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church, so also if they make officers suited to its ends, not encroaching upon the churches or officers of Christ's own institution, I am none of those that will contend against them ; nor will this allow us to deny communion with them. 3. And in those churches which Christ himself hath instituted, there are officers that make but for the integrity, and not for the political essence of the church : as deacons, and all pastors or presbyters more than one. For it is not essential to it to have any deacons, or many pastors. As to this sort of officers, Christ hath appointed them, and it is not in man's power to alter his institution, nor to set up any such like in co-ordination with these : but yet if they should do so, as long as the true essentials of the church remain, I am not to deny communion with that church, so I own not this corruption. 4. But there are also as circumstantial employments about God's worship, so officers to do those employments, which men may lawfully institute : as clerks, church-wardens, doorkeepers, ringers, &c. It is not the adding of these that is any sin. By this time you may see plainly both how far churches, officers, and church-government is ‘jure divino,' and how far man may or may not add or alter, and what I meant in my proposition, viz. That if men introduce a new universal head to the church Catholic, or a new head to particular churches, instead of that of Christ's institution, this is ' in sensu politico,' to make new species of churches, and destroy these that Christ hath instituted; (for the 'pars gubernans,' and 'pars gubernata' are the essential constituents of a church). And with such a church, as such, in specie, I must have no communion (which is our case with the Papal church); though with the material parts of that church, as members of Christ, I may hold communion still.
5. If particular members are guilty of obstinate impenitency in true heresy, or ungodliness, or any scandalous crime, the church may and must remove such from her communion ; for it is the communion of saints. And the offender is the cause of this separation.
6. If a whole church be guilty of some notorious, scandalous sin, and refuse with obstinacy to repent and reform, when admonished by neighbour churches, or if that church do thus defend such a sin in any of her members, so as openly to own it; other churches may refuse communion with her, till she repent and be reformed. Or if they see cause to hold communion with her in other respects, yet in this they must have none m.
7. If any church will admit none to her personal communion, but those that will take some false oath, or subscribe any untruth, or tell a lie, though that church do think it to be true, (as the Trent oath which their priests all swear,) it is not lawful to do any such unlawful thing to obtain communion with that church : and he that refuseth in this case to commit this sin, is no way guilty of the separation, but is commendable for being true to God". And though the case may be sad to be deprived of the liberty of public worship, and the benefits of public communion with that church, yet sin is worse, and obedience is better than sacrifice. God will not be served with sin, nor accept the sacrifice of a disobedient fool P. Nor must we lie to glorify him, nor do evil that good may come by it: just is the damnation of such servers of God 9. All public worship is rather to be omitted, than any one sin committed to enjoy it: (though neither should be done where it is possible to do better.) It is not so unwise to think to feed a man with poisons, as to think to serve God acceptably by sin.
8. If any one church would ambitiously usurp a governing power over others (as Rome doth over the world), it is no unwarrantable separation to refuse the government of that usurping church. We may hold communion with them as Christians, and yet refuse to be their subjects. And therefore it is a proud and ignorant complaint of the church of Rome, that the Protestants separate from them as to communion, because they will not take them for their governor.
9. If any by violence will banish or cast out the true bishops or pastors of the church, and set up usurpers in their stead (as in the Arian's persecution it was commonly done), it is no culpable separation, but laudable, and a duty, for the people to own their relation to their true pastors, and deny communion with the usurpers; as the people of the Eastern churches did commonly refuse communion with the intruding bishops, even to the death, telling the civil rulers, that they had bishops of their own, to whom they would adhere.
m But not denying her to be a church, unless she cast off some essential part ; but so disowning her as in 2 Thess. iii.
n Where any church, retaining the purity of doctrine, doth require the owning of and conforming to any unlawful or suspected practice, men may lawfully deny conformity to, and communion with that church in such things, without incurring the guilt of schisin. Mr. Stillingfeet. Iren. p. 117.
• 1 Sam. xv. 22. Prov. xv. 8. r Eccles, v. 1, 2. 9 Rom. i. 7,8.
10. If a true church will obstinately deny her members the use of any one ordinance of God, as preaching, or reading Scripture, or prayer, or praise, or discipline, while it retaineth all the rest, though we may not separate from this church as no church (which yet in the case of total rejection of prayer or praise, is very questionable at least), yet if we have opportunity, we must remove our local communion to a more edifying church, that useth all the public ordinances of God : unless the public good forbid, or some great impediment, or contrary duty bé our excuse.
