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SHOULD BE EXPRESSED IN THE
LANGUAGE OF SCRIPTURE.
FROM WILLIAM PENN'S ADDRESS TO PROTESTANTS.
OPINIONS pass for faith, and are made articles of faith, and are enjoined to be embraced as the bond of communion.
That this is so, let us take the most impartial view we can, and we shall find it to be true, both of the national and many other select societies. That I may be understood in the signification of the word opinions, I explain it thus; Opinions are all those propositions, or conclusions, made by men doctrines of faith and articles of communion, which either are not expressly laid down in Scripture, or not so evidently deducible from Scripture, as to leave no occasion of doubt of the truth of them in their minds who sincerely and reverently believe the text; or, lastly, such as have no new or credible revelation to vouch them.
That this is our case, let the several confessions on faith, published by almost every party in England,
perused, and you will find such propositions translated into doctrines of faith and articles of communion, as are, first, not only not expressed in Scripture, but, perhaps not well deducible from Scripture; and if one party may be but believed against another, we can want no evidence to prove what we say. And, in the next place, such as are, though not expressed, yet, it may be, deducible as to the matter of them, are either carried so high, spun so fine, or so disguised by barbarous school terms, that they are rather a bone of contention, than a bond of concord to religious societies. Yet this has been the unhappiness even of this kingdom, after all the light of reformation, which God hath graciously sent amongst us, "Men are to be received or rejected for denying or owning of such propositions.” Wilt thou be a Presbyterian? Embrace and keep the covenant, subscribe the Westminster confession and directory; and so on to the end of every society that grounds communion upon conformity to such propositions and articles of faith.
What a stir have we had in England about the word Eriononos. He that says it signifies an higher office than TIpsol úrepos, shall have no part or fellowship with us; on the other hand, they that will debase Episcopos to Presbuteros, and turn levellers or degraders of episcopal dignity, shall be excommunicated, silenced, punished. Is not this plain fact? Can any deny it, that love truth more than a party? The fire kindled by this contention hath warmed the hands
of violence ; it had been well if men had entertained equal zeal against impiety, and been but half as much enemies to sin, as they have been against one another on such accounts.
If we look a little back, we shall find, that the debate of freewill and unconditional reprobation filled this kingdom with uncharitableness and division. In the archepiscopacy of Abbot, reputed in himself a good man, whosoever held, "that Christ so died for all men, that all men might be saved, if they would accept the means, and that none were absolutely decreed to eternal reprobation," was reputed a heretic, and excommunicated, as an enemy to the free grace of God; which, it seems, at that time of day, lay in being narrow.
In the reign of archbishop Laud the tide turned ; and those that held an absolute election and reprobation, without regard had to the good or evil actions of men and asserted that Christ only died for the elect, and not for all, must be discountenanced, displaced, and pointed at as men out of fashion, though at the same time conscientious, sober, and, at worst, mistaken ; and to be pitied, rather than persecuted; and informed, not destroyed.
This controversy begat the Synod of Dort; he that reads the epistles of that judicious man J. Hales, of Eton College, upon the matter and conduct of that assembly, will find cause of being sad at heart; too many of them talking of religion without the spirit of
it; men, perhaps, learned in books, but few of the sticklers gave any great testimony of their proficiency in that science, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated. This flame, kindled between Arminius and Episcopius, &c. for the Remonstrants, and Gomarus, Sibrandus, &c. for the Predestinarians, distracted Holland not a little, and had an ill influence upon the affairs of England, at least so far as concerned the church. But the mournfullest part of that history is the ill usage Martinus Crocius, the bishop of Landaff, and others had; who, though they were acknowledged to be sound in the faith of those things, which generally followed the judgment of Calvin, as to the main points controverted, yet, if at any time they appeared moderate in their behaviour, gentle in their words, and for accommodation in some particulars, with the remonstrants, or freewillers, Gomarus and his followers, not observing the gravity due to the assembly, the rules of debate, and least of all the meekness of christian communion, fell foul of their brethren, reproached their tenderness, and began to fix treachery upon their sober endeavours of accommodation; as if they intended to execute, as well as maintain, their reprobation, and blow up their friends, rather than not destroy their adversaries.
But if we will rise higher in our inquiry, and view the mischiefs of earlier times, flowing from this practice, the fourth and fifth centuries after Christ will
furnish us with instances enough. We cannot possibly forget the heavy life some men made about the observation of Easter day, as if their eternal happiness had been in jeopardy ; for so far were they degenerated from the love and meekness of Christianity, that about keeping of a day, which perhaps was no part, but, to be sure, no essential part, of the christian religion, they fell to pieces ; reproached, reviled, hated, and persecuted one another. "A Day" was more to them, than " Christ,” who was the Lord and end of days; and “victory over brethren," sweeter than the “ Peace and concord of the church,” the great command of Jesus, whom they called Lord.
But the remarkable and tragical story of Alexander bishop of Alexandria, and Arius his priest, in their known debate about the nature and existence of the son of God," with the lamentable consequences thereof, as all writers upon that subject have related, witnesseth to the truth of what I say. The bishop's curiosity, and the strictness of Arius; the presumption of the one to expound beyond the evidence and simplicity of the text, and the captious humour of the other, that would not abate the bishop anything for his age, or the rank he held in the church, but logically exacted the utmost farthing of the reckoning from his old pastor, first began the fray, which as it became the perplexity of chur and state for some ages, so it raged to blood those that had been persecuted like sheep by the