A Brief Enquiry Into the true Nature of SCHISM: Or a Persuasive to Christian Love and Charity.

Humbly submitted to better Judgments; By M. H.

Psalm 120. l.

[...] I Peace.

Licensed Jan. 8. 1689/90.

LONDON, Printed for Tho. Parkhurst, at the Bible and Three Crowns, in Cheapside, near Mercers Chapel. 1690.

Concerning SCHISM.

THere hath scarce been any one thing that hath been bandi'd to and fro in the Christian world with more Heat and Noise among the several Dividing Par­ties than the charge of Schism. This hath involv'd the disputing part of the Church in the most violent Engagements above 1200 years. Schism is so deform'd a Brat, that no body hath been willing to own it; a Crime so very black, that each Party hath been studiously industri­ous to clear it self from the charge. To this Indictment all have pleaded Not Guilty, and we find none that have justi­fied. But here's the Misery, such no­tions [Page 2] of it have been entertain'd, that it hath been almost impossible to deny, without recriminating. And perhaps the most guilty have been most hot in charging others. Athaliah the greatest Traitor is most loud in crying, Treason, Treason.

We are all agreed that Schism is an Arch-Rebel in Christ's Kingdom, but in sending out the Hue and Cry after it, the Difficulty is, how to describe it; se­veral Attempts have been made; would it be in vain to try one more? Wave­ing all Enquiries into the several De­finitions and Descriptions which have been given of it, let us have recourse to the Law and to the Testimony, for whosoever speak in the things of God (as they certainly do who speak of Sin and Duty) if they speak not according to that Rule, it is because there is no Light in them.

Therefore I only premise this one Postulatum, That nothing is to be ac­counted sin, but that which is made so by the Word of God: Tekel is to be written upon nothing but that which hath been carefully weigh'd in the Ba­lances of the Sanctuary.

[Page 3]In our Enquiry what is Sin, let these Books be open'd which must be open'd at the great day. If Sinners must be judg'd by those Books short­ly, let sin be judg'd by them now, and let not any Man or Company of men in the world assume a power to declare that to be sin which the Sovereign Rector of the world hath not declared to be so lest in so doing they be found stepping into the Throne of God who is a Jealous God, and will not give this Branch of his Glory to another.

Let us therefore see what the Scrip­ture saith concerning Schism, not con­cerning the Evil of it, we are all con­vinced of that, but concerning the Na­ture and formalis ratio of it.

The Old Testament will not help us so much in this enquiry as the New, for as to the binding of the Jews to wor­ship only in one place, at Jerusalem, and to offer only upon that Altar, it was a Precept purely Ceremonial, and to us Christians is vacated by that Gospel rule which wills us to pray every where, and their Synagogues then (not their Temple) were the Patterns of Christian Assemblies.

[Page 4]Only one Scripture occurs in the Old Testament, which perhaps will help-to rectify some mistake about Schism. It is the instance of Eldad and Medad who prophesi'd in the Camp, Numb. 11. 26, &c. The case in short is this: Eldad and Medad were persons upon whom the Spirit rested, i. e. Who were by the extraordinary working of the Spirit en­dued with gifts equal to the rest of the seventy Elders, and were written, i. e. Had a call to the work, but they went not out unto the Tabernacle as the rest did, though God himself had appointed that they should, v. 16. And they prophesi'd in the Camp, i. e. Exercis'd their gifts in private among their Neighbours, in some common Tent. Upon what in­ducements they did this, doth not ap­pear, but it is evident that it was their weakness and infirmity thus to separate from the rest of their Brethren. If any think they prophesied by a necessitating, and irresistible Impulse, they may re­member, that the Spirit of the Pro­phets is subject to the Prophets, 1 Cor. 14. 32.

Now if some of the Schismaticating Doctors that the Church hath known [Page 5] had but had the censuring of Eldad and Medad we should soon have had a Judg­ment given against them much more se­vere than would have been awarded to him that gather'd Sticks on the Sabbath day.

