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the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling ; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you
all. But unto every one of us is given grace, according to the measure of the gift of Christ :” Ephes. iv. 2—7. Read also chap. iv. 12-16. 1 Cor. xii. throughout. He looketh at uncharitableness, and divisions, with more abhorrence than weak Christians do at drunkenness or whoredom, or such other heinous sin. He feareth such dreadful warnings, as Acts xx. 29, 30. “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your ownselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” And he cannot slight such a vehement exhortation, as Rom. xvi. 17, 18. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by good words, and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple.” Therefore he is so far from being a divider himself, that when he seeth any one making divisions among Christians, he looketh on bim as one that is slashing and mangling the body of his dearest friend, or as one that is setting fire on his house, and therefore doth all that he can to quench it; as knowing the confusion and calamity to which it tendeth. He is of a Christian, and therefore of a truly catholic spirit; that is, he maketh not himself a member of a divided party, or a sect; he regardeth the interest and welfare of thc body, the universal church, above the interest or prosperity of any party whatsoever; and he will do nothing for a party which is injurious to the whole, or to the Christian cause. The
names of sects and parties are displeasing to him; and he could wish that there were no name but that of Christians among us, save only the necessary names of the criminal, (such as that of the Nicolaitans; Rev. ii. 6. 15.) by which those that are to be avoided by Christians must be known. Christianity is confined to so narrow a compass in the world, that he is unwilling to contract it yet into a narrower.
The greatest party of divided Christians, whether it be the Greeks or Papists, is too small a body for him to take for the catholic, or universal church. He admireth at the blindness and cruelty of faction, that can make men damn all the rest of the church for the interest of their proper sect; and take all those as no Christians that are better Christians than themselves. Especially the Papists, who unchurch all the chuch of Christ, except their sect, and make it as necessary to salvation to be a subject of the pope, as to be a Christian. And when, by their great corruption and abuses of Christianity, they have more need of charitable censures themselves than almost any sort of Christians, yet are they the boldest condemners of all others. The confirmed Christian can difference between the strong and weak, the sound and unsound members of the church, without dismembering any, and without unwarrantable separation from any. He will worship God in the purest manner he can, and locally join with those assemblies, where, all things considered, he may most honor God, and receive most edification ; and will not sin for communion with any. He will sufficiently difference between a holy, orderly assembly, and a corrupt, disordered one ; and between an able, faithful pastor, and an ignorant or worldly hireling. And be desireth that the pastors of the church may make that due separation by the holy disciple of Christ, which may prevent the people's disorderly separation. But for all this, he will not deny his presence upon just occasion, to any Christian congregation that worshippeth God in truth, though with many modal imperfections, so be it, they impose no sin upon him as necessary to his communion with him. Nor will he deny the spiritual communion of faith and love to those that he holdeth not local communion with. He knows that all our worship of God is sinfully imperfect, and that it is a dividing principle to hold, that we may join with none that worship God in a faulty manner; for then we must join with none on earth. He knoweth that his presence in the worship of God, is no sign of his approbation of all the failings of pastors or people, in their personal or modal imperfections, as long as he joineth not in a worship so corrupt as to be itself unacceptable to God. While men who are all imperfect and corrupt, are the worshippers, the manner of their worship will be such as they, in some degree, imperfect and corrupt. The solid Christian bath his eye upon all the churches in the world, in the determining of such questions; he considereth what worship is offered to God in the churches of the several parties of Christians, the Greeks, Armenians, Abassines, Lutherans, &c. as well as what is done in the country where he liveth; and he considereth whether God disown and reject the worship of almost all the churches in the world, or not; for he dare no further reject them than God rejecteth them. Nor will he voluntarily separate from those assemblies where the presence of Christ, in his Spirit and acceptance, yet remaineth. And his fuller acquaintance with the gracious nature, ofiice, and tenderness of Christ, together with greater love to his brethren, doth cause him in this to judge more gently than young censorious Christians do. And his humble acquaintance with his own infirmities, maketh him the more coinpassionate to others. If he should think that God would reject all that order not, and word not their prayers aright, he would be afraid of being rejected himself, who is still conscious of greater faultiness in his own prayers, than a mere defect in words and order; even of a great defectiveness in that faith, and desire, and love, and zeal, and reverence which should be manifested in prayer. Though he be more apprehensive than others, of the excellency and necessity of the holiness and spirituality of the soul in worship : yet withal he is more judicious and charitable than the peevish and passionate infant Christians, who think that God doth judge as they do, and seeth no grace where they see none; and taketh all to be superstitious or fanatical, that differ from their opinions or manner of worship ; or that he is as ready to call every error,
in the method or the words of prayer, idolatry or will-worship, as those are that speak not what they know, but what they have heard some teachers whom they reverence, say before them. “He that dwelleth in love, doth dwell in God, and God in him.” And he that dwelleth in God, is liker to be best acquainted with his mind, concerning his children and his worship, than he that dwelleth in wrath, and pride, and partiality.
