WE have hitherto treated of the vocation of man, and of the effects thereby produced, whether consisting in a mere outward change of character, or in actual regeneration; of the spiritual increase of the regenerate; of the various manifestations of the offered covenant; and, finally, of the sealing of that covenant by sacraments.

The assembly of those who are called is termed the visible church. By the called, I mean those indiscriminately who have received the call, whether they be actually regenerate or otherwise. Matt. iii, 12. "whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into his garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." xiii. 24, 25. "the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat." v. 47. "the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind." xxii. 9, 10. "go ye therefore into the highways... and they gathered together all as many as <142> they found, both bad and good." xxv. 1, 2. "then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins... and five of them were wise, and five were foolish." 1 John ii. 19. "they went out from us, but they were not of us."

The tokens of the visible church are, pure doctrine; the proper external worship of God; genuine evangelical love, so far as it can be distinguished from the fictitious by mere human perception; and a right administration of the seals of the covenant. Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. "go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them... teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Acts ii. 42. "they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." 1 Tim. iii. 15. "the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." The tokens of the Jewish church enumerated by St. Paul are not dissimilar: Rom. ix. 4. "who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises." On the other hand, he intimates, that where these tokens are wanting, there is no church. Eph. ii. 12. "at that time ye were with out Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world."

As to what are called signs, Mark xvi. 17, 18. "these signs shall follow them that believe; in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall rccov <143> er;" these are not to be considered as tokens uniformly attending the visible church, but as testimonies which, however necessary at the time of its first establishment, when the doctrines of Christianity were to Jews and Gentiles alike, new, unheard of, and all but incredible, are less requisite at the present period, when men are educated in the apostolical faith, and begin their belief from their earliest childhood. Under these circumstances, the same end is answered by their hearing and reading of the miracles performed at the beginning by Christ and his apostles. Deut. xxxi. 13. "that their children, which have not known anything, may hear, and learn to fear Jehovah your God, as long as ye live —." So also 1 Cor. xiv. 22. "tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not," and "they shall cease," 1 Cor. xiii. 8. The working of miracles was some times permitted even to impostors, and to a false church. Deut. xiii. 1-3. "if there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass whereof he spake unto thee... thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for Jehovah your God proveth you, to know whether ye love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Matt. vii. 22, 23. "many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name have done many wonderful works? and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you." xxiv. 24. "there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if <144> it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." Gal. i. 8. "though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." 2 Thess. ii. 9. "whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders." Rev. xiii. 13. "he doeth great wonders."

Neither is the re-establishment of the church uniformly attended by miracles; in like manner as this species of attestation was not granted to several of the prophets, nor to the Baptist, John x. 41. nor in all cases to the apostles themselves, Matt. xvii. 16. "I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him." 2 Tim. iv. 20. "Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick:" whence it appears that Paul was unable to heal, not only one who was a believer, but who was of note among the believers.

Miracles have no inherent efficacy in producing belief, any more than simple preaching; it is God that gives the right heart in the one case as in the other.[1] Deut. xxix. 2-4. "ye have seen all that Jehovah did before your eyes in the land of Egypt... yet Jehovah hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day." Psal. lxxviii. 11. "they forgat his wonders." v. 32. "they believed not his wondrous works." Luke xvi. 31. "if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." Acts iv. 16, 17. "that a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem, <145> and we cannot deny it." Those also are declared blessed who believe without the testimony of miracles. John xx. 29. "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." Matt. xii. 39, &c. "an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas..... the men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonas." Luke x. 20. "in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."

So long therefore as charity, the greatest of all gifts, exists, and wheresoever it is found, we cannot doubt that the visible church there established is a true church. John xiii. 35. "by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." 1 Cor. xii. 31. "covet earnestly the best gifts; and yet show I you a more excellent way." xiii. 1, &c. "though I speak with the tongue of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass —." v. 8. "charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail —." v. 13. "now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

