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visions in the church, is not so small a sin as many take it it for: it is the accounting it a duty, and a part of holiness, which is the greatest cause that it prospereth in the world; and it will never be reformed till men have right apprehensions of the evil of it. Why is it that sober people are so far and free from the sins of swearing, drunkenness, fornication, and lasciviousness, but because these sins are under so odious a character, as helpeth them easily to perceive the evil of them. And till church-divisions be rightly apprehended, as whoredom, and swearing, and drunkenness are, they will never be well cured. Imprint therefore on your minds the true character of them, which I have here laid down, and look abroad upon the effects, and then you will fear this confounding sin, as much as a consuming plague.
The two great causes that keep divisions from being hated as they ought, are, 1. A charitable respect to the good that is in church-dividers, carrying us to overlook the evil of the sin ; judging of it by the persons that commit it, and thinking that nothing should seem odious that is theirs, because many of them are in other respects of blameless, -pious conversations. And indeed every Christian must so prudently reprehend the mistakes and faults of pious men, as not to asperse the piety which is conjunct; and therefore not to make their persons odious, but to give the person all his just commendations for his piety, while we oppose and aggravate his sin : because Christ himself so distinguisheth between the good and the evil, and the person and the sin, and loveth his own for their good, while he hateth their evil; and so must we : and because it is the grand design of satan, by the faults of the godly to make their persons hated first, and their piety next, and so to banish religion from the world; and every friend of Christ must shew himself an enemy to this design of satan. But yet the sin must be disowned and opposed, while the person is loved according to his worth. , Christ will give no thanks for such love to his children, as cherisheth their churchdestroying sins. There is no greater enemy to sin than Christ, though there be no greater friend to souls. Godliness was never intended to be a fortress for iniquity ; or a battery for the devil to mount his cannons on against the church ; nor for a blind to cover the powder-mines of hell. Satan never opposeth truth, and godliness, and unity so dangerously, as when he can make religious men his instruments. Remember therefore that all men are vanity, and God's interest and honour must not be sacrificed to theirs, nor the Most Holy be abused, in reverence to the holiest of sinful men.
The other great hindrance of our due apprehensions of the sinfulness of divisions, is our too deep sense of our sufferings by superiors, and our looking so much at the evil of persecutions, as not to look at the danger of the contrary extreme. Thus under the Papacy, the people of Germany · at Luther's reformation were so deeply sensible of the Papal cruelties, that they thought by how many ways soever men fled from such bloody persecutors, they were very excusable. And while men were all taken up in decrying the Roman idolatry, corruptions, and cruelties, they never feared the danger of their own divisions till they smarted by them. And this was once the case with many good people here in England, who so much hated the wickedness of the profane and the haters of godliness, that they had no apprehensions of the evil of divisions among themselves. And because many profane ones were wont to call sober, godly people, schismatics and factious, therefore the very names began with many to grow into credit, as if they had been of good signification, and there had been really no such sin as schism and faction to be feared ; till God permitted this sin to break in upon us with such fury, as had almost turned us into a Babel, and a desolation. And I am persuaded God did purposely permit it, to teach his people more sensibly to know the evil of that sin by the effects, which they would not know by other means; and to let them see when they had reviled and ruined each other, that there is that in themselves which they should be more afraid of, than of any enemy without.
Direct. y, ' Own not any cause which is an enemy to love: and pretend neither truth, nor holiness, nor unity, nor any thing against it.' The spirit of love is that one vital spirit which doth animate all the saints. The increase of love is the powerful balsam that healeth all the church's, wounds. Though loveless, lifeless physicians think that all these wounds must be healed by the sword. And indeed
the weapon-salve is now become the proper cure. It is the sword that must be medicated, that the wounds made by it may be healed. The decays of love are the church's dissolution; which first causeth fissures and separations, and in process crumbleth us all to dust; and therefore the pastors of the church are the fittest instruments for the cure, who are the messengers of love, and whose government is paternal, and hurteth not the body, but is only a government of love, and exercised by all the means of love. All Christians in the world confess that Love is the very life and perfection of all grace, and the end of all our other duties, and that which maketh us like to God, and that if love dwelleth in us, God dwelleth in us; and that it will be the everlasting grace, and the work of heaven, and the happiness of souls; and that it is the excellent way, and the character of saints, and the new commandment. And all this being so, it is most certain that no way is the way of God, which is not the way of love ; and therefore what specious pretences soever they may have, and one may cry up truth, and another holiness, and another order, and another unity itself, to justify their envyings, hatred, cruelties, it is most certain that all such pretences are satanical deceits; and if they bite and devour one another, they are not like the sheep of Christ, but shall be devoured one of anotherf. “ Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law 8.” When Papists that shew their love to men's souls by racking their bodies, and frying them in the fire, can make men apprehensive of the excellency of that kind of love, they may use it to the healing of the church. In the meantime as their religion is, such is their concord, while all those are called members of their union, and professors of their religion, who must be burnt to ashes if they say the contrary. They that give God an image and carcase of religion, are thus content with the image and carcase of a church for the exercise of it. And if there were nothing else but this to detect the sinfulness of the sect of Quakers, and many more, it is enough to satisfy any sober man, that it cannot be the way of God. God is not the author of that spirit and way which tends to wrath, emulation, hatred, railing, and the extinction of Christian love, to all save their Gal. v. 15,
& Rom. xiii. 10. .
