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have such distempered eyes, that they can see almost nothing but faultiness in any thing of another party which they look at; envy and faction make them carp at every word and every gesture : and they make no conscience of aggravating every failing, and making idolatry of every mistake in worship, and making heresy or blasphemy of every mistake in judgment, and making apostacy of every fall; nay perhaps the truth itself shall have no better a representation. As Dr. H. More well noteth, It would do much more good in the world, if all parties were forwarder to find out and commend what is good in the doctrine and worship of all that differ from them. This would win them to hearken to reforming advice, and would keep up the credit of the common truths and duties of religion in the world, when this envious snarling at all that others do, doth tend to bring the world to atheism, and banish all reverence of religion, together with Christian charity from the earth.
Direct. XXII. · Keep not strange to those from whom you differ, but be acquainted with them, and placidly hear what they have to say for themselves : or else converse with them in Christian love in all those duties in which you are agreed, and this (if you never talk of your differences) will do much to reconcile you in all the reste.' It is the common way of division, uncharitableness, yea, and cruelty at last, to receive hard reports of those that differ from us, behind their backs, and to believe and aggravate all, and proceed to detraction and contention at a distance, and in the dark, and never be familiarly acquainted with them at all. There is something in the apprehension of places, and persons, and things by the eyesight, which no reports are able to match : and so there is that satisfaction about men by familiar acquaintance, which we cannot attain by hearsay from any, how judicious soever. All factions commonly converse together, and seek no familiar converse with others, but believe them to be any thing that is naught, and then report them to be so, before they ever knew the persons of whom they speak. I am persuaded this is one of the greatest feeders of enmity, uncharitableness, contentions and slanders in the world. I speak it upon great observation and experience, I have seldom heard any man bitterly oppose the servants of Christ, but either the grossly wicked, or those that never had much acquaintance with them: and I see commonly, how bitter soever men were before, when once they converse together, and grow acquainted, they are more reconciled. The reason is, partly because they find less evil and more good in one another than before they did believe to be in them; and partly because uncharitableness and malice, being an ugly monster, is bolder at a distance, but ashamed of itself before your face : and therefore the pens of the champions of malice, are usually more bitter than their tongues when they speak to you face to face. Of all the furious adversaries that have raged against me in the latter part of my life, I remember not one enemy that I have or ever had, that was ever familiar or acquainted with me: and I have myself heard ill reports of many, which by personal acquaintance I have found to be all false. Keep together, and either silence your differences, or gently debate them ; yea, rather chide it out, than withdraw asunder. Familiarity feedeth love and unity.
e Prince Frederic of Monpelgard being instructed into a distaste of the reformed Protestants, when he had been at Geneva and Helvetia, was wont to say, “Genevæ et in Helvetia vidi multa de quibus nihil, pauca eorum de quibus sæpe audivi: ut Tossanus ad Pezelium referente Sculteto in Curric. p. 26.
Direct. xxIII. · Whenever you look at any corruption in the church, look also at the contrary extreme, and see and avoid the danger of one as well as of the other.” Be sure every error and church corruption hath its extreme: and if you do not see it, and the danger of it, you are the more like to run into it. Look well on both sides if you would be safe.
Direct. xxiv. · Worship God yourselves in the purest manner, and under the most edifying ministry that lawfully you can attain; but be not too forward to condemn others that reach not to your measure, or attain not so much happiness: and deny not personal communion sometimes with churches that are more blemished, and less fit for communion.' And when you cannot join locally with them, let them have the communion of your hearts, in faith and charity, and prayer for each other. I fear not here openly to tell the world, that if I were turned loose to my own liberty, I would ordinarily worship God in that manner that I thought most pure, and agreeable to his will and Word; but I would some
times go to the churches of other Christians, that were fit for Christian communion, if there were such about me: sometimes to the Independents, sometimes to the moderate Anabaptists, sometimes to such as had a liturgy as faulty as that of the Greek or the Ethiopian churches ; to shew by my practice, what communion my heart hath with them all.
Direct. xxv. "Take heed that you interest not religion or the church in civil differences e This error hath divided and ruined many famous churches, and most injuriously made the holy truth and worship of God to be a reproach and infamy among selfish, partial, carnal men. When princes and states fall out among themselves, they will needs draw the ministers to their sides, and then one side will certainly condemn them, and call them all that self-interest and malice can invent: and commonly when the controversy is only in point of law or politics, it is religion that bears the blame of all: and the differences of lawyers and statesmen must be charged upon divines, that the devil may be able to make them useless, as to the good of all that party that is against them, and may make religion itself be called rebellion. And O that God would maintain the peace of kingdoms! and kings and subjects were all lovers of peace, the rather because the differences in states do cause so commonly divisions in the church. It would make a man wonder, (and a lover of history to lament,) to observe in the differences between the pope and Henry the fourth, and other emperors, how the historians are divided, one half comniending him that the other half condemneth : and how the bishops and churches were one half for the pope, and the other for the emperor; and one half still accounted rebels or schismatics by the other, though they were all of one religion. It is more to ruin the church, than kingdoms, that satan laboureth so much to kindle wars, and breed civil differences in the world : and therefore let him that loveth the church's peace, be an obedient subject, and an enemy of sedition, and a lover and defender of the civil peace and government in the place that God hath set him in: for this is pleasing unto God.