As Christ is the head of the mystical church, so no one besides Christ has the right or power of presiding over the visible church.[2] Matt. xviii. 20. "there am <146> I in the midst of them." xxviii. 20. "I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." 1 Cor. v. 4. "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ." Heb. iii. 6. "Christ as a son over his own house." Rev. ii.1. "who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks." They are therefore in error, who would set up an earthly head over the church in the person of the apostle Peter, and his successors commonly so called, the Roman pontiffs; for which no authority can be found in Scripture.[3] As to Peter, it does not appear that any preference was given to him over the other apostles, either with regard to his mission, Matt. x. 1. or to any special command assigned to him, John xx. 21, 22. or to any authority reposed in him for the deciding of controversies, Acts xv. 2, 6, 7, 19, 23, 25. or to his knowledge of the faith, at least to his constancy in professing it, since he fell grievously in his denial of Christ, and was afterwards reprehensible, though in a less degree, in the matter for which he was reproved by Paul, Gal. ii. 11. He was also an elder like the others, 1 Pet. v. 1. neither is he promised any distinction of honours hereafter, Matt. xix. 28. nor is superiority of any kind attributed to him rather than to James or John, or Paul and Barnabas, Gal. ii. 9. Nay, he was the apostle of the circumcision <147> only, as was Paul of the Gentiles, v. 8, 9. who was "not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles," 2 Cor. xi. 5. He was likewise sent as the colleague of John into Samaria, Acts viii. 14. and gave an account of his apostleship to those who contended with him, xi. 2. Lastly, the church is not said to be "built upon the foundation" of Peter alone, but "of the apostles," Eph. ii. 20. Rev. xxi. 14. Even supposing, however, that it were otherwise, how can a foundation have any succession? Nor does the celebrated text, Matt. xvi. 18, 19. which is perverted by the Pope to form the charter of his authority, confer any distinction on Peter beyond what is not enjoyed by other professors of the same faith. For inasmuch as many others confessed no less explicitly than Peter that Christ was the Son of God (as is clear from the narrative of the evangelists) the answer of Christ is not, upon thee Peter, but upon this rock I will build my church, that is, upon this faith which thou hast in common with other believers, not upon thee as an individual; seeing that, in the personal sense of the word, the true rock is Christ, 1 Cor. x. 4. nor is there any other foundation, iii. 11. whence also faith in Christ is called the foundation, Jude 20. "building up yourselves on your most holy faith;" and the same term is applied to the apostles as the original teachers of that faith, though not to the exclusion of others. Eph. ii. 20. "ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets." Nor is it to Peter exclusively that the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed,[4] inasmuch as the power of those keys, as it is <148> called, or the right of binding and loosing, is not entrusted to him alone, Matt. xviii. 18, 19. "whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven," &c. John xx. 23. "whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them." Nor does the passage of John, xxi. 15, &. c. imply that the office of feeding the flock of Christ was committed to Peter in any higher sense than to the others; the meaning of the repetition is, that he who had fallen by denying his master thrice, is here, by a confession as often repeated, restored to the place from whence he fell; and that he who in his overweening self-confidence had maintained that he loved Christ more than all the rest, is at once reminded of the event by which his weakness had been manifested, and admonished that if he really loved Christ more than the other disciples, he should show that love by a greater assiduity in feeding Christ's flock, and more particularly his lambs; being in effect a repetition of the charge he had shortly before received, Luke xxii. 32. "when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." For to feed the sheep of Christ, that is, to teach all nations, was the common office of all the apostles. Matt. xxviii. 19.

Granting, however, to Peter all that is claimed for him, what proof have we that the same privileges are <149> continued to his successors? or that these successors are the Roman pontiffs?

The visible church is either universalor particular.

The universal visible churchis the whole multitude of those who are called in every part of the world, and who openly worship God the Father through Christ in any place whatever, either individually, or in conjunction with others.

In any place whatever. John iv. 21. "the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father." 1 Cor. i. 2. "with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord."

Either individually, &c. for although it is the duty of believers to join themselves, if possible, to a church duly constituted,[5] Heb. x. 25. "not forsaking the <150> assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another; yet such as can not do this conveniently, or with full satisfaction of conscience, are not to be considered as excluded from the blessing bestowed by God on the churches. 1 Kings xix. 10, 14."I, even I only, am left." v. 18. "yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel." John iv. 23. "the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him." 1 Cor. i. 2. "unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and ours." 2 Cor. i. 1. "unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia."

The universal church consists of ministers and people.[6] 1 Cor. 9. "we are labourers together with God; ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building." 2 Cor. iv. 5. "ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake." Matt. xx. 25-28. "even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." Rom. x. 14. "how shall they hear without a preacher?"


Ministers are persons appointed by divine commission to perform various offices in the church of Christ.

By divine commission. Jer. xxiii. 21. "I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied." Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. "go ye therefore, and teach all nations" —. Rom. x. 15. "how shall they preach, except they be sent?" 1 Cor. ii. 1. "I came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God." v. 4. "my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power." v. 13. "which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual." 1 Tim. iv. 6. "if thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained."