And 'tis confessed, all the circum­stances consider'd it looks like a very great Irregularity, especially as an in­fringement of the Authority of Moses, which they that prophesi'd in the Ta­bernacle under his Presidency manifestly own'd and submitted to.

Well, an Information was presently brought in against them, v. 27. Eldad and Medad Prophesie in the Camp, that is, to speak in the invidious language of the times there's a Conventicle at such a place, and Eldad and Medad are holding forth at it.

Joshua in his zeal for that which he fancy'd to be the Churches Unity, and out of a concern for the authority of Moses brings in a Bill to silence them, for as hot as he was he would not have them fin'd and laid in the Jail for this disorder neither; only, My Lord Moses, forbid them; not, compel them to come to the Tabernacle, if they be not satisfi'd [Page 6] to come, only for the future prohibit their Schismatical Preaching in the Camp. This seem'd a very good mo­tion.

But hold Joshua, thou knowest not what manner of Spirit thou art of. Discerning Moses sees him acted by a Spirit of envy, and doth not only deny, but severely reprove the motion, v. 29. Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lords People were Prophets, provided the Lord will but put his Spirit upon them. He is so far from looking upon it as Schism, that he doth not only tolerate but en­courage it. And O that all those who sit in Moses Chair, were but cloth'd with this Spirit of Moses.

This Instance is full to shew that all is not Schism which even wise and good men are apt to think is so.

But our special enquiry must be in the New Testament, and forasmuch as Words are the significations of things let us see what the Scripture means by this word, Schism.

The Criticks observe, that the Greek word [...] is used 8 times in the New Testament.

1. In a literal sense, for a rent in a Gar­ment, [Page 7] Matth. 9. 16. Mark 2. 21. [...], the rent is made worse. In the same sense [...] is us'd, Joh. 19. 24. Luk. 5. 36. As al­so of the rending of the Vail, Mat. 27. 41. the cleaving of the Rocks, Mat. 27. 51. the breaking of the Net, Joh. 21. 11. the cleaving of the Heavens, Mar. 1. 10. But this makes little to our purpose.

2. It is us'd figuratively for a Division; and that twofold.

1. A Division in apprehension; so [...] is us'd, Joh. 7. 43. Joh. 9. 16. 10. 19. in which places it signifies the different thoughts and apprehensions that the peo­ple or their Rulers had concerning Christ some thinking well of him, others not. Some accusing him, others excusing him.

In this sense [...] is us'd, Acts 23. 7. For the different sentiments the people had concerning Paul.

Now this diversity of opinion, judg­ment or apprehension cannot be call'd or look't upon in its self a thing Crimi­nal: inasmuch as there are many things which either because they are dark and obscure, and so not capable of Demon­stration, or because they are trivial and of light moment, and so not worth a de­monstration, [Page 8] it is no matter what opinion men are of concerning them.

Only where the matter is weighty, and toucheth the Fundamentals of Christianity, there an error is Criminal, and if stubbornly persisted in, Here­sie.

But the evil of it lies not in the diver­sity, but in the erroneousness and danger of the opinion.

I cannot believe that the greatest wor­shipers of the Diana of their own opi­nions, will be so sottish as to brand those for Schismaticks who in every punctilio of Opinion are not exactly of the same Standard with themselves.

If there be any so strangely rigid, Let not my Soul come into their secret, for I de­spair to see even all the Saints of a mind in every thing till they come to Heaven.

It doth therefore evidence too great a strangeness to the Spirit of the Gospel, to condemn all those who differ from us only in their apprehensions about little things. John's Disciples were huge­ly displeas'd because Christ's Disciples did not fast so often as they did, and quarrel'd with Christ himself about it, [Page 9] Mat. 9. 14. And the answer of the meek and holy Jesus is worthy remark, that he gives a good reason why his disciples did not fast, viz. Because the bridge groom, was yet with them. and yet doth not con­demn John's Disciples that fasted oft, which teacheth us not to make our own Opinions and Practices (like Procrustes's Bed) the Standard by which to mea­sure all other, and that in such cases we are to think it sufficient only to acquit our selves, first to our own consciences, and then if need be to the world, with­out condemning others who think and practise otherwise in such little things, and perhaps have as much reason for their Thoughts and Practises as we have for our's.

