To my Reverend and dearly beloved Brethren, the faithful Ministers of Christ in Britain and Ireland, Grace and Peace in Jesus Christ be increased.

REVEREND BRETHREN,—The subject of this treatise so nearly concerns yourselves, and the churches committed to your care, that it imboldens me thus to address you, notwithstanding its imperfections, and the consciousness that I am unworthy to be your monitor. I shall first give you some account of the reasons of the work, and the freedom of speech I have used, which to some may be displeasing.

0.1. A brief history

When the Lord had awakened his ministers in this county, and some neighbouring parts, to a sense of their duty in the work of catechising, and privately instructing all in their parishes who did not obstinately refuse their help; and when they had subscribed an agreement containing their resolutions for the future performance of it, they judged it improper to enter upon the work without solemnly humbling their souls before the Lord, for their long neglect of so great and necessary a duty: and therefore they agreed to meet together at Worcester, Dec. 4, 1655, and there to join in humiliation and earnest prayer to God for the pardon of their sins, for his special assistance in the work they have undertaken, and for the success of it with the people whom they were engaged to instruct: at which time I, with some others, was desired by them to preach. In answer to their desires I prepared the following discourse; which, though it proved longer than could be delivered in one or two sermons, yet I intended to have entered upon it at that time, and to have delivered that which was most pertinent to the occasion, and reserved the rest to another season. But before the meeting, by the increase of pain and weakness, I was disabled from going. To recompense which, I yielded to the requests of divers of the brethren, to publish the things which I had prepared, that they might see what they could not hear.

0.2. Answers to objections to the plainness, sharpness, openness, and accessibility of the confession

If now it be objected, “That I should not have spoken so plainly or sharply against the sins of the ministry, or that I should not have published it to the view of the world; or at least that I should have done it in another tongue, and not in the ears of the vulgar, especially at a time when many are endeavouring to bring the ministry into contempt, and the people are too prone to hearken to their suggestions;” I confess I thought the objection very considerable: but it did not alter my resolution, for the following reasons:—

0.2.1. It was to be a public solemn humiliation

It was a public solemn humiliation that we had agreed on, and that this was prepared and intended for: and how could we be humbled without a plain confession of our sins?

0.2.2. It was our own sins that we were confessing

It was principally our own sins that the confession concerned; and who can be offended with us for confessing them, and taking the blame and shame to ourselves, which our consciences told us we ought to do?

0.2.3. I have excepted those not guilty

I have excepted in our confessions those that are not guilty; and therefore hope I have injured none.

0.2.4. I had already prepared it in English

Having necessarily prepared it in the English tongue, I had no time to translate it.

0.2.5. The sin was open

Where the sin is open in the sight of the world, it is in vain to attempt to hide it.

0.2.6. No use to try to hide open sin

And such attempts do but aggravate it, and increase our shame.

0.2.7. When the sin is public, the confession must be public

A free confession is a condition of a full remission; and when the sin is public, the confession must be public. If the ministers of England had sinned only in Latin, I would have made shift to have admonished them in Latin, or else have said nothing to them. But if they will sin in English, they must hear of it in English. Unpardoned sin will never let us rest nor prosper, though we be at ever so much care and cost to cover it. Our sin will surely find us out, though we find not it. The work of confession is purposely to make known our sin, and freely to take the shame to ourselves: and if he that confesseth and forsaketh it be the man that shall have mercy, no wonder then if he that covereth it prosper not. (Prov. xxviii, 13.) If we be so tender of ourselves, and so loath to confess, God will be the less tender of us, and he will indite our confessions for us. He will either force our consciences to confession, or his judgments shall proclaim our iniquities to the world: but if we judge ourselves, he will not judge us.

