SECTION VI: HOW FAR THIS GOVERNMENT DOTH EXTEND IN MATTERS SPIRITUAL, AND
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Thus far I have considered the order and governmcut of the church,
as it respects outward things; and its authority in condemning or removing
such things, which in themselves are evil, as being those, which none will
readily justify the necessity of which things is such, that few but will
acknowledge the care and order in these cases to be commendable and expedient.
Now, I come to consider the things of another kind, which either verily
are, or are supposed to be, matters of conscience, or at least, wherein
people may lay claim to conscience in the acting or forbearing of them.
In which the great question is, how far, in such case, the church may give
positive orders, or rules? How far her authority reatheth, or may be supposed
to be binding, and ought to be subnfitted to? For the better clearing and
examination of which, it will be fit to consider,
First, Whether the Church of Christ have power in any cases, that are
matters of conscience, to give a positive sentence and decision, which
may be obligatory upon believers?
Secondly, If so, in what eases and respects she may so do?
Thirdly, Wherein consists the freedom and liberty of conscience, which
may be exercised by the members of the true church diversely, without judging
And lastly, In whom the power decisive is, in case of controversy or
contention in such matters? Which will also lead us to observe the vast
difference betwixt us and the Papists, and others in this particular.
As to the first, whether the church of Christ have power in any cases,
that are matters of conscience, to give a positive sentence and decision
which may be obligatory on believers.
I answer affirmatively, she hath; and shall prove it from divers instances
both from Scripture and reason. For first, all principles and articles
of Faith, which are held doctrinally, are in respect to those that believe
them, matters of conscience. We know, the Papists do out of conscience,
(such as are zealous among them) adore, worship and pray to angel saints
and images, yea, and to the eucharist, as judging it to be really Christ
Jesus; and so do other place conscience in things that are absolutely wrong;
now I say, we being gathered together into the belief of certain principles
and doctrines, without any constraint or worldly respect, but by the mere
force of truth upon our understanding, and its power and influence upon
our hearts; these principles and doctrines, and the practices necessarily
depending upon them are, as it were, the terms, that have drawn us together,
and the bond(1), by which we became centered
into one body and fellowship, and distinguished from others. Now, if any
one or more so engaged with us should arise to teach any other doctrine
or doctrines, contrary to these, which were the ground of our being one;
who can deny, but the body hath power in such a case to declare, this is
not according to the truth we profess; and therefore we pronounce such
and such doctrines to be wrong, with which we cannot have unity, nor yet
any more spiritual fellowship with those that hold them? And so such cut
themselves off from being members by dissolving the very bond, by which
they were linked to the body. Now this cannot be accounted tyranny and
oppression, no more than in a civil society, if one of the society shall
con tradict one or more of the fundamental articles, upon which the society
was contracted, it can be reckoned a breach or iniquity in the whole society
to declare, that such contradictors have done wrong, and forfeited their
right in that society: in case by the original constitution the nature
of the contradiction implies such a forfeiture, as it usually does; and
will no doubt hold in religious matters. As if a body be gathered into
one fellowship by the belief of certain principles, he that comes to believe
otherways, naturally scattereth himself; for that the cause that gathered
him, is taken away; and to those, that abide constant, in declaring the
thing to be so as it is, and in looking upon him and witnessing of him
to offmrs (if need be) to be such, as he has made himself, do him no injury.
I shall make the supposition from the general, and let every people make
the application to themselves, abstracting from us; and then let conscience
and reason in every impartial reader declare, whether or not it doth not
Suppose a people really gathered unto the belief of the true and certain
principles of the Gospel, if any of these people shall arise and contradict
any of those fundamental truths, whether has not such as stand, good right
to cast such a one out from among them, and to pronounce positively: this
is contrary to the truth we profess and own; and therefore ought to be
rejected, and not received, nor yet he that asserts it, as one of us? And
is not this oblgatory upon all the members, seeing all are cocerned in
the like care, as to themselves, to hold the right, and shut out the wrong?
I cannot tell, if any man of reason can well deny this? However I shall
prove it next from the testimony of the scripture.
Gal. 1: 8. "But though we, or an angel from Heaven preach any other
gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel
unto you, than that ye have received, let him be accursed."
