Page images


of the holy ghost be a qualification needful for this employment; surely the nature of their em. ployment was not to render this so needful a qualification useless and ineffectual, as if they were not to be led by it.

Moreover we see, though they were at that time all filled with the Spirit, yet there was something wanting before this good order was established. There was a murmuring that some widows were neglected in the daily ministration; and we must not suppose the apostles went about to remedy this evil that was creeping into the Church, without the counsel of God by his Spi. rit, or that this remedy they were led to, was stepping into apostacy; neither can it be so said of us, we proceeding upon the like occasion.

If then it be thus needful and suitable to the gospel, to relieve the necessities of the poor, that as there was no beggar to be among Israel of old, so far less now; must there not be meetings to appoint contributions, in order to the performing these things ? Which is no other, but the giving of a general intimation 'what the needs are, that every one, as God moves their hearts, and hath prospered them, (without imposition, force, or limitation) may give towards these needful uses. In which case these murmurers at our good or. der in such matters may well think strange at the apostle: How pressingly ! how earnestly doth he reiterate his desires and provocations, so to speak, in this respect to the Corinthians, í Cor. 16. 2. and the eighth and ninth chapters of the second epistle throughout!

Now, though he testifies to them elsewhere,

That they are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and that the Spirit of God dwells in them; yet ceaseth he not to entreat and exhort, yea, and to give them certain orders in this matter.

Besides all these reasons, which are sufficient to convince any unprejudicate man, the secret approbation of God's Spirit accompanying us in this thing, together with the fruits and effects of it; which hundreds can witness to, whose needs have been supplied, and themselves helped through divers difficulties; and the testimonies of some already, and of many more orphans and fatherless children, who have found no want, neither of father nor mother, or other relations, through the tender love and care of God's people, in putting them to trades and employments, and giving them all needful education : which will make it appear, ere this age pass away, to those that have an eye to see, that these are not the mere doings and orders of men; but the work of him who is appearing in ten thousands of his saints, to establish not only truth, but mercy and righteousness in the earth.

And for that end therefore, in the second place, this order reacheth the making up and composing of differences as to outward things, which may fall out betwixt friend and friend; for such things may fall out through the intricacies of divers af. fairs, where neither hath any positive intention to injure and defraud his neighbour, as in many cases might be instanced. Or if through the workings and temptations of him, whose work is to beset the faithful, and people of the Lord, and to engender, (so far as he can) strife and division

among them, any should so step aside, as to offer to wrong or prejudice his neighbour; we do boldly aver, as a people gathered together by the Lord, unto the same faith, and distinguished from all others by our joint testimony and sufferings, that we have power and authority to decide and remove these things among ourselves, without going to others to seek redress. And this in it: self hath so much reason, that I cannot tell if any, that are not wholly prejudicate or obstinate, can blame it. For if we be of one mind concerning faith and religion, and that it be our joint interest to bring all others unto the same truth with us, as supposing them to be wrong, what confidence can we have to think of reclaiming them, if the truth we profess have not such efficacy as to reconcile us among ourselves in the matters of this world: if we be forced to go out to others for equity and justice, because we cannot find it among ourselves, how can we expect to invite ahem to come among us, when such virtues, as which still accompany the truth, are necessarily supposed to be wanting ? Should we affirm other. wise, it were to destroy the truth and faith we have been, and are, in the Lord's hand, building up: and indeed the spirit and practice of such as oppose us herein, hath no less tendency.

Moreover, besides the enforcing and intrinsic reason of this thing, we have the concurrence approbation and comfort of the apostle's testimony, 1 Cor. 6. Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? If it be objected, do you reckon all unjust that are not of you? Think ye all other people void of justice ?

I answer, though the apostle useth this ex. pression, I am persuaded he did not reckon all others unjust, that had not received then the christian faith. There were, no doubt, moral and just men among the heathen; and therefore the same Paul commends the nobility of Festus. He there reckons them unjust in respect of the saints, or comparatively with them, as such as are not come to the just principle of God in themselves, to obey it and follow it: and therefore though he accounts them, who are least esteemed in the church, capable to decide such matters : yet he supposeth it safer to submit to their judgment in such cases, though it were by taking wrong, or suffering wrong, than to go before others to the greater reproach of the truth. We hope, though many occasions of the kind have fallen in among us, since we have been a people, none have had just occasion to decline our judgment. And though some should suppose themselves to be wronged; yet if they should bring their matter before others, we might say, as the apostle saith in the fore-mentioned chapter, ver. 7. This were thereby a fault in them, and would evidence a greater care of some outward concern, than of the honour and interest of truth; and therefore such as have a tender regard that way, would rather suffer what, to their apprehensions, may seem wrong. For in matters wherein two parties are opposite in the case of Meum and Tuum, it is somewhat hard to please both; except were the power of truth, and the righteous judgment thereof reaching to that of God in the conscience, hath brought

to a true acknowledg. ment him that hath been mistaken, or in the wrong; which hath frequently fallen out among us, to the often refreshing and confirming our souls in the certain belief, that Christ was fulfilling his promises among us, In restoring judges, as at the first, and counsellors, as in the beginning.

Now, suppose any should be so pettish, or humorous, as not to agree in such matters to the judgment of his brethren, and to go before the unbelievers (for though I reckon them not such unbelievers as the heathen of old, because they profess a faith in God and Christ; yet I may safely say, they are unbelievers as to these principles and doctrines, which we know are the truth of God; and in that sense must be unbelievers as to him, that so appealeth to them from his brethren.) I say, such as so do, first commit a certain hurt, and evil, in staining the honour and reputation of the truth they profess, which ought to be dearer to us than our lives. And even in that outward matter, for which they thus do, they run a hazard, not knowing whether things shall carry, as they expect: if they lose, they have a double prejudice ; if they gain, it is at too dear rate, even with the hurt of truth's reputation, which their outward advantage cannot make up. If then it be unlawful to do evil, that good may come of it, even a spiritual good; far less is it lawful to do a positive evil, of so deep a dye as to bring an evil report upon the good land, and give the uncircumcised an occa. sion to rejoice: out of the uncertain hope of an outward gain, it is far better to suffer loss, as the

« PreviousContinue »