A SERMON Preached before the KINGS MAJESTY At White-hall on Friday the 22 of March Anno 1660.
Acts 15. v. 39.
THe Contents of this Chap∣ter are famous for two things, that had most con∣trary events. The one, how a great variance was con∣cluded with a happy con∣cord: The other, how a small variance did proceed to an unhappy discord.
Page 2The great variance was, whether such as were converted to believe in Christ, must continue in the observation of the Law of Moses. For some in the first Verse of the Chapter were so rigid, that they held, ex∣cept ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye can not be saved, This point was decided. And they that were Jewish were overborn, by a moderate determina∣tion agreed upon by all the Apostles, and Elders that met at Hierusalem. Which is also remarkable, the men that were chief∣ly pickt out to be sent to Antioch to satis∣fie the opposites were Paul and Barnabas. And the flame was quencht by the autori∣ty of the Apostles, and their labour.
But when matter of Doctrine, and deep dispute could not divide the Church, Satan laid a smaller stumbling block in their way: and the two most holy Servants of God, the chief Ʋmpires, and the Embassadors for peace, Paul & Barnabas, dasht their foot against it, And they that pluckt a beam out of their Brothers eie, were troubled with a mote in their own. it was not about a point of doctrine, but upon a circum∣stance of a person, no way considerable to Page 3 the main benefit of the Gospel, that begat a quarel, and a disjunction between them.
John, whose surname was Mark (whether Mark, the Evangelist, or some other disciple I leave it as uncertain) but, he had dedica∣ted himself to the ministry, and to go step by step with S. Paul as his fellow labourer. Yet he lest Paul at Pamphylia to return to Hierusalem, his own home, Act 13. 13 per∣suaded either by weakeness, and fear of persecution, or some other domestical re∣lation. After this back-sliding, the young Novice awakt, and was willing to mend his errour. So that when Paul and Barnabas resolved to go a circuit, to examine the Churches which they had planted, whether they continued sound in the Faith, Bar∣nabas presents Mark his sisters son, to be their fellow undertaker in that holy em∣ployment Paul refused him, because he had put his hand to the plough, and lookt back.•ach stood very stiff to his own purpose and proposition. Rather than Barnabas would suffer Mark to be discountenanced, he would forsake Paul Rather than Paul would consent to Mark's re-admission, he would forsake Barnabas, And the conten∣tion Page 4 was so sharp between them, that they de∣parted asunder the one from the other.
You have heard the two different cases. In a matter of great dispute the Church maintein'd it's unity, & shew'd that it was built upon a rock. But in a petty dissen∣tion (see how all men are frail, and unity will never be kept entirely) the greatest pillars of it were shaken, and shew'd how peace was built upon the sands. Here's the drift of the Text: not to excuse discord, because it was incident to two such emi∣nent Apostles; but to teach us, that these burning lights did a little lose their lu∣stre, because their division increas'd to that stifness, that they were separated the one from the other.
Upon the handling of the Text in se∣veral points, First, we must enter in at a breach, Here was a contention. Secondly, this struggling was not between mean and ordinary Persons, but between the Cham∣pions of the Holy Cause, between Paul and Barnabas. Thirdly, it was not carried with meekness, and cool temper, but it swelled high, it was 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a sharp, a fretful contention. Fourthly, they fell not Page 5 out for any thing that toucht the life of truth, or the honour of Christ; the for∣tunes of Greece, as the Proverb is, did not ly upon it: it was only about the accom∣modation of a person, whether Mark were sit for the present work: that was all the matter, and no more. Fiftly, as small a matter as it was, it waxt to a separation, and to disjoyn these two in body, as well as in mind, They departed as under the one from the other.
It is thus being re-capitulated. Conten∣tion is the canker of Evangelical fruit, which is peace on earth, good will towards men. Yet the mischief is the less, when mean ones contend: but wo to the Church because of scandal, when Paul and Barna∣bas are the Actors in it. Yet again, if those that were qualified with the greatest gra∣ces, the beacons upon an hill, did vary in a calm, and a mitigated manner, it were not so strange, but it might be expected. This was not so well: it was a variance joyn'd with passion, and acerbity; a sore that can not be toucht without much compas∣sion For all this, if the provocation had been such, wherein piety could not yield, Page 6 it had been constancy, and not contention to be inflexible: But this was a case of no such weight, wherein charity might not have satisfied conscience, and conscience have submitted to charity. Lastly, after so many discords, if the cloze of the Mu∣sique had been sweet, it had not wanted harmony: but this determined in a final acrimony; from a wrinkle in the garment it came to a rent; it was a contention that grew to a separation; and that's the partition-wall that re-trencheth unity.
