Page images
[ocr errors]

as it hath funk in Senfuality, it hath swelled into Devilifhnefs. Perhaps whilft you are zealously carrying on your Warfare against your old Sins, you may find your felves too apt to be tickled with Applaufe,and puffed with vain Oftentation; have a Care now, that while you are starving one Vice, you do not pamper another. For if you do not correct this little Irregularity of your Nature betimes, 'twill foon be as dangerous and mischievous to you, as ever any of thofe Vices were against which you are contending; 'twill by degrees fo infinuate into your good Intentions, and so sophifticate the Purity of them, that at last you will intend nothing else but Applause, and fo your whole Religion will be converted into dead Shew and empty Pageantry, and your fpiritual Warfare will prove only a paffage out of Profaneneß into Hypocrific. It may be whilft you are contending against thofe fleshly Inclinations by which you have formerly been captivated, your Hearts will begin to fwell with an over-weening Conceit of your own Vertue and Godliness, and as a Confequence of that, to entertain contemptuous and cenforious Thoughts of your Brethren, beware now, that whilft you are strugling with your old fleshly Lufts, you do not overlook thefe little Defects and Indecencies of your Nature; left while you are conquering one fort of fins, you be captivated by another. For if you do not take care to nip them in their Buds, and to check these little Effays and Beginnings of them, they will foon fring up into Habits of Pride and Infolence, Rancour and Uncharitableneß, and fo your Warfare against Sin will be only a Tranfition from one Evil into another,


from the Pollutions of the Flesh into the Pollutions of the Spirit, and from the Nature of Beafts into the Nature of Devils. Wherefore if you would be finally fuccefsful in the Christian Warfare, you must take great Care that while you are contending with the groffer and more inveterate Vices of your Nature, you do not neglect its leffer Defects and Irregularities; for whilst they are leffer they may be easily corrected, but if they are not, they will foon grow greater, and in the End prove as dangerous as thofe you are now contending with. For every Vice is small in the Beginning, and eafie to be cured, but if it be neglected, like a Scratch in the Flesh, it will corrupt and rankle into a fpreading Gangrene.

V. To our Perfeverance to the End in this our Christian Warfare, it is alfo necessary that, so far as lawfully we can, we fhould live in clofe Communion with the Church whereof we are Members. 'Tis true, a particular Church may be fo corrupted, as that its Members may be obliged to difunite themselves from it. For every man is obliged by Vertue of his being in any Society, not to agree to any thing which tends to the apparent Ruine of it. Now the main End of Chriftian Society being the Honour of God, and the Salvation of Souls, every man that enters into it is thereby obliged in his own Station to advance this End; and confequently, as to joyn in all Acts of the Chriftian Society he is united to, fo far as they tend thereanto, fo to refufe all fuch Acts of that Society, if any such fhould be injoyned, as do apparently } oppofe, and are directly repugnant to it. So that if any Act that is apparently finful, be injoyned


[ocr errors]

by the particular Church whereof I am a Member, as a neceffary Condition of my Communion with her, I am bound to abstain from it, for the fake of the general End of Chriftian Society. As for Inftance, fuppofe the Church whereof I am a Member, require it as a Condition of my Com-1 munion, that I fhould tranfgrefs any just Law of the Commonwealth whereof I am a Subject; in this Cafe I am bound rather to defert that Churches Communion, than live in wilful Disobedience to the Civil Authority. And this is the Cafe of those men, who though they live in a Chriftian Conmonwealth, have been Baptized into, and bred up in the Communion of particular Congregations that,contrary to Law, have separated themfelves from the Eftablifht, National Church; for if in this National Church there be nothing impofed on them by the Laws of the Commonwealth that is apparently contradictory to the Laws of Chrift, they are bound in Confcience to defert thofe feparate Congregations (allowing them to be true Churches) and to joyn themselves with the Church National; and if they do not, they are wilful Offenders against the Law of Chrift, which requires us to obey all Humane Ordinances for the Lords fake. And again, fuppofing one National Church to be fubject to another, that which is fubject is bound to refuse the Communion of that which is fuperiour, if it cannot enjoy it without complying with Impofitions that are apparently finful. Which is evidently the Cafe between us and the Church of Rome, fuppofing that de jure we were once her Subjects and Members; for had we been fo, we should doubtless

never have separated our felves from her, could we but have separated her Sins from her Communion; could we have profeft her Creed without implicitly believing all her Cheats and Impoftures, or fubmitted our felves to her Guides without apparent Danger of being misled by them into the pit of Deftruction, or joyn'd with her publick Services without worshipping of Creatures, or received her Sacraments without practising the groffest Superftitions and Idolatries. But when the had made it neceffary for us either to fin with, or Separate from her, we could have no other honeft Remedy but only to withdraw, and if in this our Separation there had been a finful Schifm on either fide, we could have appealed to Heaven and Earth whofe the Guilt of it was; theirs that forced us upon it, or ours that were forced to it. But yet the Cafe of our Separation from the Church of Rome, is vastly different from that of the Separation of private Members from their own particular Churches. For we affirm that the Church of Rome is but a particular Church, whofe Anthority extends no farther than to its own native Members, and confequently hath no more Power to impofe Laws of Communion upon us, than we have upon ber; our particular Church being altogether as diftinct and independent from her, as fhe is from ours. So that though the Terms of Communion fhe impofes upon her own Members, were all of them lawful and innocent, yet do they no more oblige us as we are Chriftians of the Church of England, than the lawful Commands of the Great Mogul do, as we are Subjects of the Kingdom of England.


But the Cafe of private Members, whether of ours, or any other particular Church, is vastly different. For if we will allow particular Churches to be fo many formed Societies of Chriftians (as we must do, or elfe degrade them into fo many confufed multitudes) we must neceffarily allow them to have a just Authority (even as all other formed Societies have) over their own Members. And that they have fo, is evident not only from the Nature of the thing, but also from Scripture, where the Bishops and Paftors of particular Churches are faid to be conftituted by the Holy Ghost Overfeers of their particular Flocks, Acts xx.28. which word both in facred and prophane Writ denotes a ruling Power. And accordingly thefe Overfeers are elsewhere called ruling-Elders, 1 Tim. v. 17., and the Subjects and Members of their Churches are required to obey them, as thofe that have the Rule over them, Heb. xiii. 17. and elfewhere the Apoftle exhorts them to know, i.e. fubmiffively to own the Authority of thofe that were over them in the Lord, 1 Thef. v. 12. By all which it's evident, that the Members of particular Churches are by divine inftitution fubjected to the Authority of their spiritual Governours,and obliged in all things to obey them, wherein they are not countermanded by Chrift himself. So that though one particular Church may refuse the Impofitions of another,and that not only as they are finful, but as they are Impofitions, because the other hath no lawful Authority over it; yet is it by no means lawful for the Subjects of any particular Church to difobey their Church-Governours in any lawful matter; because being fubjected to their Authority


« PreviousContinue »