& Since the writing of this, I have published a book called “The Cure of Church Divisions,” and a “ Defence of it :” which handle these things more fully.
I know there are some, that with too bloody and calamitous success, have in most ages given other kind of directions for the extirpation of error, heresy, and schism, than I have here givenf: but God hath still caused the most wise, and holy, and charitable, and experienced Christians to bear their testimony against them. And he hath ever caused their way of cruelty to turn to their own shame : and though (like treasons and robberies) it seem for the time present to serve their turn, it is bitterness in the end, and leaveth a stinking memorial of their names and actions to posterity. And the treatises of reconcilers, (such as our Halls, Ushers, Bergius, Burroughs, and many other,) by the delectable savour of unity and charity, are sweet and acceptable to prudent and peaceable persons, though usually unsuccessful with the violent that needed them.
Besides the forecited witness of Sir Francis Bacon, &c., I will here add one of the most ancient, and one or two of this age, whom the contrary minded do mention with the greatest honour. Justin Martyr Dial. cum Tryph. doth at large give his judgment, that a Judaizing Christian, who thinketh it best to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses, be suffered in his opinion and practice, and admitted to the communion and privileges of the church, and loved as one that may be saved in that way, so be it he do not make it his business to persuade others to his way, and teach it as necessary to salvation or communion; for such he doth condemn.
King James by the pen of Is. Casaubon telleth Cardinal du Perron, that "His Majesty thinketh, that for concord there is no nearer way, than diligently to separate things necessary from the unnecessary, and to bestow all our labour that we may agree in the things necessary, and that in things unnecessary there may be place given for Christian liberty. The King calleth these things simply necessary, which either the Word of God expressly commandeth to be believed or done, or which the ancient church did gather from the Word of God by necessary consequence.
Grotius Annot. in Matt. xiii. 41. is so full and large
i Beda Hist. Eccles. lib. i. c. 26. Didicerat enim (Rex Edilberth) et à doctoribus, auctoribusque suæ salutis, servitium Christi voluntarium, non coactitium debere esse.
upon it, that I must entreat the reader to peruse his own words; where by arguments and authority he vehemently rebuketh the spirit of fury, cruelty, and uncharitableness, which under pretence of government, discipline, and zeal denieth that liberty and forbearance, even to heretics and offenders, (much more when to the faithful ministers of Christ) which human frailty hath made necessary, and Christ hath commanded his servants to grant. Concluding, • Ubi solitudinem fecerant, pacem appellabant. (as Tertul.) Et his omnibus obtendi solet studium Divini nominis ; sed plerumque obtendi tantum. Nam Deus dedignatur coacta servitia ; nec placere illi potest quod vi humana exprimitur. Reipsa solent qui id faciunt non nomini divino, sed suis honoribus, suis commodis et tranquillitati consulere; quod scit ille qui mentes introspicit. Atque ita fit, ut lolium evellatur cum tritico, innocentes cum nocentibus : immo ut triticum sæpe sumatur pro lolio : non enim tam bene agitur cum rebus humanis, ut semper meliora pluribus aut validioribus placeant; sed ut in grege taurus, ita inter homines, qui viribus est editior, imbecilliorum cædit: et iidem sæpe quæ pati se quærebantur, mox in alios audent.'-Lege cætera.
Again, I entreat those that would escape the sin of schism, to read seriously the foresaid Treatises of peacemakers; especially “ Bishop Hall's Peacemaker;" “ Bishop Usher's Sermon on Ephes. iv. 3.;” and “ Mr. Jeremy Burroughs' Irenicum :" to which I may add " Mr. Stillingfleet's Irenicum,” for the hot contenders about church-government; though I believe all the substance of church order to be of Divine institution : and “ Jac. Acontii Stratag. Satanæ."
And it must be carefully noted, that one way by which satan tempteth men into church divisions, is by an over vehement zeal against dividers ; and so he would draw the rulers of the world, under pretence of a zeal for unity and peace, to raise persecutions against all that are guilty of any excess of scrupulosity about church-communion, or of any principles or practices which a little swerve from true Catholicism :' and so by the cruelty of their penalties, silencing ministers, and vexing the people, they much increase the divisions which they would heal: for when satan cannot do his work barefaced and directly, he useth to be the most