Now I resume all this again. And that which we meet first of all at the door of the Text is contention. None of the least: sins, none of the least punishments. For if Babel it self could not be built up among discord of tongues; how much more can Sion never be well built up with discord of hearts? If the net be broken, the Fishers of Men may catch a draught, but they can keep nothing. Cut a seed of wheat in twain, and the pieces lose the nature of fructification. If words be not well put to∣gether, they will make no sense: and if mens senses do not well joyn together in one profession, they will make no Church. Page 7 Contention is the Devils wedge to rive asun∣der the Cross of Christ; it turns order into a heap, amity into jangling, unity into Schism, and truth into Heresie.
There is one Themistius in Eusebius that made an Oration before Valens the Empe∣rour, about the time that there were many distractions on foot in the cause of Reli∣gion, and he flatter'd the sin with this en∣couragement; Deum sectarum varietate la∣tius innotescere, That the variety of Sects would dispread the knowledge of God the wider over all the Earth. No doubt they will make a loud noise, but a bad re∣port. And where many Sects spring up, it calls Truth the more into question, & the fewer proselytes will be gained. The wa∣ters that slowed out of the Rock in the Wilderness were more than elementary, for they were spiritual drink, in a figure spi∣ritual, 1 Cor. 3. 4. and yet they were waters of strise, Exod. 17. 7. Even the spiritual fountain it self was a troubled water: but that which troubles it is a carnal spirit. For while there are strises, and divisions among you, are you not carnal, & walk as men? 1 Cor. 3.3. The walk of men is contention: the Page 8 way of God is peace. We are sure he is in the still voice: and we are sure that he is not in the whirl-winds of controversies and up∣roars.
Two men of the Hebrews strove together, Ex 2. 13 Their own Doctors make it out from their bold traditions, that they were Dathan and Abiram: An unlucky couple, whosoever they were. *Moses would have set them at one, but they rejected him. He would have made them all quiet, before he took upon him to be the Prince of their deliverance: but since they lov'd variance better than amity, he departed, and came not to them again in fourty years. The cankardness of two men cost them fourty years bondage more, before he return'd again to deliver them out of Egypt. Men that are addicted to moderation, will shun the company that resounds with brawling and bitterness. As the passage is well known about Constantine the Great, how he removed from his Palace in the East, because every corner of the Imperial City was filled with adverse Disputations about Religion; and after some space of absence he wrote to his Clergie, Patefacite Page 9 mihi aditum &c. I would return unto you: but make the way to receive me smooth & plain by Peace, which you have made so rugged by your Contentions. Much more you may presume, that God will depart from that Church, where the flames of no∣torious discords are broken out. There∣fore as God is the author of peace, so let us be lovers of concord.
Wherefore else hath he made us parta∣kers of one Table, but to invite us to the conjunction of one Heart? so our Apostle, for we being many are one bread, and one body, 1 Cor. 10. 17. One bread in the thing which we do communicate: One body among them that do communicate. So our Elders say, it is Signum unitatis, vinculum cari∣tatis. Yet the unity doth not rise from the outward ceremony, that we all eat of one Sacrament: but that we eat of it with one Faith, are gathered together in one Cha∣rity, and depend upon the grace and re∣conciliation of one Lord Jesus Christ, whose earnest prayer was for his Disciples, That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they all may be one in us, Jo. 17. 21.
Page 10The use of it to the best is this There is nothing that we ask in prayer for our selves, or Christ for us, but likely there is somewhat requisite on our part, to do our duty, that we may obtein it. Be it there∣fore propounded, what we should do as well as pray, that we may be one, and that no contention fall among us First bring a supple, a soft, a tractable mind, that hath a good affection to agreement, and I will under∣take to furnish you with Rules enough, that if you differ in no greater things than Paul and Barnabas did (yea what if they were greater?) you may soon greet one another with the kiss of Peace. But if we stand at this distance, I have pitcht upon my resolution, I must have my will, and will not yield an inch, such an untractable obstinacy can never profit by any exhor∣tation. Onely by pride cometh contention, saies Salomon, Prov. 13. 10. He that is wife in his own opinions, will never want occasions to begin them, nor arguments to maintain them. And he that thinks the yielding par∣ty loseth in his honour, had rather lead and perish, than follow after and be pre∣serv'd. As Core had rather die in his own Page 11 way, than be ruled by Moses and save his life. But humility is limber, and will easily bend; it is never given to contradiction; it stands not upon vain points of reputa∣tion, to carry the sway in every oppositi∣on. For let the wrangler get the better in obstinacy, the modest Christian shall over∣come in charity. Mortifie self-love, and Peace will please you better than Victory.