1 Tim. 1: 19, 20. "Holding faith and a good conscience, which some
having put away, concerning faith have made shipwreck. Of whom is Hymenaeus
and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan that they may learn not
2 John, 10. "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine,
receive him not into your house, neither bid him rejoice." (For so the
Greek hath it.)
These Scriptures are so plain and clear in the selves as to this purpose,
that they need no great exposition to the unbiased and unprejudicate reader.
For seeing it is so, that in the true church there may men arise, and speak
perverse things contrary to the doctrine and gospel already received; what
is to he the place of those, that hold the pure and ancient truth? Must
they look upon these perverse men still as their brethren? Must they cherish
them as fellow members, or must they judge, condemn and deny them? We must
not think the apostle wanted charity, who will have them accursed; and
that gave Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan, after that they had departed
from the true faith, that they might learn not to blaspheme. In short,
if we must (as our opposers herein acknowledge) preserve and keep those
that are come to own the truth, by the same means they were gathered and
brought into it; we must not cease to be plain with them, and tell them,
when they are wrong; and by sound doctrine both exhort and convimm gain-sayers.
If the apostles of Christ of old, and the preachers of the everlasting
gospel in this day had told all people, however wrong they found them in
their faith and principles, our charity and love is such, we dare not judge
you, nor separate from you; but let us all live in love together, and every
one enjoy his own opinion, and all will be well: how should the nations
have been? Or what way now can they be brought to truth and righteousness?
Should not the devil love this doctrine well, by which darkness and ignorance,
error and confusion, might still continue in the earth, unreproved and
uncondemned? It it was needful then for the apostles of Christ in the days
of old to reprove, without sparing to tell the high priests and great professors
among the Jews, that they were stubborn and stiff:necked, and always resisted
the Holy Ghost, without being guilty of imposition and oppression, or want
of true love and charity; and also for those messengers the Lord hast raised
up in this day, to reprove and cry out against the hireling priests, and
to tell the world openly both professors and profane, that they were in
darkness and ignorance, out of the truth, strangers and aliens from the
commonwealth of Israel; if God has gathered a people by this means into
the belief of one and the same truth, must not they, if the turn and depart
from it, be admonished, reproved and condemned (yea, rather than these,
that are no yet come to the truth) because they crucify afresh unto themselves
the Lord of Glory, and put him to open shame? It seems, the apostle judged
it very needful, they should be so dealt with, Tit. i. 10. when he says,
"there are many unruly and vail talkers and deceivers, especially they
of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped," &c. Were such a
principle to be received or believed, that ir the Church of Christ no man
should be separated from, no man condemned or excluded the fellowship and
communion of the body, for his judgment or opinion in matter of faith,
then what blasphemies so horrid, what heresies so damnable, what doctrines
of devils, but might harbour itself in the Church of Christ? What need
then of sound doctrine, if no doctrine makes unsound? What need of convincing
and exhorting gainsayers, if to gainsay be no crime? Where should the unity
of the faith be? Were not this an inlet to all manner of abomination? And
to make void the whole tendency of Christ and his apostles' doctrine? And
render the gospel of none effect? And give a liberty to the inconstant
and giddy will of man to innovate, alter and overturn it at his pleasure?
So that from all that is above-mentioned, we do safely conclude, that where
a people are gathered together into the belief of the principles and doctrines
of tho gospel of Christ, if any of that people shall go from their principles
and assert things false and contrary to what they have already receive;
such as stand and abide firm in the faith, have power by the Spirit of
God, after they have used Christian endeavors to convince and reclaim them,
upon their obstinacy to separate from such, and to exclude them from their
spiritual fellowship and communion: for otherways if this be denied, farewell
to all Christianity, or to the maintaining of any sound doctrine in the
church of Christ.
But secondly, taking it for granted, that the Church of Christ or assembly
of believers may in some cases, that are matters of conscience, pronounce
a positive sentence and judgment without hazzard of imposition upon the
members, it comes to be inquired, in what cases, and how far this power
I answer, first, As that which is most clear and undeniable; in the
fundmnental principles and doctrines of faith, in case any should offer
to teach otherwise, as is above declared and proved. But some may perhaps
acknowledge that indeed, if any should contradict the known and owned principles
of truth, and teach otherwise, it were fit to cast out and exclude such;
but what judgest thou as to lesser matters, as in principles of less consequence,
or in outward ceremonies or gestures, whether it be fit to press uniformity
in these things? For answer to this, it is fit to consider:
First, The nature of the things themselves.
