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nal?” 2 Cor. ii. 1—3. How much more when he that is for Paul doth censure and rail at Cephas and Apollos? He that hath seen the course of men professing godliness in England in this age, may easily and sadly know how prone weak Christians are to unjust separations and divisions, and what are the effects. He that had heard
, many zealous in prayer, and other duties, and the next year see them turning Quakers, and railing in the open congregations at the most able, holy, self-denying ministers of Christ, and at their flocks, with a.Come down thou deceiver, thou hireling, thou wolf, ye are all greedy dogs, &c., and shall see how yet poor souls run into that reviling, and irrational sect (to say nothing of all other sects among us,) will no longer doubt whether the weak be inclined to schism, but will rather lament the dangerousness of their station; and know that all
2 is not done when a sinner is converted from an ungodly state. Study the reason of those three texts; Ephes. iv. 13—16. “For the edifying the body of Christ, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the kpowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man; and the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, so that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted, by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, to the edifying of itsell in love.” Here you see the children are apt to be carried into dividing parties. And that they are more apt to be proud, and that way to miscarry, see 1 Tim. iii. 6. “Not a novice (or raw young Christian) lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil,” and then followeth the effect, Acts xx. 30. “ Also of your ownselves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” I would not have you groundlessly accuse any Christian with a charge of pride; but I must tell you that the childish pride of apparel is a petty business, in comparison of that pride which many in sordid attire have manisested, who in their ignorance do rage and foam out words of falseVol. Il.
hood and reproach against Christ's ministers and servants, as if they were fools or impious in comparison of them, speaking evil of that which they never understood. The lifting up the heart above the people of the Lord, in the pride of supposed holiness, is incomparably worse than pride of learning, honor, greatness, wit, or wealth. Nay, it hath often:been to me a matter of wonder to observe how little all those plain and urgent texts of Scripture, which cry down division, do work upon many of the younger Christians, who yet are as quickly touched as any, with a text that speaketh against profaneness and lukewarmness. In a word, they are often of the temper of James and John, when they would fain have had Christ revenged himself on his opposers by fire from heaven; “ They know not what manner of spirit they are of;" Luke ix. 55. They think verily that it is a holy zeal for God, when it is the boiling of passion, pride, and selfishness. They feel not the sense of such words as Christ's, “I pray also for them who shall believe on me, through their word, that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me;" &c. John xvii. 20—24.
3. And as for the seeming Christian, in this they are of several sorts. When their carnal interest lieth in compliance with the major part and stronger side, then no men do more cry up unity and obedience. What a noise do many thousand Papist prelates, Jesuits, and friars make with these two words throughout the world. Unity and obedience (unto them upon their terms) do signify principally their worldly greatness, wealth, and power. But if the hypocrite be engaged in point of honor, or other carnal interest on the suffering side, or be out of hope of any advantage, in the common road, then no man is so much for separation and singularity as he. For he must needs be noted for somebody in the world, and this is the chief way that he findeth to accomplish it. And so being “ lifted up with pride, he falleth into the condemnation of the devil,” and becomes a firebrand in the church.
LIII. 1. A Christian indeed, is not only zealous for the unity and concord of believers, but he seeketh it on the right terms, and in the way that is fittest to attain it. Unity, peace, and concord, are like piety and honesty, things so unquestionably good, that there are scarce any men of reason and common sobriety, that ever were heard to oppose them directly and for themselves : and therefore all that are enemies to them are yet pretenders to them; and oppose them, 1. In their causes only, 2. Or covertly, and under some other name. Every man would have unity, concord, and peace in his own way, and upon his own terms. But if the right terms had been understood and consented to as sufficient, the Christian world had not lain so many bundred years in the sin, and shame, and ruins as it hath done. And the cause of all is, that Christians indeed, that have clear, confirmed judgments, and strength of grace, are very few; and for number and strength, unable to persuade or overrule the weak, the passionate, and the false-hearted, worldly, hypocritical multitude; who bear down all the counsels and endeavors of the wise.
The judicious, faithful Christian knoweth, that there are three degrees or sorts of Christian communion, which have their several terms. 1. The universal church communion, which all Christians as such must hold among themselves. 2. Particular church communion, which those that are conjoined for personal communion in worship, do hold under the same pastors and among themselves. 3. The extraordinary intimate communion that some Christians hold together, who are bosom friends, or are especially able and fit to be helpful and comfortable to each other.
