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Chapter VI.

Having declared and vindicated the Scripture proper notion of schism, and thence discovered the nature of it, with all its aggravations, with the mistakes that men have run into who have suited their apprehensions concerning it unto what was their interests to have it thought to be, and opened a way thereby for the furtherance of peace among professors of the gospel of Jesus Christ; for the farther security of the consciences of men unjustly accused and charged with the guilt of this evil, I proceeded to the consideration of it in the usual common acceptation of the word and thing, that so I might obviate whatever, with any tolerable pretence, is insisted on, as deduced by a parity of reason from what is delivered in the Scripture, in reference to the charge managed by some or other against all sorts of Protestants. Hereupon I grant that it may be looked on in general as διαίρεσις ἑνότητος, “a breach of union,” so that it be granted also that that union be a union of the institution of Jesus Christ. To find out, then, the nature of schism under the consideration of the condescension made, and to discover wherein the guilt of 245it doth consist, it is necessary that we find out what that union is, and wherein it doth consist, whereof it is the breach and interruption, or is supposed so to be, over and above the breach above mentioned and described. Now, this union being the union of the church, the several acceptations of the “church” in Scripture are to be investigated, that the union inquired after may be made known. The “church” in Scripture being taken either for the church catholic, or the whole number of elect believers in the world (for we lay aside the consideration of that part of this great family of God which is already in heaven from this distinction), or else for the general visible body of those who profess the gospel of Christ, or for a particular society joining together in the celebration of the ordinances of the New Testament instituted by Christ, to be so celebrated by them, the union of it, with the breach of that union in these several respects, with the application of the whole to the business under consideration, was to be inquired after; which also was performed.

I began with the consideration of the catholic invisible church of Christ, and the union thereof. Having declared the rise of this distinction, and the necessity of it from the nature of the things themselves, as to the matter of this church, or the church of Christ as here militant on earth, I affirm and evince it to be all and only elect believers. The union of this church consists in the inhabitation of the same Spirit in all the members of it, uniting them to the head, Christ Jesus, and therein to one another. The breach of this union I manifested to consist in the loss of that Spirit, With all the peculiar consequences and effects of him in the hearts of them in whom he dwells. This I manifest, according to our principles, to be impossible, and upon a supposition of it, how remote it would be from schism, under any notion or acceptation of the word; so closing that discourse with a charge on the Romanists of their distance from an interest in this church of Jesus Christ.

Our reverend author professes that he hath but little to say to these things. Some exceptions he puts in unto some expressions used in the explication of my sense in this particular. That which he chiefly insists upon, is the accommodation of that promise, Matt. xvi. 18, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” to the church in this sense; which he concludes to belong to the visible church of professors. Now, as I am not at all concerned, as to the truth of what I am in confirmation of, to which of these it be applied, so I am far from being alone in that application of it to the catholic church which I insist upon. All our divines that from hence prove the perseverance of all individual believers, — as all do that I have met withal who write on that subject, — are of the same mind with me. Moreover, the church is built on this rock in its individuals, or I 246know not how it is so built. The building on Christ doth not denote a mere relation of a general body to his truth, that it shall always have an existence, but the union of the individuals with him, in their being built on him, to whom the promise is made. I acknowledge it for as unquestionable a truth as any we believe, that Christ hath had, and ever shall have, to the end of the world; a visible number of those that profess his name and subjection to his kingdom, because of the necessary consequence of profession upon believing; but that that truth is intended in this promise, any farther but in respect of this consequence, I am not convinced. And I would be loath to say that this promise is not made to every particular believer, and only unto them, being willing to vindicate to the saints of God all those grounds of consolation which he is so willing they should be made partakers of.

As to the union of this church and the breach of it, our reverend author hath a little to say. Because there may be “some decays in true grace in the members of this church,” he affirms, “that in a sort there may be said to be a breach in this union; and so, consequently, a schism in this body.” He seemed formerly to be afraid lest all schism should be thrust out of the world; if he can retrieve it on the account of any true believer’s failing in grace, or falling for a season, I suppose he needs not fear the loss of it whilst this world continues. But it is fit wise and learned men should take the liberty of calling things by what names they please, so they will be pleased withal not to impose their conceptions and use of terms on them who are not able to understand the reasons of them. It is true, there may be a schism among the members of this church, but not as members of this church, nor with reference to the union thereof. It is granted that schism is the breach of union, but not of every union, much less not a breach of that, which if it were a breach of, it were not schism. However, by the way, I am bold to tell this reverend author that this doctrine of his concerning schism in the catholic invisible church, by the failing in grace in any of the members of it for a season, is a new notion; which as he cannot justify to us, because it is false, so I wonder how he will justify it to himself, because it is “new.” And what hath been obtained by the author against my principles in this chapter I cannot perceive. The nature of the church in the state considered is not opposed; the union asserted not disproved; the breach of that union is denied, as I suppose, no less by him than myself. That the instances that some saints, as members of this church, may sometimes fail in grace, more or less, for some season, and that the members of this church, though not as members of this church, yet on other considerations, may be guilty of schism, concern not the business under debate, himself I hope is satisfied.

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