Page images
PDF
EPUB

That none

[ocr errors]

ceed from the same Spirit of God, which is the bond that links together, cannot be mutually entertained in the body; so the differences and diversities, which the apostle admits of, while he speaks largely in this matter, are, ought to be offended at his brother, that he hath not the same work and office in the body that he hath ; but that every one keep in his own place, as God hath appointed them; that neither them that are set in a higher place, despise them that are set in a lower ; nor them that are set in a lower, grudge and repine at such as are set higher ; but all work in their proper place, towards the edification of the whole. And that the apostle intends this, is manifest, where he draws to a conclusion, verse 27. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular, and God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, &c. and then he subsumes, Are all apostles, &c.

Which the same Paul again confirms, Ephes. 4. 8. 11. to the 17th, which was the second place I intended; and shall only mention, for brevity's sake, leaving the reader to consider of it at his leisure.

This is also held forth by the beloved disciple John in his three-fold distinction, 1 John 2. 12. 13. Of fathers, young men and little children: and by Peter, 1. Pet. 5. 1. 5. in that of elders and younger. The true liberty then in the Church of Christ is exercised when as one judgeth not another in these different places; but live in love together, all minding the unity and general good of the body, and to work their own work in their own place. Also the forbearance of the saints is exercised, when as they judge not one another for being found in the different appearance, either of doing or forbearing ; which may be peculiar to their several places and stations in the body: for that there is, and may be diversities of works there, is excellently well expressed by the apostles, viz.

Rom. 12. 3. For I say through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

Verse 4. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office :

Verse 5. So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

Verse 6. Having then gifts differing, accord. ing to the grace that is given us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith :

Verse 7. Or ministry, let us wait on our ministring; or he that teacheth, on teaching :

Verse 8. Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation : he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness.

If any then should quarrel with his brother, for exercising that which belongeth to the office of the body Christ hath called him to, and would force him to exercise the same office he doth, though he be not called to it; here is a

G

breach of Christian Liberty, and an imposing up

on it.

Now all schisms and jars fall out in this two. fold respect : either when any person or persons assume another, or an higher place in the body, than God will have them to be in, and so exercise an office, or go about to perform that, which they ought not to do; or when, as any truly ex. ercising in their place, which God hath given them, others rise up and judge them, and would draw them from it; both of which cases have been, and may be supposed to fall out in the Church of Christ. As 1 Cor. 4. 3. 4. where some judged Paul wrongously; 3 John 9. where one exalting himself above his place, judged whom he ought not. We see then, what diversities be most usually in the Church of God, consisting in the difference of the gift proceeding from the same Spirit; and in the

divers places, that the several members have in the same body for the edification of it; and every one being here in his own station, his standing therein is his strength and perfection; and to be in another, though higher and more eminent, would but weaken and hurt him: and so in this there ought to be a mutual forbearance, that there may neither be a coveting nor aspiring on the one hand, nor yet a despising or condemning on the other. But besides the forbearance of this nature, which is most ordinary and universal (and for the exercise whereof there is, and will still be a need, so long as there is any gathering or Church of Christ upon the earth) there is a certain liberty and forbearance also, that is more particular, and has a relation to the circumstance of times and places, which will not hold universally ; whereof we have the example of the primitive church, testified by the scriptures in two or three parti. culars. The first was, In suffering circumcision to the Jews for a time, and not only so, but also divers others of the legal and ceremonial purifications and customs, as may appear, Acts 21. ver. 21. 22. 23. 24, &c. The second was, In the observation of certain days, Rom. 14. 5. And the third, In the abstaining from meats, 1 Cor. 8. throughout: here the apostle persuades to, and recommends a forbearance, because of the weakness of some ; for he says not arty where, nor can it be found in all the scriptures of the gospel, that these things such weak ones were exercised in, were things indispensably necessary, or that it had been better for them, they had not been under such scruples, providing it had been from a principle of true clearness and so of faith.

Next again, these acts of forbearance were done in a condescension to the weakness of such, upon whom the ancient (and truly deserved in its season) veneration of the law had such a deep impression, that they could not yet dispense with all its ceremonies and customs: and to such the apostle holds forth a two-fold forbearance.

First, A certain compliance by such believers, as were gathered out from the Jews; though they saw over these things, yet it was fit they should condescend somewhat to their country. men and brethren, who were weak.

Secondly, The like forbearance in the Gen

tiles, not to judge them in these things ; but we see, that it was not allowed for such weak ones to propagate these scruples, or draw others iuto them; and that when as any of the Churches of the Gentiles, who wanted this occasion, would have been exercising this liberty, or pleading for it, the apostle doth down-rightly condemn it, as I shall make appear in all the three instances above-mentioned.

First, In that of circumcision, Gal. 5. 2. 4.

Behold I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing ; Christ is become of none effect unto you: whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace.

Can there be any thing more positive ? Might not some here have pretended tenderness of conscience, and have said; Though the decree of the apostles do dispense with circumcision in me; yet if I find a scruple in myself, and a desire to it out of tenderness, why should it be an evil in ine to do it, more than in the Jews that believe ? We see, there is no room left here for such reasoning.

Secondly, As to observations, Gal. 4. 9, 10, 11. Might not they have answered, What if we regard a day to the Lord, must we not then? are not these thy own words? We see that did not hold here, because in them it was a returning to the beggarly elements.

Thirdly, As to meats, 1 Tim. 4. 3. Here we see that is accounted a doctrine of devils; which in another respect was Christian forbearance. And therefore now, and that in the general res.

« PreviousContinue »