11. If a true church will not cast out any impenitent, notorious, scandalous sinner, though I am not to separate from the church, yet I am bound to avoid private familiarity with such a person, that he may be ashamed, and that I partake not of his sin".
12. As the church hath diversity of members, some more holy, and some less, and some of whose sincerity we have small hope, some that are more honourable, and some less, some that walk blamelessly, and some that work iniquity; so ministers and private members, are bound to difference between them accordingly, and to honour and love some far above others, whom yet we may not excommunicate; and this is no sinful separations
13. If the church that I live and communicate with, do hold any tolerable error, 1 may differ therein from the church, without a culpable separation. Union with the church may be continued with all the diversities before mentioned, Direct. iii. . .
14. In case of persecution in one church or city, when the servants of Christ do fly to another (having no special reason to forbid it), this is no sinful separation !
15. If the public service of the church require a
r 2 John X. 11. 2 Tim. iii. 5. Rom. xri. 17. 1 Cor. v. 11. s Matt. xiii. 41. 30. Jer. xv, 19. i Cor. xii. 25, 24.
Matt. x. 23.
minister or private Christian to remove to another church, if it be done deliberately and upon good advice, it is no sinful separation.
16. If a lawful prince or magistrate command us to remove our habitation, or command a minister from one church to another, when it is not notoriously to the detriment of the common interest of religion, it is no sinful separation to obey the magistrate.
17. If a poor Christian that hath a due and tender care of his salvation, do find that under one minister his soul declineth and groweth dead, and under another that is more sound, and clear, and lively, he is much edified to a holy and heavenly frame and life, and if hereupon, preferring his salvation before all things, he remove to that church and minister where he is most edified, without unchurching the other by his censures, this is no sinful separation, but a preferring the one thing needful before all.
18. If one part of the church have leisure, opportunity, cause, and earnest desires to meet oftener for the edifying of their souls, and redeeming their time, than the poorer, labouring, or careless and less zealous part will meet, in any fit place, under the oversight and conduct of their pastors, and not in opposition to the more public, full assemblies, as they did, Acts xii. 12. to pray for Peter at the house of Mary, “where many were gathered together praying;” and Acts x. 1., &c. this is no sinful separation.
19. If a man's own outward affairs require him to remove his habitation from one city or country to another, and there be no great matter to prohibit it, he may lawfully remove his local communion from the church that he before lived with, to that which resideth in the place he goeth to. For with distant churches and Christians I can have none but mental communion, or by distant means, (as writing, messengers, &c.); it is only with present Christians that I can have local, personal communion..
20. It is possible in some cases that a man may live long without local, personal communion with any Christians or church at all, and yet not be guilty of sinful separation. As the king's ambassador or agent in a land of infidels, or some traveller, merchants, factors, or such as go to convert the infidels, or those that are banished or imprisoned. In all these twenty cases, some kind of separation may be lawful.
21. One more I may add, which is, when the temples are so small, and the congregations so great, that there is no room to hear and join in the public worship; or when the church is so excessively great, as to be incapable of the proper ends of the society; in this case to divide or withdraw, is no sinful separation. When one hive will not hold the bees, the swarm must seek themselves another, without the injury of the rest.
By all this you may perceive, that sinful separation is first in a. censorious, uncharitable mind, condemning churches, ministers, and worship causelessly, as unfit for them to have communion with. And secondly, it is in the personal separation which is made in pursuance of this censure: but not in any local removal that is made on other lawful grounds.
Direct. IV. · Understand and consider well the reasons why Christ so frequently and earnestly presseth concord on his church, and why he so vehemently forbiddeth divisions. Observe how much the Scripture speaketh to this purpose, and upon what weighty reasons.' Here are four things distinctly to be represented to your serious consideration. 1. How many, plain, and urgent are the texts that speak for unity, and condemn division. 2. The great benefits of concord. 3. And the mischiefs of discord and divisions in the church. 4. And the aggravations of the sin.
I. A true Christian that hateth fornication, drunkenness, lying, perjury, because they are forbidden in the Word of God, will hate divisions also when he well observeth how frequently and vehemently they are forbidden, and concord highly commended and commanded. “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one : I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved meu. Here you see, that the unity of the saints must be a special means to con
u John xvii. 21--23.