0.2.8. Judgment is begun at the house of God

The fire is already kindled which revealeth our sin: judgment is begun at the house of God. Have ministers suffered nothing in England, Scotland, and Ireland; and have there been no attempts for their overthrow? Was it not put to the vote in an assembly which some called a Parliament of England, whether the whole frame of the established ministry and its legal maintenance should be taken down? And were we not put to plead our title to that maintenance, as if we had been falling into the hands of Turks, who thirsted for our subversion, as determined enemies to the Christian cause? And who does not know that many of these men are still alive, and how high the same spirit is, and busily contriving the accomplishment of the same design? Shall we think that they have ceased their enterprise, because they are working more subtly in the dark? It is no time now to stand upon our credit, so as to neglect our duty, befriend our sins, and provoke the Lord against us. It rather becomes us to fall down at the feet of our offended Lord, to justify him in his judgments, and freely and penitently to confess our transgressions, and to resolve upon a speedy and thorough reformation, before wrath break forth upon us. It is time to make up all breaches between us and heaven, when we stand in such necessity of the divine protection: for how can an impenitent, unreformed people expect to be sheltered by holiness itself?

0.2.9. The world should see that we are penitent sinners

The world already knows that we are sinners; and is it not highly necessary they should see that we are penitent sinners? As repentance is necessary to the recovery of our peace with God, so is it also to the reparation of our credit with wise and godly men. Befriending and excusing our sin, is our shame, and leads towards everlasting shame; which penitent confession will prevent.

0.2.10. Our confession and reformation will silence the adversaries

Our penitent confession and speedy reformation are the means that must silence the reproaching adversaries. He is impudently inhuman that will reproach those for their sins, who bewail, and penitently charge them upon themselves. Such men have a promise of pardon from God; and who dare condemn us, when God doth justify us? Who shall lay that to our charge, which God hath declared that he will not charge us with?

0.2.11. The leaders of the flock must be examples to the rest

The leaders of the flock must be examples to the rest, in this as well as in other duties. It is not our part only to teach them repentance, but to go before in the exercise of it. As far as we excel them in knowledge and other gifts, so far should we also excel them in this and other graces.

0.2.12. To bear with the vices of the ministers is to promote the ruin of the church

Too many who have set their hand to this sacred work, are, notwithstanding, still addicted to self-seeking, negligence, pride, and other sins; so that it is our duty to admonish them. To give them up as incurable, were cruel, as long as there are other means to be used. We must not hate them, but plainly rebuke them, and not suffer sin upon them, (Lev. xix. 17.) To bear with the vices of the ministers, is to promote the ruin of the church. For what more speedy way is there to deprave and undo the people, than the depravity of their guides? And how can we more effectually farther a reformation, than by endeavouring to reform the leaders of the church? Surely, brethren, if it be our duty to endeavour to cast out those ministers that are negiligent, scandalous, and unfit for the work, it must be our duty to endeavour to heal the sins of others, and to use a much gentler remedy to them that are less guilty. If other men’s sins deserve an ejection, surely ours deserve and require plain reproof. For my part, I have done as I would be done by. It is for God and the safety of the church, and in tender love to the brethren whom I have ventured to reprehend: not to make them contemptible and odious, but to heal the evils that would make them so; that no enemy may find this matter of reproach among us. But especially because our faithful endeavours are so necessary to the welfare of the church, and the salvation of souls; that it is not consistent with love to either, to be negligent ourselves, or silently to connive at, and comply with the negligent. If thousands of you were in a leaky ship, and those that should pump the water and stop the leaks, should be sporting or asleep; yea, or but favour themselves in their labours, so as to the hazard of you all, would you not rouse them to their work, and call upon them to labour as for your lives? And suppose you used some sharpness and importunity with the slothful, would you think that man in his wits that would take it ill, and accuse you of pride, self-conceit, or rudeness, for presuming to talk so to your fellow workmen, or who told you that you wronged him by diminishing his reputation? Would you not say, “The work must be done, or we are all dead men: the ship is ready to sink, and do you talk of reputation? or had you rather hazard yourself and us, than hear of your slothfulness?” This is our case, brethren. The work of God must be done; souls must not perish while you mind your worldly business, and take your ease, or quarrel with your brethren: nor must we be silent while men are hastened by you to perdition, and the church to greater danger and confusion, for fear of seeming uncivil with you, or displeasing your impatient souls. Would you be but as impatient with your sins as with reproof, you should hear no more from us. But neither God nor good men will let you alone in your sins. If you had engaged in some other calling, we should not, perhaps, have had so much necessity for molesting you: but as you have entered into the office which is for the preservation of us all, so that by letting you alone in your sin we must give up the church to apparent loss and hazard; blame us not if we talk to you more freely than you would have us do. If your own body be sick, and you will despise the remedy; or if your own house be on fire, and you will be singing or quarrelling in the streets; I can possibly bear it and let you alone, which yet in charity I should not easily do. But if you will undertake to be the physician of a hospital, or to all the town that is infected with the plague, or will undertake to quench all the fires that shall be kindled in the town, there is no bearing with your remissness, how much soever it may displease you. Take it how you will, you must be told of it; and if that will not serve, you must be yet more closely told of it; and if that will not serve, if you be rejected as well as reprehended, you must thank yourselves. I speak all this to none but the guilty. And thus I have given you those reasons which forced me, even in plain English, to publish so much of the sins of the ministry, as in the following treatise I have done. And I suppose the more penitent and humble any are, and the more desirous of the truest reformation of the church, the more easily and fully will they approve such free confessions and reprehensions.

