« AnteriorContinuar »
partake with any church in their holy profession and worship, so far as you can do it without partaking with them in their sins.
Direct. xi, Understand what it is that maketh yoy partakers of the sins of a church, or any member of it, lest you think you are bound to separate from them in good as well as in evil.' Many fly from the public assemblies, lest they partake of the sins of those that are there present. Certainly nothing but consent (direct or indirect) can make their faults to become yours; and therefore nothing which signifieth not some such consent, should be on that account avoided. 1. If you by word, or subscription, or furtherance, own any man's sin, you directly consent to it. 2. If you neglect any duty which lieth upon you for the cure of his sin, you indirectly consent; for you consent that he shall rather continue in his sin, than you will do your part to help him out of it. Consider therefore how far you are bound to reprove any siņ, or to use any other means for the reformation of it, whether it be in the pastor or the people; and if you neglect any such means, your way is to reform your own neglect, and do your duty, and not to separate from the church, before you have done your duty to reform it. But if you have done all that is your part, then the sin is none of yours, though you remain there present.
It is a turbulent fancy and disquieting error of some people, to think that their presence in the assembly, and continuance with the church doth make them guilty of the personal faults of those they join with : if so, who would ever join with any assembly in the world ? Quest. “But · what if they be gross and scandalous sinners that are members of the church ? Answ. If you be wanting in your duty to reform it, it is your sin; but if bare presence made their sins to be ours, it would also make all the sins of the assembly ours; but no word of God doth intimate any such thing. Paul never told the churches of Galatia and Corinth so, that had so many defiled members. Quest. But what if they are sins committed in the open assembly, even by the minister himself in his praying, preaching, and other administrations? and what if all this be imposed on him by a law, and so I am certain beforehand that I must join with that which is unwarrantable in God's worship?' Answ. The next
Direction containeth those distinctions that are necessary to the answer of this
Direct. XII. · Distinguish carefully, 1. Between a minister's personal faults, and his ministerial faults. 2. Between his tolerable weaknesses, and his intolerable insufficiencies. 3. And between the work of the minister and of the congregation. And then you will see your doubt resolved in these following propositions.
1. A minister's personal faults (as swearing, lying, drunkenness, &c.) may damn himself, and must be matter of lamentation to the church, and they must do their best to reform them, or to get a better pastor by any lawful means?. But in case they cannot, his sin is none of theirs, nor doth it make his administration null or ineffectual ; nor will it allow you to separate from the worship which he administereth. Though many of the priests were wicked men, the godly Jews were not thereby disobliged from God's public worship, or sacrifices which were to be offered by their hands. Otherwise how sad a case were the church in, that must answer for the sins which they never committed, nor could reform. But no Scripture chargeth this upon them.
2. It is not all ministerial faults that will allow you to separate from or disown a minister; but only those that prove him or his ministration utterly intolerable a. Such are, 1. An utter insufficiency in knowledge or utterance for the necessary parts of the ministerial work : as if he be not able to teach the necessary points of the Christian religion, nor to administer the sacraments and other parts of public worship. 2. If he set himself to oppose the very ends of his ministry, and preach down godliness, or any part of it that is of necessity to salvation : for then he doth the devil's work, in seeking the damnation of souls, and so maketh himself the devil's minister, and is not the minister of Christ : for the end is essential to the relation. Herein I include a preacher of heresy that doth preach up any damning error, and preach down any necessary saving truth : that is, that preacheth such error as subverteth either faith or godliness, and doth more harm in the church than good. 3. If he so deprave God's public worship as to destroy the substance of it, and make it unacceptable, and offer up a public false worship to God, which he disowneth in the very matter of it. As if he put up blasphemy for praise and prayer, or commit idolatry, or set up new sacraments, and guide the people thus in public worship. As the Papist priests do that adore bread with Divine worship, and pray to the dead, and offer real sacrifices for them, &c.: such worship is not to be joined in. 4. Or if they impose any actual sin upon the people : as in their responds to speak any falsehood, or to adore the bread, or the like : these faults discharge us from being present with such pastors at such worship. But besides these there are many ministerial faults which warrant not our separation.' As, 1. The internal vices of the pastor's mind though manifested in their ministration : as some tolerable errors of judgment, or envy and pettish opposition to others. “ Some indeed preach Christ of envy and strife, and some of good will: the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds; but the other of love, &cb.” Here is an odious vice in the public ministry, even an endeavour to increase the sufferings of the apostle : yet it was lawful to hear such preachers; though not to prefer them before better. Most sects among Christians are possessed with a tang of envy and uncharitableness against dissenters, which useth to break forth in their preaching and praying : and yet it is lawful to join with such. 2. It is not unlawful to join with a minister that hath many defects and infirmities in his ministration or manner of worship : as if he preach with some ignorance, disorder, unfit expressions or gestures, unmeet repetitions ;
