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Their Canons bind us, whether for manners or doctrine; not their Ceremonies.
Neither Christ nor his Apostles did all things for imitation. I speak not of miraculous acts. We need not be silent before a judge; as Christ was: we need not take a towel, and gird ourselves, and wash our servants' feet; as Christ did: we need not make tents for our living, as Paul; nor go armed, as Peter; nor carry about our wives, as he and the other apostles.
I acknowledge the ground, not only of Separation, but Anabaptism; and wonder that these conceits do not answer themselves. Who can chuse but see a manifest difference betwixt those laws, which Christ and his great ambassadors made for eternal use; and those ritual matters, which were confined to place and time? Every nation, every person sins, that observes not those: these, for the most part, are not kept of the most; and are as well left without sin by us, as used without prescription or necessity by the authors.
Some of them we cannot do : others, we need not.
Which of us can cast out devils by command? Who can cure the sick by ointment, and imposition of hands? The disciples did it. All those acts, which proceeded from supernatural privilege, ceased with their cause : who now dare undertake to continue them? unless perhaps some bold Papists, who have brought in gross magic, instead of miraculous authority; and daub very carcasses, instead of healing diseases.
There be more yet, which we need not do. What need we to chuse Ministers by lot? What need we to disclaim all peculiarity in goods ? What need we to Christen in rivers; or to meet upon their banks ? What need we to receive God's Supper after our own? what, to lean in each others' bosom, while we receive it? what, to abhor leaven in that holy bread? what, to celebrate lovefeasts upon the receipt ? what, to abstain from all strangled and blood? what, to depend upon a maintenance, arbitrary and uncertain? what, to spend our days in a perpetual pererration; as not only the Apostles, but the Prophets and Evangelists, some ages after Christ? Whosoever would impose all these on us, he should surely make us, not the sons, but the slaves of the Apostles. God's Church never held herself in such servile terms.
Yea Christ himself gave, at first, some precepts of this nature, which he reversed, ere long. When he sent the disciples to preach, he charges; Take not gold, nor silver, nor money in your girdles: afterwards, Judas carried the bag. He charges, not to take so much as a staff: yet, after, behold two swords. Should the disciples have held their Master to his own rule? Is it necessary, that what he once commanded, should be observed always?
The very next age to these Christian Patriarchs, neither would nor durst have so much varied her rites, or augmented them; if it had found itself tied, either to number or kind. As yet, it was pure, chaste, and, which was ground of all, persecuted. The Church of Rome distributed the sacramental bread; the Church
of Alexandria permitted the people to take it. The Churches of Afric and Rome mixed their holy wine with water: other colder regions drank it pure. Some kneeled in their prayers: others fell prostrate; and some lifted up eyes, hands, feet towards heaven. Some kept their Easter according to the Jewish use, the fourteenth of March: the French, as Nicephorus, the eighth of the calends of April, in a set solemnity : the Church of Rome, the Sunday after the fourteenth moon; which yet, as Socrates truly writes, was never restrained by any Gospel, by any Apostle. That Romish Victor overcame the other world in this point, with too much rigour; whose censure therefore of the Asian Churches was justly censured by Irenæus.
What should I speak of their difference of fasts? there can scarce be more variety in days or meats,
It hath ever been thus seen, according to our Anselm's rule, That the multitude of different ceremonies in all Churches, hath justly commended their unity in faith. The French Divines preach covered:
upon the same rule, which required the Corinthians to be uncovered; we, bare. The Dutch sit at the sacrament: we kneel. Genoa useth wafers; we, leavened bread: they, common vestures, in divine service; we, peculiar. Each is free: no one doth either blame or overrule others.
I cannot but commend those very Novatian Bishops, though it is a wonder any precedent of peace should fall from schismatics, who, meeting in Council together, enacted that Canon of Indifferency, when the Church was distracted with the differences of her Paschal solemnities: concluding, how insufficient this cause was to disquiet the Church of Christ.
Their own issue, our Separatists, will needs be unlike them in good; and strive to a further distance from peace: wbile, in a conceit not less idle then scrupulous, they press us to an uniform conformity in our fashions to ibe Apostles. Their own practice condemns them: they call for some, and yet keep not all : yet the same reason enforces all, that pleads for some; and that, which warrants the forbearance of some, holds for all.
Those tools, which serve for the foundation, are not of use for the roof. Yea, the great Master-Builder chose those workmen for the first stones, which he meant not to employ in the walls. Do we not see all Christ's first agents extraordinary; Apostles, Evangelists, Prophets, Prophetesses? See we not fiery and cloven tongues descending? What Church ever since boasted of such founders, of such means? Why would God begin with those, which he meant not to continue ; but to shew us, we may not always look for one face of things? The nurse feeds and tends her child, at first : afterward, he is undertaken by the discipline of a tutor: must he be always under the spoon and ferule, because he began so? If he have good breeding, it matters not by whose hands.
Who can deny, that we have the substance of all those royal laws, which Christ and his Apostles left to his Church? What do we now, thus importunately catching at shadows ? If there had been a necessity of having what we want, or wanting what we have, let us not so far wrong the wisdom and perfection of the Lawgiver, as to think he would not have enjoined that, and forbidden this. His silence in both argues his indifferency, and calls for ours: which while it is not peaceably entertained, there is clainour without profit; malice, without cause; and strife, without end.
TO MY LADY MARY DENNY.
Containing the Description of a Christian; and his Differences from
It is true, that worldly eyes can see no difference betwixt a Christian and another man: the outside of both is made of one clay, and cast in one mould: both are inspired with one common breath: outward events distinguish them not: those God never made for evidences of love or hatred. So, the sevses can perceive no difference, betwixt the reasonable soul, and that which informs the beast; yet the soul knows there is much more, than betwixt their bodies. The same holds in this: faith sees more inward difference, than the eye sees outward resemblance.
