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little of it have they got who will load a sound testimony with scandal, and use their utmost endeavour to hinder the usefulness of those whom God is pleased to send into the Church.
The Bible will hardly furnish us with a minister (who pretends to preach Christ) of such a spirit as this, except it be Diotrephes; and God says nothing in his favour : “ I wrote unto the Church (said John); but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words; and, not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the Church,” 3 John 9, 10. This man is one of a catholic spirit; he kept John himself out of the pulpit; he forbad his epistles being read to the congregation; he would admit no labourer that John sent into his pulpit; and those that would have admitted them to preach in their houses he forbad also; and, if they disputed his usurped authority, he excommunicated them; or, as the text saith, he “ cast them out of the Church.” This man was a lord over God's heritage, and this wretched spirit is cherished too much in our days.
For my part, I wish never to hear the word catholic again. It is a word that I believe was coined in Egypt at the time of the dispute between that dreadful monster Arius (the grandfather of our present Arians) and Athanasius, whom God raised up to oppose him. The cause of Satan against Christ, carried on by Arius, was called the Arian cause, or the Arian faith; while, on the other hand, the cause of truth, pleaded by Athanasius, by way of distinction, was called the Catholic cause, or Catholic faith; so that those souls who enjoyed the Father's love, the Saviour's atonement, and the Holy Ghost's testimony in their souls, were styled people of the Catholic faith; while those that ridiculed and abused the Lord Jesus Christ, declaring him to be a mere creature, were called Arians, being the recipients of his damnable heresy, as the Holy Ghost styles it, 2 Pet. ii. 1. 1.
While the true faith flourished at Rome the believers that were of that city were styled Roman Catholics: but, as they have exalted. a pope, in
opp0sition to Christ; and have cast' out his word, and introduced their own superstitious vanities instead of it, yet appropriate the name Catholic to themselves, it is now big with nothing but mischief; for he is deemed the best Catholic that opposes truth, kills the saints, and burns the Bible; therefore it is high time
, understood, and of a more ancient date; such as saints, believers, children of God, disciples of Christ, partakers of the Spirit, the household of faith, &c. which are terms that have a better meaning than a catholic man, catholic spirit, and catholic church. Let us be no longer plunderers of the whore of Babylon; but let her names go with her relics, her merit; and all the rest of her trumpery; and let us say, 'Good rid of bad rubbish.'
Ahimaaz. I find you are no friend to the Roman Catholics, and yet you are beholden to them; for your Common Prayer-books were entirely of their composing, only our Reformers purged out some few popish dregs; such as praying to saints and angels, &c. &c. And you know we have many good and able ministers of Jesus Christ, who exalt its excellency publicly above all extempore prayer; and others, who were not in the establishment when they took on them the ministry, are taking the form with them, even at the risk of the bishop's displeasure; yea, and some have spent hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds at law, in order to secure the use of it. What do you think of this?
Cushi. Suppose I was to go to-morrow into a town where the gospel had never been preached, and where there was not a soul to be found that was converted to Christ, and I should preach from this text, “ Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his,” Rom. viii. 9; and I was to declare, first, the insufficiency of a form of godliness without the power; secondly, the necessity of regeneration; thirdly, shew the operations of the Spirit from the word of God; fourthly, that God seeketh spiritual worshippers; and, lastly, prove that the Holy Ghost is sufficient to work faith, to sanctify, the soul, and prepare it for the reception of Christ; and sufficient also to lead the believer on in a course of spiritual devotion, as the spirit of grace and of supplication; and four souls, under this discourse, should be convinced of the insufficiency of their formality; should you not think that I had acted the faithful part in handling the above text in that manner; and that God had approved of it by four persons being conyinced under it?
Ahimaaz. I should think that you had taken the best step that could be taken to undermine their sandy foundation, and to shew them the necessity of being made new creatures in Christ; and I am fully persuaded that God's word would bear you out. .
Cushi. Then suppose there should come a gospel minister the week following into the church, who should preach up the excellency of the form, cast a few reflections on dissenters, speak lightly of extempore prayer, and settle these four convinced souls on their old bottom again, would he not build up that which I had destroyed? Gal. ii. 18; and, if so, who would be the transgressor? Ahimaaz. Certainly he would.
. Cushi. Then you have decided this matter. And I believe there are many in our days, who are destitute of grace whom God has sent, who preach and pray as the Spirit gives them utterance; such hear the gospel, but place all their hopes in the form. And, when these unleavened formalists hear a gospel minister, they ridicule spiritual petitions, and their self-righteous souls are fed with the venom of asps; their native prejudice against pious dissenters is fixed the firmer, and they are wickedly and deceitfully established on the old basis of depraved nature. This is no part of the work of an evangelist.
Ahimaaz. Do you think, my brother, that the Lord Jesus ever set their own souls at liberty in answer to the form of prayer? One would think that he had, as they speak so highly of it, and so lightly of extempore prayer.
Cushi. No; God permits 'none' to prevail with him but those who by the Spirit's intercession pour out their souls before him in faith, under a sense of want, and in a language expressive of their own troubles. And I will be bold to say that, if my brother could be in the study of these good men on some Saturday evening, or Sunday morning, when their Bible is as a sealed book, Satan buffeting them, their minds confused, their judgments bewildered, a congregation gathering together, and no text opened to them, no thoughts springing up, and they altogether unfurnished for the pulpit,-he would then see them upon their knees before God hard at work, without any servicebook in their hands; he would hear their groaning petitions, see their tears, and be convinced that the whole business was carried on between God and their own souls, by those very extempore prayers which they publicly speak so lightly of.
Ahimaaz. If this be the case, we must act with good men's bigotry as the Saviour bids us do with bad men's precepts; he tells us not to do as the Pharisees do, but to do as they say. But we must not do (in this matter) as these good men say, but as
Cushi. If you do so you will do right; for, if the supplications of the Holy Spirit will not prevail with God, no human compositions can.
Ahimaaz. I believe there were at one time nearly two thousand ministers of the gospel in this country who exposed themselves to many hardships for their non-conformity to the Common Prayer; which at times has led me to think very lightly of their sufferings; since I have heard many good men, who preach the same doctrine which they did, contend for, and highly extol, the very things that their consciences could never conform to. I have thought that their nonconformity was the effect of a stubborn and rebellious