« PreviousContinue »
of our learned authors, as he said of the Pontifician Laws, that they are reverenter glossanda ; “ to have a reverent gloss put upon them?” Were this really and cordially done we should appear more innocent, and be less unquiet.
(4.) In the fourth and last place, if we would be fitly composed to peace, we may not be too peremptory in our opinions and resolutions of slight and unimporting verities*
We cannot be too stiff in the maintenance of main truths, though even to blood; our life can never be better sacrificed, than in so holy a quarrel. The faith, that was once delivered to the Saints, must be earnestly contended for ; Jude 3 : but, for other matters, that concern rather the ornament than the essence of religion, though they are fit to be known and resolved on; yet, with no other confidence, than that we are ready to yield upon a stronger conviction.
So, the blessed Apostle, that was ready to die for the Name of the Lord Jesus; yet, in ritual, outward, indifferent observances, professeth to become all things to all men, that he might by all means save some ; 1 Cor. ix. 22: and he, that withstood Peter for Judaizing, to scandal and danger of loss (Gal. ii. 11, 12, 13.), professeth, that to the Jews he became as a Jew, that he might gain the Jews; to then that are without law, as without law, that he might gain thein that are without law ; 1 Cor. ix. 20, 21.
Some duties and opinions may be such, as do not oblige us to a necessary constancy; but, as we say of fashions, may vary upon occasion, according to the exigence of time and place. The Apostolical Constitution for abstaining from things strangled and from blood, though a famous Synodical Act, did not yet long bind the Church; Acts xv. 20: neither know I, whether it fell not under St. Paul's rudiments of Touch not, taste not, handle not; Col. ii. 20, 21: and those love-feasts, which were, with good allowance, celebrated in those primitive times, outlived not many ages. What determination St. Ambrose gave to young Augustin and his mother Monica, concerning the Saturday-fast, is well known; and holds, in all the like occasions. Rome hath one rite; Milan another.
Neither was it other, in the times of the Law. The brazen altar was for the sacrifices; and who durst offer besides it? yet, by reason of the multitude of the offerings and incapacity of the altar, Solomon hallowed the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord, for that purpose; 1 Kings viii. 64. Neither doth he content himself with the same number of cherubims, which were in the Tabernacle; but doubles it. So did his father David, before him, anticipate the age of the priests; entering into their service five years earlier, than the Mosaical appointment. Certainly, no law of God or man holds a man close to his own first resolutions, in things not necessary or morally requisite.
It was a famous case, that is related of Agesilaus. His men ran shamefully away in the Leuctric fight. The law was, that flight must be punished with death. The wise king, finding the crime so universal, enacts, that the law must sleep for that day's work; but, ever after, must be awakened to an impartial execution* : “So,' saith the historian, “ the law, remaining entire in the words of the act, was, in the effect, for the present repealedt.” The like, Appian tells us, was done in the case of Scipio, whose age was not yet by law capable of magistracy, though his parts were: the Senate, not thinking it fit to lose the employment of so eminent faculties, decrees the law, for that once, void; ever after, in full force. The like is to be said and done, in matter of opinions. It is a most odious thing, to be an Ecebolius in religion. That resolution of Ambrose was noble, and worthy of a Christian Bishop, which he took up to Valentinian the younger : “ I follow,” saith he, “ the determination of the Nicene Council; from which neither sword nor death shall ever separate meg:" yet the same Father was not less pliant in matter of rite, as we formerly intimated, than inflexible in points of faith.
* Cùm nientem in meliuus mutare, non levitas sit, sed virtus. Am. in Ps, cxix.
And this is a disposition fit for all the clients of peace, to hold fast in known truths ; in doubtful, to maintain, though not too eagerly, the probablest: in the main truths, to be over-ruled by faith; in less matters, by better reason. So, the African Bishops, with much Christian modesty, in the Council of Carthage: “ It remains," say they, “ that every man speak what he thinks of this matter; judging no man; nor removing any man from our communion, that is contrary-minded ||."
Now therefore, to wind up this clue of our Discourse, if we be humble and meek-minded, if obedient to our spiritual guides, if charią. table to our brethren, if not too paremptory in our opinions, we have attained to a MEET TEMPER FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT OF PEACE.
SECT. 3. The Third Private way of Peace : The Avoiding Unnecessary
Questions. In the Private way of peace, it must be our third care, TO PUT OFF UNNECESSARY QUESTIONS, and TO SET BOUNDS TO OUR CURIOSITY.
