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.
Page  54

CHAP. IX.

Rules to know in what things wee are to beare with our Brethren.

[ 1] FIrst, though men be known to erre in judgment in things not fundamentall nor destructive; yet if after such know∣ledg of them, they would keep their judgments to themselves, so as not to hurt others, or disturb the peace; most men of moderate spirits, if not all, hold that such men are not to be punished either by Church or State: But though this be yeel∣ded to, yet the practices of many are against it, they have wayes to draw forth mens judgements, though they would conceal them, and when they have drawn them forth, they make them suffer for their judgments these 3. ways.

First,* by requiring men to subscribe to things which they suspect are against their judgements; they invent Articles, which if put to them, they know will pinch them, and draw forth their judgment, which when they come to know, they make them as Articles of Accusation against them. Surely such dealings as these are very harsh.

But you will say, Blessed be God, we hope we have done with forcing men to subscribe.

God grant that we never meddle with any thing answera∣ble to that tyranny;* heretofore we groaned under the draw∣ing out mens judgements, and then the punishing them for them.

[ 2] Secondly, if such things be put into oaths, which though a man should not hold in every clause, yet he may be godly, and a good Subject, and urge such oaths with violence under pe∣nalty, what is this but to punish a man for his judgment, though he would keep it to himself?

[ 3] 3ly. By propounding Questions to men, when they come to the choice of, or admission to any place of preferment, to draw forth their judgments, such questions as concerne not at all the qualification of men to such places, & then de∣ny them those places, either because they are unwilling to an∣swer; or if you will needs have them answer, they discover Page  55 their judgements different from yours, is not this to make men suffer for their judgments, though they would live peace∣ably, keeping them to themselves? Here is not that suffering of Brethren that Christ would have.

2ly. In things controversall and doubtfull amongst godly [ 2] and peaceable men, though there should be a declaration of difference of judgment, and some different practice, yet there is to be a forbearance of compulsory violence; we must not be to one another in such things as these are, as that Gyant we read of, who laid upon a bed all he took, and those who were too long, he cut them even with his bed, and such as were too short, he stretched them out to the length of it. Ve∣rily this is cruelty, God hath not made men all of a length nor height; mens parts, gifts, graces differ; mens tempers, ap∣prehensions, educations are various: and if there be no suffe∣ring one another in things not clear, all the world must need∣be quarrelling, there wil be strengthning interests, sidings and opposings one another continually, except not only mens bodies and estates, but their very souls also be brought under sordid slavery.

Our Brethren of Scotland writing against the tyranny of Prelats, when they were under it, in that Book, entituled En∣glish and Popish Ceremonies, have this passage: If the error of Con∣science be about things unnecessary, then it is tutior pars the surest & safest way, not to urge men to do that which in their consciences they condemne. And the Ministers of the Protestant Churches in France, giving their judgments, De pace inter Evangelicos procu∣randa, How peace amongst the Protestants in Germanie may be had, set forth by Duraeus, say thus:a Let all matters contro∣versal be brought into such a certain model, as may give satisfaction to both parties; and that if it be possible, framed out of the very words of Scripture: and let no man require any thing else of his brother. Zanc. in praecep. 4. hath this notable speech:b That which I say (says he) is diligently to be observed, that those who would stir up Princes to have all people, Kingdomes, Common-wealths, which (not Page  56 overthrowing the fundamentalls of Religion, differ from them in any thing) condemned of heresie, excluded from friendship, driven out of their territories, these are no friends, says he, either to their Princes or to the Church of Christ.

Many thinke they doe great service to Christ, the Church and State, if they can stir up Magistrates to suppress whatsoe∣ver they conceive are errors; it may be their hearts are upright in the main, they aym at peace, but certainly they cause much disturbance in Church and State.

Bishop Davenant in a little Book, entituled, His Exhortati∣on to brotherly love amongst Churches, the ninth Chap. hath this title,*that Brotherly communion between Churches Evangelicall, is not to be cut asunder, because of divers opinions about Questions con∣troversall. And in the beginning of the 10. Chapter, This is to be premised, The bonds of the brotherly communion of Christian Churches ought not to be dissolved upon every difference of opinions, but only for the denying or opposing Fundamentals. Here see the mo∣deration of a Prelate.

