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to that catholic church communion, which belongeth to Christians as Christians, at how great a distance soever they dwell from one another.
And then for particular church communion, which is local and personal, it is moreover necessary, 1. That each member acknowledge and submit to the same pastors. 2. That they be guided by them in the convenient circumstances and adjuncts of worship. For if some persons will not or submit to the same pastors that the body of the church consenteth and submitteth to, they cannot have communion particularly and locally with that church, nor are they members of it, no more than they can be members of the same kingdom that have not the same king. And there being no solemn worship performed but by the ministry of those pastors, they cannot join in the worship that join not with the minister. And if some members will not consent and submit to the necessary determination of the adjuncts or external modes of worship, they cannot join in local, particular church communion where that worship is performed. As if the pastor and the body of the church will meet in such a place, at such a day and hour, and some members will not meet with them at that place, and day, and hour, they cannot possibly then have their local, personal communion. Or if the pastor will use such a translation of the Scriptures, or such a version of the Psalms, or such a method in preaching and prayer, or such notes or books, and other like helps; if any members will not submit, nor hold communion with the rest, unless that translation, or version, or method of preaching or praying, or notes or books be laid aside, he cannot have communion while he refuseth it. If the pastor, and all the rest will not yield to him, he must join with some other church that he can agree with. And as long as the catholic church communion is maintained (which consisteth in unity, of the Christian covenant, or of Christianity, or of faith, love, and obedience), the difference of modes and circumstances between particular churches, must be allowed without any breach of charity, or without disowning one another. And he that cannot be a member of one particular church, may quietly join himself to another, without condemning that which he dissenteth from, so far as to hinder his catholic communion with it, (even as among the papists, men may
be of which order or of religious persons they best like, as long as they submit to their general government). And here the strong, judicious Christian for his part, will never be guilty of church divisions. For, 1. He will make nothing necessary to church communion, which any sober, pious, peaceable minds shall have any just reason to except against, or which may not well be manifested to be for the edification of the church. 2. And he will bear with the weak dissenters so far as will stand with the peace and welfare of the church. 3. And he will particularly give leave to such weak ones as cannot yet hold communion with him, being peaceable, and not promoting heresy, ungodliness, or sedition, to join to another church where they can hold communion with peace to their own consciences; as long as they continue their foresaid catholic communion. For the strong know that they must not only bear with, but bear the "infirmities of the weak, and not to please themselves, but every one of them to please his neighbour for good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself." And so they will "receive one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God, not despising the weak, nor rejecting them that God receiveth;" Rom. xv. 1-3. 7. xiv. 1-4. 17, 18. And thus you may see how easy a matter it were to unite and reconcile all the Christian world, if the principles of the judicious, confirmed Christian might be received and prevail; and that it is not he that is the cause of the abundance of sin and calamity which divisions have caused, and continued in the church. But that which now seemeth an impossible thing, may quickly and easily be accomplished if all were such as he. And that the difficulty of reconciling and uniting Christians, lieth not first in finding out the terms, but in making men fit to receive and practise the terms from the beginning received by the churches. This is Lirinensis's Quod semper, ubique; et ab omnibus receptum est :' supposing still that the magistrate be submitted to by every soul, even as he is the keeper of both tables; Rom. xiii. 1-3.
2. But the weak Christian is too easily tempted to be the divider of the church, by expecting that it be united upon his impossible or unrighteous terms. Sometimes he will be orthodox overmuch, or rather wise in his own conceit (Rom. xii. 16.), and then none are judged fit for his com
munion that be not of his opinion, in controverted doctrinals, (e. g. predestination, the manner of the work of grace, freewill, perseverance, and abundance such). Sometimes he will be righteous overmuch, or (to speak more properly) superstitious; and then none are fit for his communion that worship not God in that method and manner for circumstantials, which he esteemed best. And his charity is so weak, that it freeth him not from thinking evil (1 Cor. xiii.), and so narrow, that it covereth not either many or great infirmities. The more need he hath of the forbearance and charity of others, the less can he bear or forbear others himself. The strong Christian must bear the infirmities of the weak; but the weak Christian can scarce bear with the weak or strong. Nay, he is oft too impatient with some of their virtues and duties, as well as with their infirmities. He is of too private a spirit, and too insensible of the public interest of the church of Christ. And therefore he must have all the world come over to him, and be conformed to his opinion and party, and unite upon his mistaken, narrow terms, if they will have communion with him. I mean, it is thus with him, when the temptation on that side prevaileth. And sometimes he is overcome with the temptation of domination, to make his judgment a rule to others; and then he quite overvalueth his own understanding, and will needs be judge of all the controversies in the church; and taketh it as unsufferable, if wiser and better men do not take him as infallible, and in every thing observe,his will. And when his brethren give him the reason of their dissent, as his judgment is not clear enough to understand them, so his passion and partiality are too strong to suffer his judgment to do its part. And thus oftentimes he is a greater hindrance to the church's unity, than the enemies of the church themselves. For he hath not judgment enough to guide him the right way, and yet he hath so much zeal as will not suffer him to keep his errors to him.