There are three ranks of truths: there are some, necessary ; some, profitable; some, impertinent. The necessary truths are neither many nor obscure: the impertinent are many; and as litigious, as useless : only the profitable are worthy of our studious and careful disquisition.
It would anger a patient man, to read of Lupercus Berytius, the grammarian, that wrought three books of the Greek particle av**:
"Οτι τος νόμος δεί σήμερον εάν καθεύδε», &c. Dio. Cass. 1. xxxix. * "Ουτως ο νόμG- εν τοϊς εαυερ ήμασι μείνας, έργω κατελύθη. Ιdem. Ιbid.
Non turpe est sententiam imutare, 8c. Greg. Naz. Orat. 32. Ś Ambrose Ep. 32. ad Valent. il Conc. Carth. sub Cyprian. sunt necessaria vcru. Reg. Columb. ** Suidas.
or, of a Schoolman, that tediously disputes, whether a man may equitare sine equo ; and acutely argues the difference, betwixt modo quodam and quodam modo * : whose vain agitations were enough to put a man to the study, whether it were better for a man to he idle, or to do nothing. There is a world of such frivolous thoughts; meet for them, that know not what to do with their leisure.
These are apt to engender strifet; and, like worms in the mud, to raise bubbles in the water.
Neither ever was the Church of God free from such sleeveless and unnecessary quarrels.
Even in the Jewish Church, besides those five main Sects; betwixt the families or combinations of Shammai and Hillelf, wo read of a deadly dissension, in eighteen, some say twenty-four, several points: so great, as that it was not to be composed by Elias himself; of whom they had wont to say, upon all occasions of doubt or difference; Tisbi solvet nodos ; « The Tisbite shall untie all our knots."
As for the Evangelical Church, how it was, even in the first age, disquieted with these busy impertinencies, we need no other witness than St. Paul himself; whose frequent charges are vehemently bent against fables and endless genealogies; i Tim. i. 4. Titus i. 14. contentions and strivings about the Law ; Titus iii. 9. against profane and rain babblings; 2 Tim. ii. 16: against strife of words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers ; 2 Tim. ii. 14.
In the succeeding age, what loud and intemperate janglings the unadvised zeal of Victor raised, concerning the time of the celebration of Easter, is too well known.
Very remarkable is that passage, betwixt Gregory Bishop of Rome, and Mauritius the Emperor. Cyriacus, the Bishop of Constantinople, would needs style himself Universal Bishop. Gregory doth very gravely advise bim, “ to refrain from giving bimself so foolish a titleg.” Mauritius, the Emperor, interposes; and, finding the quarrel grow hot between two so eminent Prelates, commands the peace; and charges them, “ that, for the appellation of a frivolous name, there may not a scandal be raised in God's Church ||." Gregory replies modestly and discreetly to the Emperor : “ I beseech your Imperial Piety to consider, that there are some frivolous things, which are altogether harmless; but others, again, extremely hurtfull: for," saith he, “when Antichrist comes, and shall call himself God, it is a very frivolous thing so to term himself; but yet it is too too pernicious. If we regard the quantity of the word, Deus, alas, it is but two syllables; but if we
* Jo. Major. Vid. Melanch. Apolog. advers. Parisienses Sophist. + Erroris comes arguta subtilitas, &c. Orth. Frisin. # Serar. Rab. prior.
§ Ut ab stulti vocabuli se appellatione compescai. || Mauritius precepit, ne, pro appellatione frivoli nominis, scandalum &c. Sed rogo ut Imperialis Pielas penset, quia alia sunt frivola, valde innoxia; alia vehementer nociva, &c. Greg. Maurii. Aug. l. vi. Ep. 30.
respect the weight of the iniquity, it is a world of mischief." Both said well, and to our purpose: the Emperor, that frivolous matters may not break the peace; the Bishop, that those points, whose frivolousness is hurtful and pernicious, must be strongly opposed.
