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finful. One is, when the Church requires of us, as a Condition of her Communion, an Acknowledgment and Profession of that for a Truth, which is an Error. The other is, when the Church requires of us, as a Condition of her Communion, the joining with her in some Pradices which are against the Laws of God. In these Two Cases, to withdraw our Obedience to the Church, is so far from being a Sin, that it is a necessary Duty; because we have an Obligation to the Laws of God, antecedent to that we have to those of the Church; and we are bound to obey these no farther than they are consonant or agreeable to those.
But now from this Discourse it will appear, how insufficient those Causes, how unwarrantable those Grounds, are, upon which ma . ny among us have proceeded to Separation from our Church.
For, first, If what I have laid down be true, ir cannot be true, that Unscriptural Impositions are a warrantable Cause of Separation from a Church; supposing that by Unscriptural, be meant no more than only what is neither Commanded nór Forbid in the Scriptures. For the Actions required by these Unscriptural Impositions, are either in themselves lawful to be done, or not lawful to be done. If they be in themselves unlawful to be done, then they do not fall under that Notion of Unscriptural we here speak of; they are downright Sins, and so either particularly, or in the general, forbid in the Scripture. If they be in themselves, lawful to be done, then it cannot be imagined
how their being commanded, can make them unlaveful: So that in this Cafe, there is no Sin in yielding Obedience to the Church, and confequently, no Cause of withdrawing our Communion from it.
Neither, secondly, can it be true, that Er. rors in a Church as to Matter of Doctrines, or Corruptions as to Matter of Practice, fo long as those Errors and Corruptions are only suffered, but not imposed, can be a sufficient Čause of Separation; the Reason is because these Things are not Sins in us, so long as we do not join with the Church in them. So that so long as we can Communicate with a Church, without either professing her Errors, or partaking in her finful Practices, as in the present Cafe it is supposed we may do; so long we are bound, upon the Principle before laid down, not to separate from her.
Neither, in the Third and last Place, is the enjoying a more profitable Ministry, or living under a more pure Discipline in a separate Cons gregation, a just Cause of forsaking the Communion of the Church, of which we are Members : And the Reafon is, because we are not to commit a Sin for the promoting a good End. Now (as we have faid) it is a Sin to forsake the Communion of the Church, whereof we are Members, so long as her Coma munion is not finful : But the Enjoyment of a less profitable Ministry, or a less pure Discipline, doth not make her Communion final; therefore the Enjoyment of a more pure Ministry, or a more profitable Discipline, cannot make a Sea paration from her lanful.
Thus have I, as briefly as I could, repre.. fented to you the Particulars of that Duty we owe to our common Mother, in the Preservation of her Unity and Communion. And I hope I have not been so zealous for Peace, as to have been at all injurious to Truth.
I am confident,I have said nothing but what is very agreeable to Scripture and Reason, and the Sense of the Best and Ancientest Christi. ans : And I am certain, I have not intrenched upon any of those Grounds upon which our Ancestors proceeded to the Reformation of Religion among us. And for most of the Things here delivered, we have also the Suffrage of several, and those the most learned and moderate, of our difsenting Brethren.
And now, if after this, any one be offended, as indeed these kind of Discourses are seldom very acceptable; all I can say, is this, That the Truths here delivered, are really of fo great Importance to Religion and the publick Peace, that they ought not to be dissembled or suppressed, for any bad Reception they may meet with from fome Men : But as for the mana ner of delivering them, I have taken all the Care I could, not to give Offence to any.
I now pass on to the second Part of my Task upon this Head; which is, to consider the Duty recommended in the Text, with relation to particular Christians, our Brethren.
And here my Business is, to direct you to the Pursuit of those Things that make for Peace; as Peace signifies mutual Love and Charity, in Opposition to Strife, and Bitterness, and Contentions.
The Things that make for Peace, in this Sense, are more especially these that follow, which I shall deliver by way of Rules and Advices.
The first Rule is, To distinguish carefully between Matters of Faith, and Matters of Opinion; and as to these latcer, to be willing that every one should enjoy the Liberty of judging for himself.
This is one Thing that would help very much to the extinguishing of those unnatural Heats and Animosities, which have long been the Reproach of Christians. If Men would fet no greater Value upon their Notions and Opinions, than they do deserve ; if they would make a Difference between necessary Points, and those that are not so; and in those Things that are not necessary, would not rigorously tie up others to their Measures, but would allow every Man to abound in his own Sense, so long as the Church's Peace is not hereby injured, we should not have so many bitter Quarrels and Heart-burnings among us. But alas! whilft every one will frame a System of Divinity of his own Head, and every puny Notion of that System must be Christen’d by the Name of an Article of Faith; and every Man that doch not believe just as he doth, must ftreight be a Heretick for not doing fo: How can it be expected but we must wrangle eternally?
It were heartily to be wished, that Chriftians would consider, that the Articles of Faith, those Things that God hath made necessary by every one to be believed, in order to his
Salvation, are but very few; and they are all of them so plainly and clearly set down in the Scripture, that it is impossible for any sincere honeft-minded Man to miss of the true Sense of them. And they have farther this Badge, to distinguish them from all other Truths, that they have an immediate Influence upon Mens Lives, a direct Tendency to make Men better; whereas most of those Things that make the Matter of our Controversies, and about which we make such a Noise and Clamour, and for which we so bitterly cenfure and Anatbematize one another, are quite of another Nature : They are neither so clear. ly revealed or propounded in the Scripture, but that even good Men through the great Difference of their Parts, Learning and Education, may, after their beft Endeavours, vary in their Sentiments about them. Nor do they at all concern a Christian Life, but are Matters of pure Notion and Speculation. So that it cannot, with any Reason, be pretended, that they are Points upon which Mens Salvation doth depend. It cannot be thought that God will be offended with any Man for his Ignorance or Mistakes concerning them. And, if not, if a Man may be a good Christian, and go to Heaven, whether he holds the right or the wrong Side in these Matters, for God's sake, why, should we be angry with any one for having other Opinions about them than we have? Why should we not rather permit Men to use their Understandings as well as they can; and where they fail of the Truth, to bear with VOL. I с