2. But the weak Christian (though so far as he bath grace, he is of the same mind, and abhorreth discord and division among the flock of Christ, yet) being more dark, and selfish, and distempered, he is much more prone to unwarrantable separations and divisions than the stronger Christian is. He is narrower sighted, and looketh little further than his own acquaintance, and the country where he liveth ; and mindeth not sufficiently the general state of the churches through the world, nor understandeth well the interest of Christ and Christianity in the earth. His knowledge and experience being small, his charity also is but small; and a little thing tempteth him to condemn another, and aggravate bis faults, and think him unworthy of the communion of the saints. He is much more sensible of the judgment, and affections, and concernments of those few with whom he doth converse, and that are of his opinion, than of the judgment, and practice, and concernments of the universal church. He knoweth not how to prefer the judgments and holiness of some that he thinketh more excellent than the rest, without much undervaluing and censuring of all others that are not of their opinion; he cannot choose the actual local communion of the best society, without some unjust contempt of others, or separation from them. He hath not so much knowledge as may sufficiently acquaint him with his ignorance; and therefore he is apt to be unreasonably confident of his present apprehensions, and to think verily that all his own conceptions are the certain truth; and to think them ignorant, or ungodly, or very weak at least, that differ from him. For he hath not thoroughly and impartially studied all that may be said on the other side. The authority of his chosen teacher and sect, is greater with him (if he fall into that way) than the authority of all the most wise and holy persons in the world besides. What the Scripture speaketh of the unbelieving world, he is apt to apply to all those of the church of Christ, that are not of his mind and party. And when Christ commandeth us to come out of the world, he is prone to understand it of coming out from the church into some stricter and narrower society; and is apt with the papists, to appropriate the name and privileges of the church, to his party alone, and to condemn all others. Especially if the church-governors be carnal and self-seeking, or otherwise very culpable; and if discipline be neglected, and if profaneness be not sufficiently discountenanced, and godliness promoted, he thinketh that such a church is no church, but a profane society. God hath taught him by repentance to see the mischief of ungodliness, but he yet wanteth that experience which is needful to make him know the mischief of church divisions. He had too much experience himsell, of the evil of profaneness before his conversion ; but he hath not tried the evil of schism; and without some sad experience of its fruits, in himself or others, he will hardly know it as it should be known; because it is the custom of some malignant enemies of godliness, to call the godly heretics, schismatics, factious sectaries, &c. therefore the very names do come into credit with him; and he thinks there are no such persons in the world, or that there is no danger of any such crimes, till he be taught by sad experience, that the professors of sincerity are in as much danger on that side as on the other; and that the church, as well as Christ, doth suffer between two thieves, the profane and the dividers. Paul was unjustly called the ringleader of a sect, (Acts xxiv. 5.), and Christianity called a heresy and a sect, every where spoken against ; Acts xxviii. 22. xxiv. 14. But for all that, heresy is a fruit of the flesh, (Gal. v. 20.) and some of them called damnable ; (2 Pet. ii. 1.) and they are the trial of the church, to difference the approved members from the chaff; 1 Cor. xi. 19. And an obstinate heretic is to be avoided by true believers; Titus iii. 10. And the Pharisees and Sadducees are well reputed to be several sects; Acts v. 17. xv. 5. xxvi. 5. And dividers and divisions are justly branded as aforesaid. There must be no schism in the body of Christ; 1 Cor. xii. 25. The following of selected teachers, in a way of division from the rest, or opposition to them, doth shew, that men are carnal in too great a measure, though it be not in predominancy, as in the profane. “And I, brethren, could not
, speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Cbrist. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able, for ye are yet carnal. For whereas there is among you envying, and strise, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos, are ye not car