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from these Words of his. The primitive Church, that being nearest the Fountain, did best understand the Nature of Church-power, and the Effects of her Cenfures, thought of nothing in this Matter, but denying to fuffer Apoftates, or rather fcandalous Perfons, to mix with the rest in the Sacrament, or in the other Parts of Worship. They admitted them upon their Profeffion of, by Impofition of Hands, to share in fome of the more general Parts of their Worship, where they stood by themselves, and at a Distance from the rest.
The two fore-cited Directions do fo well elucidate the fubject Matter, in directing our Behaviour towards the Excommunicate, that we need not pursue it any farther, to discover the Scripture Measures of it. But then they prompt us to obferve, that human Rigours, grafted upon those divine ftocks, have been very fevere: So fevere as to be capable of mitigations, or confiderable abatements, at least in the prohibition of civil Society and feparation from Religious Affemblies: It being in likelyhood much more for the advantage of the Cenfured to be admitted to both (tho' with Badges of their own unworthiness, and of the Church's Difpleafure) than to ftand excluded from either.
For then being fuffer'd to converse with Men, and alfo to enter the House of God, H 3 moral
moral and Divine Instructions might fo win upon them, as to work them to a better mind: Whereas, if they be driven into folitarinefs, and fo from all that is good, when they have done fo ill, and have great reafon to do better, and ought to do their beft; for want of due help they fhall be able to do nothing of that nature.
A Great (a) Father calls ExcommunicatiDivina Difciplinæ fevera mifericordia, the fevere Mercy of Divine Difcipline. And where this Difcipline is exercis'd to the height, there's ftill fo much Mercy mixt with its feverity, that the Scope, or End of it, is but Deftruction to the flesh, and the Spirit's Salvation. But then fo far as Prayer, Reproofs, and Admonition in order thereunto, can ferve the Excommunicate, they should be used; and fo may wary Converfation too; which therefore is pointed out in five inftances, by this known Verficle:
Utile, Lex, Humile, Res ignorata, Neceffe.
But befides Excommunication, it has been thought of late, that there was another Punishment in the Chriftian Church at first Delivering unto Satan. Which (fay the (b) favourers of the Opinion) did proceed from
(a) D. Aug. lib. 3. contr. Ep. Parmeniani. cap. 2. (b) Dr. Lightfoot, &c.
a miraculous power, and none but the Apoftles could inflict: and therefore, fay they, when they laid it upon any, it was done in the Name of the Lord Jefus Chrift, and with his power, 1. Cor. v. 4. as Miracles ufe to be wrought.
But if we'll go upon S. Jerom's authority, which in this must be preferable to the modern; delivering to Satan, was neither miraculous, nor peculiarly Apoftolical: For in his firft Epiftle to Heliodore he lets fall this Expreffion, (a) It is not lawful for me to fit before a Presbyter; but if I fhall Sin, it is lawful for him to DELIVER ME TO SATAN. Which makes it plain, that Delivering to Satan was no miraculous work, nor proper to the Apostles folely; for it was in force in that Father's time, and might be done by an Ordinary Presbyter, and fo was a concomitant of Excommunication, or included in that Act.
And yet at first possibly somewhat Extraordinary of this nature, might accompany that piece of Difcipline, more than now does, as it expofed the fentenced Criminals to direful Confequences. And for very good reafon; for if People then by Excommunication
(a) Mihi ante Presbyterum federe non licet; illi, fi peccavero, licet tradere me Satanæ.
were fo far given up to Evil Spirits, as to have Torments or Difeafes brought upon them by thofe Invifible Powers; it was but a fit Difpenfation, and a most feasonable one. For it fell in opportunely with a wife and Just Providence, that the Church, then deftitute of fecular strength to defend Herfelf and reftrain the impious, fhould thus be inabled to vindicate and fuftain her Government, and to curb and break the ftubborn and Licen
And tho' now fhe is favour'd with Chriftian Magiftrates, and shelter'd under the wings of their Protection; yet Excommunication being still in Her hands, they, whom fhe has justly struck with it, fhould be very uneafy, and not dare to reft either careleЛly or obftinately in that rueful circumftance. If they do, they may expect to meet with unhappy Measures; for being defervedly caft out of the Church, they must fo be depriv'd of God's fatherly care in fome measure, and of His Special Providence: And then in course they may be unhealthful, unprofperous, liable to great (perhaps uncommon) Temptations, Doubts, Fears, Dangers, and any ill Accidents.
To fuch therefore it is highly advisable, that they repent of their Sins, perform their Penance, and be forthwith reconciled to the Church
Church they offended. So they fhall obviate and best prevent thofe Infelicities, which otherwife may very justly befal them, as rude contemners of the power of Excommunication, that God has given Her. Which, however it has been abufed by the Romanifts, who made it a meer brutum fulmen, foolish lightning, by fending it out in unwarrantable forms and caufelefs flashes upon frivolous occafions and unjust accounts; yet where 'tis rightly exercised, it must needs be terrible, as being a Spiritual Punishment, and the chief the Church had for several Ages to maintain Her Government.
But then, as we would not leffen, or bring it into contemt, it ought to be executed upon none but notorious Offenders (as has been hinted) and for flagitious Crimes. And therefore to Excommunicate, pro nummulis et pecuniolis, as (a) Peter Martyr fays, for trifling fums and forry payments of Money, is to render the heavy cenfure light and defpicable. And well it may; for fuch Excommunications (to use (b) S. Austin's words) do more difturb the good that are weak, than they amend the Evil that are Stomachful.
(a) Comment, in 1 Epiftol. ad Corinthios. (6) Plus perturbant infirmos bonos, quam corrigunt animofos malos. Lib. 3. Epift, Parmeniani. Cap. 2.