Secondly, The Spirit and ground they proceed from.
And Thirdly, The consequence and tendency of them.
But before I proceed upon these, I affirm, and that according to truth,
that as the church and assembly of God's people may and hath power to decide
by the Spirit of God in matters fundamental and weighty (without which
no decision nor decree in whatever matters is available) so the same church
and assembly also in other matters of less moment, as to themselves (yet
being needful and expedient with a respect to the circumstance of time,
place and other things that may fall in) may and hath power by the same
Spirit and not otherwise, being acted, moved and assisted and led by it
thereto, to pronounce a positive judgment: which, no doubt, will be found
obligatory upon all such, who have a sense and feeling of the mind of the
Spirit; though rejectcd by such as are not watchful, and so are out of
the feeling and unity of the life. And this is that, which none that own
immediate revelation, or a being inwardly, led by the Spirit, to be now
a thing expected or dispensed to the saints, can without contradicting
their own principle, deny; far less such, with whom have to do in this
matter, who claiming this privilege to particulars, saying, "that they
being moved to do such and such things, though contrary to the mind and
sense of their brethren, are not to be judged for it;" adding, "why may
it not be so, that God hath moved them to it ? Now if this be a sufficient
reason for them to suppose as to one or two, I may without absurdity suppose
it as well to the whole body. And therefore as to the first, to wit:
The nature of the things themselves. If it be such a thing, the doing
or not doing whereof, that is either any act, or the forbearance of any,
may bring a real reproach or ground of accusation against the truth professed
and owned, and in and through which there may a visible schism and dissension
arise in the church, by which Truth's enemies may be gratified, and itself
brought into disesteem: then it is fit for such, whose care is to keep
all right, to take inspection in the matter, to met together in the fear
of God, to wait for his counsel, and to speak forth his mind, according
as he shall manifest himself in and among them. And this was the practice
of the primitive church in the matter of circumcision. For here lay the
debate: some thought it not needful to circumcise the Gentiless; others
thought it a thing not to be dispensed with: and no doubt, of these (for
we must remember, they were not the rebellious Jews, but such as had already
believed in Christ) there were, that did it out of conscience, as judging
circumcision to be still obligatory. For they said thus: "except ye be
circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot saved." Now what course
took the Church of Antioch in these cases? Acts xv. 2. They determined
that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them should go unto Jerusalem,
unto the apostles and elders about this question. We must not suppose,
they wanted the Spirit of God at Antioch, to have decided the matter, neither
that these apostles neglected or went from their inward Guide in undertaking
this journey; yet we see, they judged it meet in this matter to have the
advice and concurrence of the apostles and elders, that were at Jerusalem,
that they might be all of one mind in the matter. For there is no greater
property of the Church of Christ, than pure unity in the Spirit, that is,
a consenting and oneness in judgment and practices in matters of faith
and worship (which yet admits of different measures, growths and motions,
but never contrary and contradictory ones; and in these diversities of
operations, yet still by the same Spirit, the true liberty is exercised,
as shall be declared hereafter:) therefore prayeth Christ, that they all
may be one, as he and the Father is one. To which purpose also let these
following Scriptures be examined:
Rom. xii: 16. "]Be of the same mind one towards all other."
1 Cor. i: 10. "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be
no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the
same mind, and in the same judgment.
Ephes. v: 21. "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of
Phil. ii: 2. "Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the
same love, being of one accord, of one mind."
And yet more remarkable is that of the Apostle Paul to the Phitlipians,
chap. iii. verse 15, "Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus
minded; and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even
this unto you.
Ver. 16. "Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk
by the same rule, let us mind the same things.
Ver. 17. "Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which
walk so, as ye have us for an example."