Thus Cyprian of old delivered his opinion,*and practised it accordingly, differing from many of his brethren, but with∣all professeth, That he meant not to prescribe or give Lawes to a∣ny; that he would not contend with any of his Collegues, so as to breake divine concord, and the peace of our Lord; that he was farre from judging or censuring any of his Brethren, or cutting off from his communion any that were of a different minde; and that in such case none ought to constraine his Collegue by tyrannicall violence, (therein glancing at the violent proceeding of Stephen to whom he wrote) to a necessity of believing or following what he thinks meet.*This modesty and charity of Cyprian is very of∣ten and very deservedly commended by St. Augustine, says D. Potter, an Episcopall man.

That this may go down the better, or at least that mens spi∣rits may be in some measure moderated, take these following Considerations.

Page  57 First, this contending about every difference of opinion, & [ 1] urging our Brethren with what we conceive right, in matters of controversie, crosseth the end of Christ in his Administrati∣on of differing gifts to his Church, and humane society, and his revealing truths in a different way, some more darkely, some more clearly; Christ could easily have given such gifts to all, or revealed all truths so clearly, that every man should have been able to have seen every truth. Surely Christ did not disperse gifts, and reveal truths so differently, to that end, that there might be continual matter of strife and contention in his Church, and in humane societies; not that there should be provocation to the exercise of cruelty one upon another, but rather that there might be the exercise of love, charity, forbearance, meekness, long-suffering of one towards ano∣ther; Christ bids us, charges us to be at peace amongst our selves. If we should say, O Lord Jesus, wouldst thou have us be at peace one with another? there are many things in thy Word, that we and our Brethren have different apprehensions of; for though (blessed be thy Name) the great necessary things of salvation be clearly revealed, yet many other things are so dark to us, that through our weakness we cannot all of us see the same thing. Now is it thy mind, O blessed Saviour, that one man, who conceives himself to understand the truth, (and that it may be rightly) compell another to his judge∣ment? And dost thou also require, that wee must not bring our judgments to our Brethrens till thy light brings them? How then is it possible that we should be at peace one with a∣nother?

Do not all Divines say, There are some things in Scripture wherein the Elephant may swimm, some things where the Lamb may wade? matters of Discipline are acknowledged by all, not to be revealed with such clearnesse, but that truly conscientious, upright, diligent men may not be able in ma∣ny things to see the mind of Christ in them. And to what end hath Christ done this think you.

2ly. Compulsion in such things as we are speaking of, is to [ 2] straine Justice so high, as to make it summa justitia, which is the degeneration of it: As Physitians say of the uttermost degree of health, it is a beginning of sickness: If Justice be Page  58 wound up a peg too high, it breaks: Though Justice were to be managed by the most holy, wise, self-denying, and meek men upon the earth, yet there would be much danger in win∣ding it up to the highest; for it is administred by men full of infirmities, to men full of infirmities, therefore God will not have it strained too high, he will rather have charity to be a∣bove Justice, then Justice to be above charity. This I have out of Luther, though he was a man of a fiery spirit, he could tell how to contend where there was cause; yet in an Epistle that he writes to the Divines of Norimberg,* upon occasion of dis∣sentions risen amongst them, he hath this passage, Judgement must serve, not rule over charity; otherwise it is one of those four things that Solomon says troubles the earth, namely, a servant ruling, or the Maid heire to her Mistresse; if therefore you would have peace sayes he, charity must rule over justice, you must not suffer justice to rule over charity.