0.3. Objections from the parties whose sins are confessed

The second sort of objections against this free confession of sin, I expect to hear from the parties whose sins are confessed. Most of them are willing that others be blamed, so they be justified. I can truly say, that what I have here spoken hath been as impartially as I could, and not as a party, nor as siding with any; but as owning the common Christian cause, as sensible of the apparent wrongs that have been offered to common truth and godliness, and the hinderances of men’s salvation, and of the happiness of the church. But I find it impossible to avoid offending guilty men: for there is no way of avoiding it but by our silence or their patience: and silent we cannot be, because of God’s commands; and patient they cannot be, because of their guilt and partiality. I still except those humble men, who are willing to know the worst of themselves, love the light that their deeds may be made manifest, and long to know their sins that they may forsake them, and their duty that they may perform it.

0.3.1. From those I blame for the neglect of that discipline, which they have so long disputed for

Some, it is likely, will be offended with me, that I blame them so much for the neglect of that discipline, which they have so long disputed for. But what remedy? If discipline were not of God, if it were unnecessary to the church, or if it were enough to dispute for duty, while we deliberately refuse to perform it—then would I have given these brethren no offence.

0.3.2. From those in the prelatical way

Another sort that will be offended with me are some of the divines, of the prelatical way, whom I had no mind to offend, nor to dishonour. But, if necessary duty will do it, what remedy? If they cannot bear with just admonition, I must bear with their impatience. But I must tell them, that I speak not by hearsay, but from sight and feeling. It is more tolerable in an Englishman to speak such things, who has seen the sad work which was made in England—the silencing of most godly, able men, the persecution even of the peaceable, the discountenance of godliness, and the insulting scorn of the most profane in the land—than for a foreigner, who hath known of this but by hearsay. When we remember what sort of ministers the land abounded with while the ablest and most diligent men were cast out, (of which matters we cannot be ignorant, if there were no records remaining of their attested accusations,) we must needs take leave to tell the world, that the souls of men and the welfare of the church were not so contemptible in our eyes, as that we should have no sense of these things, or should manifest no dislike of them, nor once invite the guilty to repent.

0.3.3. From those who say that this reformation has resulted in no better situation than before

Perhaps some will say, “that the matter is not much amended, when, in former times, we were almost all of a mind; and now we have so many religions, that we know not well whether we have any at all.” Ans. (1.) Every different opinion is not another religion. (2.) This is the common popish argument against reformation; as if it were better that men believed nothing fide divina, than inquire after truth for fear of misbelief; and, as if they would have all ungodly, that they might be all of a mind. I am sure that most of the people in England wherever I came, made religion, and the reading of Scripture, or speaking of the way to heaven, the matter of their bitter scorn and reproach. And would you have us all of that mind again, for fear of differences? A charitable wish! (3.) If others run into the other extreme, will that be any excuse to you? Christ’s church hath always suffered between profane unbelievers and heretical dividers, as he suffered himself on the cross between two thieves. And will the sin of one excuse the other? (4.) And yet I must say, (lest I be impiously blind and ungrateful,) that through the great mercy of God, the matter is so far amended, that many hundred drunken, swearing, ignorant, negligent, scandalous ministers are cast out; and we have many humble, godly, painful teachers in a county, for a few that we had before. This is so visibly true, that when the godly are feasted, who formerly were almost famished, and beaten for going abroad to beg their bread, you can hardly by all your arguments or rhetoric persuade them that the times are no better with them than they were; though men of another nation may possibly believe you in such reports. I bless God for the change that I see in this country, and among the people, even in my own charge, which is such as will not permit me to believe that the case is as bad with them as formerly it hath been.

