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Chapter IX.

We are now gathering towards what seems of most immediate concernment as to this reverend author’s undertaking, — namely, to treat of the nature of a particular church, its union, and the breach of that union. The description I give of such a church is this: “It is a society of men called by the word to the obedience of the faith in Christ, and joint performance of the worship of God in the same 258individual ordinances, according to the order by Christ prescribed.” This I profess to be a general description of its nature, waiving all contests about accurate definitions, which usually tend very little to the discovery or establishment of truth. After some canvassing of this description, our author tells us that he grants it to be the definition of a particular church, which is more than I intended it for; only he adds, that according to this description, their churches are as true as ours; which, I presume, by this time he knows was not the thing in question. His ensuing discourse of the will of Christ that men should join not all in the same individual congregation, but in this or that, is by me wholly assented unto, and the matter of it contended for by me as I am able. What he is pleased to add about explicit covenanting, and the like, I am not at all, for the present, concerned in. I purposely waived all expressions concerning it, one way or other, that I might not involve the business in hand with any unnecessary contests; it is possible somewhat hereafter may be spoken to that subject, in a tendency unto the reconciliation of the parties at variance. His argument, in the close of the section, for a presbyterian church, from Acts xx. 17, “because there is mention of more elders than one in that church, and therefore it was not one single congregation,” I do not understand. I think no one single congregation is wholly completed according to the mind of Christ unless there be more elders than one in it. There should be “elders in every church;” and, for my part, so we could once agree practically in the matter of our churches, I am under some apprehension that it were no impossible thing to reconcile the whole difference as to a presbyterian church or a single congregation. And though I be reproved anew for my pains, I may offer, ere long, to the candid consideration of godly men, something that may provoke others of better abilities and more leisure to endeavour the carrying on of so good a work. Proceeding to the consideration of the unity of this church, he takes notice of three things laid down by me, previously to what I was farther to assert; all which he grants to be true, but yet will not let them pass without his animadversions.

The first two are, that, — “1. A man may be a member of the catholic invisible church, and, 2. Of the visible catholic church, and yet not be joined to a particular church.” These, as I said, he owns to be true, but asks how I can “reconcile this with what I said before, — namely, that the members of the catholic visible church are initiated into the profession of the faith by baptism.” But where lies the difference? Why, saith he, “baptism, according to his principles, is an ordinance of worship only to be enjoyed in a particular church, whilst he will grant (what yet he doth deny, but will be forced to grant) that a minister is a minister to more than his own church, even to the catholic 259church, and may administer baptism out of a particular church, as Philip did to the eunuch.” Ans. How well this author is acquainted with my principles hath been already manifested; as to his present mistake I shall not complain, seeing that some occasion may be administered unto it from an expression of mine, at least as it is printed, of which I shall speak afterward. For the present, he may be pleased to take notice that I am so far from confining baptism subjectively to a particular congregation, that I do not believe that any member of a particular church was ever regularly baptized. Baptism precedes admission into church membership, as to a particular church; the subjects of it are professing believers and their seed; as such they have right unto it, whether they be joined to any particular church or no. Suitable to this judgment hath been my constant and uninterrupted practice. I desire also to know who told him that I deny a minister to be a minister to more than his own church, or averred that he may perform ministerial duty only in and towards the members of his own congregation; for so much as men are appointed the objects of the dispensation of the word, I grant a man, in the dispensations of it, to act ministerially towards not only the members of the catholic church, but the visible members of the world also, in contradistinction thereunto.

The third thing laid down by me, whereunto also he assents, is, “That every believer is obliged to join himself to some one of those churches, that therein he may abide in ‘doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers:’“but my reasons whereby I prove this he says he likes not so well; and truly I can not help it. I have little hope he should like any thing well which is done by me. Let him be pleased to furnish me with better, and I shall make use of them; but yet when he shall attempt so to do, it is odds but that one or other will find as many flaws in them as he pretends to do in mine. But this, he saith, he shall make use of, and that he shall make advantage of, and I know not what; as if he were playing a prize upon a stage. The third reason is that which he likes worst of all, and I like the business the better that what he understands least that he likes worst; it is, “That Christ hath given no direction for any duty of worship merely and purely of sovereign institution, but only to them and by them who are so joined.” Hereupon he asks:— 1. “Is baptism a part of worship?” Ans. Yes, and to be so performed by them, — that is, a minister in or of them. I fear my expression in this place led him to his whole mistake in this matter. 2. “Prayer and reading of the word in private families, are they no duty of worship?” Ans. Not merely and purely of sovereign institution. 3. “Is preaching to convert heathens a duty of worship?” Not, as described, in all cases. When it is, it is to be performed by a minister; and so he knows my answer to his next invidious inquiry, relating to my own person.

