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and had not the same Education and Society to advance your Opinions, and represent things to their Understandings just as they are represented unto yours. And if Men must be cast out of the Church or Ministry, because they are not wiser than such Learned Men, as the Pastors of the most of the Reformed Churches, and as Hildersham, Bayne, Parker, Ames, Dod, Ball, Nichols, and many such others as have here taken this Contormity to be a Sin, how few, alas, how very few will there be left ?
And if it be said that Men do willingly keep out the Light. We must say, that few men are Obstinate against the Opinions that tend to their Ease and Advancement in the World, and to save them from being vilified as Schismaticks, and undone; and when Men profess before the Lord, that they do Impartially study and pray for Knowledge, and would gladly know the Will of God, at the dearest Rate; we must again say, that those Men must prove that they know the Dissenters Hearts, better than they are known to themselves, that expect to be believed by charitable Christians, when they charge them with wilful Ignorance, or Obstinate resisting of the Truth.
15. And we Crave leave to ask whether you do not your selves in some things mistake, or may not do so for ought you know? And whether your Understandings are not still imperfect, and all Men differ not in some opinions or other? And if you may mistake in any thing, may it not be in as great things as these? Can it be expected, that we should all be past erring about the smallest Ceremonies and Circumstances of Worship? And then should not the Consciousness of your own Infirmity, provoke you rather to compassionate Humane Frailty, than to cast out your Brethren, for as small Failings as your own ?
16. And we further offer to your Consideration, whether this be doing as you would be done by; would you be cast out for every fault that is as bad as this? And doth this show that you love your Neighbours as your selves? Put your selves in their case, and suppose that you had Studied, Conferred and Prayed, and done your best to know whether God would have you to be Re-ordained, to use these Forms or Ceremonies, or Subscriptions or not! And having done all, you think that God would be displeased if you should use them, would you then be used your selves, as your Dissenting Brethren are now used, or are like to be; love them as your selves, and we will crave no further favour for them.
17. But nothing more affecteth us, than to think of the Lamentable Divisions, that have been caused and are still like to be, whilst things Unnecessary are so imposed : And on the contrary, how Blessed an Unity a
we might enjoy if these occasions of Division were removed, and we might but have leave to serve God as his Apostles did. As in Doctrinals, Ten thousand will sooner agree in an Explicite Belief of the Creed, than an hundred in an Explicite Belief of all that Ockam or Scotus have determined ; So in the matters of Government and Worship; It is easier to agree upon few things, than upon many, upon great, and certain, and necessary things, than upon small, uncertain, and unnecessary things, and upon things that God himself hath Revealed or Appointed, than upon things that proceed from no surer an Original,
than the Wit or Will of Man. The strict Prohibition of adding to, or diminishing from the things commanded by the Lawgiver of the Churchi, Deut. 12. 31. doth put such a fear in the minds of Multitudes of the Loyal Subjects of Christ, left, by such Additions or Diminutions in the matters of his Worship, they should provoke him to displeasure as will be a certain perpetual Hindrance to any common Unity or Concord, in such Humane Impositions, of which many of the Servants of the Jealous God will have a continual Jealousie.
With Grieved Hearts we now renew the Memory of the lamentable Divisions, occasioned already by these Impositions ever since the Reformation in the days of K. Édward 6th and the grievous fruits of those Divisions ! How they Destroyed Charity (the Character of Christs Disciples) and exasperated Mens Minds against each other: How they Corrupted Mens Prayers and other Exercises of Devotion, and made them Pray and Preach against one another: How their Tongues were Emboldened to the Censuring of each other; one Party calling the other Factious, Schismatical, Singular, and Disobedient; and the other calling them Antichristian, Proud, Tyrannical, Superstitious Persecutors, and Formalists : And such Language still increasing the Uncharitableness and Divisions; till the Increase of Imposing Rigor on the one side, and Impatience under Sufferings on the other side, was too great a Preparation to those greater Calamities which are yet bitter to the Remembrance of all whose Interests or Passions have not Conquered their Humanity. And the continuance of so much of the Causes and Effects, doth Infallibly prove, that if the same Impositions be settled upon us, the same Heart-Divisions will be still continued: Brethren will disdain the name and Love of Brethren to each other ; which yet Christ himself, by Condescending and Reproving Love, Vouchsafeth to them all. Instead of Loving one another with a Pure Heart, Fervently, there will be, if not Hating, yet Grudging at one another, Censuring and Despising one another; which effects will still increase their Cause, and make one side think that they are Necessitated to be more Rigorous in their Coercions, and the other think that they are allowed to be more Censorious against those, by whom they suffer.
And how many Thousands on both sides by such a stream of Temptations will Undoubtedly be carry'd on in a course of Sin from Day to Day, and by Heart Sin, and Tongue Sin, by Pulpit Sins, or Sins in other parts of Worship, will Dishonour God, and Provoke him to Indignation against them and the Land, we may not without Astonishment and Grief of Heart fore-see or fore-tell.