So here, though the Apostle grants forbearance in things, wherein they
have not yet attained; yet he conludes, they must walk so, as they have
him for an example, and so consequently not contrary, or otherwise. And
therefore we conclude, that whereas any in the Church of God pretending
conscience or revelation, shall arise to teach and practice (however insignificant
or small in themlselves) whether principles or practices, yet if they be
contrary to such as are already received as true and confirmed by God's
Spirit in the hearts of the saints, and that the introducing of these things
tend to bring reproach upon the truth, as such as are not edifying in themselves,
and so stumble the weak; those who have a true and right discerning, may
in and by the power of God authorizing them (and no otherwise) condemn
and judge such things: and they so doing it, it will be obligatory upon
all the members, that have a true sense, because they will feel it to be
so, and therefore submit to it. And thus far as to the nature of the things
Secondly, As to the spirit and ground they procceed from. Whatsoever
innovation, difference or diverse appearance, whether in doctrine or practice,
proeeedeth not from the pure moving of the Spirit of God, or is not done
out of pure tenderness of conscience, but either from that, which being
puffed up, affecteth singularity, and there-through would be observed,
cornmended and exalted; or from that, which is the malignity of some humours
and natural tempers, which will be contradicting without cause, and secretly
begetting of divisions, animosities and emulations, by which the unity
and unfeigned love of the brethren is lessened or rent; I say, all things
proceeding from this root and spirit, however little they may be supposed
to be of themselves, are to be guarded against, withstood and denied, as
hurtful to the true Church's peace, and a hindrance to the prosperity of
If it be said, how know ye that these things proceed from that ground?
For answer, I make not here any application as to particular persons
or things; but if it be granted (as it cannot be denied) that there may
arise persons in the true Church, that may do such things from such a spirit,
though pretending conscience and tenderness; then it must also be acknowledged,
that such, to whom God hath given a true discerning by his Spirit, may
and ought to judge such practices, and the spirit they come from, and have
no unity with them: which if it be owned in the general, proves the case,
to wit, that some pretending conscience in things seeming indifferent,
but yet it proceeding in them from a spirit of singularity, emulation or
strife, those that have received a discerning thereof from the Lord, may
and ought to judge the transgressors, without being accounted imposers,
oppressors of conscience, or enforcers of uniformity, contrary to the mind
of Christ: against which the Apostle also guardeth the Churches of old.
Phil. ii. 3, 4. "Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory;
but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.
"Look not every man on his own things; but every man also on the things
Now, if it be an evil to do anything out of strife; then such things
that are seen so to be done, are they not to be avoided and forsaken? So
that we are confident, our judgment herein cannot be denied, or reputed
erroneous; except it be said that none will or can arise in the Church
of Christ, pretending such things from such a spirit: which I know not
any that will, it being contrary to the express prophecies of the scripture,
and the experience of the Church in all ages, as may appear from Matt.
xxiv. 24; Acts xv. 54; I Tim. iv. 5; 2 Tim. iii. 8; Mark xiii. 21, 22;
2 Peter ii. 19; or, on the other hand, that those that abide faithful,
and have a discerning of those evils, ought to be silent, and never ought
to reprove and gainstand them; nor yet warn and guard others against them;
and that it is a part of the comendable unity of the Church of Christ,
to suffer all such things without taking notice of them. I know none will
say so; but if there be any so foolish, as to affirm it, let them consider
these scriptures: Gal. ii. 4; 1Tim. i. 20; 2Tim. ii. 24, 25; Tit. l. 9,
Now if none of these hold true; but on the contrary, such evils have
been, and may be found to creep in among the people of God, and that such
as see them, may and ought to reprove them; then necessarily the doing
so, is neither imposition, tbrco nor oppression.
As to the third, concerning the consequence and tendency of them, it
is mostly included in the two, former: for whatsoever tendeth not to edification;
but on the contrary to destruction, and to beget discord among brethren,
is to be avoided: according to that of the apostle, Rom. xvi. 17: "Now
I beseech you, brethren, mark them, which cause divisions and offences,
contrary to the doctrine which ye havelearned, and avoid them."