3ly. If men goe upon this principle, they will be in dan∣ger of opposing truth as well as falshood, and compelling to falshood as well as to truth; for in matters doubtful & contro∣versal amongst good and peaceable men, it is not easie to have any such grounded confidence, as to be out of all danger of mistake; there is more confidence needfull in a thing that we impose upon others, then in what we practice our selves; If a thing be to us rather true then otherwise, we may lawfully do it; but this is not enough to be a ground for the imposing it upon others, who cannot see it to be a truth; in such a case we had need be very sure. The weak drislings of our probabilities, guesses, & opinions, are not enough to cause the stream of a∣nother mans conscience to stop▪ yea to turne its course ano∣ther way; especially considering, that in such things we have oftentimes misgiving thoughts our selves; yea, and not long since we were confident, that what wee now condemne was true; and what we now are ready to enjoyn others, we then did as confidently condemn. There must be great care taken, that when we seek to pluck up tares, wee plucke not up the wheat also; this may be understood of things, of truths and falshoods, as wel as of persons; we may be mistaken in the one as well as in the other. Pluck not up the tares. Christ does not sorbid casting out any wicked men from the Church; but as Page  59Hierome hath it, in those Countries tares were very like the wheat; therfore take heed, says Christ, what you do in pluck∣ing up; when you have to deale with men whose condition is any way doubtful, be sure they be hypocrites, or else meddle not with them, do not pluck them up upon every surmise, be∣cause you think they are not right, for then you may pluck up a wheat as well as a tare, he may prove to be a godly man; therefore you had better let tares grow; If you do but thinke that such men are not right, you were better let them conti∣nue in the Church, then by venturing upon them, to be in danger to pluck up the wheat.

Thus in respect of things good or evill, there are some things apparently evill, they are rather thistles and bryers, then tares, we may freely pluck up them; but other things, though perhaps they may prove evil, yet they have some like∣ness to good, so as you can hardly discern whether they be good or evill. Now saith Christ, take heed what you do then, do not out of eagerness oppose all evill, to get out every tare, pluck out some wheat too; what if that you oppose with vi∣olence as evill, prove to be good? you had better let forty tares stand, then pluck up one wheat.

Fourthly, If men take this power upon them, to compell [ 4] men to do whatsoever they conceive good, and to deny or forbear whatsoever they conceive evil, they take more power upon them then ever the Apostles took. The government of the Saints under the Apostles, was a great deale more milde, sweet, gentle then this. The rule the Apostles went by, Phil. 3. 15. was, Let therefore as many as be perfect be thus minded; and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveale even this unto you; neverthelesse, whereunto wee have already attained, let us walke. If any should be otherwise minded then I or the other Apostles, God will reveale it in due time, we will not force him,* only let us walke up to what we have attained. This rule, Zanchy, saith Augustine, would repeat a thousand time; and Chrisostome hath a good note upon this place, he does not say, God will bring them to it, if they be otherwise minded, but God wil reveal it, noting the love and goodness of God to those who are otherwise minded, excusing them that it was not through wickedness, but for want of know∣ledg Page  60 that they did otherwise, Acts 15. where the Apostles and Elders were met together, the furthest they would take upon themselves, was to lay no other burden but those necessary things. The false teachers put a yoke upon them, which was such a burthen, that neither they nor their fore-fathers could bear, v. 10. yet it was no juridicall authority that these had over them; surely the yoke they put upon them, in the judg∣ments of all was but doctrinall: But for us, say the Apostles, we finding what the mind of the Holy Ghost is, dare not yoke you as they did; all that we burden you with, is these neces∣sary things, no Church-officers, no Synod can go further then this, but certainly every matter in controversie amongst godly and peaceable men cannot be conceived to be necessary.