2. A Division in Affection; and in this sense it is us'd three times in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, and no where else in all the New Testament.

We must particularly examine each place, that thence we may be furnish't with a true notion of Schism; and in plain terms the case is whether a diversity (or if you will call it so, a separation) of Communion be the formalis ratio of Schism.

[Page 10]1. I find the word, and with it no doubt the thing, 1 Cor. 1. 10. I beseech you brethren—that there be no divisions ( [...]) no Schisms among you; so reads the margin of our Bibles.

Now to find out what this Schism is, let us enquire,

1. Into the Exegetical exhortations that accompany it.

(1.) That ye all speak the same thing; viz. In the fundamental Doctrines of Christia­nity, for in little things it can never be made a duty to be of the same opinion, since it is morally impossible; but (as Estius seems to understand it) not to break Christian Charity in your disputes about them.

Observe, He doth not oblige us to think the same thing, but though your thoughts be divers, yet speak the same thing; i. e. In your preaching and con­verse, speak of those things only where­in you are agreed, and for those things wherein you differ, do not fall out and fight about them, but love one another notwithstanding.

(2.) That ye be perfectly join'd toge­ther in the same mind and in the same Judg­ment. Which must be understood of a [Page 11] serious endeavour after it, for other­wise a perfect Conjunction must be re­serv'd for a world of everlasting per­fection.

But the meaning of the Exhortation seems to be that all their little heats and animosities should be swallow'd up in an unanimous zeal for the great Gospel Truths wherein they were all a­greed.

2. We must enquire into the Corin­thians miscarriage which occasion'd this caution, which you have, v. 11, 12. there were contentions among them, v. 11. [...] So that Schisms and Contentions are one and the same thing, and tis worth nothing that Clemens Romanus in that fa­mous Epistle of his to the Corinthians, still calls Schisms, [...], contentions.

Now the contention was about their Ministers; I am of Paul, saith one, I am of Apollos, saith another, &c. Now he that was of Apollos was as much a Schis­matick as he that was of Paul, because they quarrel'd and fell out about so small and indifferent a matter.

Observe, It was not so much being of Paul, and being of Apollos that made the Schism, for Paul and Apollos and Cephas [Page 12] were all their's, Chap. 3. 22. But saying, I am of Paul, that is, crying him up as the only man for them, so as to despise o­thers. If one went to hear Paul, and another went to hear Apollos, that did not make a Schism, no nor if one commu­nicated with Paul, and another with A­pollos, for why might not each go where he could be most edify'd? but the Schism was, that they sacrific'd Christian Love and Charity to this difference of Ap­prehension. This is evident in that those who said, I am of Christ, so as to despise and censure, and quarrel with them that said, I am of Paul &c. are reproved e­qually with the rest.

Now the way of curing this Schism was not to silence Apollos and Cephas, that whether they would or no they might all be of Paul; nay it is well worth the observing, that in the same Epistle we find Paul very earnest with Apollos to go to Corinth 16. 12. As touching Apollos, I greatly desir'd him to come to you. Which he would never have done if he had not prefer'd the common Interest of Soul's Salvation before his own credit.

But the way to cure this was to con­vince them of the folly of their quarrels, [Page 13] how senseless and irrational they were, and to perswade them to lay aside their enmities and heart-burnings, and to love one another, and to walk hand in hand in the same way, though they traced dif­ferent paths, which they might well do when the paths lay so very near together.

By this instance it appears that narrow­spiritedness which confines Religion and the Church to our way and party, what­ever it is, to the condemning of others that differ from us in little things is the great Schismaticating principle which hath been so much the bane of the Christi­an Church, hinc illae-lachrymae.

