« PreviousContinue »
TO DOCTOR MILBURNE.
Discoursing how far, and wherein, Popery destroyeth the Foun
The mean in all things is not more safe than hard, whether to find or keep. And, as in all other morality, it lieth in a narrow room; so most in the matter of our censure, especially concerning religion : wherein we are wont to be either careless, or too peremptory.
How far and wherein, Popery razeth the foundation, is worth our enquiry. I need not stay upon words. By foundation, we mean the necessary grounds of Christian faith.
This foundation Papistry defaces, by laying a new; by casting down the old.
In these cases, addition destroys: he, that obtrudes a new Word, no less overthrows the Scripture; than he, that denies the old. Yea, this
obtrusion denies : he, that sets up a new Christ, rejects Christ. Two foundations cannot stand at once; the Ark, and Dagon: now, Papistry lays a double new foundation: the one, a new rule of faith, that is, a new Word; the other, a new author, or guide of faith, that is, a new head besides Christ. laid other foundation, than in the Prophets and Apostles : upon their divine writings, he meant to build his Church; which he therefore inspired, that they might be, like himself, perfect and eternal. Popery builds upon an unwritten word; the voice of old, but doubtful, traditions; the voice of the present Church, that is, as they interpret it, theirs; with no less confidence and presumption of certainty, than any thing ever written by the finger of God. If this be not a new foundation, the old was none. God never taught this holy Spouse, to know any other Husband, than Christ; to acknowledge any other Head, to follow any other Shepherd, to obey any other King: he alone may be enjoyed, without jealousy ; submitted to, without danger; without error, believed ; served, without scruple. Popery. offers to impose on God's Church a King, Shepherd, Head, Husband, besides her own : a man; a man of sin. He must know all things, can err in nothing; direct, inform, animate, command, both in earth and purgatory ; expound Scriptures, canonize Saints, forgive sins, create new Articles of Faith ; and, in all these, is absolute and infallible as his Maker. Who sees not, that if to attribute these things to the Son of God, be to make him the foundation of the Church; then, to ascribe them to another, is to contradict him that said, Other foundation can no man lay, than that, which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. To lay a new foundation, doth necessarily subvert the old : yet see this further actually done in particulars; wherein yet this distinction may clear the way:
The foundation is overthrown two ways: either in flat terms, when a main principle of faith is absolutely denied ; as the deity and consubstantiality of the Son, by Arius; the trinity of persons, by Sabellius and Servetus; the resurrection of the body, by Hymeneus and Philetus; the last judgment, by St. Peter's mockers : or, secondly, by consequent, when any opinion is maintained, which by just sequel overturneth the truth of that principle, which the defendant professes to hold; yet so, as he will not grant the necessity of that deduction; so the ancient Minæi, of whom Jerome speaketh, while they urged circumcision, by consequent, according to Paul's rule, rejected Christ; so the Pelagians, while they defended a full perfection of our righteousness in ourselves, overthrew Christ's justification, and, in effect, said, “I believe in Christ, and in myself;" so some ubiquitaries, while they hold the possibility of conversion and salvation of reprobates, overthrow the doctrine of God's eternal decree and immutability.