Rom. 14. is a very usefull place for this, Him that is weak in the faith receive, but not to doubtfull disputations; Receive him, though he understands not all you do; do not trouble him, neither with nor for doubtfull things: One believeth he may eate all things, another who is weake eateth herbes; let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not; neither let him that eateth not, judge him that eateth, vers. 5. One man esteemeth one day above another, another esteemeth every day alike; let every man be fully perswaded in his owne minde. Upon this he gives gene∣rall rules, to doe all to the glory of God; all these people were not in the right, for a man not to eate flesh out of con∣science, when the thing was not forbidden, certainly was a sin; or to make conscience of a holy day, which God requi∣red not, was a sinne: Now the Apostle did not come with his authority, and say, I will make you leave off keeping such days, or you shall eate, or to abstain thus as you do, is evill, and it must not be suffered in you. No, the Apostle lays no A∣postolicall authority upon them, but tells them, That every man must be fully perswaded in his own mind, in what he doth; and who art thou that judgest another mans servant? the Lord hath recei∣ved him. And yet the Governors of the Churches in the Pri∣mitive times might upon much stronger grounds have stood upon such a principle, then any Governours of the Church now can; there was lesse reason why they should suffer any difference in opinion or practice amongst them, then why we should suffer differences amongst us; for they had men a∣mongst Page  61 them immediately inspired, who could dictate the mind of Christ infallibly, they could tell them the certaine meaning of any Scripture. The burden of being under the de∣terminations of such men in points of differences, had not been so great as subjection to any Governors now in such ca∣ses would be; our differences are usually about the meaning of such or such Scriptures, in wch both sides think they have the right, & profess one to another, as in the presence of God the searcher of all hearts, that if they could but see the mean∣ing of such a Scripture to be so as their brethren believe it is, they would soon agree: and yet though there were in those Primitive times such meanes of reconciling differences more then we have, yet there was much mutual toleration amongst them; they used no compulsive violence to force those who through weakness differed from them, to come up to their judgments or practice. Yes, It is also more tolerable in Pa∣pists, not to tolerate any difference in opinion or practice, because First, they believe they have an infallible Judg to de∣cide all Controversies. 2ly. They hold implicite faith in the judgment of their Clergie, to be sufficient warrant to justifie the belief or practice of the people, or of any particular man, and yet they suffer differences in opinions and practices a∣mongst them; They have their severall orders of their Monks, Priests, Friars, Jesuites, they differ very much one from the o∣ther, and yet agreeing in the root, they are suffered, supposing those two helps to union; they have an infallible Judg, and implicite faith; wee have cause either to admire at their mo∣deration in their mutuall bearing one with another, or at the disquietness, the rigidness of spirits amongst us, who can∣not bear with far lesser things in their brethren differing from them; for we professe, we know no such externall in fallible Judg, upon whom we may depend; neither dare we warrant an implicite faith. We teach men, that every man must be per∣swaded in his own heart, must see the rule of his own actions, must give an account of his own way to God: now what can men that have the most gracious & peaceable spirits, you can imagine, doe in such a case? Before they believe or do what their brethren believe or do, they must see the authority of the Word to ground their faith or actions; and for the present, Page  62 though sincerely willing to know Gods mind, and diligently laborious to search it out, yet they cannot see it: and yet ac∣cording to this sowr, rigid principle, they must be forced to it by violence, what is it but to command the full tale of brick to be brought in, where no straw can be had, if this be not? Straw might be had in Egypt by seeking for it; but here, after the most carefull and painfull seeking for it, yet it cannot be had.

[ 5] 5ly. By this principle, the finding out of much truth will be hindered; it will stifle mens gifts & abilities in arguing and discoursing about truths. We know fire is beaten out by stri∣king the flint. Although differences be very sad, yet the truth that comes to light by them, may recompence the sadnesse. You cannot beat out a place for a window to let in light, but you must endure some trouble; Children will think the house is pulling down, when the window is beating out, but the Father knows the benefit will come by it: he complains not that the dust and rubbish lies up and down in the house for a while, the light let in by it will recompence all. The trouble in the discussions of things by Brethren of different judgments may seem to be great, but either you or your posterity hereaf∣ter may see cause to blesse God for that light hath been, or may be let into the Churches by this meanes; men of mode∣rate spirits doe blesse God already. But if according to this principle, the governors of the Churches must suppress what∣soever they conceive not to be right, to what purpose should should there be arguing and discussing of severall judgements and severall ways?

You will say, Those who are the Governours, they, or those whom they call to consult with, may argue and discusse, but not others.

Is not this to deny the Church the benefit of the gifts and graces of thousands of others?* The Church may soon receive as much prejudice by this, as the trouble caused by some diffe∣rences comes to.

