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SECT. II. We are to join ourselves with those who are most worthy the name of Christians.

AMONGST Christians that differ from each other, and not only differ, but (to their shame!) condemn one another, and with cruel hatred banish them their society; to agree to any of them without examination, or, according to their order, to condemn others without consideration, shews a man not only to be imprudent, but very rash and unjust. That congregation which rejects, though but in part, the true religion, (a representation of which he has formed in his mind), and condemns him that believes it, cannot be 253thought by such an one a truly Christian congregation in all things; nor can it prevail with him to condemn every man which that church shall esteem worthy to be condemned, and cast out of the society of Christians. Wherefore a wise and honest man ought above all things to examine, in these dissensions amongst Christians, who they are which best deserve the holy name of disciples of Christ, and to adhere to them. If any one should ask, what we are required to do by the Christian religion, supposing there were no such Christian society at all, amongst whom the true doctrine of Christ seems to be taught, and amongst whom there is not a necessity laid upon us of condemning some doctrine which we judge to be true: in this case, he who apprehends these errors, ought to endeavour to withdraw others from them; in doing of which, he must use the greatest candour,877877   Here that precept of Christ’s takes place, Matt. x. 16. where we are commanded “to be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves:” that Is, to be as far simple, as not to fall into imprudence; so wise as not to be crafty, and offend against sincerity; in which matter, there are but few who know how to steer their course in all things, between the rocks of imprudence and craftiness. joined with the highest prudence and constancy, lest he offend men without doing them any advantage, or lest all hopes of bringing them to truth and moderation be too suddenly cast off. In the mean time, we are to speak, modestly and prudently, what we think to be the truth; nor should any one be condemned by the judgment of another, as infected with error, who seems to think right. God has never forsaken, nor never will forsake, the Christian name so far, as that there shall remain no true Christians; or at least none such as cannot be brought back into the true way; with whom we may maintain a stricter society, if others will not return to a more sound opinion; and openly withdraw ourselves from the obstinate, (which yet we ought not to do without having tried all other means to no purpose); if it be not allowed you to speak your opinion fairly and modestly amongst them, and to forbear condemning those whom you think are not to be 254condemned.878878   Whilst it is allowed to have a different opinion, and to profess our disagreement, there is no reason to depart from a public society, unless the fundamentals of Christianity be perverted by it; but where this is not allowed, and we cannot, without dissembling or denying the truth, live in it, then we ought to forsake that society; for it is not lawful to tell a lie, or to dissemble the truth, whilst a lie possesses the place of it, and claims to itself the honour due to truth only. If this be not done, “the candle is put under a bushel.” Thus Christ did not depart from the assemblies of the Jews, neither did the apostles forsake them, so long as they were allowed to profess and teach the doctrine of their Master in them. See Acts xiii. 46. The Christian religion forbids us speaking contrary to our mind, and falsifying and condemning the innocent; nor can he be unacceptable to God, who, out of respect and admiration of those divine precepts, can endure any thing rather than that they should be broke. Such a disposition of mind arising from a sense of our duty, and a most ardent love of God, cannot but be highly well-pleasing to him.

Wherefore, amongst Christians who differ from each other, we are to examine which of them all think the most right; nor are we ever to condemn any but such as seem to us worthy to be condemned after a full examination of the matter; and we are to adhere to those who do not require any doctrines to be believed, which are esteemed by us to he false, nor any to be condemned which we think to be true. If we cannot obtain this of any Christian society, we, together with those who are of the same opinion with ourselves, ought to separate from them all, that we betray not the truth, and utter a falsity.


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