Popery comes in this latter rank; and may justly be termed Heresy, by direct consequent; though not in their grant, yet in necessary proof and inference,
Thus, it overthrows the truth of Christ's Humanity; while it þolds his whole human body locally circumscribed in heaven, and, at once, the same instant, wholly present in ten thousand places on earth, without circumscription, that whole Christ is in the forms of bread, with all his dimensions, every part having his own place and figure, and yet so, as that he is wholly in every part of the bread: our justification; while it ascribes it to our own works: the all-sufficiency of Christ's own sacrifice; while they reiterate it daily, by the hands of a priest : of his satisfaction; while they hold a payment of our utmost farthings, in a devised purgatory : of his mediation; while they implore others to aid them, not only by their intercession, but their merits ; suing, not only for their prayers, but their gifts : the value of the Scriptures; while they hold them insufficient, obscure, in points essential to salvation, and bind them to an uncertain dependance upon the Church,
Besides hundreds of this kind, there are heresies in actions ; contrary to those fundamental practices, which God requires of his: as prohibitions of Scriptures to the laity; prescriptions of devotion in unknown tongues; tying the effect of sacraments and prayers to the external work; adoration of angels, saints, bread, relics, crosses, images : all which, are so many real underminings of the sacred foundation, which is no less active, than vocal,
By this, the simplest may see, what we must hold of Papists ; neither as no heretics, nor yet so palpable as the worst. If any man ask for their conviction : in the simpler sort, I grant this ex, cuse fair and tolerable ; poor souls, they cannot be any otherwise juformed, much less persuaded. While, in truth of heart, they hold the main principles which they know ; doubtless, the mercy of God may pass over their ignorant weakness, in what they cannot know. For the other, I fear not to say, that many of their errors are wilful : the light of truth hath shined out of heaven to them, and they love darkness more than light.
In this state of the Church, he shall speak and hope idly, that shall call for a public and universal eviction. How can that be, when thev pretend to be judges in their own cause ? Unless they will not be adversaries to themselves, or judge of us, this course is but impossible." As the Devil, so Antichrist, will not yield: both shall be subdued ; neither will treat of peace. What remains, but that the Lord shall consume that wicked man which is now clearly revealed, with the breath of his mouth, and abolish him with the brightness of his coming ? Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
This, briefly, is my conceit of Popery ; which I willingly refer to your clear and deep judgment: being not more desirous to teach the ignorant what I know, than to learn of you what I should teach, and know not. The Lord direct all our thoughts to his glory, and the behoof of his Church.
WRITTEN LONG SINCE TO MR. J. W. Dissuading from Separation ; and shortly oppugning the Grounds of
that Error. In my former Epistle *, I confess, I touched the late separation with a light hand: only setting down the injury of it, at the best ; not discussing the grounds in common. Now, your danger draws me on to this discourse. It is not much less thankworthy, to prevent a disease, than to cure it.
You confess that you doubt : I mislike it not: doubting is not more the way to error, than to satisfaction: lay down first all pride and prejudice, and I cannot fear you. I never yet knew any man of this way, which hath not bewrayed himself far gone with overweening; and, therefore, it hath been just with God, to punish their self-love with error. An humble spirit is a fit subject for truth : prepare you your heart, and let me then answer, or rather God for me.
You doubt whether the notorious sin of one unreformed, uncen. sured, defile not the whole congregation; so as we may not, without sin, communicate therewith. And why not the whole Church? Woe were us, if we should thus live in the danger of all men : have we not sins enough of our own, but we must borrow of others ? Euch man shall bear his own burden : is ours so light, that we call for more weight; and undertake, what God never imposed ? It
* See Decade III. Epistle I. EDITOR.
was enough for Him, that is God and Man, to bear others’ iniquities: it is no task for us, which shrink under the least of our own.,
But it is made ours, you say, though another's, by our toleration and connivance. Indeed, if we consent to them, encourage them, imitate or accompany them, in the same excess of riot; yet more, the public person that forbears a known sin, sinneth : but, if each man's known sin be every man's, what difference is betwixt the root and the branches ? Adam's sin spread itself to us, because we were in him; stood or fell, in him : our case is not such. Do but see how God scorneth that unjust proverb of the Jews, That The Fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge. How much less are strangers'! Is any bond so near, as this of blood ? Shall not the child smart for the parent ? and shall we, even spiritually, for others ?
You object Achan's stealth, and Israel's punishment: an unlike case, and extraordinary : for see how direct God's charge is; Be ye ware of the execrable thing, lest ye make yourselves execrable ; and, in taking of the execrable thing, make also the host of Israel execrable, and trouble it. Now, every man is made a party, by a peculiar injunction: and not only all Israel is as one man, but every Israelite is a public person in this act. You cannot shew the like, in every one; no, not in any : it was a law for the present, not intended for perpetuity : you may as well challenge the trumpets of rams' horns, and seven days, walk, unto every siege.