7. Saith Cleanthes (in Diog. Laert.) The Peripatetics are like letters that sound well, but hear not themselves.
a Yet I excuse not impiety or insufficiency in ministers. It was one of Solon's laws, Qui nequitia ac slagitiis insignis est, tribunali, publicisque suggestis arcendus est. And Gildas saith to the ungodly pastors of Britain, Apparet ergo eum qui vos sacerdotes sciens ex corde dicit, non esse eximium Christianum.---- Quomodo vos aliquid solvetis, ut sit solutum et in cælis, a cælo ob scelera adempti, et inimanium peccatoren funibus compediti? Quaque ratione aliquid interra ligabitis, quod supra mundum etiam ligetur, propter vosmet ipsos, qui ita ligati iniquitatibus in hoc mundo tenemini, ut in cælis nequaquam ascendatis, sed in infausta tartari ergastula, non conversi in hac vita ad dominum, decidatis? Fol. ult. p. 99. Josseline's Edit. O inimici Dei, et non sacerdotes ! O licitatores malorum, et non pontifices! traditores, et non sanctorum apostolorum successores; impugnatores, et non Christi ministri. p. 571. Basil. In Josseline's Edit. p. 95. veterani' is inserted after 'licitatores,' and “impugnatores' is wanting. (T. C.)
or if he do the like in prayer, or in the sacraments, putting something last that should be first, and leaving out something that should be said, or praying coldly or formally. These and such like are faults which we should do our best to reform ; and we should not prefer such a ministry before a better; but it is lawful and a duty to join with such, when we have no better. For all men are imperfect, and therefore the manner of worship as performed by them will be imperfect. Imperfect men cannot be perfect in their ministrations : we must join with a defective and imperfect mode of worship, or join with none on earth : and we must perform such or none ourselves. Which of you dare say that in your private prayers, you have no disorder, vain repetitions, flatness, or defects? 3. It is not unlawful to join with a minister that hath some material error or untruth in his preaching or praying, so be it we be not called to åpprove it, or make it ours, and so it be not pernicious and destructive to the ends of his ministry. For all men have some error, and they that have them may be expected sometimes to vent them. And it is not our presence that is any signification of our consent to their mistakes. If we run away from all that vent any untruth or mistake in public or private worship, we shall scárce know what church or person we may hold communion with : the reason of this followeth.
3. The sense of the church, and all its members, is to be judged of by their public professions, and not by such words of a minister which are his own, and never had their consent. I am by profession a Christian, and the Scripture is the professed rule of my religion; and when I go to the assemblies, I profess to worship God according to that rule : I profess myself a hearer of a minister of the Gospel, that is to preach the Word of God, and that hath promised in his ordination,'out of the holy Scriptures to instruct the people committed to his charge, and to teach nothing (as required of necessity to eternal salvation) but that which he shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the Scripture.' This he professed when he was ordained, and I profess by my presence, only to hear such a preacher of the Gospel, and worship God with him in those ordinances of worship, which God hath appointed. If now this man shall drop in any mistake in preaching, or modify his prayers or administrations amiss, and do his part weakly and disorderly, the hearers are no way guilty of it by their presence. For if I must run away from God's public worship because of men's misperformance, i. I should join with none on earth : for a small sin may no more be wilfully done or owned than a greater. 2. And then another man's weakness may disoblige me and discharge me from my duty, To order and word his prayers and preaching aright, is part of the minister's own work, and not the people's; and if he do it well, it is no commendation to me that am present, but to himself; and therefore if he do it amiss, it is no fault of mine or dispraise to me, but to himself. If the Commoncouncil of London, or the court of Aldermen agree to petition the king for the renewing of their charter, and commit the expressing of their request to their recorder, in their presence ; if he petition for something else instead of that which he was entrusted with, and so betray them in the substance of his business, they are openly to contradict him and disown his treachery or mistake; but if he deliver the same petition which he undertook with stammering, disorder, defectiveness, and perhaps some mixture of untruths in his additional reasons and discourse, this is his failing in the personal performance of his duty, and no way imputable to them that sent him, though (in modesty) they are silent and speak not to disown it: for how can it be their fault that a man is wanting in his personal sufficiency and duty: (unless it be that they choose not a better.) And whether he speak 'ex tempore' or more deliberately, in a written form or without, in words that other men taught him, or wrote for him, or in words of his own devising, it altereth not their case.
Object. " But if a man fail through weakness in his own performance, I know not of that beforehand; but if his faulty manner of praying be prescribed and imposed on him by a law, then I know it beforehand, and therefore am guilty of it.' .
Answ. To avoid confusion, fix upon that which you think is the thing sinful. 1. Either it is because the prayers are defective and faulty. 2. Or because they are imposed. 3. Or because you know the fault beforehand. But none