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loving and praising their Creator. And if heaven be desirable, holy concord on earth is next desirable.
III. On the contrary, consider well of the mischiefs of divisions. 1. It is the killing of the church (as much as lieth in the dividers) or the wounding it at least. Christ's body is one, and it is sensible; and therefore dividing it tendeth directly to the destroying it, and at least will cause its smart and pain. To reform the church by dividing it, is no wiser than to cut out the liver, or spleen, or gall, to cleanse them from the filth that doth obstruct them, and hinder them in their office: you may indeed thus cleanse them, but it will be a mortal cure. As he that should divide the kingdom into two kingdoms dissolveth the old kingdom, or part of it at least, to erect two new ones; so he that would divide the Catholic church into two, must thereby destroy it, if he could succeed; or destroy that part which divideth itself from the rest. Can a member live that is cut off from the body, or a branch that is separated from the tree?
Quest. “O but,' say the Romanists, 'why then do you cut off yourselves from us: the division is made by you, and we are the church, and you are dead till you return to us? How will you know which part is the church, when a division is once made?' Answ. Are you the church? Are you the only Christians in the world? The church is, all Christians united in Christ their head.' You traitorously set up a new usurping head; and proclaim yourselves to be the whole church, and condemn all that are not subjects to your new head; we keep our station, and disclaim his usurpation, and deny subjection to you, and tell you that as you are the subjects of the pope, you are none of the church of Christ at all: from this treasonable conspiracy we withdraw ourselves; but as you are the subjects of Christ we never divided from you, nor denied you our communion Let reason judge now who are the dividers. And is it not easy to know which is the church in the division? It is all those that are still united unto Christ; if you or we be divided from Christ, and from Christians that are his body, we are then none of the church : but if we are not divided from Christ, we are of the church still; if part of a tree, (though the far greater part) be cut off or separated from the rest, it is that part (how small soever) that still groweth with the root that is the living tree. The Indian fig-tree, and some other trees, have branches that take root when they touch the ground: if now you ask me whether the branches springing from the second root, are members of the first tree, I answer, 1. The rest that have no new root are more undoubtedly members of it. 2. If any branches are separated from the first tree, and grow upon the new root alone, the case is out of doubt. 3. But if yet they are by continuation joined to both, that root which they receive their nutriment most from, is it which they most belong to. Suppose a tyrant counterfeit a commission from the king to be vice-king in Ireland, and proclaim all them to be traitors that receive him not; the king disclaimeth him, the wisest subjects renounce him, and the rest obey him but so as to profess they do it, because they believe him to be commissioned by the king. Let the question be now, who are the dividers in Ireland ? and who are the king's truest subjects ? and what head it is that denominateth the kingdom ? and who are the traitors? This is your case.
i Concil. Tolet. iv. c. 16. 28. 9. 1. Ca. Judæi qui-allow separation from a Jewish husband, if after admonition he will not be a Christian : and so do Acosta and his Concil. Limens. lib. vi c. 21. and other Jesuits, and allow the marrying of another : and sure the conjugal bond is faster than that of a pastor and his flock : may not a man then change his pastor when his soul is in apparent hazard ?
2. Divisions are the deformities of the church. Cut off a nose, or pluck out an eye, or dismember either a man or a picture, and see whether you have not deformed it. Ask any compassionate Christian, ask any insulting enemy, whether our divisions be not our deformity and shame; the lamentation of friends and the scorn of enemies?
3. The divisions of the church are not our own dishonour alone, but the injurious dishonour of Christ, and religion, and the Gospel. The world thinketh that Christ is an impotent king, that cannot keep his kingdom at unity in itself, when he hath himself told us, that “every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. They think the Gospel tendeth to division, and is a doctrine of dissension, when they see divisions and dissensions procured by it; they impute all the faults of the subjects to the king, and think that Christ was confused in his legislation, and knew
& Matt. xii. 25.
not what to teach or command, because men are confounded in their opinions or practices, and know not what to think or do. If men misunderstand the law of Christ, and one saith, This is the sense, and another saith, That is the sense, they are ready to think that Christ spake nonsense, or understood not himself, because the ignorant understand him not: who is there that converseth with the ungodly of the world, that heareth not by their reproach and scorns how much God and religion are dishonoured by the divisions of religious people.