Away with strife God himself did abate and condescend from it for saies the Lord, My spirit shall not alwaies strive with man, Gen. 6. 3. And when Christ was upon the earth in the flesh, he used the same calm∣ness, He shall not strive, nor cry, neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets, Mat 12. 19. The best that he can say for himself, that continues in contention, is, It is un∣reasonable that I should yield, for I am in the right. It were no hurt for a modest judgment to suspect it self in that confi∣dence of perswasion. But be it granted that the right is on your side: was not Elisha assured by his prophetical Spirit, nay by his very eyes, that Elias was ascended up to heavē? yet when the sons of the Pro∣phets urg'd him, that they might appoint Page 12 fourty men, lest peradventure he was cast in a mountain, or in a valley, though E∣lisha knew it was labour in vain, yet, saies the Scripture, 2 Kin. 2. 17. When they urged him till he was asham'd, he bade them send. Here was a tractable disposition, that was asham'd in a right cause to persist in con∣tention
After this which I have required, that men be not rigid, but humble, & flexible, the rules to be kept for composing smaller debates, & my Text reacheth to no other, are these. First there is no exception to be made against the sentence of the Law under which we live. It is an indifferent judge, ordeined to try our causes, before we were born. It hath no passions, no kindred, no corruption to transport it. It is the pub∣lique wisedom not of one age, but of ma∣ny. What colour can there be for any pri∣vate man to refuse it? Unless he would quite take away Justice, which were to pluck the Sun out of the Firmament, to demolish the pillar that upholds the King∣dom. According to the sentence of the Law, which they shall teach thee: and according to the judgment, which they (The Rulers) Page 13 shall tell thee, thou shalt do, Deut. 17. 11. &c.
Secondly, as the Kingdome hath Statute-La•…, so the Church hath Canons, which served our turn, to much benefit, in the best ages, before Imperial Laws came forth to help us. And if they that flight them had lived, when the distressed Christians were served with the Emperors writts al∣most every week, to be haled to heathen∣ish Rites & Festivals, nay to flat Idolatry, how glad would they have been to have nothing laid upon them, but Canons for Ce∣remonies, and forms of prayer? Now they are wanton. And being no longer scared with the howling of the Wolf, they are of∣fended at the whistle of the Shephard. And they that could press upon their Fellow∣servants—I know what—lumps of pitch and hair, able to choke the Dragon in the Apocryphals to swallow them, a few impo∣sed forms can not be bolted through the fine fives of their consciences, which for almost fifteen Centuries were never cha∣leng'd to be offensive.
Thirdly, when some cases fall out, for which neither Laws nor Canons have pro∣vided, Page 14Custom hath much force to decide them. For it can not be thought, but in a long tract of time, some that are sincere and uncorrupt would hinder the progress of a thing, if it were not laudable. Long permission is a tolerable confirmation. That Custom is an arbiter of peace, I refer to St. Paul, 1 Cor. 11. 16. If any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor the Churches of God. As who should say, you go against Custom, your behaviour is of the new cut, therefore your contention is in vain.
Fourthly, if it fall out that Laws are si∣lent, and Customes are contrary one to an∣other, then, by the Privilege which we have above beasts, we must resort to Rea∣son. I will put you an instance. The Churches of Asia observ'd their Easter day upon the Jews Passover, accounting their Custom from the time of St. John. The Western Churches kept their Easter upon the first day of the week, claiming their Custom from the dayes of other Apostles. Hear how reason interposeth in this debate. Ei∣ther Custom hath the tradition of the best antiquity for it: But the Resurrection of Christ may most fitly be celebrated upon Page 15 the first day of the week, the same where∣in our Lord rose from the dead, call'd the Lords day. Unto this all the Churches gave ear, and so it is establisht to this day.
Fifthly, I report me to the Apostles, how they handled a discord in this Chapter. Some would have all the Ceremonies of Moses kept, which would have made the Gentiles become Jews, and not Christians. Some would have none of them be ob∣serv'd, no, not for a time, to satisfie the weakness of the Jew, which would have provokt the Jew to esteem the Gentile a scandalous Christian. To prevent all Schism, the Apostles & Elders fall upon that course, which we call Media consilia, a middle tem∣per. Some ceremonies the Gentile shall con∣form unto: that will appease the Jew. Some ceremonies the Jews shall forgo: that will edifie the Gentile.
