תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

be necessary or fit for a member of this particular church, which is not so to all.’ Answ. Catholic communion is that which all Christians and churches have with one another, and the terms of it are such as all Christians may agree in. Catholic communion is principally existent and exercised in particular churches, (as there is no existent Christianity or faith, which existeth not in individual Christians). Therefore if one particular church may so narrow the door of its communion, then another and another, and every one may do so; if not by the same particular impositions, yet by some other of the like nature; for what power one church hath herein, others have; and then catholic communion will be scarce found existent externally in the world: but a mere catholic Christian would be denied communion in every particular church he cometh to. And how do you hold catholic communion, when you will admit no mere catholic Christian as such to your communion, but only such as supererogate according to your private church terms ? 2. But grant that every church may impose more upon its members, it must be only that which is necessary to those common things which all agree in ; and then the necessity will be discernible to all sober-minded persons, and will prevent divisions; as it is necessary that he that will communicate with our churches, do join with them in the same translation of Scripture, and version of the Psalms, and under the same pastor, as the rest of the church doth : for here the church cannot use variety of pastors, translations, versions, &c. to fit the variety of men's humours; there is an evident necessity, that if they will be one society, they must agree in the same, in each of these. Therefore when the church hath united in one, if any man refuse that one person or way which the church is necessarily united in, he refuseth communion with that church, and the church doth not excommunicate him! But if that church agree on things hurtful or unnecessary, as necessary to its communion, it must bear the blame of the separations itself! 3. And grant yet that some churches cannot admit such scrupulous persons to her communion as dare not join in every punctilio, circumstance, or mode; it doth not follow that those persons must therefore be excommunicated, or for

bidden to worship God among themselves, without that which they scruple; or to join in, or with a congregation which imposeth no such things upon them. Persecution will unavoidably come in, upon such domineering, narrow terms as those. The man is a Christian still, though he scruple one of our modes or ceremonies, and is capable of catholic communion. And if private and little inconveniences shall be thought a sufficient cause, to forbid all such the public worshipping of God, on pretence that in one nation, there must not be variety of modes, this is a dividing principle, and not catholic, and plungeth men into the guilt of persecution. It was not so in the churches of the Roman empire. In the days of Basil, his church, and that at Neocaesarea differed; and ordinarily, several bishops used several forms of prayer and worship, in their several churches, without offence. And further, Direct. x v1. ‘Different faults must have different penalties: and excommunications or forbidding men all public worship of God, must not be the penalty of every dissent.’ Is there no smaller penalty sufficient, if a doubtful subscription or ceremony be scrupled, than to silence ministers therefore from preaching the Gospel, or excommunicating men, and forbidding them to worship God at all except they can do this? This is the highest ecclesiastical penalty that can be laid on men for the greatest heresy or crime. Doubtless there are lesser punishments that may suffice for lesser faults. Direct. xv.11. ‘Every friend of Christ and the church, must choose such penalties for ministers and private Christians, who offend, as are least to the hindrance of the Gospel, or hurtful to the people's souls.” Therefore silencing ministers is not a fit punishment for every fault which they commit! The providence of God (as I said before) hath furnished the world with so few that are fit for that high and sacred work, that no man can pretend that they are supernumeraries, or unnecessary, and that others may be substituted to the church's profit: for the number is so small, that all are much too few ; and so many as are silenced, so many churches (either the same or others) must be unsupplied or ill supplied. And God working ordinarily by means, we may conclude, that silencing of such preachers, doth as plainly tend to men's damnation, as the prohibiting of physicians doth to their death, and more. And it is not the part of a friend, either of God or men, to endeavour the damnation of one soul, much less of multitudes, because a minister hath displeased him. If one man must pay for another man's sins, let it be a pecuniary mulct, or the loss of a member, rather than the loss of his soul. It is more merciful every time a minister offendeth, to cut off a hand, or an arm of some of his flock, than to say to him, “Teach them no more the way to salvation, that so they may be damned.” If a father offend, and his children must needs pay for all his faults, it is better beat the children, or maim them, than forbid him to feed them, when there is none else to do it, and so to famish them. What reason is there that men's souls should be untaught, because a minister hath offended? I know still, those men that care not for their own souls and therefore care as little for others, will say, What if the people have but a reader, or a weak, ignorant, lifeless preacher? Doth it follow that therefore the people must be damned 2 I answer, No : no more than it followeth that the city that hath none but women physicians must die of their sicknesses, or that they that live only upon grass and roots must famish. Nature may do more to overcome a disease without a physician in one than in another. Some perhaps are converted already, and have the law written in their hearts, and are taught of God, and can make shift to live without a teacher: but for the rest, whose diseases need a skilful, diligent physician, whose ignorance and impenitence extremely needeth a skilful, diligent, lively teacher, he that depriveth them of such, doth take the probable course to damn them! And it is the same course which the devil himself would take; and he partly knoweth what tendeth to men's damnation He that knoweth what a case the heathen, infidel, Mahometan world is in for want of teachers; and what a case the Greek church, the Muscovites, the Abassines, Syrians, Armenians, Papists, and most of the Christians of the world are in, for want of able, skilful, godly pastors, will lay his hand on his mouth, and meddle with such reasonings as these no more. Object. “But by this device you will have the clergy lawless, or as the Papists, exempt them from the magistrate's

