The first joyning Principle.
In the middest of all differences of judgement, and weaknesses of the Saints, it is not impossible but that they may live in peace and love together.
IF notwithstanding the differences from Gods mind, and many weaknesses, there may be peace and love between God & his Saints: then surely notwithstanding these things, the Saints may be at love and peace among themselves. Let this be laid for a ground, and let our hearts be much possessed with it, we shall finde it very helpfull to our closing. Away with that vain con∣ceit which hath been the great disturber of Churches in all ages, if men differ in their judgement and practice in matters of re∣ligion, Page 256 though it be in things that are but the weaknesse of godly men, yet there must needs be heart-burning and division. Let all peaceable men deny this consequence, Let us not say it will be so, and that our words may be made good afterwards indeed make it so: certainly the connection of them, if there be any, is rather from the corruption of our hearts, then from the nature of the things.
I have read of two Rivers in the East, Sava and Danuby, that run along in one channell threescore miles together, without any noyse, and yet they keep themselves distinct, the colour of the waters remain distinct, all along: why should we not think it possible for us to go along close together in love and peace, though in some things our judgements and practices be appa∣rently different one from another? I will give you who are Scho∣lers a sentence to write upon your Study doores, as needfull an one in these times as any; it is this:
Variety of opinions, and unity of those that hold them, may stand together.
There hath been much ado to get us to agree: we laboured to get our opinions into one, but they will not come together. It may be in our endevours for agreement we have begun at the wrong end. Let us try what we can do at the other end: it may be we shall have better successe there. Let us labour to joyn our hearts to engage our affections one to another: if we cannot be of one mind that we may agree, let us agree that we may be of one minde.
Eusebius records a Letter that Constantine sent to Alexander and Arius,*before he apprehended the grossenesse of Arius his heresie, conceiving them to differ but in smaller things, he endevours to reconcile them: For that (sayes he) the things where∣in you differ, concerneth not any waighty substance of our Religion, there is no reason why it should breed at all any division in minde, or discord in doctrine; and this Isay not to compell you in this light question, of what sort soever it be, altogether to condescend unto the same sentence: and though you dissent amongst your selves about a matter of small importance, (for neither truly are we all in all things like minded, neither have we all the same nature and gift Page 256 engrafted in us) neverthelesse for all that the sacred unity may be soundly and inviolably retained among you,* and one consent and fellowship conversed between all.
I have read of the like peaceable disposition in divers German Divines, meeting to confer about matters of Religion in diffe∣rence, in Marpurg. The conclusion of their Conference was this: Although we see we cannot hitherto fully agree about the corporall presence of the body and bloud of Christ in the bread and wine, yet both parts ought to declare Christian love one to another, as farre as every one can with a good conscience. Oh that this were the conclusion of all our debates and conference, wherein we cannot come up fully to one anothers judgements. If we stay for peace and love till we come to the unity of the faith in all things, we must stay for it, for ought I know, till we come to another world. Ephes. 4. 11, 12. He gave some Apostles, some E∣vangelists, some Pastors and Teachers, for the worke of the Mi∣nistery, till we all come in the unity of the faith, and knowledge of the Sonne of God, unto a perfect man. The unity of the faith, and the perfect man will be both together; and when they are, there will be no more need of any ministry, there shall be no more preaching after we are all come to this unity: when that is done, our work is done for this world.