Lastly, what think you of arbitration? And the fewer arbiters the better. When many take the thing in hand, commonly it is so long a doing that it is never done. Make the appeal then to few. Nay why not to one person? I am so directed by the Apostle, 1 Cor. 6.5. Is there not a wise man a∣mong Page 16 you, not one, that shall be able to judg be∣tween his brethren? Not that one, or many should have dominion over your conscien∣ces, but to make him, or them, the settlers of outward peace. This is it, as every Scho∣lar knows, which S. Hierom delivers to pre∣vent troubles in a Church, Nisi exors quae∣dam dignitas, &c. Unless you give some pre∣rogative of power to one Bishop in a Dio∣cese, to examin external order, & to main∣tain sound doctrine, you will have so many fashions as there are men, and so many Faiths as there are Parishes.
Though there are so many remedies to stop contention, Law, Canons, Custom, Rea∣son, Middle temper, Arbitration, yet my Text tells you they do not alwayes prevail: for the most considerable members of Christs body were at odds, Paul and Barnabas, which is the next point. Had they been enmities with Insidels, and Pagans, with those that are without, they had been na∣tural: for what agreement hath light with darkenesse? But this was a jarr at home, a∣mong themselves, a Civil warr; I tremble to speak the word though in a bare meta∣phor. This is not an opposition between Page 17Ismael and Isaac of two venters, but between Jacob and Esau in one womb: nay between the Pilot and the master in one ship. God help us, if the right hand sight against the left, when both are made to defend the body. When the Rams of the flock contend, the poor Sheep that look on must stand amazed. But such infelicities have been so frequent, in all ages, that the Devil hath cast a bone between the Champions of our cause, that such as take scandal at it seem to be igno∣rant, that the Lord hath set men over us, to govern the Church, who have impotent passions, and not Angels.
And what if Angels were appointed to rule the holy Church? I do not say they are, nay, I say they are not. Yet some Divines, I could name good ones, Theodoret, Gregory the great, and others, are of opinion that the good Angels, guardians to the Churches and Provinces, & ministring spirits to the Saints on earth, do not alwayes fulfill their charge, without opposite wayes in their several at∣tendance. That which they chiefly ground it upon is the 10th chap. of Daniel, v. 13. When Daniel besought God to have the Temple built again, & the people restored Page 18 that were sent into Babylon, the Archangel Mi∣chael took his part, but the Prince of the King∣dom of Persia withstood him. I like their opi∣nion that say, the Prince of the Kingdom of Persia was no Angel, but Cambyses the Son of Cyrus, who recalled all favours intended to the Iows by his father Cyrus, while Cyrus was busie in his wars against the Scythians. Yet antiquity knew not this interpretation; they made this out of it, that the Angels Guardi∣ans of the Jews, and Porsians, not understand∣ing the secret will of God, what he would determine, labour'd in several wayes, for the good of distinct Nations over whom they had the charge. The Angel ministring to the Jews shew'd all readiness to bring that peo∣ple frō the Persians, most scandalous in their Idolatry. The Angel of Persia might attempt to have the Jews remain some longer time, to reclame the natives of Persia from Idola∣try. They have no contrary wills or opposi∣tions among themselves: for God makes peace in his high places, Job 25. 2. It is a variety without a variance, when they do their en∣deavors diversly, as God hath placed them, prosecuting nothing absolutely, but condi∣tionally, as God shall please in the end to settle it.
Page 19This is a dark and a misty point, therefore I stip out of it. But I stand to this doctrine, that Paul and Barnabas, & such good men as they are, may pursue a good meaning in a contrary way one to another, and be guilt∣less. For it is the ignorance of good men, and not their perversness, which makes thē seek the true end by multiplicity of means, and very opposite. Cyprian & Cornelius were ad∣versaries sometimes, so were Chrysostom and Epiphanius, so were Cyril & Theodoret. None of them but lov'd the truth. But they had not all the same fancy, the same complexiō, the same educatiō: therefore Truth did not enter into them all through one & the same perswasion. Cloth of the same making hath not alwayes the same die. And they that are propense to glorifie one God, in the same Church, with the same Charity, do not all∣wayes build with the same materials. Paul loves the Church as well as Barnabas, but he would not offend it for want of Justice. Barnabas loves the Church as well as Paul, but he would not offend it for want of cle∣mency and compassion. Here's one Wooll, & one Cloth, but dipt in two colours. Then I let you see, that for their part that do e∣qually Page 20 consent to maintain the true Gospel, the inequality of their judgements may be inoffensive.