The last concerneth not our present business; we must hold church communion with many that are unfit to be our bosom friends, and that have no eminency of parts or piety, or any strong persuading evidence of sincerity. But the terms of catholic communion he knoweth are such as these. 1. They must be such as were the terms of church communion in the days of the apostles. 2. They must be such as are plainly and certainly expressed in the holy Scriptures. 3. And such as the universal church hath in some ages since been actually agreed in. 4. And those points are most likely to be such, which all the differing parties of Christians are agreed in, as necessary to communion to this day, (so we call not those Christians that deny the essentials of Christianity.) 5. Every man in the former ages of the church, was admitted to this catholic church communion, who in the baptismal vow or covenant, gave up himself to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as his Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; his Owner, Governor, and Father, renouncing the Besh, the world, and the devil. And more particularly, as man hath an understanding, a will, and an executive power, which must all be sanctified to God, so the creed was the particular rule for the 'credenda' or things to be believed, and the Lord's prayer for the 'petenda' or things to be willed, loved, and desired, and the ten commandments for the agenda' or things to be done ; so that to consent to these rules particularly, and to all the holy Scriptures implicitly and generally, was the thing then required to catholic communion. The belief of the doctrine being necessary for the sanctifying of the heart and life, the belief of so much is of necessity, without which the heart cannot be sanctified, or devoted in covenant to God, our Creator, Redeemer, and Regenerator; and without which we cannot love God (as reconciled to us in Christ) above all, and our neighbors as ourselves. So that, in a word, he that can tell what the baptismal vow or covenant is, can tell what is necessary to that catholic church communion, which belongeth to Christians as Christians, at how great a distance soever they dwell from one another.
And then for particular church communion, which is local and personal, it is moreover necessary, 1. That each member acknowledge and submit to the same pastors. 2. That they be guided by them in the convenient circumstances and adjuncts of worship. For if some persons will not consent or submit to the same pastors that the body of the church consenteth and submiteth to, they cannot have communion particularly and locally with that church, nor are they members of it, no more than they can be members of the same kingdom that have not the same king. And there being no solemn worship performed but by the ministry of those pastors, they cannot join in the worship that join not with the minister. And if some members will not consent and submit to the necessary determination of the adjuncts or external modes of worship, they cannot join in local, particular church communion where that worship is performed. As if the.pastor and the body of the church will meet in such a place, at
such a day and hour, and some members will not meet with them at that place, and day, and hour, they cannot possibly then have their local, personal communion. Or if the pastor will use such a translation of the Scriptures, or such a version of the Psalms, or such a method in preaching and prayer, or such notes or books, and other like helps; if any members will not submit, nor hold communion with the rest, unless that translation, or version, or method of preaching or praying, or notes or books be laid aside, he cannot have communion while he refuseth it. If the pastor, and all the rest will not yield to him, he must join with some other church that he can agree with. And as long as the catholic church communion is maintained, (which consisteth in unity, of the Christian covenant, or of Christianity, or of faith, love, and obedience,) the difference of modes and circumstances between particular churches, must be allowed without any breach of charity, or without disowning one another. And he that cannot be a member of one particular church, may quietly join
а himself to another, without condemning that which he dissenteth from, so far as to hinder his catholic communion with it, (even as among the papists, men may be of which order or of religious persons they best like, as long as they submit to their general government.) And here the strong, judicious Christian for his part, will never be guilty of church divisions. For, 1. He will make nothing necessary to church communion, which any sober, pious, peaceable minds shall have any just reason to except against, or which may not well be manifested to be for the edification of the church. 2. And he will bear with the weak dissenters so far as will stand with the peace and welfare of the church. 3. And he will particularly give leave to such weak ones as cannot yet hold communion with him, being peaceable, and not promoting heresy, ungodliness, or sedition, to join to another church where they can hold communion with peace to their own consciences; as long as they continue their aforesaid catholic communion. For the strong know that they must not only bear with, but bear the "infirmities of the weak, and not to please themselves, but every one of them to please his neighbor for good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself.” And so they will “receive one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God, not des