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because among all these several parties there is that doctrine and religion by which God doth convey the Spirit of sanctification now, and which he did seal with the Spirit of miracles at its first promulgation.
1. It is the fundamental and substantial parts, and not every inferior opinion, that denominate a religion. There are not so many religions in the world, as there are differences about the expounding of this or that particular text of Scripture, or as there are different opinions about inferior things; those among us, therefore, are silly people, that think we have as many religions as we have different parties. The ignorant people think that the episcopal party are of one religion, and the presbyterian of another, and the independent and separatist of another; and they think, that when the ‘Common Prayer' was in use, there was one religion on foot, and now it is down, there is another : as if the nature and denominating form of religion lie in every accident or circumstance: so the papists would make the world believe, that we are of as many religions different among ourselves, as we have variety of opinions; when yet they maintain as great or greater differences among themselves, without any conceit of variety of religions. Witness the many and great differences, so long and hotly agitated, between the Dominicans and Jesuits, about grace, free-will, predestination, &c.; their quarrels about the virgin Mary's native innocency; the difference between the Spanish and the Italian parties in the Council of Trent, about episcopacy. Yea, the great irreconcilable difference that continues to this day among them, about the very master-part of their new-devised creed, 'Where is the seat of infallibility and supreme church power?' one
?' party saith, it is in the pope alone; another, as the French clergy saith, it is in a general council; and some say, it must be in a concurrence of both: and it is very observable what a case they have brought themselves into, and what a loss they are at in matters of religion, and what uncertainty they would bring all the christian world to, in religion, if they would but follow them; for they receive the Scripture for the word of God, upon the authority of the church, and the church must be the infallible church ; and they are not yet agreed among themselves, what or who that infallible church is. How well, then, do they believe the Scripture and their religion : but this, on the by. There are not, then, so many religions as there are different opinions; except these differences be in the fundamental parts,
2. Nor are there so many different churches, as there are different opinions : Christ hath but one invisible church on earth; nor but one universal, visible church, containing all that make profession of the true religion, or doctrine of Christ, in the fundamentals ; to call any other a church is to contradict or equivocate; Jews, Mahometans, pagans, are no church. Particular, visible churches, there are many, which are diversified by the variety of their meetings: for so every assembly of men, professing the true religion, is a true church; and if lawfully combined therein, they are a true political church; but all
1 these are but parts of that one universal, visible church. Indeed, we use to give several parts of this church also the name of such and such a church, from some accidental
respects as to call it a national church, because it hath the advantage of a special association, by living in one country, under one magistrate, or because they are actually associated : so we call the church of England, Scotland, France, &c.; as we call the same sea, the English, or French, or German sea : so also, from variety of opinions, we call one the church of the protestants, and another of the anabaptists, another of the Arminians; so the Lutheran, Calvinistic churches : but these are all so diversified merely from accidents or circumstances, and not as if there were any essential difference between them: for then they could not be so many churches; for Christ hath but one church, divided into so many congregations and associations, and diversified according to their various degrees of knowledge and purity; read Mr. Marshall's late sermon of “The Unity of the Church,' and Mr. Samuel Hudson, of The Church Universal:' not that we dream of any visible, supreme power over this one visible church. The papists understand not well the nature of the church's political constitution, or else they would never talk of that : but yet a visible organical church it is, even one political republic: but the sovereign power or head is none but Christ, who is visible to the glorified part of his church in heaven, but not seen of the imperfect part on earth : and particular churches are not as so many commonwealths, but as so many corporations making up one commonwealth, and all under Christ, but none under one another ; being all free, and having all their own officers and privileges; yet, all bound to maintain the strictest, and most general, and extended association, that nature and opportunity will permit, for the unity, strength, and edification of the whole. This is that one visible, yea, crganized church of Christ : a true, political church, even as visible, though not in that sense as the deluded papists do imagine: but of this elsewhere.
