Irenicum, to the lovers of truth and peace heart-divisions opened in the causes and evils of them : with cautions that we may not be hurt by them, and endeavours to heal them
Burroughs, Jeremiah, 1599-1646.

The good uses that we are to make of our Divisions.

WHy may not meat come out of the eater, and sweet out of these bitter things? The Heavens can draw up salt vapours from the Sea, and send them down againe in sweet re∣freshing showres. Why may not heavenly hearts change the very nature of these sowre brinish things, and make them sweet to themselves and others? This is the excellency of grace; it does not only preserve the soule from the evill of temptations, but it gets advantage by them, it turnes the evill into good. Lu∣ther upon the Galat. c. 5. v. 17. hath a notable expression to set forth the power of grace: By this a Christian (sayes he) comes to be a mighty workman, and a wonderfull creator, who of heavi∣nesse can make joy, of terrours comfort, of sinne righteousnesse, of death life. And why may not I adde, of division and contention, peace and union? Wherefore

First, by these Divisions men may come to see the vilenesse [ 1] and the vanity of their own hearts: what were the thoughts of Page  248 men heretofore? Oh, had we but liberty and opportunity to be instrumentall for God, we hope we should improve all to the uttermost for him, now God hath granted these to us, we abuse them, we grow wanton, we jarre one against another: we are like some Marriners, who are calme in a storme, But storme in a calme. Surely every man is vanity. The untowardnesse of the spirits of those who heretofore longed after ordinances, freed from these defilements they mourned under, when they have their desires in great measure satisfied, discovers so much evill in the hearts of men, that it justifies those whom themselves have had hard thoughts of, men who seemed carnall and naught, that you looked upon as very evill, men of bitter spirits against good men, you thought such things apparently argued them void of grace, and yet when you are got into Church-fellowship, that way of freedome, that your soules mourned after a long time, now though you be joyned in covenant one to another, yet if your brethren differ any thing from you, though they be other∣wise godly, what a bitternesse of spirit is there in some of you against them! what pride! what frowardnesse doe you mani∣fest against them! Oh what a poor creature is man! if once he gets power and liberty, what a deale of filth appears in him! we may learn by this to have charitable thoughts of some, of whom we have had hard thoughts before; we see if these men have any grace, grace may be in a mans heart lying under much corruption.

[ 2] Secondly, learne to be humbled for that dishonour which comes to God by these divisions; thou spendest thy time in vex∣ing [ 3] and fretting at, in crying out against these breaches, but when was thy heart broken with the dishonour that God hath by them?*

Thirdly, let these divisions confirme us in the maine, and settle us there more then ever; for do we not see that those many sorts of men who are divided, who oppose one another much, yet they all joyn in the things of the greatest consequence, they all witnesse against the common enemy? This, sayes Nazianzen, is the greatest argument of the truth, that it is not overcome by time, neither can enmity one against another put out that little sparke of the love of it that is in us, &c. If a mans house stands after many shakings of strong windes, he concludes the foun∣dation Page  249 is good, this satisfies him, though some tiles be sha∣ken off.

Fourthly, let us blesse God who hath carryed on the work [ 4] of Reformation thus farre, notwithstanding our divisions; we were afraid that these differences, not so much betweene the good and bad, but betweene the good and good, would have undone all, and yet behold the Lord beyond our thoughts, how infinitely beyond our deserts, hath carryed on the work hither∣to, so as it gets ground, though it be not so speedily brought to an issue as we would have it.

Fiftly, let us hence raise our hopes in this, that Satans time is [ 5] not long; his raging and foming so violently, doth evidence it to us. Surely Christ our Prince of Peace is at hand, he will tread down Satan under our feet shortly.

Sixtly, let us from these stirs without, be put upon the labou∣ring [ 6] to make and to confirm peace within. Oh consider, is the breach between man and man so grievous? how grievous is that which is between God and the Soul! I find it hard, and doubt whether it be possible to be at peace with men in this world; I find them of such froward, peevish, selfish, wilfull spirits, even many who seem to be good men otherwise, but God gives many encouragements to poor souls to come unto him; he is a God of love and mercy, he delights not to grieve the children of men, to crush under his feet the prisoners of the earth: he is willing to be reconciled to sinners: there is nothing that his heart is more set upon, then reconciliation with wretched sin∣full souls. Oh that in these sad dayes of miserable dissentions, I might be blessed with the comforts of the reconciliation of my soul with God! if this were, I hope I should be able contented∣ly to bear, and with strength to pass through all those heart∣sadning evils caused by these breaches and dissentions there are amongst us. This were a good use indeed, made of such evill things, if mens contending with you shall thus further your peace with God; what he once said of Adams sin, it was Faelix▪ peccatum, a happy sin, because it occasioned so much good in Mans Redemption: So I may say of that strife and contention there is among us, it is faelix contentio, a happy contention, that God hath turned to so much good unto you.