It is the sinful unhappiness of some men’s minds, that they can hardly think well of the best words or ways of those whom they disaffect; and they usually disaffect those that cross them in their corrupt proceedings, and plainly tell them of their faults. They are ready to judge of the reprover’s spirit by their own, and to think that all such sharp reproofs proceed from some disaffection to their persons, or partial opposition to the opinions which they hold; and therefore they will seldom regard the reproofs of any but those of their own party, who will seldom deal plainly with them, because they are of their party. But plain dealers are always approved in the end, and the time is at hand when you shall confess that those were your truest friends. He that will deal plainly against your sins, in uprightness and honesty, will deal as plainly for you against the sins of any that would injure you: for he speaks not against sin, because it is yours, but because it is sin. It is an observable passage that is reported by many, and printed by one, how the late King Charles, (who, by the bishops’ instigation had kept Mr. Prin so long in prison, and twice cropped his ears for writing against their masks and plays, and the high and hard proceedings of the prelates,) when he read his notable voluminous speech for an acceptance of the king’s concessions, and an agreement with him thereupon, did, not long before his death, deliver the book to a friend that stood by him, saying, “Take this book; I give it thee as a legacy: and, believe it, this gentleman is the Cato of the age.” The time will come, when plain dealing will have a better construction than it hath while prejudice doth turn the heart against it.

I shall insist no longer on the apologetical part: the title of the book itself is apologetical. I do not pretend to the sapience of Gildas, nor the sanctity of Salvian, as to the degree; but by their names I offer you an excuse for plain dealing. If it was used in a much greater measure by men so wise and holy as they were, why should it not, in a lower measure, be allowed in me? At least, I have this encouragement, that the plain dealing of Gildas and Salvian being so much approved by us, now they are dead, how much soever they might be despised or hated while living by those they reproved, I may expect some such success in future times.*

(*Whatever apology this book might require when it was first published, it requires none now. I have therefore left out these two names in the title page, as being no longer necessary.)

0.4. Charges concerning necessary duties

I must now, brethren, become your monitor concerning some of the necessary duties of which I have spoken in the ensuing discourse. If any of you should charge me with arrogance or immodesty for this attempt, as if hereby I accused you of negligence, or judged myself sufficient to admonish you; I can assure you that herein I displease myself as much as I do you; and had rather have the ease and peace of silence, if it were consistent with duty and the churches’ good. But it is the mere necessity of the souls of men, my desire of their salvation, and the prosperity of the church, which force me to this arrogance and immodesty, if it must be so called. For who that hath a tongue can be silent, when it is for the honour of God, the welfare of his church, and the everlasting happiness of thousands and tens of thousands?

0.4.1. Set yourselves to the work of catechising, and personally instructing

And the first and main matter which I have to propound to you is, Whether it be not the unquestionable duty of the generality of ministers in these three nations to set themselves presently to the work of catechising, and personally instructing, all that are taught by them, who will submit to it? Can you think that holy wisdom will gainsay it! Will zeal for God, delight in his service, or love to the souls of men, gainsay it? That people must be taught the principles of religion, and matters of greatest necessity to salvation, is past doubt—that they must be taught them in the most edifying and advantageous way— that personal conference, examination, and instruction have many excellent advantages, is beyond dispute—that personal instruction is recommended to us by Scripture, and the practice of the servants of Christ, and approved by the godly of all ages, is, so far as I can find, without contradiction—it is past doubt that we should perform this great duty to all the people, or as many as we can; for our love and care of their souls must extend to all. If there be a thousand or five hundred ignorant people in your parish, it is a poor discharge of your duty occasionally to speak to some few of them, and let the rest alone in their ignorance, if you are able to afford them help. It is certain that so great a work as this is should take up a considerable part of our time—and it is as certain that all duties should be done in order, as far as may be, and therefore should have their appointed times; and, if we are agreed to practise according to these acknowledged truths, we need not differ upon any doubtful circumstances.