[ 6] Sixtly, This lays a great temptation to idleness and pride before the guides of the Church: Men are naturally subject to sloth, and may not this principle suggest such a temptation as this? What need we take care or pains to search into truths, to be able to convince gain-sayers, to cry things with strength Page  63 of Scripture & Reason, seeing we have power to compel men to yeeld to us? And men who can do least by Reason and Scripture, are many times strongest in their violence this way, this strength must come in to make up their other weaknesse. But it may be Conscience will not let them compell men pre∣sently; it will tell them they must seek first to convince men: but because the seeking to satisfie other mens consciences in things differing from us, is a troublesom work, the temptati∣on that this principle presents, may at least prevail thus far, that seeing besides means of conviction by arguing they have another help at hand to keep down error, namely, compul∣sory violence, making men who differ from them, to suffer for those things; therefore not to trouble themselves very much in the way of seeking to convince, but for their owne ease to rid their hands of such a burthensom work, to cast the trouble, and lay heavy burdens upon their brethren, this is easie for them to do, though hard for their brethren to suf∣fer; But the Tables may turn one day, wherein the sufferers shall have the greatest ease, & the inflicters the sorest burthen. But God forbid that their brethren should lay it upon them, though it were put into their power to do it.

The temptation to pride is not less, neither are mens hearts lesse prone to this. If it prevails, what domineering is there like to be of one over another, yea of some few over many? If they judg in things never so doubtful, all must yeeld, at least for their profession and practice. This is a great power to be given to men over men in matters of faith and godliness. This is Lording it over Gods inheritance. It is observable, when the Church was in the lowest condition, this power was high∣est; the power of making Canons in doubtful things to bind under penalties: And when this power was lowest, as in the Primitive times, then the Church was highest.

Seventhly, This will be a means to bring grosse ignorance [ 7] upon the face of the Churches & of the world: For, first, if men shall not be suffered to profess or practice otherwise then Governors in Church or State shall determine, they will not take pains to find out the truth themselves, but rather take things implicitely, wch is the easiest way; they wil think it to little purpose to take pains in examining things, when after Page  64 all is done, they must be bound up at least in their profession and practice, to what either is or shall be determined by those who have power of rule in their hands.

Our late Prelates designe was to bring in ignorance, that they might with the more freedom rule over us as they plea∣sed; and in nothing did they drive on this design more, then in the practice of this power, which they took to themselves to command things doubtful and controversall, and by vio∣lence to urge their commands upon people: by which, had their power continued, gross ignorance would soon have bin spread over the face of the land. From whence hath come the gross ignorance of Popery, but from the prevailing of this principle? By which the people have been brought in such subjection under their guides, that they have lost their under∣standings in the matters of Religion.

If it be said, But wee will take care that those men who shall be consulted withall, and those men who shall have power in their hands to determine, shall be wise, understanding, godly men, and then the danger will not be so great.

Suppose those men who for the present have such power,* have attained to the highest measure of of knowledg and god∣liness that can be imagined to be in any men upon the earth, yet the people are under this temptation, to neglect the gett∣ing of knowledg themselves; and it may be the rather, because those who are appointed to determine things, are so under∣standing and so conscientious; now these people growing ig∣norant; when these knowing and godly men who are now in place, shall be gone, who shall choose other in their places? I suppose it to be the opinion of most of you, and of the godly in the Kingdom, and in all Reformed Churches, that either the body of the Church, the people must choose their Officers, or at least, that none must be put upon them without their consent. Well then, if the people through the prevailing of the former temptations grow ignorant, is it not like they wil chuse such guiders and leaders as themselves are? or if they shall not chuse, yet their negative voyce will have such an in∣fluence into the choise, as it is very probable, that in a gene∣ration or two, blind guides will be brought in, and so the blind leading the blind. And when by this ignorance hath Page  65 prevailed and gotten head in the Church, there is almost an impossibility ever to get it out again; this brings men into the dark, and locks and bolts the doors upon them.