This point is not more high than material: which that it may appear, let me shew what it is to be a Christian. You, that have felt it, can second me with your experience; and supply the defects of my discourse.
He is the living temple of the Living God; where the Deity is both resident and worshipped. The highest thing in a man is his own spirit; but, in a Christian, the Spirit of God, which is the God of Spirits. No grace is wanting in him; and those, which there are, want not stirring up. Both his heart and his hands are clean: all his outward purity flows from within; neither doth he frame his soul to counterfeit good actions, but out of his holy disposition commands and produces them in the light of God.
Let us begin with his beginning; and fetch the Christian out of this nature, as another Abraham from his Chaldea: while the worldling lives and dies, in nature, out of God.
The true convert therefore, after his wild and secure courses, puts himself, through the motions of God's Spirit, to school unto the Law. There he learns, what he should have done; what he could not do; what he hath done; what he hath deserved. These lessons cost him many a stripe, and many a tear; and not more
grief, than terror: for this sharp master makes him feel what sin is, and what hell is; and, in regard of both, what himself is.
When he hath well smarted under the whip of this severe usber, and is made vile enough in himself, then is he led up into the higher school of Christ; and there taught the comfortable lessons of grace. There he learns what belongs to a Saviour; what one he is; what he hath done, and for whom; how he became ours, we his : and now, finding himself in a true state of danger, of humility, of need, of desire, of fitness for Christ, he brings home to himself all that he learns; and what he knows, he applies. His former tutor he feared; this, he loveth: that shewed him his wounds, yea, made them; this binds and heals them: that killed him; this shews him life, and leads him to it. Now, at once, he hates himself, defies Satan, trusts to Christ, makes account both of pardon and glory.
This is his most precious Faith, whereby he appropriates, yea, engrosses Christ Jesus to himself: whence he is justified from his sins, purified from his corruptions, established in his resolutions, comforted in his doubts, defended against temptations, overcomes all his enemies.
Which virtue, as it is most employed and most opposed, so carries the most care from the Christian heart, that it be sound, lively, growing.
Sound: not rotten; not hollow; not presumptuous. Sound in the act: not a superficial conceit; but a true, deep, and sensible apprehension: an apprehension, not of the brain, but of the heart; and of the heart, not approving or assenting, but trusting and reposing. Sound in the object; none but Christ : he knows, that no friendship in heaven can do him good, without this: the angels cannot, God will not: Ye believe in the Father, believe also in me.
Lively: for it cannot give life, uuless it have life. The faithi, that is not faithful, is dead. The fruits of faith are good works: whether inward, within the roof of the heart, as love, awe, sorrow, piety, zeal, joy, and the rest; or outward towards God, or our brethren: obedience and service, to the one ; to the other, relief and beneficence. These he bears, in his time: sometimes, all; but, always, some.
Growing: true faith cannot stand still; but as it is fruitful in works, so it increaseth in degrees: from a little seed, it proves a large plant, reaching from earth to heaven, and from one heaven to another. Every shower and every sun adds something to it.
Neither is this grace ever solitary, but always attended royally: for he, that believes what a Saviour he hath, cannot but love him; and he, that loves bim, cannot but hate whatsoever may displease him; cannot but rejoice in him, and hope to enjoy him, and desire to enjoy his hope, and contemn all those vanities which he once desired and enjoyed. His mind now scorneth to grovel upon earth, but soareth up to the things above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God; and, after it hath seen what is done in heaven, looks strangely upon all worldly things. He dare trust his faith above his reason and sense; and hath learned to wean his appetite from craving much. He stands in awe of his own conscience; and dare no more offend it, than not displease himself. He fears not bis enemies; yet neglects them not: equally avoiding security, and timorousness. He sees Him, that is invisible; and walks with him awfully, familiarly. He knows what he is born to; and therefore digests the miseries of his wardship, with patience. He finds more comfort in his afflictions, than any worlding in pleasures. And, as he hath these graces to comfort him within, so hath he the angels to attend him without: spirits, better than his own; more powerful, more glorious: these bear him in their arms; wake by his bed; keep his soul while he hath it, and receive it when it leaves him.
These are some present differences: the greatest are future; which could not be so great, if themselves were not witness: no less than betwixt heaven and hell, torment and glory, an incorruptible crown and fire unquenchable. Whether infidels believe these things or no, we know them: so shall they; but too late.
What remains, but that we applaud ourselves, in this happiness; and walk on cheerfully, in this heavenly profession ? acknowledging that God could not do more for us; and that we cannot do enough for him. Let others boast, as your Ladysbip might with others, of ancient and noble houses, large patrimonies or dowries, honourable commands; others, of famous names, high and envied honours, or the favours of the greatest; others, of valour or beauty; or some, perhaps, of eminent learning and wit: it shall be our pride, that we are Christians.
TO MY LADY HONORIA HAY.
Discoursing of the Necessity of Baptism ; and the Estate of those
which necessarily want it. MADAM: MeThinks children are like teeth, troublesome both in the breeding and losing; and, oftentimes painful, while they stand: yet such, as we neither would nor can well be without.
I go not about to comfort you, thus late, for your loss: I rather congratulate your wise moderation, and Christian care of these first spiritual privileges; desiring only to satisfy you, in what you heard as a witness; not in what you
needed as a mother. Children are the blessings of parents; and baptism is the blessing of children and parents: wherein there is not only use, but necessity; necessity, not in respect so much of the end, as of the