2. We find the word us'd, 1 Cor. 11. 18. I hear there be [...], Divisions among you.

It is undeniably evident that it cannot be meant of any breach of Communion, for it is said expresly, v. 20. That they came together into one place, and that into the Church too, i. e. The place of meet­ing.

But the Schisms were Quarrels and Contentions about some little things re­lating to the circumstances of publick Worship, and the quarrel seems to have been about the time of beginning their [Page 14] worship, especially when they were to joyn in the Lords Supper, or their Love­feasts, it see as they did not come exactly at the time, therefore the Apostle bids them tarry one for another, v. 33. Those that came early quarrel'd with those that came late, for coming no sooner, and those that came late quarrel'd with the other, for beginning before they came.

Some quarrels of this kind were the Schisms here spoken of.

3. The word is us'd, 1 Cor. 12. 25. That there be no Schism in the Body. The Apostle is there carrying on a Metaphor betwixt the Natural Body, and the Church, and this clause clearly relates to the Natural Body, for he doth not come to the Reddition of the comparison till v. 27.

Now what he means by the Schism in the body is plain from the Antithesis in the following words—but that the members should have the same care one for another, So that when the members care not one for another, when the Eye saith to the hand, I have no need of thee, v. 21. When there is not a sympathy and fel­low-feeling among Christians v. 26. here's Schism.

[Page 15]That's Schism which breaks or slackens the bond by which the members are knit together.

Now that Bond is not an Act of Uni­formity in point of Communion in the same Modes and Ceremonies, but true Love and Charity, in point of affection, 'Tis Charity that is the bond of perfect­ness, Col. 3. 14. 'Tis the Unity of the Spi­rit that is the bond of peace, Eph. 4. 3. And Schism is that which breaks this Bond.

Now from all this laid together, I draw out this description of Schism, which according to my present appre­hensions is the true Scripture notion of it.

Schism is an uncharitable Distance, Di­vision, or Alienation of Affections among those who are called Christians, and agree in the Fundamentals of Religion, occasi­on'd by their different apprehensions about little things.

This is the Schism which the Scrip­ture makes to be a sin, and by Scripture Rules it must be judged. Schism (as in­deed the Root of all other sin) we see lies in the Heart and Affections: But the Tree is known by his fruits; this bitter root bears Gall and Wormwood: Let us [Page 16] therefore take a short view of those pra­ctices, which according to this Descrip­tion are Schismatical practices.

1. Judging, censuring, and condemn­ing those that differ from us in little things is a Schismatical practice, as it evidenceth a great alienation, if not en­mity of the Affections. Charity thinketh no evil, 1 Cor. 13. 5. [...], doth not reason evil, doth not study to make sins, but cover them; and if they be made, yet not to make the worst of them; it puts the best construction upon words and actions.

Now to pass a censorious Judgment upon others, and to put the worst con­struction upon what they say and do, is certainly uncharitable, that is, Schismati­cal. It is a practice often condemn'd in holy Writ, Mat. 7. 1. Judge not, that ye be not judged: 'tis construed a judging of the Law, Jam. 4. 11, 12.

'Tis especially condemn'd with refe­rence to the present case, of different apprehensions about little things, in that famous Scripture, Rom. 14. 4, 5, &c. a Scrip­ture, which if well studi'd and liv'd up to, would heal us all. Judging the Heart, is in my Eye, one of the most unchari­table [Page 17] species of Judging. Censuring the Principles and ends of an action, which are secret: charging those that differ from us with Hypocrisie, which is a heart-sin. If the shews be good, and the outside justifiable, when we conclude Hypocrisie is in the heart, we step into the Throne of God.

2. Laying a greater stress upon small matters of difference than they will bear, and widening the breach about them. As on the one hand, to censure all Prayers by a Form, or by this Form in particular, as­superstition, will-worship, formality, and the like: on the other hand, to censure all Extempore praying as babbling, can­ing, froth and noise, as if God had not accepted his own People in the one as well as in the other. The fastening of a Censure, and passing of a Judgment upon a whole party and way, if it be not very clear and well-grounded indeed, will be likely to split us upon the Rock of Schism and Uncharitableness.