punishments, for fear of depriving the people of instruction.’ Answ. No such matter: it is the contrary that I am advising; I would have them punished more severely than other men, as their sins are more aggravated than other men's. Yea, and I would have them silenced when it is meet, and that is in two cases: viz. If they commit such capital crimes, as God and man would have punished with death, it is fit they die, (and then they are silenced :) for in this case it is supposed that their lives, (by their impunity,) are like to do more hurt than good. 2. If their heresy, insufficiency, scandal, or any fault whatever, do make them more hurtful than profitable to the church, it is fit that they be cast out. If their ministry be not like to do more good, than their faults do harm, let them be silenced | But if it be otherwise, then let them be punished in their bodies or purses, rather than the people's souls should suffer. The laws have variety of penalties for other men Will none of those suffice for ministers ? But alas ! what talk I of their faults 2 Search all church history, and observe whether in all ages ministers have not been silenced rather for their duties, than their faults; or, for not subscribing to some unnecessary opinion or imposition of a prevailing party; or about some wrangling controversies which church-disturbers set afoot ' There is many a poor minister would work in Bridewell, or be tied to shovel the streets all the rest of the week, if he might but have liberty to preach the Gospel ! And would not such a penalty be sufficient for a dissent in some unnecessary point? As it is not every fault that a magistrate is deposed for by the sovereign, but such as make him unfit for the place, so is it also with the ministers. Direct. xv.111. ‘Malignity and profaneness must not be gratified or encouraged.’ It must be considered, “How the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to his law, nor can be:” and that enmity is put between the woman's and the serpent's seed";” and that the whole business of the world, is but the prosecution of a war between the armies of Christ and satan; and that malignity inclineth the ungodly world to slander and reproach the servants of the Lord; and they are glad of any opportunity to make them odious, or to exasperate magistrates against them: and that their silencing and fall, is the joy of the ungodly. And if there be any civil differences or sidings, the ungodly rabble will take that side, be it right or wrong, which they think will do most to the downfall of the godly, whom they hate. Therefore besides the merits of the particular cause, a ruler that regardeth the interest of the Gospel, and men's salvation, must have some care that the course which he taketh against the godly ministers and people, when they displease him, be such as doth not strengthen the hands of evil doers, nor harden them, nor increase them, or make them glad. I do not say, that a ruler must be against whatever the ungodly part is for; or that he must be for that which the major part of godly men are for ; (I know this is a deceitful rule). But yet that which pleaseth the malignant rabble, and displeaseth or hurteth the generality of godly men, is so seldom pleasing to God, that it is much to be suspected. Direct. xix. “The substance of faith, and the practice of godliness must be valued above all opinions, and parties, and worldly interests; and godly men accounted, as they are, (‘ caeteris paribus') the best members both of church and state.” If rulers once knew the difference between a saint and a sensualist, “a vile person would be contemned in their eyes, and they would honour them that fear the Lord.” And if they honoured them as God commandeth them, they would not persecute them; and if the promoting of practical godliness were their design, there were little danger of their oppressing those that must be the instruments of propagating it, if ever it prosper in the world. Direct. xx. To this end, “Remember the near and dear relation which every true believer standeth in to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” They are called by God, “His peculiar treasure, his jewels,-his children,_ members of Christ,- the temples of the Holy Ghost;-God dwelleth in them by love, and Christ by faith, and the Spirit by his sanctifying gifts".” If this were well believed, men would more reverence them on God's account, than cause

* Rom. viii. 7, 8. Gen. iii. 15.

* Exod. xix. 5. 1 Pet. ii. 9. Tit. ii. 14. 2 Cor. vi. 16–18. Mal. iii. 17, 18. Eph. iii. 17. 1 Cor. iii. 17, 2 Tim. i. 14. 1 John iv. 15, 16.

« הקודםהמשך »