own sect and party. Remember as you love your souls, that you shun all ways that are destructive to universal Christian love.
Direct. vi. • Make nothing necessary to the unity of the church, or the communion of Christians, which God hath not made necessary, or directed you to make so h.' By this one folly, the Papists are become the most notorious schismatics on earth; even by making new articles of faith, and new parts of worship, and imposing them on all Christians, to be sworn, subscribed, professed, or practised, so as that no man shall be accounted a Catholic, or have communion with them, (or with the universal church, if they could hinder it,) that will not follow them in all their novelties. They that would subscribe to all the Scriptures, and to all the ancient creeds of the church, and would do any thing that Christ and his apostles have enjoined, and go every step of that way to heaven that Peter and Paul went, as far as they are able, yet if they will go no further, and believe no more (yea, if they will not go against some of this,) must be condemned, cast out, and called schismatics by these notorious schismatics. If he hold to Christ, the universal Head of the church, and will not be subject or sworn to the pope, the usurping head, he shall be taken as cut off from Christ. And there is no certainty among these men what measure of faith, and worship, and obedience to them, shall be judged necessary to constitute a church-member: for as that which served in the apostles' days, and the following ages, will not serve now, nor the subscribing to all the other pretended councils until then, will not serve without subscribing to the creed or council of Trent; so nobody can tell, what new faith, or worship, or test of Christianity, the next council (if the world see any more) may require: and how many thousand that are Trent Catholics now, may be judged heretics and schismatics then, if they will not shut their eyes, and follow them any whither, and change their religion as oft as the papal interest requireth a change. Of this Chillingworth, Hales, and Dr. H. More' have spoken plainly i
h See Mr. Stillingfleet, Iren. p. p. 119, 120. Bilson for Christian Subjection, p. 525.
i Dr. H. More saith, Myst. Redempt. p. 495. I. 10. c. 2. There is scarce any church in Christendom at this day, that doth not obtrude, not only falsehood, but such
If the pope had imposed but one lie to be subscribed, or one sin to be done, and said, “ All nations and persons that do not this, are no Christians, or shall have no communion with the church,” the man that refuseth that imposed lie or sin, doth but obey God, and save his soul; and the usurper that imposeth them, will be found the heinous schismatic before God, and the cause of all those divisions of the church. And so if any private sectary shall feign an opinion or practice of his own to be necessary to salvation or church-communion, and shall refuse communion with those that are not of his mind and way, it is he, and not they, that is the cause of the uncharitable separation.
Direct. vii. ' Pray against the usurpations or intrusions of impious, carnal, ambitious, covetous pastors into the churches of Christ k.' For one wicked man in the place of a pastor, may do more to the increase of a schism or faction, than many private men can do. And carnal men have carnal minds and carnal interests, which are both irreconcileable to the spiritual, holy mind and interest; for the “carnal mind is enmity against God, and is not subject to his law, nor can be. And they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” And you may easily conceive what work will be made in the ship, when an enemy of the owner hath subtilly possessed himself of the pilot's place! He will charge all that are faithful as mutineers, because they resist him when he would carry all away. And if an enemy of Christ shall get to be governor of one of his regiments or garrisons, all that are not traitors shall be called traitors, and cashiered that they hinder not the treason which he intendeth. And “as then he that was born after the flesh, persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is
falsehoods that will appear to any free spirit pare contradictions and impossibilities; and that with the same gravity, authority, and importunity, that they do the holy oracles of God. Now the consequent of this must needs be sad : for what knowing and conscientious man, but will be driven off, if he cannot assert the truth, without open asserting a gross lie? Id. p. 526. And as for opinions, though some may be better than other some, yet none should exclude from the fullest enjoyment of either private or public rights; supposing there be no venom of the persecutive spirit mingled with them: but every one that professeth the faith of Christ, and believeth the Scriptures in the historical sense, &c. See Hales of Schism, p. 8. .
* In ecclesiis plus certamimum gignunt verba hominum quam Dei; magisque pugnatur sere de Apolline, Petro, et Paulo, quam de Christo: retine divina: relinque humana. Bucholcer.