I would I could say for our own parts, that the dissentions of our Reformed Churches were unblamable, and that there were no transgression against charity in our discords. But there are two wounds, deeper than o∣thers, which can not be concealed, that stink and are corrupt through our foolishness. The one continued by the unrelenting Ʋbiqui∣taries among the rigid Lutherans, never cea∣sing to cry out, and yet never proving, that, with the substance of bread remaining, Christs fleshly body is in the Sacrament of his Supper, by the communication of the pro∣perties of the Divine Nature to the Humane. In vain they have been urg'd to fall back to a more moderate sentence. For Scholars love the opinions wch themselves have broacht, more than Monarchs do the Kingdoms which themselves have conquer'd.
Our other rent falls upon a less subject, but the breach is no less that it hath made between party and party. Therefore do not imagine, that I mean those hard Disputes a∣bout Gods eternal decrees, and strange working Page 21 of his grace. These are canvas'd alike by all part: wch will never cease, & never be decid∣ed. I mean in the second place the struggling to admit, or not admit, some antient, inno∣cent, out ward forms of worship. In whose forbearance I could never perceive, why Learned and Wise men should be Incorrigi∣ble The question is, whether every Christian should observe those decencies, or circum∣stantial parts of reverence, which the Church, wherein he lives, hath appointed. While they that resist stand upō their own liberty, they take away that liberty which is inhe∣rent in the Church their Mother, to pre∣scribe comliness and order, for the better beautifying of God service.
These, which I have named, these are the two quarrels, at which the Papists clap their hands, to see us brawl among our selves. I confess we cannot triumph in a perfect Peace. But do they insult upō us for it? what they? whose janglings are ten for one of ours, and twice ten times greater, as a Mill∣stone is bigger than a pebble Let them, and none but them that have no contentions in themselves, cast the first stone at us. It is not their dependence upon one Supreme Head,Page 22 that can keep them from divisions. To fit it with a similitude, Job describes Leviathan, or rather God himself, c. 41. 15. His scales are his pride, shut up close together as with a seal, they stick together, that they cannot be sundred. It is not that Leviathan hath one grout head, which keeps him from offence: his safety must be that his scales ly close, and cover him. But how uneaven the scales of this beast lye, let it be judged from the irreconcilable op∣position of seculars and regulars; of Domini∣cans and Jesuits; of Tridentine and Anti-Tri∣dentine Catholiques. And no wonder it there be turbulent opinions in the congregation of malignants: for the best of Gods servants draw not the same yoke, without a little jogging of the Ark, there was a contention between Paul and Barnabas.
Nay, to our wonder, it rested not there, it exceeded the bounds of meekness: for in the third point my Text saies it was 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a sharp contention. An unanimity of opinions is not necessary to friendship, saies Aristotel very well. Dear friends may retain the sweet∣ness of love together, and yet vary in some conclusions of judgment. A little more may be granted, That each may be earnest in Page 23 their own way, to win the other to assent: as Martha prest it home, and complain'd of her sister Mary, that she did not joyn with her in the same houshold care. It was a light word, and no violation of kindness Concer∣tationes apud benevolos non lites sunt, sed jur∣gia, saies Cicero: The dissentions of them that keep benevolent minds, are not fallings out, but wranglings. As Paul resisted Peter to his face, Gal. 2. 11. boldly, but charitably. His confidence for the truth became him, and his inoffensiveness commended him.
It was otherwise at this bout between him and Barnabas: passion & provocation trans∣ported them both so far, that it was a sharp contention. The Greek word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 hath a curst meaning it it. When a disease hath in∣termitted a while, and begins it access and violence again, that's call'd a paroxysm of sicknesse: and when a brable is worse and worse, lowder and lowder, that's a paroxysm of contention. These two, that had been fel∣low Souldiers under Christ's banner, in so many travails, in so many perils, in so many persecutions, they cannot bear with one an∣other with patience, and they that were ready to die together, cannot live together: Page 24 they that were the strongest confederates in the world, are the strongest opposites. O what a fickle and fallacious thing is the concord of men! Anger is ready to run into enmity: and wrath tears off the seales from the bond of love.
Yet I must not say that the sharpness be∣tween two such sweet Olive-Branches had any tast of the vinacre of reproach, or that they peirced one another with opprobrious speeches. I do not onerate them with any such accusation. That's sitter for Jobs defor∣med beast, lately mentioned, Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire sly out, Job 41. v. 19. Have they no regard of their common brotherhood in Christ, who are not satisfied to contend, but they must mix sharp∣ness with it? And no small quantity. A sting is a little matter: they tear one another in pieces, as with the paw of a Lion. Their pen drops nothing but gall & venom, as if their quill were pluckt from the wing of a Cock∣atrice. Then they think they write strongly, when they rail lowdly, indeed when they lye lowdly. And he that should strive to be more powerful in truth, thinks he hath prevail'd when he is more bitter than his adversary.