And since there is no greater mark of the people of God, than to be
at peace among themselves; whatsoever tendeth to break that bond of love
and peace, must be testified against. Let it be observed, I speak always
of the Church of Christ indeed, and deal with such, as are of another mind:
not as reckoning only false churches not to have this power, but denying
it even to the true Church of Christ, as judging it not fit for her so
to act, as in relation to her members, for though Christ be the Prince
of Peace, and doth most of all commend love and rarity to his disciples;
yet I also know, he came not to send peace, but a sword, that is, in dividing
man from the lusts and sins he hath been united to. And also it is the
work of his disciples and messengers to break the bands and unity of the
wicked, wherein they are banded against God, and his truth, and the confederacy
of such as stand in unrighteousness, by inviting and bringing as many as
will obey, unto righteousness, whereby they become disunited and separatcd
from their companions, with whom they were centered, and at peace in the
centrary cursed nature. And indeed, blessed are they, that are sent forth
of the Lord to scatter here, that they may gather into the unity of the
life: and they are blessed, that in this respect, even for righteousness
sake are scattered and separated from their brethren; that they may come
to know the brotherhood and fellowship which is in the light; from which
none ought to scatter, nor to be scattered, but be more and more gathered
therein. And this leads me to what I proposed in the third place under
this head of the true church's power in matters spiritual, or purely conscientious;
which may be thus objected:
If thou plead so much for an oneness in the smallest matters, wherein
consisteth the freedom and liberty of the conscience, which may be exercised
by the members of the true churchdiversely, without judging one another?
In answer to titis proposition, I affirm, first in general: that whatsoever
things may be supposed to proceed from the same spirit, though divers in
its appearanee, tending to the same end of edification, and which in the
tendency of it layeth not a real ground for division or dissention of spirit,
fellow-members ought not only to bear one another, but strengthcn one another
Now the respects wherein this may be, I can describe no better than
the apostle Paul doth principally in two places, which therefore will he
fit to consider at length for the opening of this matter: this being one
of the weightiest points pertaining to this subject. Because as on the
one hand due forbearance ought to be exercised in its right place; so on
the other, the many devices and false pretences of the enemy creeping in
here, ought to be guarded against.
The first is, 1 Cor. xii., from verse 4 to 31, thus:
Verse 4. "Now there are diversities of gifts, but, the same spirit.
Verse 5. "And there are differences of administrations, but the same
Verse 6. "And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same
God which worketh all in all.
Verse 7. "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man
to profit withal.
Verse 8. "For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to
another the word of knowledge by the same spirit.
Verse 9. "To another faith by the same Spirit, to another the gifts
of healing by the same Spirit.
Verse 10. "To another the working of miracles, to another prophecy,
to another discerning of spirits, to another divers kinds of tongues, to
another the interpretation of tongues.
Verse 11. "But all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit,
dividing to every man severally as he will.
Verse 12. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the
members of that one body being many, are one body, so also is Christ.
Verse 18. "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether
we be Jews or Gentiles,
whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one
Verse 14. "For the body is not one member, but many.
Verse 15. "If the foot shall say, because I am not the hand, I am not
of the body; is it therefore not of thc body?
Verse 16. "And if the ear shall say, because I am not the eye, I am
not of the body; is it not therefore of the body?
Verse 17. "If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If
the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
Verse 18. "But now hath God set the members every one of them in the
body, as it hath pleased him.
Verse 19. "And if they were all one member, vhere were the body?
Verse 20. "But now are they many members, yet but one body?
Verse 21. "And the eye cannot say unto the hand, have no need of thee,
nor again, the head to the feet, I have no need of you:
Verse 22. "Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to
be more feeble, are necessary:
Verse 28. "And those members of the body, which we think to be less
honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour, and our uncomely
parts have more abundant comeliness.
Verse 24. "For our comely parts have no need, but God hath tempered
the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which
Verse 25. "That there should be no schism in the body; but that the
members should have the same care one of another.
Verse 26. "And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with
it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
Verse 27. "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
Verse 28. "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily
prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing,
helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
Verse 29. "Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are
all workers of miracles?
Verse 30. "Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues
? Do all interpret?"
Which I would not have set down at large, but that there be some so
careless (especially in matters they like not) that they will scarce be
at the pains seriously to read over a citation only named; and that also
this being presented before the reader in the current of the discourse,
will fix the nature of my application the more in his understanding. For
the apostle shows here the variety of the operations of the divers members
of the body of Christ, working to one and the same end; as the divers members
of a man's body towards the maintaining and upholding of the whole.