I do now, in the behalf of Christ, for the sake of his church, and immortal souls, beseech all the faithful ministers of Christ to fall immediately and effectually upon this work. Combine for a unanimous performance of it, that it may more easily procure the submission of your people. I am far from presuming to prescribe rules for you, or desiring you to tread in our steps, in any circumstances where a difference is tolerable, or to use the same catechism or exhortation that we do; only fall presently and closely to the work. If there should be any who dare withdraw from so great a duty, because they would not seem to be our followers, whereas they would have approved it if it had risen from themselves, I advise such, as they love their everlasting peace, to flee to Christ for a cure of such cankered minds: and let them know that this duty hath its rise neither from them nor us, but from the Lord; and is generally approved by his church: and for my part, let them tread me in the dirt, and let me be as vile in their eyes as they please, so they will but hearken to God and reason, and fall upon the work, that our hopes of the salvation of men, and a true reformation of the church, may be revived. I must confess I find, by some experience, that this is the work that must reform indeed; that must expel our common prevailing ignorance; that must bow the stubborn hearts of men; that must answer their vain objections, and remove their prejudice; that must reconcile their hearts to faithful ministers, and promote the success of our public preaching; and must make true godliness a more common thing, through the grace of God, than it now is. I find that we never took the most effectual method to demolish the kingdom of darkness till now. I wonder at myself how I was kept from so clear and excellent a duty so long. I doubt not but the case of others is like mine. I was long convinced of it, but my apprehensions of the difficulties were too great, and my apprehensions of the duty too small; so that I was hindered long from the performance. I thought that the people would scorn it; and none but a few, that had least need, submit to it. The thing seemed strange; and I stayed till the people were better prepared; and I thought my strength would never go through with it, having such great burdens on me before: and thus I was long detained, which I beseech the Lord of mercy to forgive. Whereas, upon trial, I find the difficulties almost nothing to what I imagined; and I find the benefits and comforts of the work to be such that I profess I would not wish that I had forborne it for all the riches in the world. We spend Monday and Tuesday, from morning to almost night, in the work, (besides a chapelry catechised by another assistant,) taking about fifteen or sixteen families in a week, that we may go through the parish, which hath above eight hundred families, in a year: and I cannot say yet that one family have refused to come to me; and but few have excused themselves, and shifted it off: and I find more outward signs of success with most that come than of all my public preaching to them. If you ask me what course I take for order and expedition, I answer, at the delivery of the catechisms, I take a catalogue of all the persons of understanding in the parish; and the clerk goes a week before to every family, to tell them when to come, and at what hour; one family at eight o’clock, the next at nine, and the next at ten, &c.: and I am forced, by the number, to deal with a whole family at once; but do not usually admit any of another family to be present. Brethren, do I now invite you to this work without God, without the consent of all antiquity, without the consent of the reformed divines, or without the conviction of your own consciences? See what our late assembly say in the Directory for the visitation of the sick:—“It is the duty of the minister not only to teach the people committed to his charge, in public; but privately and particularly to admonish, exhort, reprove, and comfort them, upon all seasonable occasions, so far as his time, strength, and personal safety will permit. He is to admonish them in time of health, to prepare for death and for that purpose they are often to confer with their minister about the state of their souls,” &c. Read this over again, and consider it. Hearken to God, if you would have peace with God: hearken to conscience, if you would have peace of conscience. I am resolved to deal plainly with you, though I displease you. It is an unlikely thing, that there should be a heart that is sincerely devoted to God in the breast of that man who, after advertisements and exhortations, will not reso1ve on so clear and great a duty as this is. As it is with our people in hearing the word, so it is with us in teaching. An upright heart is an effectual persuader of them to attend on God in the use of his ordinances; and an upright heart will as effectually persuade a minister to his duty.