Page 25Quis leget haec? what man of Godly temper can read such lines, which stink of malice in every sentence, as if they had been wrot in dog-dayes? Michael the Archangel would not speak to the Devil in a railing accusation, Ep. Jud. v. 9 Though Satan deserved the worst that could be said, yet an Archangel was too good to utter such filthiness. Let e∣very reader enjoy his own judgment: for my part, I seldom expect Truth & Argument in that book, where I find fury and distemper in the style. Antibi Mavors ventosâ in linguâ? And who is there of a candide, and a clean soul, that will not sooner be gained with the coolness of Charity, than with the heat of Rage? Therefore as much as in us lies, let there be no jarrs, no diversities among us: be peaceable in our Civil, peaceable in our Re∣ligious profession. But if sundry shapes and appearances of reason will not suffer us all to enjoy the same knowledg, and the same conscience, yet let us dissent as Brethren, not as Enemies Avoid these paroxysms, and sharp contentions.
I am ready now for the fourth point: and I think my Hearers expect it with some attention. Having acquainted you that PaulPage 26 and Barnabas did disagree, & not simply so, but with some eagerness and provocation, might not a solid judgement suspect, that some great offence had thrust it self in be∣tween them? You shall find it otherwise, that the contention was in no weighty cause, it toucht not the life of truth, or the honor of Christ, the verse before my Text will tell you all in the beginning of it, Paul thought it not good to take Mark with him. And our Tran∣slation gives it more than is due to it, as I conceive. We say that Paul thought it not good, as if it were a matter of good or evil. Much better thus, as I apprehend, Paul thought it not fit. Paulus haud ae quum censebat, as Beza very aptly. Paul thought it not meet, as it is in one of our English Translations. It was not what was good, for it was good either way, but what was more fit and meet that made the controversie. This is fit, sayes one: 'tis not so fit, sayes his partner: a poor begin∣ning for a sharp contention.
It may be supposed,* as I find it in part in a good Author, that Barnabas pleaded on this wise for Mark. He had shrunk indeed from his calling, and left Paul at Pamphilia: but it was not strange in a Novice to be a Page 27 little daunted, when he was in jeopardy of his life. But give him his due, he had not re∣nounced the Faith, but retired home for fear of the worlds anger. He had not forsaken Christ, ô nothing less, but intermitted the la∣bour of his vocation. Yet he defended not this fault, but repented, and bewayled it. Now he would fain begin a fresh: for he felt himself by the grace of God more strong and resolute than ever, and offered himself couragiously to endure all storms and tem∣pests for the glory of Christ. Should not in∣dulgence be shewn to his unseigned repen∣tance? Is it not often seen, that such as fly from their colours return again, and sight it out valiantly? Was not Peter, that had deni∣ed his Master, restored to his Apostleship, af∣ter he had wept bitterly? Paul himself had been a persecutor, & yet obteined grace. Con∣sider with it, that Mary, the mother of this Mark, had spared her House to receive the Apostles, in the hottest times of Herods rage, Act. 12. v. 12. Surely the son of so good a mother deserved some mildness and benign favour from the Presidents of the Church. And what was more proper to Christ's Commissio∣ners, than to reconcile offenders that had gon astray?
Page 28These reasons prevailing not with Paul, you may imagine with me, if you please, that his sentence was to this purpose. That they are worthy of great reproof, that make execuses, and follow not Christ, when he calls them. What do they deserve, that are recreants after their calling, and leave their station, when they have taken up Christs Cross, with Covenant to follow him? The young Disciple had givē up his liberty to follow his Master: and was no longer his own, no more than a wife can leave her husband, or a son his father. And he that loves his life more than Christ, is not worthy of him. Mark could fore-see well enough, that per∣secutions to come would be farr greater than the former: if he could not endure light ones, he would utterly sink under those of the latter growth. His repentance was good, that is, it was profitable to him∣self, but to be repulsed for his levity, would be more profitable to others, by the severi∣ty of the example. Or if he were not thrust quite into the order of the Plebians, yet let him be restored to his function after a lar∣ger time of probation. An easie pardon would flatter him in his fault: this repulse Page 29 would make him know the magnitude of his sin. Paul could say for himself, that he was never streightned in his bowels, but was full of pitty to Onesimus the fugitive servant; to the incestuous Corinthian; and who was't but he, that went so far, that he wisht to be anathema for his brethren? Yet Favour must give place to Justice A Bishop must act the part both of a Father and a Mother in the Church, in tenderness he must be a Mother, but a Father in discipline. Barnabas spake af∣fectionately for a kinsman, but he spake im∣partially for the cause of Christ.