3. And as all these are one church, and of one religion, so they are all of the true religion : or else they could not be of one, and any one of them be true. Some will think this too charitable a conclusion; that so many erroneous parties should all be of one and of the true religion ; but it is as true and necessary, as charitable. He that should deny it, should, as much as in him lieth, rob God of the chiefest fruit of his creation, providence, and redemption; and Christ Jesus of the chiefest fruit of his blood, resurrection, and of all those miracles which he hath wrought in the propagation of his Gospel; and the Holy Ghost of the fruit of his work of sanctification. It is too bold an attempt for any earth-worm to venture on to give Christ's spouse a bill of divorce. If the husband of the church do it not, what are we that we should do it? Christ hath paid so dear, and done so much to redeem them, and sanctify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, that he will not take it well of those that shall deny them to be his own. I know how zealous ignorance hath proved in these last times, the devil's master-piece for the disuniting of the church; and those that are once possessed with the spirit of delusion, have nothing more common in their mouths, than that such a party are heretics, and no church of Christ; and such a party are antichristian, and no church of Christ ; and only they, or such as they, are his church. I would they knew how little thanks Christ will give them for this dealing. If they heard him speak his mind to them, it would be this; ' You know not what spirit you are of.' Zealous men do often run before their understandings, and little know their own hearts. They think it is the Spirit of God, and the love to his truth, that actuate them : but they know not what spirit they are of; nor how much passion, raised by different judgments, and fed by the hot words of men of their own party, is used to go coloured with the name of holy zeal, and even deceiveth often the truest Christians : for we are not better than James and John. Christ hateth putting away, and he loveth not that we should attempt the putting away of his spouse. What God hath joined, let no man put asunder; especially if the conjunction be so near as head and body; and the covenant so strong as the blood and Spirit of Christ, and the bond of the everlasting covenant. Where
Christ writeth his name, and saith, “They are mine,' let men take heed of blotting it out, and saying, "They are the devil's.' I know we may find faults enough in any church that I know on earth, to give some poor colour to these attempts; such a church is erroneous, and such a one is superstitious, and such a one is lukewarm ; I would they were all better : and so they will be one day. But it ill becomes poor sinners to be more quick-sighted in spying out the faults of Christ's churches, or more severe in charging it on them than Christ is. It belongeth to him to do it, if it must be done ; and let not us do it before him ; it is Christ that justifieth, who shall condemn them? Every fault or error is not an unchurching fault. O how the God of unity and peace abhorreth the zealous censures and separation of these mistaken men. Christians should imitate their Lord, and get that tender, gentle, lamb-like Spirit that he useth to his poor people. He will not break the bruised reed; he carrieth the lambs in his arms, and gently driveth those with young. God is love, and his people should be loving. Were it but one particular sinner, we should sadly think of those plain and terrible words of Christ, “ Judge not, that you be not judged;" and who art thou that judgest another man's servant ? To his own master he standeth or falleth; the points between us and them in difference are controvertible, but these texts are as plain as the highway; God will give us little thanks to say of one poor, weak Christian, * Thou art no Christian,' and to deal by our brethren as Job's friends; and to appropriate to ourselves alone the common salvation, and say, ' Christ is mine, and not thine.' None shall take his sheep whom the father hath given him out of his hands; and none should attempt it. But to judge whole churches, and say, they are no churches, is a matter yet of far greater moment; to say she is an harlot that Christ calleth his spouse.
Oh, that the revolters of this age would but make use of this rule of the apostle! Here is such abusing of ministry and doctrine, and church, and separating from us, as if we were the most abominable people in the world. But shall I entreat those that are the true servants of Christ, and know what it is to be partakers of his Spirit, that they would ask themselves the apostle's question, Received ye the Spirit by the doctrine commonly preached in England, and by the ministers of England, or not? If
you did, how can you deny them to be the true church and ministers of Christ? If you did not receive the Spirit by us, or by the doctrine which we preach, I dare say you never received it. 0, ungrateful children, that when
. we have prayed and preached and spent ourselves for their souls, and then think to have the comfort of them as our children in Christ, and they should be our crown and joy; then do they turn against us, reproach us, and account us their enemies, because we tell them the truth. Doubtless, there is a strong engagement lieth on men to those that God makes the means of their first conversion ; else Paul would not so glory in it, and tell the Corinthians, that though they had never so many instructers, yet he was their father. Must we travel in birth of you till Christ be formed in you, and then do you not only as brute beasts, that when they are grown up, forget their own dams, but even revile us, and prove our greatest grief, and the sharpest thorns we have in our side. I know the ministers of Christ are faulty, and deserve all this as permitted by God: but yet God will let these men know one day, that this is not equal dealing from them. More particularly, you that are turned to antinomianism, and think that our ministers preach not free grace, no not the Gospel, but the law. Tell me, received you that Spirit by that which you call the preaching of free grace ? I know free grace must be preached, but I mean that which you miscall so. Nay, let me not ask you for yourselves only, but for others; have you known any considerable number of men ; nay, any one man that ever received the Spirit hy that doctrine which telleth them that Christ hath not only suffered and fulfilled the law in their very persons, so that they are judged as having done it in him; but also he hath repented for them, believed for them, and also obeyed the Gospel for them; that, therefore, they are justified before they are born or before they believe or repent : that, therefore, they are under no law but that of man; not so much as under the law of Christ, except only as the work of sanctification in them may figuratively be called a law: that, therefore, they need not pray for pardon of sin ; nor be humbled for sin, as if it were not pardoned till they repent of it, seeing all their sins, be they never so many and beinous, were pardoned at once before they were committed ; and that faith procureth only the sense of pardon in our own consciences. Did you ever know this doctrine convey the Spirit? Nay, do not all that receive it, or most,