I have read of Robert Holgate, who was Arch-Bishop of York,Page  250 because he could not peaceably enjoy his small living in Lin∣colne-shire, in regard of the litigiousnesse of a neigbouring Knight, comming to London to right himselfe, he came into the favour of King Hen. the 8. and so got by degrees the Arch∣bishoprick of York, he thought he got well by the litigiousnesse of this Knight; but if the strifes of men shall put thee upon those providences and duties which shall be so blessed unto thee, as to further thy getting into the favour of the high God, and the enjoyment of the soule-satisfying sweetnesse there is in peace with him; what cause shalt thou have of admiring free grace, which hath brought to thee so great a good from so great an e∣vil? and if these strifes have been a meanes to move thy heart Godward for thy making thy peace with him, let them also put thee on still to further, to confirme, to settle, to main∣taine thy peace with him. VVhen the winde and storme rises, the Traveller plucks his cloak the closer about him; these dividing times are stormy times, labour to get your souls to the harbour under shelter, labour to make sure of that one thing necessary; the more strangely men looke upon you, let your hearts be stirred up to seek with the more strength the face of God, that you may never look upon it but with joy. You hear harsh notes abroad, such things as grieve you at the heart, labour so much the more to keep the bird alwayes singing in your bosome.

[ 7] 7. If your peace be made with God, blesse God for it. It is a great mercy for a man in these times of trouble, to have rest in his own spirit; while others are tossed up and down in the waves of contention, you sit quietly in the Arke of a good con∣science, blessing the Lord that ever you knew him and his wayes.

[ 8] 8. Labour to make up your want of that good and comfort you heretofore had in Christian communion, with a more close and constant communion with the Lord, who hath been pleased to speak peace unto you. Although I have not that comfort in communion with the streams, yet I may find it fully made up in the fountain.

[ 9] 9. By way of Antiperistas, let us labour to be so much the more united with the Saints, by how much we see others to be divided: Men make void thy Law, sayes David, therefore doe Page  251 I love it above gold. We use to put a price upon things that are rare: what makes Jewels to be of that worth, but for the rarity of them? Unity, hearty love, sweetness of communion among brethren, is now a very rare thing, a scarce commodi∣ty, let us prize it the more, and you who do enjoy it, bless God for it.

10. The more confused, broken, and troublesome we see [ 10] things to be, the more let our hearts be stirred up in prayer to God, putting him in mind of all those gracious promises that he hath made to his Church for peace and union: Lord is it not part of thy Covenant with thy people, that thou wilt give them one heart? hast thou not said that they shall serve thee with one shoulder? hast thou not told us that thou wilt make Jerusalem a quiet habitation, that thou wilt take away violence, that there should be no pricking bryar nor grieving thorn?

11. Those whose consciences can witnesse to them, that it [ 11] hath been their great care not to enwrap themselves in the guilt of these divisions, but they can appeale to God that they have endeavoured after peace so far as they could with a good con∣science, let them bless God for this mercy, it is a great deli∣verance to be delivered from the guilt of those divisions. Deut. 33. 8. Of Levi he said, Let thy Ʋrim and Thummim be with thy holy One, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah. Massah signifies tentati∣on, and Meribah, contention. Places and times of contention are places and times of tentation. Now if God shall prove us at those places in those times, and we be found upright, this will bring a blessing upon us. At those waters where the peo∣ple murmured, contending even with God himselfe, Aaron (though there was some weaknesse in him) yet kept himselfe from being involved in the guilt of that sinne of contending with God. And Sol-Jarchi, with other of the Hebrewes, say, that the Levites were not in that sinne neither; which they thinke that place Malachie 2. 5. refers unto, My covenant was with him of life and peace, for the feare wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The feare of God was up∣on Levi, at that time he dared not contend as then others did, and therefore my covenant of life and peace was and is with him. We have been these three or foure yeeres at these waters Page  252 of Massah and Meribah, God hath tryed us. How happy are those who have held out, who have kept their consciences free, upon whom the fear of God hath been, and through that feare of his, have walked before him in the wayes of truth and equi∣ty? The blessing of the Covenant of Life and Peace be upon them for ever.