3. And all these distempers that are but in a lower degree in the weak Christian, are predominant in the hypocrite. The church shall have no concord or peace if he can hinder it, but what is consistent with his carnal interest, his honour, or wealth, or dignity in the world. The pride and covetousness which rule himself, he would have to make the terms of concord, and to rule all others. It is hypocrites
in the church that are the greatest cause of discord and divisions, having selfish spirits, principles, and ends, and having always a work of their own to do, which suits not well with the work of Christ; and yet Christ's work must be subjected to it, and ordered, and overruled by it. And while they pretend to go to the Scriptures, or to councils or fathers for their reasons, indeed they go first for them to their worldly interest; and then would fain hire or press the Scripture, church, or fathers to serve their turn, and come in as witnesses on their side. And thus the church, as well as Christ, is betrayed by the covetous Judases of his own family. And the servants of the world, the flesh, and the devil, that take up the livery of Christ, and usurp the name and honour of Christian, do more effectually hinder the concord and prosperity of the church, than any open enemies do. And those that are indeed no Christians, do cause Christianity to be reproached; even as spies and traitors that are hired by the enemy to take up arms in the army which they fight against, that they may betray it by their fraud, and do more harm to it by raising mutinies, and by false conduct, than a multitude of professed enemies could have done. It is proud, and worldly, carnal hypocrites, that hinder most the concord of believers.
LIV. 1. A confirmed Christian is of a peaceable spirit. He is not masterly, domineering, turbulent, hurtful, cruel, seditious, factious, or contentious. He is like ripened fruits that are mellow and sweet, when the younger, greener fruits are sour and harsh. He is not wise in his own conceit, (Rom. xii. 16.), and therefore not over-urgent in obtruding his conceits on others, not quarrelsome with all that cannot entertain them, nor will he easily lay men's salvation or damnation, no, nor the church's peace upon them. He is "kindly affectioned to others with brotherly love, yea, loveth his neighbour as himself;" ver. 10. xiii. 9, 10. And therefore he doth to others as he would they should do to him; and uses them as he would be used by them. And then how far they are like to suffer by him, you may easily judge. For "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour;" ver. 10. He is above the portion of the worldling, and a contemner of that vanity which carnal men account their felicity; and therefore he preferreth love and quietness before it, and can lose his right when the interest of love and peace
requireth it. He is become as a little child in his conversion (Matt. xviii. 3.), and is low and little in his own eyes, and therefore contendeth not for superiority or preeminence, either in place or power, or reputation of his learning, wisdom, or piety; but" in honour preferreth others" before himself;" Rom. xii. 10. He mindeth not high things, but condescendeth to men of low estate;" Rom. xii. 16. And therefore will not contend for estimation and precedency, nor scramble to be highest, though he rise by the ruins of men's bodies and souls. "If it be possible as much as lieth in him, he will live peaceably with all men;" ver. 18. For he is not one that by word or deed will avenge himself; but when the wrath of others is up like a blustering storm, he giveth place to it, he boweth before it, or goeth out of the way. "If his enemy hunger, he feedeth him; if he thirst, he giveth him drink;" ver. 19. when oppressors would deprive not only an enemy, but the righteous of their meat and drink: and thus he melteth his hardened enemies by heaping kindness upon them when they are wrathful, and proud, and contentious, and do him wrong, or use provoking words against him, he is not overcome of their evil to imitate them, but he overcometh their evil with his good; ver. 20, 21. If God hath given him more knowledge and abilities than others, he doth not presently set up himself to be admired for it, nor speak disdainfully or contemptuously of those that are not of his mind. But he sheweth the eminency of his wisdom," with meekness by the works of a good conversation," and by doing better than the unwiser do; James iii. 1-13. He is endued with the "wisdom from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality" (or wavering in persecution, as Dr. Hammond renders it), and without hypocrisy. And thus the "fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace;" James iii. 17, 18. As he is "taught of God to love his brother;" 1 Thess. iv. 9. So that same teaching with experience of the effects assureth him, that they that pretend to be wiser and better than others, when "they have bitter, envious zeal and strife in their hearts, they vainly glory and lie against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual and devilish. For where envying and strife