And it's easie to fore-see how the Innocent will be numbred with the Faulty, and those that do but feel their Sufferings, and the Sufferings of the Church on these Occasions, and do but Groan and Sigh to God, and Pray for Succour and Deliverance, will be thought to be Guilty of Discontent and Faction, and bringing the Government of the Church, and consequently of the Kingdom into Hatred or Dislike, and so their Sufferings will be Increased : And he that is Commanded by the Laws of Humanity to be Compassionately sensible of the Calamities of others, shall be thought an Offender for being sensible of his own. Its easie to fore-see how those Expressions in Mens Sermons, or Prayers, or
Familiar Conference, which seem to any Misunderstanding, or Sus. picious, or Malicious Hearers, to Intimate any sense of Sufferings, will be carry'd to the Ears of Rulers, and represented as a Crime? And Nature having Planted in all Men an unwillingness to Suffer, and Deny'd to all Men a Love of Calamity, and Necessitated Men to feel when they are hurt, and made the Tongue and Countenance the Index of our Sense; these Effects will be unavoidable, while such Impositions are continued, and while a fear of Sinning will not suffer Men to swallow and digest them, and what wrong such Divisions about Religion will be to the Kingdom, and to His Majesty, we shall not mention, because our Governours themselves may better Understand it.
On the other side, what Universal Ease, and Peace, and Joy would be the Fruits of that happy Unity and Concord, which the reasonable Forbearances, which we humbly Petition for, would certainly produce ? How comfortable would our Ministerial Labours be, when we had no such Temptations, Burthens, or Disquietments? When we lay not under the Reproofs of Conscience, nor the suspicions, or Displeasure of our Superioars, but might serve the Lord without Distraction, and be among his Servants without such Fear (Phil. 1. 14. 1 Cor. 16. 10). How much would the hands of the Builders be strengthened for the Work of God, when they speak the same things, and there are no Divisions among them, but they are perfectly joyned together in the same Mind and Judgment. 1. Cor. 1. 10. when they are like-minded, having the same Love, being of one Accord, of one Mind, doing nothing thro' Strife, or Vain-Glory; which will never be, while one calls the other Factious, and Schismatical, and the other calleth him Superstitious and Tyrannical ; but when Christ bath Taught us in Lowliness of Mind to esteem others better than our selves, and not to look every Man on his own things, (his own Gifts and Virtues, and Worth, and Interest) but every Man also on the things of others; and till the same mind be in us, that was in Christ, that humbled himself, and took upon him the form of a Servant, and made himself of no Reputation, Phil. 1, 2, to 9. How much should we Honour the Body, the Spirit, the Hope, the Lord, the Faith, the Baptism, the God and Father of all Believers, which are one if we were one among our selves, which will never be, till with LowliDess, and Meekness, and Long Suffering, we forbear one another in Love, instead of Hating, Reviling and Persecuting one another; and till we endeavour to keep the Unity of the Spirit (tho' given in various degrees rather than an Unity in unnecessary things) in the Bond of Peace, Ephes. 4. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. and till the well Joynted and Compacted Body do Edifie it self in Love, by a due Contribution of mutual Supply, and grow in Christ the proper Head, instead of contending with it self
, and Dis joynting and tearing it self in Pieces, because of our Differences about some small unnecessary things, vers. 13, 14, 15, 16. How Beautiful would our Holy Assemblies be, and how delightful the Worship of God there Celebrated, if we had all laid by, the Unchristian Spirit of Hatred, Envy, Emulation, Murmuring, Wrath, Variance, Strife, Heresies, Seditions, and all Uncharitableness, and with one mind, and Mouth did Glorifie God (Gal. 5. 19. 20. 21. Rom. 15. 16.) which will never be done, till those that are strong do bear the Infirmities of the Weak, and please not themselves, but every one of us please his Neighbour, for his good VOL. III.-NEW SERIES.
to Edification, instead of vilifying and Undoing him, and till instead of casting each others out of the Church or Ministry, on the account of things indifferent; we received one another, as Christ received us to the Glory of God, Rom. 15. 1. 2. 6. 7. and till we are thus like-minded one towards another, according to Christ Jesus, ver. 5. instead of being Selfishly minded as Men, or Maliciously as Enemies (1 Cor. 3. 3. 1 Cor. 14. 20. Col. 3. 8. Titus 3. 3.) If the very Babes were fed with the Sincere Milk of the Word, and all Malice, and Guile, and Hypocrisie, and Envie, and Evil Speaking were laid aside, it would prove the best way to their growth, and a surer way to your Present and Eternal Peace, than casting 'em out because they cannot bear your Burdens, or digest some unnecessary things, 1 Pet. 2. 1. 2. 3. How good and how happy a thing would it be for Brethren to dwell together in Unity ? (Psal. 133. 1.) And as those that by one Spirit are Baptized into one Body, and know they have need of one another, to contribute Honour to the parts that lack it; yea to bestow more abundant Honour upon those Members which we think to be less Honourable, and more abundant Comeliness, on the Uncomely parts, as knowing those members are necessary that seem to be more feeble. If indeed we would have no Schism in the Body, the Natural
is, for the Members to have the same Care one for another, as suffering all with one that suffereth, and rejoycing all with one that's Honoured, 1 Cor. 12. 12, 13, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26. Take their Sufferings as your own, and you will not be hasty to bring them unto Suffering. It must be the Primitive Simplicity of Faith, Worship, and Discipline, that must restore the Primitive Charity, Unity, and Peace, and make the multitude of Believers to be of one Heart, and of one soul, and converse with Gladness and Singleness of Heart, as having all things common, Acts 4. 32. and 2. 46. No such things as our controversed Impositions, were then made necessary to the Unity and Concord of the Members of the Church.