Now these are not placed in contrary workings, for so they would destroy
one another; and so the apostle in the ordering of them in three several
kinds proves this. First, diversities of gifts. Secondly, diffences of
administrations. Thirdly, diversities of operations: and that which is
the bond that keeps the oneness, here he also mentions, to wit, "the same
Spirit, the same Lord, the same God:" the apostle names nothing of contrariety
or opposion. But lest any should be so critical, as to bring here the school
distinction of contrarium oppositum and contradictorium;
I shall not deny, but contrariety or opposition, in the sense it is sometimes
taken, may be found in the body without schism: as the comely parts may
be said to be opposite or contrary to the uncomely, or the left hand contrary
to the right, or the foot opposite to the head as the uppermost part to
the undermost; or the doing a thing is contrary to the forbearing of it;
but as for that which is acknowledged to be propositions or termini
contradictorii, that is, contradictory propositions, which are in themselves
irreconcilable, whereupon one must be still wrong, and last still destroy
one another, and work contrary effects, they are not at all admitted, nor
supposed to be in the body of Christ; as I shall give one instance, verse,
8: "To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word
of knowledge by the same Spirit." First, here are two different gifts,
but not contrary. Secondly, there may something like contrariety in sense
afore-mentioned, be here supposed; as me may want this gift of wisdom and
knowledge, and so to have is contrary to want (though as to these two,
none may be absolutely said to want them; yet all have them not in the
same degree, as a special gift; though as to some gifts there may be an
absolute want, as that of miracles and interpretations of tongues.) But
should I suppose such a contrariety, or more properly a contradiction,
as to wisdom to oppose folly, and to knowledge utter ignorance; this were
an opposition not to be admitted of in the Body, because it were false
to suppose, that to proceed from the same spirit. And such contrarieties
or diversities, as cannot justly be supposed to proceed from the same Spirit
of God, which is the bond that links together, cannot be mutually enterrained
in the body. So the differences and diversities, which the apostle admits
of, while he speaks largely in this matter, are, that none ought to be
offended at his brother, that he hath not the same work and office in the
body, that he hath; but that every one keep in his own place, as God hath
appointed them; that neither them that are set in a higher place, despise
them that are set in a lower; nor them that are set in a lower, grudge
and repine at such as are set higher: but all work in their proper place
towards the edification of the whole. And that the apostle intends this,
is manifest, where he draws to a conclusion, verse 27: "Now ye are the
body of Christ and members in particular, and God hath set some in the
church, first, apostles, secondly, prophets," &c. and then he subsumes,
are all apostles ? &c.
Which the same Paul again confirms, Eph. i. 8, 11 to the 17th,
which was the second place place I intended; and shall only mention for
brevity's sake, leaving the reader to consider of it at his leisure.
This is also held forth by the beloved disciple John in his threefold
distinction, 1 John ii.. 12, 13, of fathers, young men, and
little children: and by Peter v. 1-5, in that of elders and younger. The
true liberty then in the Church of Christ is exercised, when as one judgeth
not another in these different places; but live in love together, all minding
the unity and general good of the body, and to work their own work in their
own place. Also Ihe forbearance of the saints is exercised, when as they
judge not one another for being found in the different appearance either
of doing or forbearing; which may be peculiar to their several places and
stations in the body: for that there is and may be diversities of works
there, is excellently well-expressed by the Apostle, viz.:
Rom. xii. 3. "For I say through the grace given unto me, to every man
that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to
think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the
measure of faith.
Verse 4."For as we have many members in one body, and all members have
not the same office;
Verse 5."So we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members
one of another.
Verse 6."Having then gifts differing, according the g:raee that is
given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion
Verse 7."Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacbeth,
Verse 8."Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let
him do it with simplicity: he that ruleth, with diligence: he that showeth
mercy, with cheerfulness."
If any then should quarrel with his brother, for exercising that which
belongeth to the office of the body Christ has called him to, and would
force him to exercise the same office he doth, though he be not called
to it; here is a breach of Christian liberty, and an imposing upon it.