Hence men by pleading for this principle, may bring them∣selves and their posterity into greater bondage then they are aware; for although now while they have the power in their own hands, it may be well with them; yet hereafter others may have the power, and then it may prove ill enough; they may then complain of what they now plead for; though now the guides of the Church may be good and holy, yet they may live to see such a change, or at least their posterity, that such a principle acted by such men as they may be under, may wring them; yea, it is the more strange, that men should plead so much for this now, when as the soares of their neckes, cau∣sed by the bondage under it a while since, are scarce yet healed.

Eightly, there is yet a further danger in this, not only that [ 8] men will neglect truth, but there will be a strong temptation to resist and reject truth; if God begins to dart in any light into a mans spirit, that appears to crosse what hath been de∣termined of for opinion or practice under a penalty; the cor∣ruption of a mans heart will entice him to turne his minde from that light, not to let it into conscience or heart, lest it prevailing, should put him upon such ways wherein he is like to suffer. This hath been common in former times; many have hid their eyes from those truths that would have kept them from enformity, because they fore-saw what sad con∣sequences would follow, if their consciences should not suffer them to conform.

But you will say: This supposes that some things will be urged that is contrary to truth, which is uncharitable to suppose.

Although in matters fundamentall,* there is no feare that godly able men wil erre, yet let charity be stretched to the ful latitude of it, and reverence of men in place raised to the ut∣termost height; yet if they will meddle with such things as are doubtful and controversal amongst godly and peaceable men, and force them upon others; that confidence of theirs that shall put them out of feare of erring, shall be to me a ground of great fear, that they will erre.

Page  66 But some will acknowledge, that some liberty should be granted in things thus doubtfull and controversall, to men who are indeed conscientious, godly and peaceable men; but if this be yeelded too, then men who are not conscientious, but of turbulent and corrupt spi∣rits, will abuse it.

We have given rules to find out those who onely pretend conscience,* and if by those, or the like, it does not appeare, but that men are indeed conscientious in their way, we should judg charitably of them; you think much if those be not ad∣mitted to communion with Christ and his Saints, when they professe godlinesse in word and life, and nothing appears to the contrary; why then should you think much to tolerate those as conscientious, who professe it in words and life, and nothing appears to the contrary.

Bishop Davenant in that exhortation to peace before quo∣ted,*as one meanes for peace, gives his opinion thus, Be∣cause it belongs only to God to teach the hearts of men, it is our duty alwayes to make the best interpretation of things, and to presume of every one where the contrary appeares not by manifest signes, that hee is kept from assenting by his conscience rather then by obstinacy.

As for the peaceablenesse of mens dispositions, let it be judged from their carriages in other things of as great mo∣ment, wherein the temptation for the attaining their owne ends is as great, yea far greater then here: Do they not carry themselves in as peaceable, gentle; self-denying way as a∣ny? Mr. Parker upon the Crosse, cap. 5. sect. 14. pleads for himself and others, who could not yeeld in some things en∣joyned them, when they were accused of pride, contempt, unpeaceablenesse; What signes, sayes he, doe men see in us of pride, contempt, unpeaceablenesse? What be our caetera opera, that bewray such a humor? Let it be named wherein we go not two mile, where we are commanded to goe but one; yea, whether we goe not as many miles as any shooe of the preparation of the Gospel of peace will carry us: What payment, what paine, what labour, what taxati∣on made us ever to murmure? Survey our charges where wee have laboured, if they be not found to be of the faithfullest Subjects that be in the land. Wee deserve no favour; nay, there is where∣in Page  67 we stretch our consciences to the uttermost to conforme and obey in divers matters: Are we refractory then other things? As Balaams Asse said to his Master, Have I used to serve thee so at other times?

And whereas it is said, that some will abuse such liberty at this: It is answered, Surely those who are peaceable and conscientious, must not be deprived of what sufferance Christ allowes them, because others who are in the same way, are, or may prove turbulent, and do or may not appear truly conscientious. This is as farre beneath the rule of Justice, as no sufferance in any thing conceived erroneous, is above it.