You have put your hand to the plough of God; you are doubly sanctified or devoted to him, as Christians, and as pastors: and dare you after this draw back and refuse his work? You see the work of reformation at a stand, and you are engaged by many obligations to promote it; and dare you now neglect those means by which it must be done? Will you show your faces in a Christian congregation, as ministers of the gospel, and there pray for a reformation, for the conversion, and salvation of your hearers, and the prosperity of the church; and, when you have done, refuse to use the means by which it must be accomplished? I know carnal wit will never want words to gainsay that truth and duty which it abhors: it is easier to cavil against duty than perform it. But stay the end, when you shall pass your final judgment.

And let me speak one word to you that are my dear fellow-labourers in this county, who have engaged to be faithful in this work. It is your honour to lead in sacred resolutions and agreements; but if any of you should be unfaithful in the performance, it will be your double dishonour. Review your subscribed agreement, and see that you perform it with diligence and constancy. You have begun a happy work; such as will do more for the welfare of the church than many that the world doth make a greater stir about. God forbid that now any imprudence or negligence of ours should frustrate all. For the generality of you, I do not much fear it, having had so much experience of your fidelity in the other parts of your office. I earnestly beseech you all, in the name of God, and for the sake of your people’s souls, that you will not be halfhearted in this work; but do it vigorously, and with all your might, and make it your great and serious business. Much judgment is required for the managing of it. Study therefore beforehand how to do it, as you study your sermons: for I perceive that all the life of the work, under God, doth lie in the prudent effectual management of searching men’s hearts, and setting home the saving truths. The ablest minister is weak enough for this, and few of inferior parts will be found competent: for I fear nothing more than that many ministers who preach well, will be found unfit for this work; especially in dealing with old, ignorant, and dead-hearted sinners. Seeing then that the work is cast upon us, and we must do it, or else it must be undone, let us be up and doing with all our might, and the Lord will be with us.

I beseech you, brethren, let all this, and the many motives that I have given you, stir you up to the utmost diligence herein. When you are speaking to your people, do it with the greatest prudence and seriousness; and be as earnest with them as for life or death: and follow it as close as you do your public exhortations in the pulpit. I profess again, it is to me the most comfortable work (except public preaching) that ever I have set my hand to: and I doubt not but you will find it so, if you faithfully perform it.

0.4.2. Set yourselves to the practice of Christian discipline

My second request to the reverend ministers in these nations is, That they would, without any more delay, unanimously set themselves to the practice of those parts of Christian discipline which are unquestionably necessary, and a part of their work. It is lamentable that good men who enjoy such liberty should settle themselves so long in the constant neglect of so great at duty. The common cry is, “Our people are not ready for it; they will not bear it.” But is not the meaning, that you will not bear the trouble which it will occasion? If indeed you proclaim our churches incapable of the order and government of Christ, you give up the cause to those that withdraw from them, and encourage men to look out for better societies, where that discipline may be had. I only beseech you who desire to give a comfortable account to the chief Shepherd, and not be found unfaithful in the house of God, that you do not wilfully or negligently delay it, as if it were a needless thing; nor shrink from duty because of the trouble which attends it: for the most costly duties are usually the most comfortable; and be assured that Christ will bear the cost. I could here produce a heap of testimonies, of fathers and reformed divines, who inculcate this duty with great importunity. I shall only now give the words of two of the most godly, laborious, judicious divines, that the church of Christ had since the days of the apostles. Calvin on discipline

“But (saith Calvin) since some have a hatred and aversion to discipline, from the very name of the thing, let such consider, that if no society, nay, even a small family, can be preserved in a proper condition without discipline, it is much more necessary in the church, which ought to be kept in the most orderly state. For, as the wholesome doctrine of Christ is the life of the church, so discipline in it is the sinews, by which all the members of they body adhere together, each in its proper place. Therefore, whoever wishes to take away discipline, or would hinder its restoration, (whether this arise from their ignorance or their endeavors,) they certainly are promoting the utter destruction of the church. For, what will be the consequence if every person may act as he please? But this would be the case, unless to the preaching of doctrine were added likewise private admonition, correction, and such like helps to support doctrine, and not suffer it to be useless. Therefore discipline is as a curb to restrain and subdue those who violently oppose the doctrine of Christ, or as a stimulus to stir up such as may be tardy. It is likewise used sometimes as a fatherly rod, by which more atrocious offenders may be chastised in the meek and gentle spirit of Christ. When, therefore, we perceive a dreadful desolation coming upon the church, and begun, already, inasmuch as there is no care, nor mode of keeping the people within bounds; the very necessity of the case calls for a remedy. Now this is the only remedy which Christ himself prescribed, and which hath been always used among religious people.

