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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 conversation 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 stile, 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 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, unto 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 falshood. The declinations from religion, besides the primitive, which is atheism, and the branches thereof, are three; heresies, idolatry, and witchcraft: he
resies, 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 idololatria nolle acquiescere.
These things I have passed over so briefly, becausé I can report no deficience 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
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, and not in aliud: 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 mens judgments by confutations. For in any thing which is well set down, I am in good hope, that if the first reading move an objection, the second reading will make an answer. 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 falshood, as on the other side it is a repulse to truth. But the errors I claim and challenge to myself as my own. The good, if any be, is due tanquam adeps sacrificii, to be incensed to the honour first of the Divine Majesty, and next of your majesty, to whom on earth I am most bounden.