Thirdly, whatsoever errours or miscarriages in Religion [ 3] the Church should bear withall in men, continuing them still in communion with them as Brethren, these the Magistrate should bear with in men, continuing them in the Kingdome or Common-wealth, in the enjoyment of the liberty of Sub∣jects: Grant what possible can be granted to the Magistrate in the extent of his power about Religion, to be Custos utrius{que} tabulae; yet certainly no man can imagine, that this his charge reaches further then the charge of the Church: That he is to be more exact in his oversight of these things, then the Church is to be; for what ever the power of the Magistrate be in these things, yet to the Church especially are the Oracles, the Or∣dinances, the Truths of God committed. The charge of the spirituall estate of men especially belongs to the Church: Now the Church is to beare with men in their infirmities, though they be ignorant of many things, yea after means used for information. No Church must cast off any from commu∣nion with it, but for such things that all the Churches of Christ ought to cast them off for.* This is generally held by our Brethren, if a man be rightly cast out of communion with one Church, he is thereby cast out of all; if this be so, then surely many things must be suffered before we proceed to cast out a member, it must not be for every errour or mis∣carriage. Thus Bishop Davenant in his rules for Peace, Those may not be cut off from communion with particular Churches who re∣maine joyned to the Catholique Church.

Page  68 Yea,b none is to be cast out of communion, but for that which if whole Churches were guilty of, we must refuse com∣munion with, yea with all the Churches in the world, if they could be supposed to be so far left of Christ, as to be guilty of the same thing; If this be so, when a Church is about ca∣sting any out of communion, it need be wary, and not pre∣sently fall upon him, because there is something evill in him; and if the Church should be so, the civill Magistrate much more, whose care of a mans spirituall estate is not so immedi∣ate and full as the Churches is.

From what hath been said these 2. consequences are clear: First, Articles or rules for doctrine or practise in matters of Religion to be imposed upon men, should be as few as may be; there is a very great danger in the unnecessary multiply∣ing them: This in all ages hath caused divisions, and exceed∣ing disturbances in the Churches of Christ.

I finde an excellent passage in an Epistle of Isaac Causabon to Cardinall Perron, which hee wrote in the name of King Iames by his command,c The King (saith he) thinks that the things that are absolutely necessary to salvation are not many, therefore His Majesty is of that mind that there is no shorter way for peace, then first by severing necessary things from things that are not necessary, and then to labour a full agreement in those; but as for things not necessary, let them (sayes he) be left to Christian liber∣ty. And againe, These necessary things are few, and the King thinks this distinction to be of so great moment to lessen the contro∣versies which this day doe so exceedingly trouble the Church, that all who study peace, should most diligently explicate, teach, and urge this.

Page  69 God hath so graciously ordered things for the body,* that things necessary for life are not many, nor costly; the greatest stir in the world is about things not necessary. So for the soule.

A second consequence from what hath been said, is; we see [ 2] hence who is most for peace; one professeth what he is con∣vinced of to be a truth and a duty, if it be not necessary, he is not to force it upon his Brethren, though he had never so much power in the Church or State to back him. The other holds this principle, That whatsoever he thinks to be a duty, he must force it upon his brethren, not only by the power of the Church, but he must call in the power of the Magistrate to back him in it.

But doe not men in a Congregationall way urge upon others their owne conception and practices,* according to the power they have, as much as any? for if men will not enter into covenant, if they hold a∣nother kind of government in the Church differing from them, they will not receive them, nor communicate with them.

I would all our controversie lay here,* surely wee should soon agree. Whosoever doth as you say, cannot be justified in so doing; some men it may be through an earnest desire of promoting what they conceived to be the mind of Christ, have been too rigid in their dealings with their Brethren. What hath been said, will shew the evill of their practice as well as of others.