Now all schisms and jars fall out in this two-fold respect: either when
any person or persons assume another or an higher place in the body, than
God will have them to be in, and so exercise an office; or go about to
perform that which they ought not to do; or when as any truly exercising
in their place, which God hath given them, others rise up and judge them,
and would draw them from it: both of which cases have been, and may be
supposed to fall out in the Church of Christ. As 1 Cor. iv. 3, 4, where
some judged Paul wrongously: 3 John 9, where one exalting himself above
his place, judged, whom he ought not. We see, then, what diversities be
most usually in the Church of God; consisting in the difference of the
gift proceeding from the same Spirit; and in the divers places, that the
several members have in the same body for the edification of it; and every
one being here in his own station, his standing therein is his strength
and perfection; and to be in another, though higher and more eminent, would
but weaken and hurt him: and so in this there ought to be a mutual forbearance,
that therd may neither be a coveting nor aspiring on the one hand, nor
yet a despising or condemning on the other. But besides the forbearance
of this nature, which is most ordinary and universal, (and for the exercise
whereof there is and will still be a need, so long as there is any gathering
or Church of Christ upon the earth) there is a certain liberty and forbearance
also, that is more particular, and has a relation to the circumstance of
times and places, which will not hold universally: whereof wehave the example
of the primitive church, testified by the Scriptures in two or three particulars.
The first was, in suffering circumcision to the Jews for a time, and not
only so, but also divers others of the legal and ceremonial purifications
aud customs, as may appear, Acts xxi. ver. 21,22, 23, 24, &c. The second
was in the observation of certain days, Rom. xiv. 5. And the third in the
abstaining from meats, 1 Cor. viii. throughout: here the apostle persuades
to and recommends a forbearance, because of the weakness of some: for he
says not anywhere, nor can it be found in all the Scriptures of the gospel,
that these things such weak ones were exercised in, were things indispensably
necessary, or that it had been better for them, they had not been under
sueh scruples, providing it had been from a principle of true clearness,
and so of faith.
Next again, these acts of forbearance were done in condescension to
the weakness of such, upon whom the aneient (and truly deserved in its
season) veneration of the law had such a deep impression, that they could
not yet dispense with all its ceremonies and customs: and to such the apostle
holds forth a two-fold forbearance.
First, a certain compliance by such believers as were gathered
out from the Jews: though they saw over these things, yet it was fit
they should condescend somewhat to their countrymen and brethren, who were
Secondly, the like forbearance in the Gentiles, not to judge
them in these things; but we see, that it was not allowed for such weak
ones to propagate these scruples, or draw others into them; and that when
as any of the churches of the Gentiles, who wanted this occasion, would
have been exercising this liberty, or pleading fop it, the Apostle doth
down-rightly condemn it, as I shall make appear in all the three instances
First, in that of circumcision, Gal. v. 2, 4.
"Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall
profit you nothing; Christ is become of none effect unto you: whosoever
of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace."
Can there be anything more positive? Might not some here have pretended
tenderness of conscience, and have said, though the decree of the Apostles
do dispense with circumcision in me; yet if I find a scruple in myself,
and a desire to it out of tenderness, why should it be an evil in me to
do it, more than in the Jews that believe? We see, there is no room left
here for such reasoning.
Secondly, as to observations, Gal. iv. 9, 10, 11. Might not they have
answered, what if we regard a day to the Lord, must, we not then? Are not
these thy own words? We see, that did not hold here, because in them it
was a returning to the beggarly elements.
Thirdly, as to meats, 1 Tim. iv. 3. Here we see, that is accounted
a doctrine of devils; which in another respect was Christian forbearance.
And therefore now, ami that in the general respect, he gives this reason,
verse 4: "For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused,
if it be received with thanksgiving of them that believe, and know the
truth." So we see, that in these particular things there is a great need
of wariness in the Church of Christ; for that some times forbearance under
a pretence of liberty may he more hurtful, than down-right judging. I suppose,
if any should arise, and pretend conscience, and claim a liberty for circumcision
and the purification of the law, whether all Christians would not with
one voice condemn it? And so as to days and meats, how do the generality
of Protestants judge it? Though I deny not, but there may and ought to
be a mutual forbearance in the Church of Christ in certain such eases,
which may fall in; and a liberty there is in the Lord, which breaks not
the peace of the true church: but in such matters (as I observed at large
before) both the nature of the things, the spirit they come from, and the
occasion from whence, and their consequence and tendency is to be carefully
1. Yet this is not so the bond, but that we have
also a more inward and invisible, to wit, the life of righteousness, whereby
we also have unity with the upright seed in all, even in those, whose understandings
are not yet so enlightened. But to those, who are once enlightened, this
is as an outward bond: and if they suffer themselves to be darkened through
disobedience, which as it does in the outward bond, so it doth in the inward.