4. And thus also our divisions do lamentably hinder the progress of the Gospel, and the conversion and salvation of the ungodly world: they think they have small encouragement to be of your religion, while your divisions seem to tell • them, that you know not what religion to be of yourselves. Whatever satan or wicked men would say against religion to discourage the ungodly from it, the same will exasperated persons in these divisions say against each other's way: and when every one of you condemneth another, how should the consciences of the ungodly persuade them to accept salvation in any of those ways, which you thus condemn? Doubtless the divisions of the Christian world, have done more to hinder the conversion of infidels, and keep the heathen and Mahometan world in their damnable ignorance and delusions, than all our power is able to undo: and have produced such desolations of the church of Christ, and such a plentiful harvest and kingdom for the devil, as every tender, Christian heart is bound to lament with tears of bitterness. If it must be that such offences shall come, yet woe to those by whom they come.
5. Divisions lay open the churches of Christ, not only to the scorn, but to the malice, will and fury of their enemies. A kingdom or house divided cannot stand : where hath the church been destroyed, or religion rooted out, in any nation of the earth, but divisions had a principal hand in the effect? O what desolations have they made among the flocks of Christ! As Seneca and others opened their own veins and bled to death, when Nero or such other tyrants, did send them their commands to die ; even so have many churches done by their divisions, to the gratifying of satan, the enemy of souls.
6. Divisions among Christians do greatly hinder the edification of the members of the church; while they are possessed with envyings and distaste of one another, they lose all the benefit of each other's gifts, and of that holy communion which they should have with one another. And they are possessed with that zeal and wisdom, which James calleth earthly, sensual and devilish, which corrupteth all their affections, and turneth their food to the nourishment of their disease, and maketh their very worshipping of God to become the increase of their sin. Where divisions and contentions are, the members that should grow up in humility, meekness, self-denial, holiness and love, do grow in pride, and perverse disputings, and passionate strivings, and envious wranglings : the Spirit of God departeth from them, and an evil spirit of malice and vexation taketh place; though in their passion, they know not what spirit they are of : whereas if they be of one mind, and live in peace, the God of love and peace will be with them. What lamentable instances of this calamity have we in many of the sectaries of this present time; especially in the people called Quakers, that while they pretend to the greatest austerities, do grow up to such a measure of sour pride, and uncharitable contempt of others, and especially of all superiors, and hellish railing against the holiest ministers and people, as we have scarce known, or ever read of.
7. These divisions fill the church with sin : even with sins of a most odious nature. They introduce a swarm of errors, while it becomes the mode for every one to have a doctrine of his own, and to have something to say in religion which may make him notable. “Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them 8.” They cherish pride, and malice, and belying others (the three great sins of the devil) as naturally as dead flesh breedeth worms; they destroy impartial, Christian love, as naturally as bleeding doth consume our vital heat and moisture. What wickedness is it that they will not cherish? In a word, the Scripture telleth us that “where envying and strife is, there is confusion, and every evil work.” (And is not this a lamentable way of reformation of some imaginary or lesser evils ?)
& Acts xx. 30.
8. These divisions are the grief of honest spectators, and cause the sorrows of those that are guilty of them. They make all their duties uneasy to them, and turn their religion into a bitter, unpleasant, wrangling toil: like oxen in the yoke that strive against each other, when they should draw in order and equality. What a grievous life is it to husband and wife, or any in the family, if they live in discord ? So is it to the members of the church. When once men take the kingdom of God to consist of meats, or drinks, or ceremonies, which consisteth in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, and turn to strive about unedifying questions, they turn from all the sweetness of religion.
9. Sects and divisions lead directly to apostacy from the faith. Nothing is more in the design of satan, than to confound men so with variety of religions, that they may think there is no certainty in any ; that so both the ignorant spectators may think all religion is but fancy and deceit, and the contenders themselves wheel about from sect to sect, till they come to the point where they first set out, and to be at last deliberately of no religion, who at first were of none for want of deliberation. And it is no small success that satan hath had by this temptation.
10. The divisions of Christians do oft proceed to shake states and kingdoms, having a lamentable influence upon the civil peace; and this stirreth up princes' jealousies against them, and to the use of those severities, which the suffering party takes for persecution ; yea, and Turks, and all princes that are enemies to reformation and holiness, do justify themselves in their most cruel persecutions, when they see the divisions of Christians, and the troubles of states that have followed thereupon. If Christians, and Protestants in special, did live in that unity, peace and order as their Lord and ruler requireth them to do, the consciences of persecutors would even worry and torment them, and make their lives a hell on earth, for their cruelty against so excellent a sort of men; but now when they see them all in confusions, and see the troubles that follow hereupon, and hear them reviling one another, they think they may destroy them as the troublers of the earth, and their consciences scarce accuse them for it.
IV. It is necessary also for your true understanding the