Here is the whole state of their oppositi∣on, as well as I can devise it in a form of pleading. The odds between them do not lye in any point of doctrine: for the privi∣lege of immediate inspiration of Truth be∣long'd by Gods grace to their Apostleship; then they could not dissent in a cause of Faith. The strife was no more but whether Mark was fit at that time to be their fellow labourer. And why might not Paul have re∣mitted a little of his rigour to have gratifi∣ed Barnabas? And why not Barnabas have taken the denial friendly to content Paul? Sacrifice small and indifferent things to the Page 30 fruition of peace. To hold fast to our con∣clusions in petty matters with all the strength of our will and wit, is not constancy, but a worse thing.
You would hear from me now perhaps, which of these two upheld the better cause. Non nostrum inter vos &c. It is not sit for my meanness to make my self a Judg between such famous Apostles. This I will say with submission, that Pauls proceedings were grounded upon Justice and discipline: Bar∣nabas his motion was grounded upon gentle∣ness and humanity. Many of the wiser sort, I think, will vote with Paul, & that the grea∣ter part of men will vote with Barnabas But the spirit of Moses and Elias are both good: the Ark conteined both Aarons Rod, & the delicious pot of Manna. Sometimes the Scri∣ptures seem to favour Barnabas, which bid us bind up the broken in heart, & not to break the bruised reed. Again, they seem to favour Paul, when they charge us to remove away all scandals, and them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear, 1 Tim. 5. 20.
But Scripturae non pugnant, though Paul and Barnabas dissent, there is no contradi∣ction in the Scriptures. For they bid us for∣give Page 31 and retain sins, bind & loose sinners, as a prudent man shall judg upon the circum∣stances of actions. But it is an heavy thing for that Church, where the Fathers of it can neither bind nor loose, neither do the work of Paul nor Barnabas. But Noverint universi, the power of the keyes is inherent in their of∣fice in actu primo; and can no more be dis∣joyned from it, than light from the Sun, or moisture from the water of the Seas. All∣though in actu exercito it may be qualified in the practice of it.
I return to the point that's under my hand: are there any other circumstances to sway our judgment in it? some, but of no great force. As that such as were present at this contention may seem to incline to Paul. For after this, Barnabas, like a Hen with one Chicken, went into Cyprus, without any more company than Mark, that we read. But the Brethren, plurally, all of them did commend Paul to the grace of God. And what shall we think of this passage, that from this time the Scripture records all the travails of Paul exactly till he came to Rome: but after this, the story of Barnabas his jornalls is bu∣ried in silence for ever?
Page 32To counterpoise this a little, I will allege Paul against himself, and draw enough from his own pen, to shew that Mark did blot out the stain of his former levity with the high praise of the great Apostle, 2 Tim. 4.11. Take Mark, and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministery. This was not long before Paul died. The other quotation is in an Epistle written from Rome, a good while after this sharp bickering, colos. 4. 10. There he offers them the salutations of Mark, and adds, Touching whom ye have recei∣ved Commandement, if he come unto you receive him. May we not inferr from hence, that Barnabas was not altogether in the wrong, though Paul would not hear of it at first, since twice, in the dayes following, he set such a precious value upon Mark?
Let me put in but to one scrutinie more, and stay upon it in the cloze. Which of these two hath the Church of Christ observ'd in it's practice from age to age? Truly the most antient, that is, the best times of it, were as severe as Paul. For if a Clergy-man shrunk in the wetting, as we say, either he was thrust down to a Laical communion, or chastned with a penance of many years: the Page 33Canons of the oldest Concils are full of this. But the middle, and latter times of the Church have been as remiss as Barnabas. For the longer we know evils, they are the more familiar to us; and the more familiar they grow, the less they are corrected. Further than this I will not, I dare not go, to make a precise decision, which of these two had the fairer end of the quarel. Let them stand, or fall to their own Master, by whom they shall be judged. But our judgment may be clearly convinced against thē both, that their diffe∣rence fell upō such an object, so mean, so in∣considerable, in respect of peace, that it did little deserve a sharp contention, but least of all to extend unto this acrimony, that they should depart asunder the one from the other.
This is the last point, & the saddest word of the Text, this 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the departing asun∣der. To come even with the time, I will fall presently upon the use. First, this is utterly against our Savious rule, Go and be reconci∣led to thy brother, Math. 5.24. A wound will never be healed, but by drawing the parts together that were dissolved. Esau & jacob, Saul and David, the remoter distance they kept, the further they were from pacifica∣tion: Page 34 as soon as ever they met, they melted, & embraced. Affability and sweet conver∣sation strikes fire out of a flint. But disjuncti∣on of persons is an eclypse of friendship, till the light of one doth shine with a propiti∣ous aspect upon the other. Seek for Charity, & pursue it. Go home, and offer thy self to those whom thou hast offended. Though there be no hostility in your heart, yet you can not call it a reconciliation of love, if you estrange your presence from your ad∣versary.
