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deliberation, will be ready to go along with them. It never grieved nor troubled John Baptist, that his disciples departed from him to follow after Christ, John iii. But if the congregational way should prove to be, not the institution of Christ, as we take it, but the invention of men; then doubtless the presbyterial form, if it be of God, will swallow up the other, as Moses' rod devoured the rods of the Egyptians. Nor will this put a necessity upon both the opposite parties to shift for themselves, and to seek to supplant one another, but only it will call upon them (aletheuein en agape) to seek and to follow the truth in love, to attend in faithfulness each unto his own flock, and to administer to them all the holy things of God, and their portion of food in due season: and as for others, quietly to forbear them, and yet to instruct them with meekness that are contrary minded, leaving it to Christ, in the use of all good means, to reveal his own truth in his own time, and meanwhile endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Phil. iii. 15, 16. Eph. iv. 3.
To the second exception, that we take no course for the gaining, and healing, and calling in of ignorant and erroneous persons, whom we refuse to receive into our churches, and so exclude them from the remedy of church discipline :
We conceive the receiving of them into our
churches, would rather lose and corrupt our churches, than gain and heal them. A little leaven laid in a lump of dough, will sooner leaven the whole lump, than the whole lump will sweeten it. We find it therefore safer to square rough and unhewn stones before they be laid into the building, rather than to hammer and hew them when they lie unevenly in the building. And accordingly two means we use to gain and call in such as are ignorant and scandalous.
1. The public ministry of the word, upon which they are invited by counsel, and required by wholesome laws, (to attend.] And the word it is, which is the power of God to salvation, to the calling and winning of souls.
2. Private conference, and conviction by the elders, and other able brethren of the church, whom they do the most respectfully hearken unto, when they see no hope of enjoying church fellowship, or participation in the sacraments for themselves or their children, till they approve their judgments to be sound and orthodox, and their lives subdued to some hope of a godly conversation. What can classical discipline, or excommunication itself do more in this case ?
The third exception wraps up in it a threefold domestic inconvenience, and each of them meet to be eschewed. 1. Disunion in families between each relation. 2. Disappointment of edification, for want of opportunity in the governors of families to take account of
things heard by their children and servants. 3. Disbursements of chargeable maintenance to the several churches, whereto the several persons of their families are joined.
All which inconveniences either do not fall out in congregational churches, or are easily redressed; for none are orderly admitted into congregational churches, but such as are well approved by good testimony to be duly observant of family relation : or if
otherwise disposed should creep in, they are either orderly healed, or duly removed in a way of Christ. Nor are they admitted, unless they can give some good account of their profiting by ordinances, before the elders and brethren of the church, and much more to their parents and masters. Godly tutors in the university can take an account of their pupils; and godly householders in the city take an account of their children and servants, how they profit by the word they have heard in several churches, and that to the greater edification of the whole family by a variety of such administrations. Bees may bring more honey and wax into the hive, when they are not limited to one garden of flowers, but may fly abroad to many.
Nor is any charge expected from wives, children or servants to the maintenance of congregational churches, further than they be furnished with personal estates or livings, which may enable them to contribute of such things as
they have, and not of such things as they have not. God accepteth not robbery for a sacrifice. And though a godly householder may justly take himself bound in conscience to contribute to any such church, whereto his wife, or children, or servants do stand in relation, yet that will not aggravate the burden of his charge, no more than if they were received members of the same church whereto himself is related.
But why do we stand thus long to plead exemptions from exceptions ? The Lord help all his faithful servants, whether presbyterial or congregational, to judge and shame ourselves before the Lord, for all our former compliances to greater enormities in church government, than are to be found either in the congregational or presbyterial way; and then surely either the Lord will clear up his own will to us, and so frame and subdue us all to one mind and one way, (Ezek. xliii. 10, 11,) or else we shall learn to bear one another's burthens in a spirit of meekness. It will then doubtless be far from us, so to attest the discipline of Christ, as to detest the disciples of Christ : so to contend for the seamless coat of Christ, as to crucify the living members of Christ : so to divide ourselves about church communion, as through breaches to open a wide gap for a deluge of antichristian and profane malignity to swallow
both church and civil state. What shall we say more? Is difference of
church order become the inlet of all the disorders in the kingdom? Hath the Lord indeed left us to such hardness of heart, that church government shall become a snare to Zion, as sometimes Moses was to Egypt, Exod. x. we cannot leave contesting and contending about it, till the kingdom be destroyed? Did not the Lord Jesus, when he dedicated his sufferings for his church, and his also unto his Father, make it his earnest and only prayer for us in this world, that we all might be one in him? John, xvii. 20, 21, 22, 23. And is it possible that he, whom the Father heard always, John xi. 42, should not have this last most solemn prayer heard and granted? Or shall it be granted for all the saints elsewhere, and not for the saints in England; so that amongst them disunion shall grow even about church union and communion? If it be possible for a little faith, so much as a grain-of mustard seed, to remove a mountain, is it not possible for so much strength of faith as is to be found in all the godly in the kingdom, to remove those images of jealousy, and to cast those stumbling-blocks out of the way, which
hinder the free passage of brotherly love amongst brethren? It is true indeed, the national covenant doth justly engage both parties faithfully to endeavor the utter extirpation of the antichristian hierarchy; and much more of all blasphemies, heresies, and errors. Certainly, if congregational discipline