3. Concluding hardly as to the spiri­tual state and condition of those that dif­fer from us, excluding them out of the Church, and from Salvation, because they are not just of our mind in every punctilio.

[Page 18]Witness that notion which excludes out of the Church, & consequently out of Heaven all those (how orthodox and se­rious soever they are otherwise) who are not in Prelatical Communion; if no Dio­cesan Bishops, then no Ministers, no Sa­craments, no Church, no Salvation. Which is certainly the most Schismatical notion that ever was broach'd in the Christian world.

4. Reproaching, reviling, and railing at those who differ from us in little things, is another Schismatical practice: fastning such nick-names upon them, and loading them with such reproaches as carry in them all the odium that malice can infuse into them; dressing them up in Bears-Skins and then baiting them, doing what we can by calumnies, and misre­presentations to alienate the affections of others from them.

5. Making, consenting to, approving or executing of Penal Laws against those who differ from us in little things, to pu­nish them for such difference in their Persons, Estates or Liberties is another uncharitable or Schismatical practice.

This is contention with a witness— which aims at no less than the ruin of [Page 19] the person contended with in the dearest of his secular interests, to beat out his brains, because his head is not exactly of our size.

6. Separation from Communion with those that we have joyn'd our selves to, without cause; give me leave to call it Separation for Separation sake, without any regard had to any thing amiss in the Church we separate from, or any thing better in that we joyn our selves to, this is an evidence of an uncharitable a­lienation of affection, and is consequent­ly Schismatical. When we quite cast off Communion with our brethren, out of ambition, animosity ot their persons, affectation of Novelty and Singularity, or the like.

This was manifestly the case of the Donatists, the infamous Schismaticks of the Primitive Church. Their Princi­ples were, that the Church of Christ was to be found no where but in their Sect, and all other Churches were no Churches that true Baptism was not administred but among them, and a great many barbarous outrages they committed in the heat of their separation.

7. An affected strangeness or distance [Page 20] in Communion or Conversation from those who thus differ from us upon the account of such difference, avoiding con­verse and familiarity with them, carry­ing it strangely towards them, only be­cause they do not wear the dividing name of our party.

This evidenceth an uncharitable alie­nation of affection prevailing in the heart, and is consequently Schismatical.

Many such like practices might easily be mention'd, if it were needful—but they are obvious enough, especially if we look into the Laws of Charity set down, 1 Cor. 13. 4, 5, 6, 7. And remem­ber that all transgression of those laws is uncharitableness, and when that is found in the things of Religion, it is Schism. The corollary from the whole is this, that whoever they be that allow themselves in these or the like practices and affecti­ons towards their brethren that differ from them in little things, whether they be Episcopal, Presbyterian, Independent or by what name or title soever they are self-dignify'd and distinguish't, they are so far Schismatical, inasmuch as they break the great Law of Christian Cha­rity.

[Page 21]Let us try what further Inference may be drawn from this Scripture noti­on of Schism.

1. If this be Schism, then it is not within the line of any Humane Power to make that separation to be Schismati­cal which was not so in itself. By the de­scription given of Schism it doth appear to be a thing, malum in se, which was not so before, an attempt of that kind would sink with its own weight. And therefore it is well worthy observation, that when the Parliament made a Law against Con­venticles, (which are the great Schisma­tical Eye-sores) they call'd it an Act to prevent and suppress Seditious Conven­ticles, knowing it to be within their line to declare a thing to be Sedition, but not Schismatical Conventicles, for that was a thing in which they could not concern themselves.