“The very foundation of discipline is this: that private admonitions take place; that is, if any one doth not perform his duty willingly, or behaves with insolence, or doth not live orderly, or commits any thing which deserves reproof; that he suffer himself to be admonished; and that every one should admonish his brother when the case requires it; But especially the pastors and elders should be exceedingly vigilant; whose business it is not only to preach to the people, but to admonish and exhort from house to house; because they would be of little use by merely a general way of preaching: as Paul informs us, when he relates that he taught publicly and from house to house; and asserts that he was pure from the blood of all, because he had not ceased to warn every one night and day with tears.”*

(*See Calvin Inst. I. 4, cap. 12, sec. 1, 2.)

He also adds, in sec. 4, respecting the necessity of it: “They who are confident that churches can stand long without this band of discipline, are mistaken in their opinion; unless, forsooth, we can safely do without that which our Lord foresaw would be necessary for us.”

And in sec. 5: “And here the same rule is to be observed in the Lord’s supper, lest it should be profaned by giving it promiscuously. For it is most certain, that if he to whom the distributing of it is committed shall knowingly and willingly admit an unworthy person, whom he ought justly to repel, he is then guilty of sacrilege, as if he should expose the Lord’s body to dogs.”†

(†See Calvin Inst. I. 4, cap. 12, sec. 5.) Zanchius on discipline

“Discipline (saith Zanchius) is an act by which a church forms its faithful members, and retains them when formed, not only publicly but privately, both in the true worship of God, and in good morals; and that both by doctrine, and correction, and ecclesiastical punishments and censures, and also by excommunication, if need be. A church hath power, if public instruction be not sufficient in the public place of worship, to enter the houses of the faithful, and there teach them privately, and train them up in the true doctrine and religion of Christ. And the faithful ought to suffer their pastor to enter their houses, and train them up privately. Of this we have an example in Acts xx. 20, 31. The rest of the apostles did the same. The church hath likewise power to use private admonition, correction, and reproof.”‡

(‡Zanch. de Eccl. v. 3, pp. 123, 124.)

With respect to the sacrament, he saith, “Some object, and say, ‘We will remain in the church, and hear the word, &c.: but how can we have communion with you in the Lord’s supper, when many are admitted who are unclean, drunken, covetous?’ &c. To this we answer, with respect to these sinners they may be considered in two ways: those who were formerly drunken, &c., but afterwards repented; and those who still follow drunkenness and other vices, and come as such without repentance or faith. The former, we say, according to the word of God, ought not to be excluded from the Lord’s table; since they are endued with true repentance and faith: the latter, we say plainly, ought not to be admitted. But that they are admitted, this may often happen two ways; either through the ignorance of the ministers, who did not know them to be such as they are; (and, indeed, we cannot commend this ignorance, because the ministers ought to know what sort of persons they are to whom they administer the Lord’s supper; and if they be ignorant, they are reprehensible for a supine and reprovable negligence:) or, when it is known to all what sort of persons they are, they do not strive to repel them, through fear, or some other respect to man. This we condemn in the minister, as the fault of timidity; for a minister of Christ ought to be most sincere and valiant. But here we are not to consider merely what one or two improper ministers may do; but what is the institution of the church, and what the common custom in all churches. In all our churches, indeed, before the sacrament is administered, all such persons are excluded; And truly it is a great scandal, that both swine and dogs should have a place among the children of God; but much more so if the most holy symbols of the Lord’s supper should be prostituted to such. Therefore the churches of Christ ought not to carry such wicked persons in their bosom; nor admit the worthy and unworthy promiscuously to the Lord’s supper.”*

(*Zanch. de Eccl. v. 3, p. 79.)