I know that in the case of these two Apo∣stles, though they were prevented with an error, yet shortly after their unkind fare∣well, they return'd to their Christian temper, and afterwards in sundry Texts of Scripture Paul did put himself in the same scale with Barnabas, as with his sworn brother, as 1 Cor. 9.6. I only, and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? and Gal. 2. 9. James, Cephas, and John, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship. This is a great evidence of their redintegration, the Spirit of God mediating this in secret be∣tween their souls in their absence. But I stick to my Doctrine, that this was not Page 35 the Kings high way, the ordinary, and com∣mon road to attonement, to keep asun∣der. It is God that maketh men to be of one mind, and to dwell in an house, saies the Psalm. It is not by dissevering, but com∣ming under one roof, that begets Unity. Make the contract Per verba de praesenti, and then it is indissoluble
Here is another thing worthy our con∣sideration. They that are the kindle∣coales, and divide others, many times draw both parts against themselves. Satan followed his old rule here, Divide & im∣pera, divide both, and master both, ô he propounded some great victory to him∣self, it Paul and Barnabas would break a∣sunder. It was effected: but what got he? Both turned against his Kingdom. For by taking several journeys, they communica∣ted the Gospel twice as farr, as they could have done in one company: as seed∣corn serves best for the use of man, when it is scatter'd abroad. If Paul and Barnabas had both gon to Cilicia, Cy∣prus had wanted them: or if both had gone to Cyprus, Cilicia had wanted them. Now they were singled, they propaga∣ted Page 36 the Faith of Christ both by Sea and Land. Barnabas sailed into Cyprus, and Paul journied into Cilicia. This was not like a Bowes-string snapt asunder; but they were two strings to one Bow: and that which was division to themselves, was multiplication to the Gospel of Christ.
Finally, they performed what they in∣tended, to visit their brethren in every City, where they had preached the word of God, Verse 32. of this Chap. All go∣vernments, in all ages, have approved this to be the best: way to conserve U∣nity. Not that every City, much lesse every Conventicle, should be entire within it self, and acknowledg no au∣thority over it. As if every Parish should be like a several Hand, divided from the continent. Such a government can ne∣ver be shewn in any Civile Policy, since the World began. And I could never learn, why spiritual Administrations should not be knit together in as good rank, and subordination, as temporal, It is impossible to avoid a multitude of corruptions in Faith, and not to contract a prodigious licentiousnesse in Page 37 Discipline, where the part, against nature, shall not depend upon the whole: where the part shall have no correspondence or communi∣on with the whole, but upon sufferance, and courtesie. Then the whole Church shall be nothing else but a geat Schism, and yet no man shall be convinced to be a Schisma∣tique. But to prevent such confusion, Paul and Barnabas supervised the several Cities where they had laid the foundation of E∣vangelical Faith; and, like careful Rulers, interposed the power with which Christ had endewed them, to keep their Brethren dispersed far and wide in one. Though they were two upon a small disgust, yet they re∣membred there was but one Shephard, and one Sheepfold, whose peace they studied to preserve by their pastoral vigilancy.
I have done, and am at shore. You shall stay but a minute or two for your landing. It is to give my reason in short, why I have preacht to day upon this Subject. It is well known, from the time of the First Nicen-Council, that Bishops were to hold Synods twice a year. In the AEquinoctial time of Lent, and in the beginning of Autumn. At this Page 38〈1 page duplicate〉Page 38time of Lent, to compose all debates for a charitable preparation against the Feast of Easter: At the end of Summer, only if need did require, sayes the Gloss of the Greek Councils Suitable to this Ec∣clesiastical prudence, I have cast my Mite at this time into the Treasury, to re∣mind them, who are of the same lot before Christ with Paul and Barnabas, to stop contentions: and as they dread the sharp wrath of God, to mitigate all sharp∣ness. This was the season of old to make Church-peace. I would to God it were done at any time of the year, but the admonition is proper, most proper now, according to the Antient Kalendar. Which peace, so long buried, if it would rise at last from the dead, it would put another Gloss of joy upon the feast of the Resurrection. And if unnecessary exceptions were past over, it would prove indeed a most holy Passover unto the Lord? To which aeternal Lord, one God in Vnity, three Persons in Trinity, be ascri∣bed and performed all praise and honour, domi∣nion and thanksgiving, obedience and adorati∣on, from henceforth and for ever. Amen.