2. If this be Schism then the guilt of it is to be look't for in particular per­sons, and is not to be charg'd by whole sale upon parties of any denomination whatsoever, as among us at this day, in the prelatical party there are some Schismatical, and others not, and the same is to be said of the separating party, nay [Page 22] who is there that can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from this sin. Have we not all need to pray, From Envy, Hatred and Malice, and all uncharitable­ness (which are the Ingredients of Schism) Good Lord deliver us, both from the Guilt, and from the power of it? It is not so much our differences them­selves, as the mismanagement of our dif­ferences that is the bane of the Church burning up Christian love with the fire of our contentions.

Whence come these Wars and Fight­ings? come they not hence, even from our lusts? Jam. 4. 1. And those that say they are perfectly free from these warfaring, Schismaticating lusts must give me leave to say, I doubt they deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them.

3. If this be Schism, then there may be Schism, where there's no separation of Communion, that's plain from the in­stance of the Corinthians who came to­gether into one place and yet are blam'd for being Schismatical; bringing people to one place will never cure a Schism, till they are brought to be of one ac­cord.

You may bind the Leopard and lay [Page 23] him down by the Lamb, and yet the enmity remain as great as ever, except there be an inward change.

A quarrel about little things may likewise be Schismatical on one side, and yet not on 'tother; Jeremiah was a man of strife and contention, Jer. 15. 10. i. e. A man striven and contended with, and yet no Schismatick, though ordina­rily (as it is commonly said of dome­stick differences) there's fault more or less on both sides.

4. If this be Schism then there may be Separation of Communion where there is no Schism. For thus we all a­gree that there may be difference of apprehension, and yet no Schism, pro­vided it do not eat out Christian love, but be manag'd amicably, as betwixt the Arminians and Calvinists in the Church of England, and divers the like.

Now if this difference of apprehension relate to Worship, or Communion, and the Modes or Terms thereof, these can­not but be a strong inclination to sepa­rate in whole or in part according as the difference of apprehension is, for do what we can as long as we are ratio­nal [Page 24] creatures the understanding will have the directing of the will.

Now surely this separation, (if we must call it so, or rather) this variety and diversity of Worship and Commu­nion may be manag'd without Schism, provided Christian Love and Charity be kept entire notwithstanding.

For can any imagine that a difference of apprehension in regard of Worship and Discipline should be more Schisma­tical than difference of apprehension in Doctrine, since of the two Doctrinal Truths seem more Essential to Christia­nity.

But to come a little closer. The meetings of the Dissenters (though now blessed be God permitted and allow'd by the Law of the Land, yet) are com­monly charg'd with being Schismati­cal, the great out-cry is, that we leave the Church and the unthinking mobile who are so well taught as to know no other Churches but the publick places of worship, are easily induc'd to believe it, as if 'twere Schism to worship God any where else, let the worship there be what it will.

Those who will a low themselves [Page 25] the liberty of an unprejudic'd thought, cannot but see the difference so small, that as long as we believe the same Christian Faith, and agree in the same Protestant abhorrence of Papal Delu­sions, we may easily be look't upon as one and the same Church, as well as two several Parish Churches may, e­specially being united under the Care and Protection of one Protestant King, and members of the same Protestant Common wealth.

Now 1. I do from the bottom of my Soul detest and abhor all Separati­on from the Parish Churches to Atheism, Irreligion, and Sensuality, Jude 19. Who separate themselves, sensual— who for­sake the Church to go to the Ale-house or Tavern, or to their secular business, or to their slothfulness and laziness, to separate unto that shame, Hos. 9. 10. And if this separation had been more ani­madverted upon than it hath been of late, probably the cure of Schism would have been sooner effected thereby than by severities that have been us'd against Conscientious Separatists.

2. I do likewise abhor all Schisma­tical, that is, Uncharitable, Proud, Cen­sorious, [Page 26] rigid separation, such separati­on as theirs who condemn the Parish Churches as no parts of the visible Church, who rail at the Ministers as Babylonish, and Antichristian; this is a horrid breach of the Law of Christian Love, and that which every good heart cannot but rise at the thoughts of.

