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yet any more spiritual fellowship with those that hold them? And so cut themselves off from being members, by dissolving the very bond by which they were linked to the body. Now this cannot be accounted tyranny and oppression, no more than in a civil society, if one of the society shall contradict one or more of the fundamental articles, upon which the society was contracted, it cannot be reckoned a breach or iniquity in the whole society to declare, that such contradictors have done wrong, and forfeited their right in that society; in case, by the original constitution, the nature of the contradiction implies such a forfeiture, as usually it is; and will no doubt hold in religious matters. As if a body be gathered into one fellowship, by the belief of certain principles, he that comes to believe otherwise, naturally scattereth himself; for that the cause, that gathered him, is taken away and so those that abide constant in declaring the thing to be so as it is, and in looking upon him, and witnessing of him to others (if need be) to be such, as he has made himself, do him no injury. I shall make the supposition in the general, and let every people make the application to themselves, abstracting from us; and then let conscience and reason in every impar tial reader declare, whether or not it doth not hold? Suppose a people really gathered unto the belief of the true and certain principles of the gospel, if any of these people shall arise and contradict any of those fundamental truths, whether has not such as stand, good right to cast such an one out from among them, and to pronounce, positively, This is contrary to the truth we pro
fess and own; and therefore ought to be rejected, and not received, nor yet he that asserts it as one of us? And is not this obligatory upon all the members, seeing all are concerned in the like care as to themselves, to hold the right and shut out the wrong? I cannot tell, if any man of reason can well deny this: however, I shall prove it next from the testimony of the scripture.
Gal. 1. 8. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you, than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 1 Tim. 1. 19, 20. Holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away, concerning faith, have made shipwreck. Of whom is Hymenæus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.
2 John 10. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him rejoice. (For so the Greek hath it.)
These Scriptures are so clear and plain in themselves, as to this purpose, that they need no great exposition to the unbiassed and unprejudicate reader. For seeing it is so, that in the true church there may men arise, and speak perverse things, contrary to the doctrine and gospel already received; what is to be the place of those that hold the pure and ancient truth? must they look upon these perverse men still as their brethren must they cherish them as fellow members, or must they judge, condemn and deny them? We
must not think the apostle wanted charity, who will have them accursed; and that gave Hymenæus and Alexander over to Satan, after that they had departed from the true faith, that they might learn not to blaspheme. In short, if we must (as our opposers herein acknowledge) preserve and keep those that are come to own the truth, by the same means they were gathered and brought into it, we must not cease to be plain with them, and tell them, when they are wrong; and by sound doctrine both exhort and convince gainsayers. If the apostles of Christ of old, and the preachers of the everlasting gospel in this day, had told all people, however wrong they found them in their faith and principles, Our charity and love is such, we dare not judge you, nor separate from you; but let us all live in love together, and every one enjoy his own opinion, and all will be well: how should the nations have been; or what way can they be brought to truth and righteousness? would not the devil love this doctrine well, by which, darkness and ignorance, error and confusion might still continue in the earth unreproved and uncondemned; if it was needful then for the apostles of Christ in the days of old to reprove, without sparing to tell the highpriests and great professors among the Jews, that they were stubborn and stiff-necked, and always resisted the Holy Ghost, without being guilty of imposition and oppression, or want of true love and charity; and also for those messengers the Lord raised up in this day, to this day, to reprove and cry out against the hireling priests, and to tell the world openly, both professors and profane, that they
were in darkness and ignorance, out of the truth, strangers and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel; if God has gathered a people, by this means, into the belief of one and the same truth, must not they, if they turn and depart from it, be admonished, reproved and condemned (yea, rather than those that are not yet come to the truth,) because they crucify afresh unto themselves the Lord of glory, and put him to open shame? It seems the apostle judged it very needful they should be so dealt with, Tit. 1. 10. when he says, There are many unruly and vain talk. ers and deceivers, especially they of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, &c. Were such a principle to be received or believed, that in the Church of Christ no man should be separated from, no man condemned or excluded the fellowship and communion of the body, for his judgment or opinion in matters of faith, then what blasphemies so horrid, what heresies so damna. ble, what doctrines of devils, but might harbour itself in the Church of Christ? What need then of sound doctrine, if no doctrine make unsound? What need of convincing and exhorting gainsayers, if to gainsay be no crime? Where should the unity of the faith be? Were not this an inlet to all manner of abomination; and to make void the whole tendency of Christ, and his apostles' doctrine; and render the gospel of none effect; and give a liberty to the unconstant and giddy will of man to innovate, alter and overturn it at his pleasure? So that from all that is above men tioned, we do safely conclude, that where a people are gathered together into the belief of the
principles and doctrines of the gospel of Christ, if any of that people shall go from their princi ples, and assert things false and contrary to what they have already received; such as stand and abide firm in the faith, have power, by the Spirit of God, after they have used Christian endeavours to convince and reclaim them, upon their obstinacy, to separate from such, and to exclude them from their spiritual fellowship and communion : For otherwise, if this be denied, farewell to all Christianity, or to the maintaining of any sound doctrine in the Church of Christ.
But, secondly, taking it for granted, that the Church of Christ, or assembly of believers, may, in some cases, that are matter of conscience, pronounce a positive sentence and judgment with out hazard of imposition upon the members, it comes to be enquired; In what cases, and how far this power reacheth?
I answer, First, As that which is most clear and undeniable, in the fundamental principles and doctrines of faith, in case any should offer to teach otherwise, as is above declared and proved. But some may perhaps acknowledge, that indeed if any should contradict the known and owned principles of truth, and teach otherwise, it were fit to cast out and exclude such; but what judgest thou as to lesser matters, as in principles of less consequence, or in outward ceremonies or gestures, whether it be fit to press uniformity in these things? For answer to this, it is fit to consider,
First, The nature of the things themselves. Secondly, The spirit and ground they proceed from.