Look elsewhere. The Church of Thyaura suffers the woman Jezebel to teach and deceive : a great sin: l'et to you, saith the Spirit, the rest of Thyatira, as many as have not this learning, I will put upon you none other burden ; but that, which you have, hold fust : he saith not, “ Leave your Church ;"' but, field fast your own. Look into the practice of the Prophets : ransack their Burdens; and see if you find this there. Yea, behold our best pattern, the Son of God: the Jewish Rulers in Christ's time were notoriously covetous, proud, oppressing, cruel, superstitious: our Saviour feared not polluting, in joining with them; and was so far from separating himself, that he called and sent others to them.
“ But, a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” It is true; by the infection of it, sin, where it is unpunished, spreadeth: it soureth all those, whose hands are in it; not others. If we dislike it, de. test, desist, reprove, and mourn for it, we cannot be tainted. The Corinthian love-feasts had gross and sinful disorder : yet you bear not Paul say, “ Abstain from the sacrament, till these be reformed:” rather, he enjoins the act, and controls the abuse. God hath bidden you hear and receive : shew me, where he hath said, except others be sinful. Their uncleanness can no more defile you, than your holiness can excuse them.
“But, while I communicate,” you say, “ I consent.” God forbid. It is sin, not to cast out the deserving ; but not yours: who made you a ruler and a judge? The unclean must be separated; not by the people. Would you have no distinction, betwixt private and public persons ? What strange confusion is this? And
what other than the old note of Korah and his company ; Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them : wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord ? What is, if this be not, to make a monster of Christ's body? He is the head : his Church the body; consisting of divers limbs. All have their several faculties and employments ; not every one, all. Who would imagine any man so absurd, as to say, that this body should be all tongue, or all hands; every man a teacher, every man a ruler ? as though Christ had said to every man, Go teach, and whose sins ye remit, &c. How senseless are these two extremes; of the Papists, that one man hath the keys; of the Brownists, that every man hath them!
“ But these privileges and charges are given to the Church.” True; to be executed by her governors. The faculty of speech is given to the whole man; but the use of it, to the
instrument. Man speaketh, but by his tongue: if a voice should be heard from his hand, ear, foot, it were unnatural. Now, if the tongue speak not when it ought, shall we be so foolish as to blame the hand ?
you say; if the tongue speak not, or speak ill, the whole man smarteth; the man sinneth." I grant it; but you shall set the natural body on too hard a rack, if you strain it in all things, to the likeness of the spiritual or civil. The members of that, being quickened by the same soul, have charge of each other; and, therefore, either stand or fall together. It is not so in these.
If then, notwithstanding unpunished sins, we may join with the True Church, whether is ours such ? You doubt; and your soli, citors deny : surely, if we have many enormities, yet none worse than rash and cruel judgment; let them make this a colour to depart from themselves: there is no less woe to them, that call good evil. To judge one man is bold and dangerous : judge then what it is to condemn a whole Church; God knows, as much without cause, as without shame. Vain men may libel against the Spouse of Christ : her husband never divorced her: no, his love is still above their hatred; his blessings above their censures. Do but ask them, Were we ever the true Church of God? If they deny it; who then were so ? Had God never Church upon earth, since the apostles' time, till Barrow and Greenwood arose ? and, even then, scarce a number ? Nay, when or where was ever any man in the world, except in the Schools perhaps of Donatus or Novatus, that taught their doctrine; and now still hath he none, but in a blind lane at Amsterdam ? Can you think this probable? If they affirm it, when ceased we? Are not the points controverted still the same ? the same government, the same doctrine ? Their minds are changed; not our estate. Who hath admonished, evinced, excommunicated us; and when? All these must be done. Will it not be a shame to say ; that Francis Johnson, as he took power to excommunicate his brother and father, so had power to. excommunicate his Mother, the Church ? How base and idle are these con