260Against my fourth reason, taken from the apostle’s care to leave none out of this order who were converted, where it was possible, he gives in the instance of the eunuch, and others converted where there were not enough to engage in such societies, — that is, in them with whom it was impossible. My fifth is from Christ’s providing of officers for these churches. This also, he saith, is “weak as the rest: for, first, Christ provided officers at first for the catholic church, — that is, the apostles; secondly, All ordinary officers are set first in the catholic church, and every minister is first a minister to the catholic church; and if,” saith he, “he deny this, he knows where to find a learned antagonist.” Ans. But see what it is to have a mind to dispute. Will he deny that Christ appointed officers for particular churches? or if he should have a mind to do it, will his arguments evince any such thing? Christ appointed apostles, catholic officers; therefore, he did not appoint officers for particular churches though he commanded that “elders should be ordained in every, church”! Pastors and teachers are set first in the catholic church; therefore, Christ hath not ordained officers for particular churches! But this is the way with our author. If any word offer itself, whence it is possible to draw out the mention of any thing that is, or hath at any time been, in difference between Presbyterians and Independents, that presently is run away withal. For my part, I had not the least thought of the controversy which, to no purpose at all, he would here lead me to. But yet I must tell him that my judgment is, that ordinary officers are firstly to be ordained in particular churches; and as I know where to find a “learned antagonist” as to that particular, so I do in respect of every thing that I affirm or deny in the business of religion; and yet I bless the Lord I am not in the least disquieted or shaken in my adherence to the truth I profess.

My last reason, he saith, is “fallacious and inconsequent;” and that because he hath put an inference upon it never intended in it. Now, the position that these reasons were produced to confirm being true, and so acknowledged by himself, because it is a truth that indeed I lay some more than ordinary weight, upon, it being of great use in the days wherein we live, I would humbly entreat this reverend author to send me his reasons whereby it may be confirmed; and I shall promise him, if they be found of more validity than those which, according to my best skill, I have already used, he shall obtain many thanks and much respect for his favour.

What he remarks upon or adds to my next discourse, about instituted worship in general, I shall not need to insist on; only, by the way, I cannot but take notice of that which he calls “a chief piece of Independency;” and that is, “that those who are joined in church fellowship are so confined that they cannot, or may not, worship God 261in the same ordinances in other churches.” How this comes to be “a chief piece of Independency,” I know not. It is contrary to the known practice of all the churches of England that I am acquainted with which he calls Independents. For my part, I know but one man of that mind, and he is no child in these things.

For the ensuing discourse, about the intercision of ordinances, it being a matter of great importance, and inquired into by me merely in reference to the Roman apostasy, it needs a more serious disquisition than any thing at present administered by our author will give occasion unto; possibly, in convenient time, I may offer somewhat farther towards the investigation of the mind of God therein. Every thing in this present contest is so warped to the petty differences between Presbyterians and Independents, that no fair progress nor opportunity for it can be afforded. If, it may be, in my next debate of it, I shall waive all mention of those meaner differences, and as, I remember, I have not insisted on them in what I have already proposed to this purpose, so possibly the next time I may utterly escape. For the present, I do not doubt but the Spirit of God in the Scripture is furnished with sufficient authority to erect new churches, and set up the celebration of all ordinances, on supposition that there was an intercision of them. To declare the way of his exerting his authority to this purpose, with the obviating of all objections to the contrary, is not a matter to be tossed up and down in this scrambling chase; and I am not a little unhappy that this reverend person was in the dark as to my design and aim all along, which hath entangled this dispute with so many impertinences. But, however, I shall answer a question which he is pleased to put to me in particular. He asks me, then, “Whether I do not think in my conscience that there were no true churches in England until the Brownists our fathers, the Anabaptists our elder brothers, and ourselves, arose and gathered new churches?” With thanks for the civility of the inquiry in the manner of its expression, I answer, No; I have no such thoughts. And his pretence of my insinuation of any such thing is most vain, as also is his insultation thereupon. Truly, if men will, in all things, take liberty to speak what they please, they have no reason but to think that they may, at one time or other, hear that which will displease.

Having investigated the nature of a particular church, I proceed, in my treatise of schism, to inquire after the union of it, wherein it doth consist, and what is the breach thereof. The sum is, “The joint consent of the members to walk together in celebration of the same numerical ordinances, according to the mind of Jesus Christ, is that wherein the union of such a church doth consist.” This is variously excepted against; and I know not what disputes about an 262implicit and explicit covenant, of specificating forms, of the practice of New and Old England, of admission of church-members, of the right of the members of the catholic church to all ordinances, of the miscarriage of the Independents, of church matriculations, and such like things, not once considered by me in my proposal of the matter in hand, are fallen upon. By the way, he falls upon my judgment about the inhabitation of the Spirit, calls it an error, and says so it hath been reputed by all that are orthodox; raising terrible suspicions and intimations of judgments on our way from God by my falling into that error; when yet I say no more than the Scripture saith in express terms forty times; for which I refer him to what I have written on that subject, wherein I have also the concurrence of Polanus, Bucanus, Dorchetus, with sundry others, Lutherans and Calvinists. It may be, when he hath seriously weighed what I have offered to the clearing of that glorious truth of the gospel, he may entertain more gentle thoughts both concerning it and me.