Various offices. 1 Cor. xii. 28. "God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." Acts xx. 20, 21. "I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance to wards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Tim. iv. 2. "preach the word, be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." 2 Pet. i. 12. "I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth."


Ministerial labours are of no efficacy in themselves, independently of divine grace. 1 Cor. iii. 7. "neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase." A reward, however, is laid up for such as are faithful in the ministry." Isai. xlix. 4. "then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain; yet surely my judgment is with Jehovah, and my work with my God." Dan. xii. 3. "they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."

The ministers of the universal church are either extraordinary or ordinary. 1 Cor. xii. 28. as above. Eph. iv. 11-13. "he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God" —: where it is observable that pastors and teachers are used synonymously; for the apostle does not say, "he gave some, pastors, some, teachers," but merely adds the second or proper title as an explanation of the figurative term; whereby is evinced the futility of the modern academical title of doctor, as distinguishing its possessor from other ministers of the word.[7] For the <153> provinces of teaching and of exhortation are nowhere separated, but are both alike assigned to the pastor, no less than to the teacher so called; the functions are twofold, but the office and the agent are one; although individuals may possess peculiar powers either of teaching or of exhortation, and may be distinguished as such, Rom. xii. 7, 8.

Extraordinary ministers are persons inspired and sent on a special mission by God, for the purpose of planting the church where it did not before exist, or of reforming its corruptions, either through the medium of preaching or of writing. To this class belong the prophets, apostles, evangelists, and the like. 1 Cor. iv. 1 . "let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ; and stewards of the mysteries of God." Gal. i. 1. "Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead." v. 17. "neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me." ii. 6. "of those who seemed to be somewhat, whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me; God accepteth no man's person: for they who seemed to be somewhat, in conference added nothing unto me." Acts xiii. 2. "the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." 2 Tim. iv. 5, "do the work of an evangelist."

Any believer is competent to act as an ordinary minister,[8] according as convenience may require, pro <154> vided only he be endowed with the necessary gifts;[9] these gifts constituting his mission. Such were, before the law, the fathers or eldest sons of families,[10] as Abel, Noah, Abraham, &c. Jethro, Exod. xviii. 12. xix. 22. let "the priests also, which come near to Jehovah, sanctify themselves" —. xxiv. 5. he "sent young men of the children of Israel, which offered burnt-offerings, and sacrificed peace-offerings of oxen unto Jehovah." Such were, under the law, Aaron and his posterity, the whole tribe of Levi, and lastly the prophets. In like manner, any one, who appeared to be in other respects qualified, was allowed to teach openly in the synagogue, though he were neither priest nor Levite; a permission which was granted to Christ, and subsequently to Paul at Antioch. Acts. xiii. 15. "after the reading of the law and the prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye <155> men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on." How much more then must every believer endowed with similar gifts enjoy the same liberty under the gospel? Accordingly, this liberty is expressly conceded: Mark ix. 38, 39. "we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us; and we forbad him, because he followeth not us: but Jesus said, Forbid him not." Acts viii. 4. "they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word." xi. 19, &c. "they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about, Stephen, travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch... which spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus; and the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord... they sent forth Barnabas... who when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord." If our modern clergy, as they are called by way of distinction, who claim to themselves the exclusive right of preaching the gospel, had seen this grace imparted to those whom they are pleased to denominate the laity, it would have been to them a subject, not of rejoicing, but of censure and obloquy. xviii. 24, 25. "a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus: this man was instructed in the way of the Lord, and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John." 2 Tim. ii. 2. "the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."


Exod. xix. 6. compared with Isai. lxi. 6. "ye shall be named the priests of Jehovah; men shall call you the ministers of our God." 1 Pet. ii. 9. "ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." Rev. i. 6. "who hath made us Kings and priests unto God and his Father." Again, 1 Pet. v. 3. "neither as being lords over God's heritage." If in this passage the word heritage, (clerus, Lat. whence the term clergy, appropriated by the ecclesiastics to themselves) has any meaning at all, it must designate the whole body of the church.[11] Nor is the name of prophet applied exclusively to such as foretel future events, but to any one endowed with extraordinary piety and wisdom for the purposes of teaching. Thus it was said of Abraham, Gen. xx. 7. "he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live." So also Miriam is called a prophetess, Exod. xv. 20. and Deborah, Judges iv. 4. and the same title is applied to believers in general, Psal. cv. 15. "touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm." Hence under the gospel likewise, the simple gift of teaching, especially of public teaching, is called prophecy. 1 Cor. xiv. 1. "desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy." v. 3. "he that prophesieth, speaketh <157> unto men to edification;" and so through the remainder of the chapter. 1 Cor. iii. 8, &c. "he that planteth and he that watereth are one; and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour: for we are labourers together with God." Pastors and teachers, therefore, are the gift of the same God who gave apostles and prophets, and not of any human institution whatever.[12] 1 Pet. iv. 10, 11. "as every man hath received the gift, even so let him minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God: if any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God."

