« AnteriorContinuar »
and to comply with them in their errors and extremes *: but hold to the truth and keep your station: “let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them.”! It is too usual for the younger and more injudicious sort of Christians to be most zealous about some little opinions, ceremonies and words, and to censure all those that differ from them, with such bitter censures, (as ungodly, false-hearted, &c.) that hereupon some of the more judicious forsake the truth and simplicity of the Gospel, to comply with these censurers merely to escape them, (or as some say, that they may keep an interest in them to do them good :) but such carnal compliances, though with the most zealous men, will bring nothing home at last but repentance and shame : truth which is the means of the good of souls, must not be betrayed as for the good of souls.
Direct. XXVI. · Doubt not of well-proved truths, for every difficulty that appeareth against them.' There is scarce any truth in the world so plain, but in your own thoughts, or in the cavils of a wrangling wit, there may such difficulties be raised as you can hardly answer : and there is scarce any thing so evident, that some will not dispute against. You see that even the most learned Jesuits, and all the clergy of the Roman kingdom, will not stick to dispute all the world (if they could)out of the belief of all their senses, while they maintain that bread is not bread, and wine is not wine. And yet how many princes, lords and rulers follow them, and how many millions of the people; because they be not able to confute them. If they had said that a man is no man but a worm?, they might in reason have expected as much belief... • Direct, XXVII. ‘Abuse not your own knowledge by subjecting it to your carnal interest or sensuality,' He that will sin against his conscience, and will not obey the knowledge which he hath, doth deserve to be given over to blindness and deceit, and to lose even that which he hath, and to be forsaken till he believe and defend a lie: “ that all they might be damned who obeyed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness a." God will not hold him guiltless who debaseth his sacred truth so far, as to make it stoop to
x Thus Peter and Barnabás erred, Gal. ii. y Jer. xv. 19. 2 Psal. xxii. 6. ' a 2 Thess. ii. 10-12,
his commodity and lust; where he is a teacher he will be a king, and sendeth his truth as the instrument of his government, and not as a slave or pander to the flesh: he that will “ do God's will shall know it b.” But the carnal mind that cannot be subject to God's law, is unfit to receive it, because it is spiritually discerned.
CHAPTER VIII. Directions for the Union and Communion of Saints, and the
avoiding Unpeaceableness and Schism.
The peace and concord of believers is a thing that almost all those plead for, who call themselves believers'; and yet a thing that almost all men hinder and resist while they commend ita. The discord and divisions of believers, are as commonly spoken against, and by the same men, as commonly fomented. The few that are sincere (both rulers and private men) desire concord and hate divisions in love to holiness which is promoted by it, and in love to the church, and good of souls, and the honour of religion, and the glory of God; and the few of those few that are experienced, wise, judicious persons, do choose the means that are fittest to attain these ends, and do prudently and constantly prosecute them accordingly; but these being in the world as a spoonful of fresh water cast into the sea, or a spoonful of water cast into the flames of a house on fire, no wonder if the briny sea be not sweetened by them, nor the consuming, raging fire quenched by them. The other rulers of the world and of the churches, åre for concord and against division, because this tendeth to the quieting of the people under them, and the making of men submissive and obedient to their wills, and so to confirm their dignities, duminions and interests b. And all men that are not holy, being predominantly selfish, they would all be themselves the centre of that union, and bond of that concord which they desire: and they b John vii. 17.
c Rom. viii. 7. 1 Cor. ii. 14. a Of this subject I have written alreadý, 1. My “Universal Concord.” 2. My « Catholic Unity.” 3. Of the “ True Catholic Church.” 4. My “Christian Concord.”
b Read over Sir Francis Bacon's third Essay; and Hales of Schism.
would have it accomplished upon such terms and by such means as are most agreeable to their principles and ends ; in which there are almost as many minds as men: so that among all the commenders of unity and concord, there are none that take the way to attain it, but those that would centre it all in God, and seek it upon his terms, and in his way. The rest are all tearing unity and peace in pieces, while they commend it, and they fight against it while they seek it; every man seeking it for himself, and upon his own terms, and in his own way; which are so various and inconsistent, that east and west may sooner meet than they.
Yet must the sons of God be still the sons of peace, and continue their prayers and endeavours for unity, how small soever be the hopes of their success : “ If it be possible, as much as in us lieth, we must live peaceably with all men.” So far must they be from being guilty of any schisms or unlawful divisions of the church, that they must make it a great part of their care and work to preserve the unity and peace of Christians. In this therefore i shall next direct them.
