III. Of Ʋnity in Religion.
REligion being the chief band of Humane Society, it is a happy thing when it self is well contained with∣in the true band of Unity. The Quarrels and Divisions about Religion were Evils unknown to the Heathen. The reason was, because the Religion of the Heathen consisted rather in Rites and Ceremonies, than in any constant belief. For you may imagine what kind of Faith theirs was, when the chief Doctors and Fathers of their Church were Poets. But the true God hath this Attribute, that he is a Jealous God, and therefore his Worship and Religion will endure no mixture or Partner. We shall therefore speak a few words concerning the U∣nity of the Church; What are the Fruits thereof, what the Bonds, and what the Means.
The Fruits of Unity (next unto the well-pleasing of God, which is All in All) are two; the one towards those that are without the Church, the other towards those that are within. For the former, It is certain, that Heresies and Schisms are of all others the greatest Scandals, yea, more than corruption of Manners. For as in the Natural Body, a Wound or Solution of continuity, is worse than Page 6 a corrupt Humour; so in the Spiritual. So that nothing doth so much keep Men out of the Church, and drive men out of the Church as a breach of Unity: And there∣fore whensoever it cometh to that pass, that one saith, Ecce in deserto, another saith, Ecce in penetralibus; that is, when some Men seek Christ in the Conventicles of He∣reticks, and others in an outward face of a Church, that Voice had heed continually to sound in Mens Ears, Nolite exire, Go not out. The Doctor of the Gentiles (the pro∣priety of whose vocation drew him to have a special care of those without) saith, If an Heathen come in and hear you speak with several Tongues, will he not say that you are mad? and certainly it is little better, when Atheists and pro∣phane persons do hear of so many discordant and con∣trary Opinions in Religion; it doth avert them from the Church, and maketh them to sit down in the Chair of the Scorners. It is but a light thing to be vouched in so seri∣ous a matter, but yet it expresseth well the deformity. There is a Master of Scoffing, that in his Catalogue of Books of a feigned Library, sets down this Title of a Book, The Morrice-dance of Hereticks. For indeed every Sect of them hath a diverse posture, or cringe by them∣selves, which cannot but move derision in Worldings, and depraved Politicks who are apt to contemn holy things.
As for the Fruit toward those that are within. It is Peace, where containeth infinite Blessings; it establisheth Faith; it kindleth Charity; the outward peace of the Church distilleth into peace of Conscience; and it turneth the Labours of Writing and Reading of Controversies, in∣to Treatises of Mortification and Devotion.
Concerning the Bonds of Unity, the true placing of them importeth exceedingly. There appear to be two extreams. For to certain Zelots all speech of pacification is odious. Is it peace, Jehu? What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me. Peace is not the matter, but following a party. Contrariwise certain Laodiceans, and luke-warm persons, think they may accommodate points Page 7 of Religion by middle ways, and taking part of both, and witty reconcilements, as if they would make an ar∣bitrement between God and Man. But these extreams are to be avoided; which will be done, if the league of Christians, penned by our Saviour himself, were in the two cross clauses thereof, soundly and plainly expound∣ed. He that is not with us, is against us: And again, He that is not against us, is with us: That is, if the points Fundamental, and of Substance in Religion, were truly discerned and distinguished from points not meerly of Faith, but of Opinion, Order, or good Intention. This is a thing may seem to many a matter trivial, and done already; but if it were done less partially, it would be embraced more generally.
Of this I may give only this advice, according to my small model: Men ought to take heed of rendring God's Church by two kinds of controversies: The one is, when the matter of the point controverted is too small and light, not worth the heat and strife about it, kindled only by contradiction. For, as it is noted by one of the Fathers, Christ's Coat indeed had no seam, but the Chur∣ches Vesture was of divers colours; whereupon he saith, In veste varietas sit, scissura non sit; they be two things, Unity and Uniformity. The other is, when the matter of the point controverted is great, but it is driven to an over∣great subtilty and obscurity, so that it becometh a thing rather ingenious than substantial. A Man that is of judgment and understanding, shall sometimes hear ig∣norant Men differ, and know well within himself, that those which so differ, mean one thing, and yet they themselves would never agree. And if it come so to pass, in that distance of judgment which is between Man and Man, shall we not think, that God above, that knows the heart, doth not discern that frail Men in some of their contradictions intend the same thing, and accepteth of both? The nature of such controversies is excellently expressed by St. Paul, in the warning and precept that he giveth concerning the same, Devita pro∣fanasPage 8vocum novitates, & oppositiones falsi nominis scientiae; Men create oppositions which are not, and put them into new terms so fixed, as whereas the meaning ought to govern the term, the term in effect governeth the mean∣ing. There be also two false Peaces, or Unities; the one, when the Peace is grounded but upon an implicite ignorance; for all Colours will agree in the dark: the other when it is pieced up upon a direct admission of contraries in Fundamental points. For Truth and Falshood in such things, are like the Iron and Clay in the toes of Nebuchadnezzar's Image, they may cleave, but they will not incorporate.
Concerning the Means of procuring Unity; Men must beware, that in the procuring or muniting of Religious Unity, they do not dissolve and deface the Laws of Cha∣rity, and of Humane Society. There be two Swords amongst Christians, the Spiritual and Temporal; and both have their due office and place in the maintenance of Religion. But we may not take up the third Sword, which is Mahomet's Sword, or like unto it; that is, to propagate Religion by Wars, or by sanguinary Persecu∣tions to force Consciences, except it be in cases of overt Scandal, blasphemy or intermixture of practice against the State; much less to nourish Seditions, to authorize Conspiracies and Rebellions, to put the Sword into the peoples hands, and the like, tending to the subversion of all Government, which is the Ordinance of God. For this is but to dash the First Table against the Second, and so to consider Men as Christians, as we forget that they are Men. Lucretius the Poet, when he beheld the Act of Agamemnon, that could endure the sacrificing of his own Daughter, exclaimed;