If therefore it be competent to any believer what ever to preach the gospel, provided he be furnished with the requisite gifts, it is also competent to him to administer the rite of baptism; inasmuch as the latter office is inferior to the former. John iv. 2. "Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples." 1 Cor. i. 17. "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel." Hence Ananias, who was only a disciple, baptized Paul. Acts ix. 10, 18. x. 48. "he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord;" which command was given to the companions of Peter, who are only called brethren, v. 23. and they <158> which believed, v. 45. And if it be true that baptism has succeeded to the place of circumcision, and bears the analogy to it which is commonly supposed, why should not any Christian whatever (provided he be not a mere novice, and therefore otherwise incompetent) be qualified to administer baptism, in the same manner as any Jew was qualified to perform the rite of circumcision?

With regard to the Lord's Supper also, it has been shown in the preceding chapter that all are entitled to participate in that rite, but that the privilege of dispensing the elements is confined to no particular man, or order of men. There can be still less shadow of reason for assigning to the ministers of the church the celebration of marriages or funerals,[13] offices which hirelings[14] are wont to assume to themselves exclusively, without even the feeble semblance of prescription derived from the Levitical law.

The people of the universal church comprise all nations: Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. "go ye and teach all nations;" whose conversion it is the duty of all men to promote to the utmost of their power. Rom. i. 14. "I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians; both to the wise and to the unwise."


'It is God only who gives as well to believe aright, as to believe at all.' Considerations touching the likeliest Means to remove Hirelings out of the Church. Prose Works, III. 351.


..... Man over men

He made not lord; such title to himself

Reserving, human left from human free. Paradise Lost, XII. 69.

'Christ hath a government of his own, sufficient of itself to all his ends and purposes in governing his church.' Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Causes. Prose Works, III. 331.


'All Protestants hold that Christ in his church hath left no vicegerent of his power; but himself, without deputy, is the only head thereof, governing it from heaven: how then can any Christian man derive his Kingship from Christ, but with worse usurpation than the pope his headship over the church? since Christ not only hath not left the least shadow of a command for any such vicegerence from him in the state, as the pope pretends for his in the church' —. Ready Way to establish a Free Commonwealth. Prose Works, 111. 411.


Milton elsewhere, to ridicule the notion that Peter and his successors are specially entrusted with the keys of heaven, places him at the 'wicket,' while 'embryos and idiots, eremites and friars, white, black and gray, with all their trumpery,' are 'blown transverse' into the paradise of fools.

And now Saint Peter at heaven's wicket seems

To wait them with his keys —. Paradise Lost, III. 484.

In Lycidas, however, the allusion to the keys is introduced more seriously.

Last came, and last did go

The pilot of the Galilean lake;

Two massy keys he bore of metals twain,

The golden opes, the iron shuts amain. 108.


This is an important passage, because it discloses Milton's real views upon a point on which his opinions have been represented in a more unfavourable light than they seem to have deserved. Bishop Newton remarks that 'in the latter part of his life he was not a professed member of any particular sect of Christians, he frequented no public worship, nor used any religious rite in his family. Whether so many different forms of worship as he had seen had made him indifferent to all forms; or whether he thought that all Christians had in some things corrupted the purity and simplicity of the gospel; or whether he disliked their endless and uncharitable disputes, and that love of dominion and inclination to persecution which he said was a piece of popery inseparable from all churches; or whether he believed that a man might be a good Christian without joining in any communion; or whether he did not look upon himself as inspired, as wrapt up in God, and above all forms and ceremonies, it is not easy to determine: to his own master he standeth or falleth: but if he was of any denomination, he was a sort of Quietist, and was full of the interior of religion, though he so little regarded the exterior.' The note of Mr. Hawkins on this passage, (Hawkins's Edition of Milton's Poetical Works, Vol. I. p. 101.) deserves to be mentioned as containing the most candid and judicious estimate of Milton's character which has ever been taken. Many parts of the present treatise bear & remarkable testimony to the acuteness with which Mr. Hawkins has detected some of the errors of Milton's religious system, by the unprejudiced spirit in which he has examined the imperfect materials afforded him in the printed works. He observes as follows on Milton's alleged disuse of public worship, which is asserted on the authority of Toland. 'The reproach that has been thrown upon him of frequenting no place of public worship in his latter days, should be received, as Dr. Symmons observes, with some caution. His blindness and other infirmities might be in part his excuse; and it is certain that his daily employments were always ushered in by devout meditation and study of the Scriptures.'