Every slight question is not worthy of our engagement. Why would we herein grudge men the freedom of different thoughts? He is no mean Casuist* amongst the Romish Divines, that tells us confidently, it is the received judgment of their holiest Doctors, that “ it is no inconvenience to hold, that amongst the very Angels themselves, there may be a diversity of opinion, in regard of those things which tend towards the end, so long as they all make jointly to the self-same end.” How much more must this be tolerated to the best of men! Though our lives differ in the circumference, it is no great matter, so long as they meet in one centre of Essential Truth. It was sound counsel, that Pomeranust gives to the Ministers of God's Word, Ne tot articulis, &c : That they should not, with so many Articles, and Creeds, and Confessions, confound the minds of plain Christians; but that they should draw
the sum of their belief into some few heads. No. thing hinders, but that Professors and Licentiates in Divinity may busy their thoughts and spend their hours, upon the knotty and abstruse questions of that sacred Faculty; as those, who would account it a shame to be ignorant of any cognoscible truth: but why should the heads of ordinary Christians be perplexed with those curious disquisitions ? Let the Schools engross those nice and deep speculations: let not the Pulpits be vexed with them. And, for us, that are God's Ministers, whatever we may do in our Studies; yet, when we come to speak to the Assemblies of God's people, let us take up the resolution of the blessed Apostle, I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified; 1 Cor. ii. 2.
SECT. 4. The Fourth Private way of Peace : To labour and pray for further
illumination in all requisite Truths. All necessary truths are plain and open; but many profitable truths, which may much concern us to know and wherein we ought to accord, want not some difficulty. We are not bidden to sit down jn mere necessaries; but are vehemently called upon, to grow up in knowledge. It is the gracious promise of God to us, by his prophet Hoseas; Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning ; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain to the earth ; Hos. vi. 3. And, it is the daily prayer of the Apostle to God, for his Colossians, That they might be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; Col. i. 9.
* Pet. Aquilaous dictus Scotellus in 2 sent. dict. 11. Ad hoc dico secundum vium sanctorum, quòd nullum inconveniens est, inter Angelos esse opinionum diversitatem, quantum ad ea quæ sunt ad finem, dummodo maneat' identitas finis. † Pomeran, in 1 Cor. xv. Tales quæstiones, quales nulla Lex Canonvè Ecclesiasticus necessariò præscribit, sed inanis dissoluti otii certatio proponit; licet ad ingenii acumen exercendum instituantur, tamen interiore mentis cogitatione continere debemus ; et neque in publicos populi conventus temerè offerre, neque vulgi auribus inconsultó concredere. Constant. Epistola ad Alexandrum et Arium, Euseb. l. i. c. 69.
In the fourth place, therefore, it will be the duty of every private Christian, as in the ready way of peace, TO LABOUR AND PRAY FOR FURTHER ILLUMINATION IN ALL REQUISITE TRUTH, and FOR A READY INCLINATION OF HEART TO A PEACEABLE AGREEMENT THEREIN.
For there are two things, which hinder us from an unanimous conspiring in the same truth: either want of light in the Understanding, that we cannot look so deep into the mysteries of Divine verity as others; or some obstructions in the Will and Affections, through prejudice against the person or matter proposed. Both these must be removed by our prayers ; by our endeavours.
It was the request of the man after God's own heart, Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold the wonderous things of thy Law; Ps. cxix. 18: and, in a real and heavenly compliment with bis Maker, I am thy servant: give me understanding, that I may know thy Testimonies; Ps. cxix. 125. It was his, and must be ours; whose continual suit for ourselves must be that, which the blessed Apostle ceases not to make for his Ephesians, That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, may give unto us ihe Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; that the eyes of our understanding may be enlightened ; Eph. i. 17, 18. Neither may we expect, that God will work miracles for us; that he will crown our idleness with blessings; that he will force mercies upon us, and tear open our lids that he may shine into our eyes: no; he looks that we should humbly comply with the means, and answer his heavenly motions with the willing obedience of our best endeavours : otherwise, This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness more than light; John iii. 19.
It is possible for a man to know the truth, and yet to withhold it in unrighteousness ; Rom. i. 18. Illumination is not always followed with obedience. There are those, saith the Apostle, which, notwithstanding the light of knowledge, are contentious, and do not obey the truth, tut obey unrighteousness ; Rom. ij. 8. So as our prayers and endeavours must not be more bent against blind eyes, than against froward hearts; Prov. xi. 20. xii. 8: for there doth naturally reign in us a certain envious perverseness of spirit, which many times sets us off from the acknowledgment of those truths whereof we are inwardly convinced. I have sometimes read in Maldonate's Commentaries, when he falls upon a probable and fair sense of a difficult text, that he subjoins, “ I could like that explication well, if it were not Calvin's :" like to that prejudicate Italian, who, being at deadly feud with a great rival of honour,