Images de page

currence of the apostles and elders that were at Jerusalem, that they might be all of one mind in the matter. For there is no greater property of the Church of Christ, than pure unity in the Spirit; that is, a consenting and oneness in judginent and practices in matters of faith and worship (which yet admits of different measures, growths and motions, but never contrary and contradictory ones; and in these diversities of operations, yet still, by the same spirit, the true liberty is exer. cised, as shall be declared hereafter :) therefore prayeth Christ, That they all may be one, as he and the Father is one. To which purpose also let these following Scriptures be examined:

Rom. 12. 16. Be of the same mind one towards another. 1. Cor. 1. 10. Now I beseech you brethren,

. by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Ephes. 5. 21. Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Phil. 2. 2. Fulfil ye my joy, that


be like. minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

And yet more remarkable is that of the apostle Paul to the Philippians, chap. 3. verse 15, Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded; and if in any thing ye be otherwise ininded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

16. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

17. Brethren, be followers together of me, and

, mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an example.

So here, though the apostle grants forbearance in things wherein they have not yet attained; yet he concludes they must walk so, as they have him for an example, and so consequently not contrary, or otherwise. . And therefore we conclude, that whereas any in the Church of God pretending conscience or revelation, shall arise to teach and practise (however insignificant or small in themselves) whether principles or practices, yet if they be contrary to such as are already received as true, and confirmed by God's Spirit in the hearts of the saints, and that the introducing of these things tend to bring reproach upon the truth, as such as are not edifying in themselves, and so stumble the weak; those who have a true and right discerning, may, in and by the power of God authorizing them (and no otherwise) condemn and judge such things; and they so doing it, it will be obligatory upon all the members that have a true sense, because they will feel it to be so, and therefore submit to it. And thus far as to the nature of the things themselves.

Secondly, As to the spirit and ground they proceed from. Whatsoever innovation, difference, or divers appearance, whether in doctrine or practice, proceedeth not from the pure moving of the Spirit of God, or is not done out of pure tenderness of conscience, but either from that, which being puft up, affecteth singularity, and there-through would be observed, commended and exalted; or from that, which is the malignity

of some humours and natural tempers, which will be contradicting without cause, and secretly begetting of divisions, animosities and emulations, by which the unity and unfeigned love of the brethren is lessened or rent; I say, all things proceeding from this root and spirit, however little they may be supposed to be of themselves, are to be guarded against, withstood and denied, as hurtful to the true church's peace, and a hin. drance to the prosperity of truth.

If it be said, How know ye that these things proceed from that ground ?

For answer, I make not here any application, as to particular persons or things; but if it be granted, (as it cannot be denied,) that there may arise persons in the true church, that may do such things from such a spirit, though pretending conscience and tenderness; then it must also be acknowledged, that such, to whom God hath given a true discerning by his Spirit, may and ought to judge such practices, and the spirit they come from, and liave no unity with them; which if it be owned in the general, proves the case, to wit, That some pretending conscience in things seeming indifferent, but yet it proceeding in them from a spirit of singularity, emulation, or strife, those that have received a discerning thereof from the Lord, may and ought to judge the transgressors, without being accounted imposers, oppressors of conscience, or inforcers of uniformity, contrary to the mind of Christ; against which the apostle also guardeth the churches of old.

Phil. 2. 3. 4. Let nothing be done through

strife, or vain glory ; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Look not every man on his own things; but every man also on the things of others.

Now, if it be an evil to do any thing out of strife; then such things that are seen so to be done, are they not to be avoided and forsaken? So that we are confident, our judgment herein cannot be denied, or reputed erroneous; except it be said, That none will or can arise in the Church of Christ, pretending such things from such a spirit; which I know not any that will, it being contrary to the express prophecies of the scripture, and the experience of the church in all ages, as may appear from Mat. 24. 24. Acts 15. 24. I Tim. 4. 1. 2 Tim. 3. 8. Mark 13, 21. 22. 2 Pet. 2. 19. Or on the other hand, that those that abide faithful, and have a discerning of those evils ought to be silent, and never ought to reprove and gain-stand them, nor yet warn and guard others against them ; and that it is a part of the commendable unity of the church of Christ, to suffer all such things without taking notice of them. . I know none will say so; but if there be any so foolish as to affirm it, let them consider these scriptures, Gal. 2. 4. 1 Tim. 1. 20. 2 Tim. 2. 24. 25. Tit. 1. 9. 10. 11.

Now if none of these hold true ; but, on the contrary, such evils have been, and may be found to creep in among the people of God, and that such as see them, may and ought to reprove them; then necessarily the doing so, is neither imposition, force nor oppression. As to the third, concerning the consequence


and tendency of them, it is mostiy included in the two former: for whatsoever tendeth not to edification, but, on the contrary, to destruction, and to beget discord among brethren, is to be avoided : according to that of the apostle, Rom. 16. 17. Now I beseech you brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them.

And since there is no greater mark of the pepple of God, than to be at peace among themselves; whatsoever tendeth to break that bond of love and peace, must be testified against. Let it be observed, I speak always of the Church of Christ indeed, and deal with such as are of ano. ther mind ; not as reckoning only false churches not to have this power, but denying it even to the true Church of Christ, as judging it not fit for her so to act, as in relation to her members. For though Christ be the Prince of Peace, and doth most of all commend love and unity to his disciples; yet I also know he came not to send peace, but a sword, that is, in dividing man from the lusts and sins he hath been united to. And also it is the work of his disciples and messen. gers, to break the bands and unity of the wicked, wherein they are banded against God, and his truth, and the confederacy of such as stand in unsighteousness, by inviting and bringing as many as will obey, unto righteousness; whereby they become disunited and separated from their companions, with whom they were centred, and at peace, in the contrary and cursed nature. And ändeed, blessed are they that are sent forth of

« PrécédentContinuer »