be a breaking, and not exhibiting whole, of the bread of life. But that which quickeneth both these doctrines of
May it be said without offence.
faith and manners is the elevation and consent of the heart; whereunto appertain books of exhortation, holy meditation, Christian resolution, and the like.
For the liturgy or service, it consisteth of the reciprocal acts between God and man; which, on the part of God, are the preaching of the word, and the sacraments, which are seals to the covenant, or as the visible word; and on the part of man, invocation of the name of God; and under the law, sacrifices; which were as visible prayers or confessions : but now, the adoration being“ in spiritu et veritate, there remaineth only “vituli labiorum;" although the use of holy vows of thankfulness and retribution may be accounted also as sealed petitions.
And for the Government of the church, it consisteth of the patrimony of the church, the franchises of the church, and the offices and jurisdictions of the church, and the laws of the church directing the whole; all which have two considerations, the one in themselves, the other how they stand compatible and agreeable to the civil estate.
This matter of divinity is handled either in form of instruction of truth, or in form of confutation of falsehood. The declinations from religion, besides the privative, which is atheism, and the branches thereof, are three; heresies, idolatry, and witchcraft; heresies, when we serve the true God with a false worship; idolatry, when we worship false gods, supposing them to be true; and witchcraft, when we adore false gods, knowing them to be wicked and false: for so your majesty doth excellently well observe, that witchcraft is the height of idolatry. And yet we see, though these be true degrees, Samuel teacheth us that they are all of a nature, when there is once a receding from the word of God; for so he saith, “ Quasi peccatum ariolandi est repugnare, et quasi scelus idololatriæ nolle acquiescere.
These things I have passed over so briefly because I can report no deficiency concerning them; for I can find no space or ground that lieth vacant and unsown in the matter of divinity; so diligent have men been, either in sowing of good seed or in sowing of tares.
Thus have I made as it were a small Globe of the intellectual world, as truly and faithfully as I could discover; with a note and description of those parts which seem to me not constantly occupate, or not well converted by the labour of man. In which if I have in any point receded from that which is commonly received, it hath been with a purpose of proceeding in“ melius,"4 and not in“aliud;'5 a mind of amendment and proficience, and not of change and difference. For I could not be true and constant to the argument I handle, if I were not willing to go beyond others; but yet not more willing than to have others go beyond me again : which may the better appear by this, that I have propounded my opinions naked and unarmed, not seeking to preoccupate the liberty of men's judgments by confutations. For in anything which is well set down I am in good hope that, if the first reading move an objection, the second reading will make
And in those things wherein I have erred, I am sure I have not prejudiced the right by litigious arguments; which certainly have this contrary effect and operation, that they add authority to error, and destroy the authority of that which is well invented: for question is an honour and preferment to falsehood, as on the other side it is a repulse to truth. But the errors I claim and challenge to myself as mine own: the good, if any be, is due “ tanquam adeps sacrificii,"6 to be incensed to the honour, first of the Divine Majesty, and next of your majesty, to whom on earth I am most bounden.
1 In spirit and in truth. 2 Sacrifices of the lips.
3 Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
4 To a better object.
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