Direct. 1. · Understand first wherein the unity of Christians and churches doth consist :' or else you will neither know how to preserve it, nor when you violate it.c. Christians are said to be united to Christ, when they are entered into covenant with him, and are become his disciples, his subjects, and the members of his (political) body. They are united to one another when they are united to Christ their common head, and when they have that spirit, that faith, that love which is communicated to every living member of the body. This union is not the making of many to be one Christian ; but of many Christians to be one church : which is considerable either as to its internal life, or its external order and profession. In the former respect the bonds of our union are, 1. The heart-covenant (or faith). 2. And the Spirit; the consent of Christ and, of ourselves concurring, doth make the match or marriage between us; and the Spirit communicated from him to us is as the nerves or ligaments of the body, or rather as the spirits which pass through all. The union of the church considered visibly in its outward policy, is either that of the whole church, or
e In veste Christi varietas sit; scissura non șit. They be two things, unity and uniformity. Lord Bacon, Essay iii.
of the particular churches within themselves, or of divers particular churches accidentally united. 1. The union of the whole is essential, integral, or accidental. The essential union is that relation of a head and members, which is between Christ and all the visible members of his church : the foundation of it is the mutual covenant between Christ and them, considered on their part as made externally, whether sincerely or not: this is usually done in baptism, and is the chiefest act of their profession of the faith. Thus the baptismal covenant doth constitute us members of the visible church. The integral and accidental union I pass by now. 2. Besides this union of the universal church with Christ the universal head, there is in all particular organized churches, a subordinate union, (1.) Between the pastor and the flock. (2.) Between the people one towards another; which consisteth in these their special relations to each other. 3. And there is an accidental union of many particular churches : as when they are united under one civil government; or consociated by their pastors in one synod or council. These are the several sorts of church union.
Direct. II. · Understand also wherein the communion of Christians and churches doth consist : that you may know what it is that you must hold to.' In the universal church your internal communion with Christ consisteth in his communication of his Spirit and grace, his Word and mercies unto you; and in your returns of love, and thanks and obedience unto him; and in your seeking to him, depending on him, and receivings from him : your internal communion with the church or saints, consisteth in mutual love, and other consequent affections, and in praying for, and doing good to one another as yourselves, according to your abilities and opportunities. Your external communion with Christ and with most of the church in heaven and earth, is not mutually visible and local; for it is but a small number comparatively that we ever see; but it consisteth in Christ's visible communication of his Word, his officers, and his ordinances and mercies unto you, and in your visible learning and reception of them, and obedience to him, and expressions of your love and gratitude towards him. Your external communion with the universal church, consisteth in the prayers of the church for you, and your prayers for the church; in your holding the same faith, and professing to love and worship the same God, and Saviour, and Sanctifier, in the same holy ordinances, in order to the same eternal end. .
Your external communion in the same particular congregations, consisteth in your assembling together to hear the preaching of God's Word, and to receive the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, and pray and praise God, and to help each other in knowledge and holiness, and walk together in the fear of the Lord. ? Your communion with other neighbour churches, lieth in praying for and counselling each other, and keeping such correspondencies as shall be found necessary to maintain that love, and peace, and holiness which all are bound to seek, according to your abilities and opportunities.
Note here, that communion is one thing, and subjection is another. It is not your subjection to other churches that is required to your communion with them. The churches that Paul wrote to at Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, &c., had communion together according to their capacities in that distance; but they were not subject one to another, any otherwise than as all are commanded to be subject to each other in humility. The church of Rome now accuseth all the Christians in the world of separating from their communion, unless they will take them for their rulers, and obey them as the mistress church: but Paul speaketh not one syllable to any of the churches of any such thing, as their obedience to the church of Rome. To your own pastors you owe subjection statedly as well as communion; and to other pastors of the churches of Christ (fixed or unfixed), you owe a temporary subjection so far as you are called to make use of them (as sick persons do to another physician, when the physician of the hospital is out of the way): but one church is not the ruler of another, or any one of all the rest, by any appointment of the king of the church..
Direct. 111. . By the help of what is already said, you are next distinctly to understand how far you are bound to union or communion with any other, church or person, and what distance, separation, or division is a sin, and what is
a 1 Pet. v. 5.