Again, with respect to discipline, he saith, “Let princes and magistrates then, who are unwilling that this discipline should be restored to the church, consider what they do. This was instituted by Christ, that it might be preserved as a peculiar treasure in the church; therefore let them who would banish it, know that they wish to banish Christ likewise. This is a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ; therefore let them who are unwilling to have it restored, know that they are unwilling the gospel of Christ should be restored, as it ought to be. How then can we boast that the gospel is restored in our churches, if we be unwilling that this, which is not the least part of the gospel, should be restored? By this vice is corrected, and virtue promoted: therefore, how shall they who are unwilling that discipline should be restored, dare to say that they hate vice, and love virtue; that they love to promote piety, and hate impiety? By this the church is preserved and governed, and the members of each particular church are united each in its proper place: therefore how can they who wish to have this divine sway, say that they wish the church of Christ to be well governed; since it cannot be well governed without this? If no family, no town, no city, no republic, no kingdom; nay, not even a little grammar school, can be governed without discipline, how can the church be governed without it?

“But some will say, ‘We are afraid of sedition and tumult.’ We answer, Therefore neither should the gospel be preached. What! Do not our princes and magistrates perceive how much evil may arise in the church, both within and abroad, by the neglect or contempt of this discipline! Abroad, there is nothing which so much keeps back papists and others, or at least prevents them from embracing the gospel, as the neglect of discipline in our churches. Within, there is nothing which so much nourishes vice, heresy, &c. Do not princes perceive that their own churches are full of heretical and ungodly men? To these churches flow all sorts of fanatics and ungodly persons, as to an asylum. Why so? Because there is no discipline there.

“Therefore, let princes, and all those who are unwilling that ecclesiastical discipline should be restored in the churches, and are opposed to it, and proscribe it, know that they are opposed to Christ. They who hinder ministers to exercise it, hinder Christ and God to exercise their prerogative. For what do ministers, when they excommunicate? They pronounce the sentence of God. For Christ saith, ‘Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth,’ &c. What is it then which they do, who hinder the church to pronounce the sentence of God? They sin against Christ, and are guilty of injuring the divine Majesty. If any one should hinder a judge to pronounce the sentence of the emperor, would he not be guilty of injuring the majesty of the emperor? Therefore let them take heed what they are doing. Hitherto Christ has ruled his church by this discipline; and even princes, nay, some ministers likewise, are unwilling it should be so governed. Let them look to it! I pronounce, I proclaim, I declare, that those persons commit sin, who do not restore it, when they might and ought to restore it!”*

(* Zanch. de Eccl., v. 3, pp. 134, 135.)

I hope both magistrates and ministers, that are guilty, will give me leave to say the like with Zanchy, if not to call them traitors against the majesty of God, that hinder discipline, and adversaries to Christ; yet at least to pronounce, proclaim, protest, that they sin against God, who set it not up when they may and ought. But what if the magistrate will not help us? Nay, what if he were against it? So he was for about three hundred years, when discipline was exercised in the primitive church.

To this Zanchy adds, “O ye ministers of the church, ye ought to exercise this discipline, as far as it refers to the agreement and peace of the church! For God hath given you this power, and no one can take it away; nor should ye be content in teaching what is to be done, and what is to be avoided; and take no care, but suffer every one to live as he please; but you must insist upon discipline.”†


Read the rest of the solid advice which Calvin and Zanchy, in the forecited places, give both to ministers and people, where discipline is wanting.

0.4.3. Maintain unity and association with all the faithful ministers of Christ

My third and last request is, that all the faithful ministers of Christ would, without any farther delay, unite and associate for the fartherance of each other in the work of the Lord, and the maintaining of unity and concord in his church; and that, for these ends, they would not neglect their brotherly meetings, nor spend them unprofitably, but improve them to their edification, and the effectual carrying on of the work. Read that excellent letter of Edmund Grindal, archbishop of Canterbury, to Queen Elizabeth, for ministerial meetings and exercises. [Such bishops would have prevented our contentions and wars!] You may see it in Fuller’s New History of the Church of England. Let none draw back who agree in the essentials of faith and godliness.

Brethren, I crave your pardon for the imperfections of this address; and, earnestly longing for the success of your labours, I shall daily beg of God, that he may excite you to those duties which I have here requested you to perform, and preserve and prosper you therein, against all the serpentine subtlety and rage that is engaged to oppose and hinder you.

Your unworthy fellow-servant,
April 15, 1656.

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