And yet I cannot but say, and am sa­tisfy'd in it, that there may be a lawful and justifiable separation (though I would rather call it a diversity of Com­munion) from the Parish Churches which I shall endeavour to clear in three cases.

1. If my own Conscience be not sa­tisfy'd in the lawfulness of any terms of Communion impos'd, as far as I fall under that imposition, I may justify a separation from them, and a joyning with other Churches where I may be freed from that Imposition, provided that this be not done Schismatically, i. e. With heat and bitterness, and an alienation of Christian affection; and I hope none that have the law of Christ written in their hearts will say that it is impossible truly to love those with whom [Page 27] I am not satisfy'd to joyn in all the Or­dinances for the sake of some Ceremo­nies, with which after all my Study, Prayer, and Converse I cannot be sa­tisfy'd

So, if I be a Minister, and as such oblig'd to Preach the Gospel, yet kept out from the publick exercise of my Ministry by such Terms and Conditions, Oaths and Subscriptions as I judge sin­ful, in such a case surely it is lawful for me with Eldad and Medad to pro­phesy in the Camp, since in my Judgment the door of the Tabernacle is made straiter than my Master hath appointed it to be made. What should hinder but that as a Minister of Christ I may ad­minister all the Ordinances according to Christs Institution to those who are willing to joyn with me, and put them­selves under my Conduct (such as it is) in those administrations. If God have given though but one talent, it must be traded with, or else there will be an uncomfortable reckoning shortly, e­specially when we look abroad and con­sider how the apparent necessities of precious Souls call for our utmost di­ligence in our Masters work, and in­deed [Page 28] there's work enough for us all if God would give us hearts to be serious and unanimous in it.

In this also 'tis always provided, that my agency in a Ministerial Station be not made Schismatical by my Heat, Pas­sion, and Bitterness, but that I live in true Love and Charity with those whom by reason of the Impositions I cannot salvâ conscientiâ joyn with in Com­munion.

2. Though I be satisfy'd in the law­fulness of the Terms of Communion requir'd, and so when purer admini­strations are not to be had may ra­ther than live in the total want of the Ordinances comply with them, yet when I have an opportunity of enjoying those Ordinances in a way which I judge more pure and Scriptural, or which I think more lively and edifying, and more likely to attain the great end of all Or­dinances, and that contribute more to my Comfort and Holiness, and Commu­nion with God, in such a case I cannot see but that I may lawfully have re­course to such administrations though thereby I may seem to separate from another Church, wherein before I had [Page 29] joyn'd, and for which I still retain a very charitable opinion and affection. If the Magistrate should be so unreason­able as to impose upon me an unskilful Physician to be alone made use of in case of sickness, I might take him rather than none. But if there be another who I am sure hath more Skill and Will to help me, I think I should be accessary to the ruin of my health and life if I should not make use of him, notwith­standing such an Inhibition.

And is not the life and health and salvation of my immortal Sonl dearer to me than any other concern? Is not Communion with God the sweetest and most precious of all my delights? Is it not the Life of my Soul, and the Crown of all my joys? and are not those administrations most desirable in which I find my self most edifyed? Must I then be such an enemy to my own comfort and happiness as to throw a­way all the opportunities which I might have of that kind only in a complement? Amicus Socrates, Amicus Plato, sed magis amica veritas. The Bishops are my Friends, and the Ministers my Friends, and I have a true Love for them, but [Page 30] Charity begins at home, especially when my precious Soul more worth than all the world lyes at stake.

This case is somewhat the clearer in those Parishes where the publick Mi­nisters are either Ignorant, Profane or Malignant.

3. Nay, suppose I am so well satis­tisfy'd in Communion with the Parish Churches in all administrations, as not to desire better, or not to expect bet­ter in the Dissenters meetings, yet I cannot see what Schism, i. e. what breach of Christian Love and Charity there is in it for me to be present some­times in the Congregations of the sober Dissenters, and to joyn with them who worship the same God, in the name of the same Mediator, read and preach the same Word, and live in hopes of the same Inheritance, and differ from me only in some little things which I think not worth contending for, scarce worth the mentioning, hereby to evidence my universal Love and Catholick Charity, and that I am not of narrow, Schisma­tical, dividing Principles, nor one that will Sacrifice Christian love to the pet­ty trifling Fancies and Interests of a party.

