Page images

prudence of man, have no place in this world, where the Sun of righteousness shines, as the only light.

But against this that hath been said, do lie some objections; as first,

The prophet foretold that the Lord should be one, and his name one, and doth not this imply external uniformity?

I answer, nothing less: for the apostle explicates plainly and clearly, what it is to have the Lord one, and his name one, among believers, Ephesians iv. 4, 5, 6. where he saith, there is in the spiritual church, one body, and one spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, through all, and in all. Where you see, that among believers there is a manifold unity, but no external uniformity; yea, the prayer of Christ the Son, for the church, unfolds clearly the promise of God the Father to the church, John xvii. Christ prays, that they all (who are many among themselves, according to the flesh) may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, (that is, according to the unity of the spirit, not external uniformity) that after this manner they also may be one in us.

But again, it is objected out of 1 Cor. xiv. that the apostle requires that all things may be done in the church, decently, and in order: and doth not this imply external uniformity?

I answer, that they will hardly admit in their parishchurches, such a decency and order as the apostle there means, neither are they capable of it. For he saith before, when the whole church is come together into some place, that all may prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted: and that during this exercise of prophesying, if any thing be revealed to another, the former to give place: and he must speak that hath the clearest light, seeing the spirit, to whomsoever it is given, it is given to profit withal. And that though all may prophesy one by one, yet all

may not prophesy at once, for then it would not be order, but confusion, which the apostle would have avoided, saying, Let all things be done decently, and in order. And this decency too, he persuades to by the word, he doth not enforce by secular power: and if they will call this uniformity, for believers to prophesy one after another, according to the variety of the gifts of the spirit, and not many, or two or three at once, or the same time, we willingly agree with them but how far this thing is from their sense, every one knows.

Thus you see these objections answered, and I am confident there are no more can be brought, but may as clearly and easily be answered as these.

And therefore, I say, I wonder, and wonder again, that we having covenanted and agreed together solemnly, to endeavour for a government most agreeable to the word of God, should in the mean time be left so void of the spirit and light of the gospel, as to fall upon external uniformity, which is no-where to be found in the gospel, nor in the practice of primitive Christians.

Yea, while I consider more seriously of the matter, methinks external uniformity is a monstrous thing, how glorious soever in their eyes; and not to be found either in nature or in grace, either in Christ's kingdom, or the kingdoms of the world.

In nature is no external uniformity extended to all the works of nature; for look into the world, and see if there be not variety of forms; heavenly and earthly bodies, having several forms; and in the earth, each bird, beast, tree, plant, creature, differs one from another, in outward form, If the whole creation should appear in one form, or external uniformity, what a monstrous thing would it be; nothing differing from the first chaos! But the variety of forms in the world, is the beauty of the world: So that


though there be a most admirable unity among all the creatures, yet there is nothing of external uniformity.

Again, as there is no external uniformity spread over the great world, so nor yet over the little world, or man. For look upon a man consisting of head and members, unto which the apostle compares the church, and you shall not find all the members like one another, neither in regard of their outward forms, nor operations: for the hand doth not move as the foot, nor the foot act as the hand; and if all the members should appear and act in one form, what a monster would a man be! and yet among the members, though there be no external uniformity, yet there is admirable unity.

And yet again, look into the kingdoms of the world, and you shall see no such thing in them as external uniformity: Here in England you shall observe that York is not governed as Hull, nor Hull as Hallifax, nor that as Bristol, &c. neither is one county governed uniformly as another; there is no uniformity in the government of Kent and Essex; nor one town governed like another; in Godmanchester, the youngest son inherits; in Huntingdon the eldest nor one corporation governed like another, nor one company in the city governed as another; and yet between all counties, cities, towns, corporations, companies, there is unity, though no external uniformity. Yea, look upon the famous city of London, and there are, it may be, an hundred thousand families, or more in it, and each one governed after a several manner; and among all these families there is no external uniformity, and yet they all agree well enough in the unity of a city.


Nay, further, to bring but one man to an uniformity of life and practice, by an outward law, would be the most absolute tyranny in the world, and make his life worse than death. To compel every man by law, every day in the week, or every Monday, Tuesday, &c. in the week,

to an uniformity of life, that he shall rise at the same time, use the same postures, speak the same words, eat the same food, receive the same physic, sit, and stand, and walk, and lie down at the same set times, who ever heard of such a cruel bondage? What an absurd and intolerable thing then is uniformity in the life of a man, taking away all freedom of the soul? But how much more evil and intolerable is uniformity in the life of a Christian, or of the true churches of Christ, taking away all freedom of the Spirit of God, who being one with God, works in the freedom of God, and is not to be bound with any authoritative or coercive power, of poor, dark, ignorant, vain, foolish, proud, and sinful men?

What now then do the Presbyters mean by uniformity? Would they have the word preached, and the Sacraments administered, and the name of God called on, and all this done in spirit and in truth, in the churches of Christ? this truly is unity, and not uniformity; and such an unity as no man can compel. But would they have the word preached, the name of God called on, Sacraments administered, the spiritual discipline of the spiritual church managed, the vir tues of Christ, and graces of the spirit in the saints exercised, and all this in one and the same outward form, or uniformity? This is the burden of the saints, the bondage of the church, the straitning of the Spirit, the limiting of Christ, and the eclipsing the glory of the Father. And how wise soever these men may be in natural and carnal things, yet their wisdom is but foolishness in spiritual things, in which there is no more uniformity than in the workings of the Spirit, who works severally in several saints, and severally in the same saints, at several times: And therefore they that would tie the church to an uniformity, which works not of itself, but as the Spirit works in it, let them, first tie the Spirit to an uniformity, and we are contented. But these men seem to run a sad hazard, who would thus re

duce the workings of the Spirit, in Christians and churches, to an outward uniformity, according to their own mind and fancy, and so would rule and order, and enlarge and straiten the Spirit of God by the spirit of man: seeing it is worse to sin against Christ in the Spirit, than against Christ in the flesh.

And therefore, till I be otherwise taught by the word, I cannot conceive that there ought to be, or is possible to be, any such external uniformity in the churches of Christ, as these men strive, and contend for; I will not say are ready to fight for: but that several churches of Christ, having unity of doctrine, faith, the spirit, ordinances, &c. may have divers forms of outward administrations, as God and Christ by the Spirit shall lead them; and that every church is in these things to be left free, and no church forced by any outward power, to follow or imitate another church, against its will, not being freely led unto it by the Spirit of God.

Neither do I think that God hath set up any company of men, or synod in the world, to shine to a whole nation, so that all people shall be constrained to follow their judgment, and to walk by their light: seeing other ministers and Christians may have more light and spirit than they. Neither hath Christ promised his presence and Spirit, to ministers more than to believers, nor more to an hundred, than two or three: And if two or three Christians in the country, being met together in the name of Christ, have Christ himself, with his word and Spirit among them, they need not ride many miles to the Assembly at London to know what to do, or how to carry and behave themselves in the things of God. And therefore, for any company of men, of what repute soever, to set up their own judgment in a kingdom, for a preremptory rule, from which no man must vary, and to compel all the faithful people of God, who are the very members of Jesus Christ him

« PreviousContinue »