18 And we humbly offer to your Consideration, which way will most gratifie Satan in his Cause and Servants, and which will most promote the Work and Interest of Jesus Christ. The Ungodly that have an inbred Enmity to Holiness, and to the Holy Seed, will be glad to see so many of them suffer, and glad, under the shelter of your Displeasure and Afflictings, to find opportunity to reproach them, and add Affliction to Affliction. The common Adversaries of our Religion, and of the King and Kingdom will rejoice to see us weakned by our Divisions, and employed in Afflicting or Censuring one another, and to see so many able Ministers laid aside, that might do much displeasure to Satan, by the weakening of his Kingdom, and by promoting the Gospel and Kingdom of the Lord, and whether this will tend to the Edification of the Saints, and the pleasing of Christ, we have enquired before.
19. And if what you stand for, be indeed of God, this course of unmerciful Imposition, is the greatest wrong to it, that you can easily be drawn to, unawares ; whilst so many truly fearing God, are cast out or troden down, and tempted to think ill of that which themselves and the Church thus suffer by; and when so many of the worst befriend this way, because it gratifieth them, it tendeth to make your Cause Judged of, according to the Quality of its Friends and Adversaries. And how great a Hand this very thing hath had already in the dislike that is
befallen Diocesans, Ceremonies, and the Liturgy, is a thing too generally known to need proof.
20. Lastly, We repeat what formerly we have said, that the Holy Ghost hath already so plainly decided the Point in Controversie, in the Instance of Meats and Days, Rom. 14. 15. that it seemeth strange to us that it should remain a Controversie. A weak Brother that maketh an unnecessary difference of Meats and Days is not to be cast out, but to be received and not be troubled with such doubtful Disputations, Despising and Judging the Servants of the Lord, whom he receiveth and can make to stand, and that upon such small occasion is unbeseeming true Believers, vers. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. All should be here left to the full Persuasion of their own mind, vers. 5. Both Parties here acknowledgeth the Sovereignty of Christ, and in observing, or not observing such things, they do it all to him, vers. 6, 7, 8, 9; his Judgment should affright us from despising or judging one another, vers. 10, 11, 12; instead of Judging others we should Judge it our Duty, that none of us put a stumbling Block, or occasion to fall in his Brothers way, vers. 13. If we grieve those that esteem that unclean which we do not, we walk not charitably; destroy not the Work of God, nor him for whom Christ Died, by your indifferent things, vers. 14, 15, 20. It is Evil to him that Judgeth it to be Evil, vers. 14. 20. Do you believe these things to be indifferent; have this Belief to your self, before God, and condemn not your selves in that which you allow, vers. 22. your Brother is Damned if he practice doubtingly, for whatsoever is not of Faith, is sin, vers. 23; and you drive him upon Damnation ! We
may well conclude then, that it is good, even your selves to avoid such things unnecessary, by which your Brother stumbleth, is offended or made Weak, ver. 21. Much more to forbear the forcing them upon him, which those that the Apostle reproveth did not attempt. It is the Kingdom of God that we must all promote; and that Kingdom consisteth not in Meat or Drink, but in Righteousness and Peace, and Joy in the Holy Ghost. And he that in these things serveth Christ, is acceptable to God, and should be approved of Men, vers. 17, 18. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for Peace, and things wherewith one may Edifie another, verse 19.
If you say Rulers Imposition maketh indifferent things cease to be Indifferent? We answer,
1. They are not indifferent, in the Judgment of Dissenters, tho' they be so in yours.
2. Paul was a Ruler of the Church himself, and yet would deny his own Liberty, rather than offend the Weak; so far was he from taking away the Liberty of others : 1 Cor. 8. 13. And it is to the Church of Rome and Corinth, and so to the Pastors as well as the rest, that Paul thus Writeth: We Beseech you, therefore, Plead not Law against us, when our Request is that you will joyn with us, in Peti. tioning to his Majesty, and the Parliament, that there may be no such Law.
The Apostles and Elders, Acts 15. 28. declare unto the Churches, that it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and them, to lay upon them no greater Burthen than necessary things; imposing them because Antecedently necessary (for that is given as the reason of their Selection, and Impo