As for entring into Covenant, It is true, there is such a pra∣ctice in the Congregational Churches, and a Covenant either explicite or implicite, I think all acknowledg: that is, there must be some agreement to joyne those together in a body, who formerly were not joyned, to make them to be of such a society, to have power in it with others for the choise of Offi∣cers in this Congregation, and to be under the care & charge of those Officers more then Members of another congregati∣on: what shall joyn them, if not at least some mutuall agree∣ment to joyn in one body for such spirituall ends as Christ hath appointed this body for, the very nature of a society that is embodyed, carries this with it; and any farther then this I know none requires as necessary.

Page  70 Indeed the more explicite this agreement is, the more is the edification. Surely there is no Christian but will acknowledg that the more one Christian opens his heart to another, and binds himself to walk in the ways of Christ with another, the more comfortable it is, and helps to edification: and upon this ground doe the Congregationall Churches practice this.

Suppose any godly man shall come and desire to joyn with any of them, but withall tell them, that for his part he yet cannot be convinced by any thing he can find in Scripture that this way of convenanting is required; if the Church can∣not satisfie such a man (being godly) in their practise, yet desire to know of him whether hee be willing to joyn with them in all the ordinances of Christ, so farre as he knows, a meere affirmative to this is a covenant sufficient to joyne him with them. The more fully he expresseth this to them, it would be the more acceptable. Now then why is it that there is such a noise every where in exclamations against Church-covenant, when it is nothing but this, which how any graci∣ous heart upon due consideration can be against, I cannot see. And this is not only our present opinion, but that which e∣ver since we knew any thing in that way, upon all occasions, we have held forth.

But what do you say to the other; If a man who you believe is god∣ly, yet not being convinced of your way of Government, but rather thinks the Presbyteriall Government to be the way of Christ; would you receive such a man into communion with you?

If any godly man whose conscience is not satisfied in that way of Government,* yet is so cast by Providence as he cannot joyne with those Churches where there is that Government he thinks to be Christs; and because hee is desirous to enjoy what ordinances of Christ he can, therefore tenders himself to one of these Congregationall Churches: Such a man should be received to these Ordinances he sees to be Christs, if there be nothing else against him, but meerly because after all due means, yet through weaknesse he cannot see Christs minde in some other ordinance. Christ doth not lay so much upon the ordinance of Government, as to exclude all his Saints all Page  71 their days from all other Church-ordinances, if through weakness they cannot be convinced of that.

Now let one who is in a Congregational way, and connot see Christs mind in the Presbyterial Government, yet come to one of those Churches, and say, he would gladly in all his ways see the mind of Christ, and enjoy all his ordinances, but he cannot see that a Minister who takes only the charge to feed by Word and Sacraments one Congregation, yet should with others have the charge of ruling an hundred or more; and till he be convinced otherwise, he cannot in his practice acknowledg that Government to be Christs, would you yet receive such a one to communion with you in all other Church-ordinances? If you would, I make no question then but if we well understood one another, and were of quiet spi∣rits, we might live together in peace.

Let not miscarriages in particular men or Churches in thing of this nature, hinder our peace; what we say ought to be suffered in us, we professe to be our duty to suffer that or any thing of the like nature in others: and where there hath not been that brotherly and Christian forbearance as ought to be, there hath been sinne committed against Christ: but let not this hinder brotherly and Christian agreement amongst our selves, or any other Churches of Christ.

4ly. Evills that are small or uncertain, or come by acci∣dent, [ 4] must rather be suffered, then any good that is great, cer∣tain, and per se, should be hindered. We must take heed that in our zeal to oppose evill, we hinder not a greater good: If opposition of evill lies so far out of your reach as you cannot come at it but by hindering much good, you must be content then to let it alone.

Lastly,* if the evils be such as only can be removed by super-natural means, we must not use violence for the removing of them, though God hath such authority over us, as hee may justly punish us for not doing that which we are unable to do by the strength of nature; yet one man hath no such autho∣rity over another.

The power that God hath given a Magistrate,* is but a na∣turall help at the most, & therefore it can go no farther then Page  72 to help us in a naturall way, to do what we are able to do by a natural power; when it hath gone so far, there it must rest. I shall refer the Learned to Zanchy upon the fourth Comment, where they may see more about this.