'Let no man cavil, but take the church of God as meaning the whole consistence of orders and members, as St. Paul's epistles express.' Of Reformation in England. Prose Works, I. 11.


Titles of honour are spoken of in the same slighting manner in the prophetic view which Michael unfolds to Adam of the corruptions which should prevail in the latter times of the church.

Then shall they seek to avail themselves of names,

Places, and titles, and with these to join

Secular power. —Paradise Lost, XII. 515.


It is evident from many passages in the printed works of Milton, that even the presbyterian institutions did not accord with his notions of Christian liberty. He often attacks the presbyters, during the time when episcopacy was abolished, with as much severity as the bishops during their ascendency. Warton observes, that he contended for that sort of individual or personal religion, by which every man is to be his own priest. See his edition of Milton's smaller Poems, p.326. Edit. 1785. 'The third priesthood only remaining, is common to all the faithful.' Considerations, &c. Prose Works, III. 383. 'If all the faithful be now a holy and a royal priesthood, 1 Pet. ii. 5, 9. not excluded from the dispensation of things holiest, after free election of the church, and imposition of hands..... for the gospel makes no difference from the magistrate himself to the meanest artificer, if God evidently favour him with spiritual gifts, as he can easily, and oft hath done.' Ibid. 390. 'So is he by the same appointment (of God) ordained, and by the church's call admitted, to such offices of discipline in the church, to which his own spiritual gifts... have authorized him.' Reason of Church Government, &c. I. 138. See also p. 139. 'The functions of church government commend him.'


'Heretofore in the first evangelic times (and it were happy for Christendom if it were so again) ministers of the gospel were by nothing else distinguished from other Christians but by their spiritual knowledge and sanctity of life.' Considerations, &c. III. 390.


'In the beginning this authority seems to have been placed, as all both civil and religious rites once were, only in each father of a family.' Reason of Church Government, &c. Prose Works, I. 134. 'In those days was no priest, but the father, or the first-born of each family.' Considerations, &c. III. 359.


This all Christians ought to know, that the title of clergy St. Peter gave to all God's people, till Pope Hyginus and the succeeding prelates took it from them, appropriating that name to themselves and their priests only, and condemning the rest of God's inheritance to an injurious and alienate condition of laity.' Reasons of Church Government urged against Prelaty. Prose Works, I. 135. 'Ecclesiasticorum duntaxat bona fuere, qui hoc maxime senso clerici, vel etiam holoclerici, ut qui sortem totam invasissent, rectius nominari poterant.' Defensio Secunda pro Populo Anglicano, V. 247.


'It is a foul error, though too much believed among us, to think that the university makes a minister of the gospel: what it may conduce to other arts and sciences, I dispute not now; but that which makes fit a minister, the Scripture can best inform us to be only from above, whence also we are bid to seek them. Matt. ix. 33. Acts xx, 28. Rom. x. 15. how shall they preach, unless they be sent? By whom sent? By the university, or the magistrate, or their belly? No surely, but sent from God only, and that God who is not their belly.' Considerations, &c. Prose Works, III. 386. 'Doubtless, if God only be he who gives ministers to his church till the world's end, and through the whole gospel never sent us for minister to the schools of philosophy —.' Ibid. 390.


'Burials and marriages are so little to be any part of their gain, that they who consider well, may find them to be no part of their function... As for marriages, that ministers should meddle with them, as not sanctified or legitimate without their celebration, I find no ground in Scripture either of precept or example.' Considerations, &c. Prose Works, III. 370.


Help us to save free conscience from the paw

Of hireling wolves, whose gospel is their maw. Sonnet XVI. 13.

'Of which hireling crew... Christendom might soon rid herself and be happy, if Christians would but know their own dignity, their liberty, their adoption... and let it not be wondered if I say their spiritual priesthood, whereby they have all equal access to any ministerial function, whenever called by their own abilities and the church, though they never came near the university.' Considerations, &c. Prose Works, III. 391.

© 2024 The Newton Project

Professor Rob Iliffe
Director, AHRC Newton Papers Project

Scott Mandelbrote,
Fellow & Perne librarian, Peterhouse, Cambridge

Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL - newtonproject@history.ox.ac.uk

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