[Page 31]The sober Dissenters are such as I have reason to hope have Communion with God in what they do, and there­fore why should not I now and then have Communion with them? In every Nation be that fears God, and works righte­ousness, is accepted of him; and why should he not be accepted of me, why may not I have fellowship with them that have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ? 1 John. 1. 3. To fancy Schism, i. e. Uncharitable contention and a breach of Christian Love in this is very absurd.

Obj. But hereby I encourage a Schism, and countenance them in their Separation from that which in my eye is lawful and good, and doth not give just cause for such a Separation.

Answ. There must be grains of al­lowance for difference of apprehensi­on: Different Capacities, Constituti­ons, and Inclinations, Custom and espe­cially Education must be put into the scale, and while I walk according to the light which God hath given me, I must charitably believe that others do so too.

Whether the Dissenters Meetings be [Page 32] as to the constitution and [...] esse of them (looking upon them only as diversities of Communion) Schismatical, hath been consider'd already, and found otherwise, by Scripture-Light.

The common outcry is that it is the setting up of Altar against Altar, which is not so, for at the most it is but Altar by Altar, and though I have often read of one Body, and one Spirit, and one Hope, and one Lord, and one Faith, and one Baptism, and one God and Fa­ther, Eph. 4. 4, 5, 6. Yet I could never find a word in all the New Testament of one Altar, except Jesus Christ, Heb. 13. 10. The Altar that sanctifies every Gift, in whom we all centre. And if there be any of the Dissenters who are Schismatical, i. e. Contentious, Bitter, and Uncharitable in their Separation, let them bear their own burthen, but by my presence with them I encourage that in them no more than I do too much of a like Spirit in too many of those who are call'd the Church of England men, by my adherence to them.

To conclude, By all this it is evident that Unity of Affection is the thing to be labour'd after more than Unifor­mity [Page 33] in Modes and Ceremonies. We have been long enough trying to root Schism out of the Church, vi & armi [...], by Impositions, Fines and Penalties, choking our brethren because their Throats have not been so wide as ours. And it hath been found ineffectual, even in the judgment of our Great Sanhedrim, who have declar'd that giving ease to scrupulous consciences is the likeliest way to unite their Majesties Protestant Subjects in Interest and Affection; what if we should now try another Method and turn the Stream of our endeavours into another Channel? Hitherto we have been as it were striving which should hate one another most, what if we should now strive which should love one another best, and be most ready to do all Offices of true Charity and Kind­ness, and bury all our little Feuds and Animosities in that blessed grave of Christian Love and Charity?

What if we should every one of us of each party (as we have been too often call'd) set our selves by our Preaching to promote and propagate the Gospel of Peace, and by our prayers to prevail with God for a more plentiful pouring out of [Page 34] the Spirit of Peace, that the dividing names of Baalim may be taken out of our mouths, and that however it goes with Uniformity of Ceremony, we may keep the Vnity of the Spirit; and then I doubt not but we should soon see our English Jerusalem Establish't a praise in the midst of the Earth.

And yet I am afraid even Saints will be men, there will be remainders even of those corruptions which are the seed of Schism, in the best, till we all come to the perfect man.

And that's the comfort of my Soul that if we can but once get to Heaven we shall be for ever out of the noise and hurry of this quarrelsom, contentious, di­viding world, and the Church Triumphant shall be no more Militant, but that happy World of Everlasting Light will be a World of Everlasting Love.

FINIS.

This keyboarded and encoded edition of the work described above is co-owned by the institutions providing financial support to the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership. This Phase I text is available for reuse, according to the terms of Creative Commons 0 1.0 Universal. The text can be copied, modified, distributed and performed, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.