The rest of the chapter I have passed through once and again, and cannot fix on any thing worthy of farther debate. A difference is attempted to be found in my description of the union of a particular church, in this and another place. Because in one place I require the consent of the members to walk together, in another mention only their so doing, — when the mention of that only was necessary in that place, not speaking of it absolutely, but as it is the difference of such a church from the church catholic, — some impropriety of expression is pretended to be discovered (“id populus curat scilicet”); which yet is a pure mistake of his, not considering unto what especial end and purpose the words are used. He repeats sundry things as in opposition to me, that are things laid down by myself and granted! Doth he attempt to prove that the union of a church is not rightly stated? He confesseth the form of such a church consists in the observance and performance of the same ordinances of worship numerically. I ask, is it not the command of Christ that believers should so do? Is not their obedience to that command their consent so to do? Are not particular churches instituted of Christ? Is it not the duty of every believer to join himself to some one of them? Was not this acknowledged above? Can any one do so without his consenting to do so? Is this consent any thing but his voluntary submission to the ordinances of worship therein? As an express consent and subjection to Christ in general is required to constitute a man a member of the church catholic visible; so if the Lord Jesus hath appointed any particular church for the celebration of his ordinances, is not their consent who are to walk in them necessary thereunto? But the topic of an explicit covenant presenting itself with an advantage to take up some leaves could not be waived, though nothing at 263all to the purpose in hand. After this, my confession, made in as much condescension unto compliance as I could well imagine, of the use of greater assemblies, is examined and excepted against, as “being in my esteem,” he saith, “though it be not so indeed, a matter of prudence only.” But I know full well that he knows not what esteem or disesteem I have of sundry things of no less importance. The consideration of my “postulata,” proposed in a preparation to what was to be insisted on in the next chapter, as influenced from the foregoing dissertations, alone remains, and indeed alone deserves our notice.

My first is this: “The departing of any man or men from any particular church, as to the communion peculiar to such a church, is nowhere called schism, nor is so in the nature of the thing itself; but is a thing to be judged and receive a title according to the circumstances of it.” To this he adjoins, “This is not the question. A simple secession of a man or men, upon some just occasion, is not called schism; but to make causeless differences in a church, and then separating from it as no church, denying communion with it, hath the nature and name of schism in all men’s judgments but his own.” Ans. What question doth our reverend author mean? I fear he is still fancying of the difference between Presbyterians and Independents, and squaring all things by that imagination. Whether it be a question stated to his mind or no I cannot tell; but it is an assertion expressive of mine own, which he may do well to disprove if he can. Who told him that raising causeless differences in a church, and then separating from it, is not in my judgment schism? May I possibly retain hopes of making myself understood by this reverend author? I suppose though that a pertinacious abiding in a mistake is neither schism nor heresy; and so this may be passed over.

My second is: “One church refusing to hold that communion with another which ought to be between them is not schism, properly so called.” The reply hereunto is twofold:— 1. “That one church may raise differences in and with another church, and so cause schism.” 2. “That the Independents deny any communion of churches but what is prudential; and so, that communion cannot be broken.” To the first I have spoken sufficiently before; the latter is but a harping on the same string. I am not speaking of Independent churches, nor upon the principles of Independents, much less on them which are imposed on them. Let the reverend author suppose or aver what communion of churches he pleaseth, my petition holds in reference to it; nor can he disprove it. However, for my part, I am not acquainted with those Independents who allow no communion of churches but what is prudential; and yet it is thought that I know as many as this reverend author doth.

264Upon the last proposal we are wholly agreed, so that I shall not need to repeat it; only he gives me a sad farewell at the close of the chapter, which must be taken notice of. “Is not,” saith he, “the design of this book to prove, if he could, and condemn us as no churches? Let the world be judge.” And I say; let all the saints of God judge; and Jesus Christ will judge whether I have not outrageous injury done me in this imputation. “But,” saith he, “unless this be proved, he can never justify his separation.” Sir, when your and our brethren told the bishops they thanked God they were none of them, and defied the prelatical church, did they make a separation or no? were they guilty of schism? I suppose you will not say so, nor do I; yet have I done any such thing in reference to you or your churches? I have no more separated from you than you have done from me; and as for the distance which is between us upon our disagreement about the way of reformation, let all the churches of God judge on which side it hath been managed with more breach of love, — on yours or mine. Let me assure you, sir, through the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, I can freely forgive unto you all your reproaches, revilings, hard censurings, and endeavours to expose me to public obloquy, and yet hope that I may have, before we die, a place in your heart and prayers.

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