« PreviousContinue »
strife, or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things; but every man also on the things of others.
Now, if it be an evil to do any thing out of strife; then such things that are seen so to be done, are they not to be avoided and forsaken ? So that we are confident, our judgment herein cannot be denied, or reputed erroneous; except it be said, That none will or can arise in the Church of Christ, pretending such things from such a spirit; which I know not any that will, it being contrary to the express prophecies of the scripture, and the experience of the church in all ages, as may appear from Mat. 24. 24. Acts 15. 24. 1 Tim. 4. 1. 2 Tim. 3. 8. Mark 13. 21. 22. 2 Pet. 2. 19. Or on the other hand, that those that abide faithful, and have a discerning of those evils ought to be silent, and never ought to reprove and gain-stand them, nor yet warn and guard others against them; and that it is a part of the commendable unity of the church of Christ, to suffer all such things without taking notice of them. I know none will say so; but if there be any so foolish as to affirm it, let them consider these scriptures, Gal. 2. 4. 1 Tim. 1. 20. 2 Tim. 2. 24. 25. Tit. 1. 9. 10. 11.
Now if none of these hold true; but, on the contrary, such evils have been, and may be found to creep in among the people of God, and that such as see them, may and ought to reprove them; then necessarily the doing so, is neither imposition, force nor oppression.
As to the third, concerning the consequence
and tendency of them, it is mostly included in the two former: for whatsoever tendeth not to edification, but, on the contrary, to destruction, and to beget discord among brethren, is to be avoided according to that of the apostle, Rom. 16. 17. Now I beseech you brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them.
And since there is no greater mark of the people of God, than to be at peace among themselves hatsoever tendeth to break that bond of - love and peace, must be testified against. Let it be observed, I speak always of the Church of Christ indeed, and deal with such as are of another mind; not as reckoning only false churches not to have this power, but denying it even to the true Church of Christ, as judging it not fit for her so to act, as in relation to her members. For though Christ be the Prince of Peace, and doth most of all commend love and unity to his disciples; yet I also know he came not to send peace, but a sword, that is, in dividing man from the lusts and sins he hath been united to. And also it is the work of his disciples and messengers, to break the bands and unity of the wicked, wherein they are banded against God, and his truth, and the confederacy of such as stand in unrighteousness, by inviting and bringing as many as will obey, unto righteousness; whereby they become disunited and separated from their companions, with whom they were centred, and at peace, in the contrary and cursed nature. And indeed, blessed are they that are sent forth of
the Lord to scatter here, that they may gather into the unity of the life: and they are blessed that, in this respect, even for righteousness sake, are scattered and separated from their brethren; that they may come to know the brotherhood and fellowship, which is in the light; from which none ought to scatter, nor to be scattered, but be more and more gathered thereunto. And this leads me to what I proposed in the third place, under this head, of the true churches power in matters spiritual, or purely conscientious; which may be thus objected:
If thou plead so much for an oneness in the smallest matters, wherein consisteth the freedom and liberty of the conscience, which may be exercised by the members of the true church diversely, without judging one another?
In answer to this proposition, I affirm, first in general; that whatsoever things may be supposed to proceed from the same spirit, though diverse in its appearance, tending to the same end of edification, and which in the tendency of it, layeth not a real ground for division, or dissention of spirit, fellow-members ought not only to bear one another, but strengthen one another in them.
Now the respects wherein this may be, I can describe no better than the apostle Paul doth principally in two places, which therefore will be fit to consider at length for the opening of this matter; this being one of the weightiest points pertaining to this subject. Because, as on the one hand due forbearance ought to be exercised in its right place; so on the other, the many de
vices and false pretences of the enemy creeping in here, ought to be guarded against.
The first is, 1 Cor. 12. from verse 4. to 31. thus:
4. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.
6. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.
7. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.
8. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit.
9. To another faith by the same Spirit, to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit.
10. To another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another divers kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
11. But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally, as he will.
12. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
13. For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
14. For the body is not one member, but many. 15. If the foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16. And if the ear shall say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17. If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling ?
18. But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19. And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20. But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you?
22. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary.
23. And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour, and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
24. For our comely parts have no need, but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.
25. That there should be no schism in the bo dy; but that the members should have the same care one of another.
26. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
27. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.