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though they had retained the Opinions upon which they feparated. For had they but exercised that Modesty and Goodness as not to prefer their own private Sentiments before the Reafon and Peace of the whole Church, they would either have kept their Opinions to themselves, or at least not have advanced them into Principles of Separation; and fo by continuing in Communion with that Party of the Church from whence they diffented in Opinion, they would have declared that they judged their Errors to be tolerable. For by not Separating from them, they would have plainly manifested that they faw Reafon enough to Unite upon the fcore of thofe Points in which they were agreed, but none to Difunite upon the score of these in which they differed; and confequently, that they had a great deal of Reafon to love, but none to hate and perfecute one another; and whilft they mutually retained this good Opinion of one another, 'tis very unlikely that their little Differences fhould cause any great Breaches in their Charity. Schifm therefore being so destructive to our Charity, which is one of the leading Vertuès of our Religion, must needs have a very malevolent Afpect upon our Perfeverance. For he that from a Charitable Temper, relapfes into a fpiteful and rancorous one, is Apoftatifed from one half of the Religion of a Christian, and hath exchanged one of the fairest Graces of a Saint,for one of the blackeft Characters of a Devil. But then
2. Schifms or unneceffary Breaches of Church Communion do naturally lead to the fouleft Hypocrifics. For he that feparates from a Church is a very bad man, if he hath not a great Opinion of,
and Zeal for thofe things upon which he feparates; which Zeal of his, when once he is actually feparated, will be much more inflamed, and that both by the Oppofition of the Church he is feparated from,and the Inftigation of the Sect he is feparated to; and fo by Degrees that holy Fervour which should animate him in the plain and unquestionable Duties of Religion,will blaze into a fierce Contention for thofe little Opinions that conftitute the Sect he is ingaged in. For our Nature being finite and limited in all its Operations, it is impoffible we should operate diverse ways at once with equal Force and Vigour; but whatsoever Time and Attendance we bestow upon one thing, we must neceffarily fubftract from another. Now whilst we continue in a peaceable Communion with the Church, we have no other ufe for our Zeal, but to infpire our Devotions, to quicken our Vertues, and to fight against our Sins with it, and this all men agree is the best Use it can be put to; but when once we are entred into a fchifmatical Separation, we fhall find other Employment for it; namely, to quarrel at Ecclefiaftical Conftitutions, to wrangle about Modes and Circumstances of Worship, and contend for our trifling Speculations and Opinions. Which must necessarily weaken it in its nobler Operations, and render it more remifs and indifferent in the great and indifpenfible Duties of Religion; and whilft 'tis thus impertinently bufied in picking Straws, and contending about Mint and Cummin, to be fure it must more or lefs neglect the great and weighty things of the Law; and fo proportionably as it grows warmer and warmer about little Opinions and
Circumstances of Religion, it will be continually waxing cooler and cooler. in the necessary and effential Duties of it; till at last 'tis wholly degenerated into Peevishness. and Faction, and dwindled away into a fierce Contention about Trifles. That this is the natural Effect of Schifm appears by too many woful Experiments. For how many Inftances of men are there among our felves, who had, once an honest Zeal for the Life and Substance of Religion, and made great Confcience of living foberly, righteously, and godly in this prefent world, but afterwards becoming Bigots to fuch a Sect or Party, have diverted the Stream of their Zeal into another Chanel, where its irregular Current hath only made a Noife, and fill'd the world with a loud and turbulent Clamour about little things, but as to thofe great and important Duties upon which their Happinefs depends hath been profoundly mute and indifferent; and fo their Religion, like an Hectick Body, hath by degrees been confumed by its own Heats, whilst that Zeal and Fervour which fhould move and animate it hath been converted into its Disease, and wholly evaporated into Faction and Turbulency; and whilft their Zeal is thus mifimployed about the little Trifles of their Sect, and they are ready to start at an innocent Ceremony, and to fwoon at the fight of an indifferent Mode and Appendage of Religion, as if they were afraid left it should infect them at a distance, they can fwallow Camels though they strain at these Gnats, and glibly digest the groffeft Immoralities.
3. And lastly, Schifms and unneceffary Breaches of Church Communion do naturally lead to down
right Irreligion. For when once a man departeth from an established Church without a juft Warrant, there is nothing can confine or fet Shores to him, he hath no Principles that can stay him any where, or fet any Measures of Changing to him. For when upon a meer Humour of Fancy he hath run. from the Church to fuch a Sect, what should hinder him from running from that Sect to another, and fo on from Sect to Sect, till he hath run himfelf out of all Religion? He is rolling down a steep Hill, and hath no Principles to stay him, so that 'tis impoffible to determine whither he will go, or where he will stop; he may perhaps ftay at fuch an Opinion, but if he doth, it is by chance, and if he doth not, he will be endlefly rolling from one Opinion to another, and shifting his Church, as oft as his Almanack. For Schifm is a large Labyrinth,that naturally divides and fubdivides into infinite Paths and Allies, wherein a man may wander to Eternity, and the farther he goes, the more he may lose himself; and then when he hath wandred a while out of one wild Opinion into another, and ftill perceives that the farther he goes, the more he is diffatisfied, 'tis a thoufand to one if he doth not at last fufpect and question all Religion, as if the whole were an intricate maze of abfurd or doubtful Opinions, contrived on purpose to amufe mensMinds,and intangle them in endlefs Perplexities. For the Schifmatick, as I fhewed before, doth commonly place a great Part of his Religion in that Opinion upon which he divides and feparates, fo that if once he be diffatisfied with this, as in all probability he will quickly be, having begun already to ring Changes, he willbe
under a great Temptation to mistrust the whole Religion to be as great an Imposture as he finds this darling Opinion is; efpecially after he hath run through feveral Sets of Opinions, and finds them at last to be all Delufions. For as weak Heads, when they perceive the Battlements shake, are apt to fufpect that the Foundations are infirm fo weak Understandings will be ready to fufpect even the fundamental Principles of Religion, when once they perceive thofe darling Notions totter which they have confidently prefum'd to fuperftruct upon it. Upon this Account therefore I make no doubt, but that the Atheism of this prefent Age, is very much owing to its Sects and Divifions. For how many woful Examples have we of perfons who had once a great deal of Zeal for, and Satisfaction in Religion, that upon their cauflefs Defection from the Churches Communion have run from Sect to Sect, and from one extravagant Opinion to another, till being at last convinced of the Cheats and Impoftures of them all, they have difcarded Religion it felf, and made their laft refort into Atheism and Infidelity? Since therefore Schifm hath fo many Mifchiefs attending it, and fuch as do manifeftly endanger our Perfe verance in Religion, it highly concerns us, as we would hold out to the End in the Course of our Christian Warfare, to keep clofe to the Commu nion of the Church.
VI. To our final Perfeverance in the Chriftian Warfare, it is alfo neceffary that we fhould not stint our Progress in Religion (out of a fond Opinion that we are good enough already) to any determinate Degrees or Meafures of Goodness.