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THE DANGER OF APOSTACY FROM THE TRUE RELIGION.
But if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.—Heb. x. 38.
THE great design of this Epistle (whoever was the author of it, which 1 shall not now inquire into) is plainly this—to confirm the Jews, who were but newly converted to Christianity, in the steadfast profession of that faith which they had embraced, and to arm them against that temptation which Christians were then exposed to, viz. the fierce and cruel persecutions which threatened those of that profession.
And to this purpose he represents to them the excellency of that religion, above any other former revelation, that God had made of himself to the world, both in respect of the author and revealer of it, who was the Son of God, and in respect of the revelation itself; which, as it contains better and more perfect directions for a good life, so likewise more powerful and effectual motives thereto, better promises, and more terrible threatenings, than were annexed to the observation of the Jewish law, or clearly and certainly discoverable by the light of nature. From these considerations, he earnestly persuades them, all along throughout this Epistle, to continue constant in the profession of this faith, and not to suffer themselves to be frighted out of it by the terror of persecution: (chap. ii. ver. 1.) “Therefore, we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things 201which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip;” and (chap. iv. 1.) “Let us therefore fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should come short of it;” and (ver. 23. of this chapter), “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith, without wavering;” and to encourage them to constancy, he sets before them the glorious rewards and recompences of the gospel, (ver. 35.) “Cast not away therefore your confidence,” τὴν παῤῥησίαν ὑμῶν, “your free and open profession of Christianity, which hath great recompence of reward.”
And then, on the other hand, to deter them from apostacy from this profession, he represents to them the horrible danger of it here in the text: “But if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”
I shall briefly explain the words, and then prose cute that which I mainly intended in them. “If any man draw back,” Ἐὰν ὑποστείληται: these words, with the foregoing, are cited out of the prophet Habakkuk, (chap. ii. 3, 4.) and they are cited by the apostle according to the translation of the LXX. which differs somewhat from the Hebrew; and the difference ariseth from the various readings of the Hebrew word, which is rendered by the LXX. “to draw back;” but by the change of a letter, signifies “to be lifted up,” as we render it in the prophet; but however that be, the apostle follows the translation of the LXX. and accommodates it to his purpose. Ἐὰν ὑποστείληται, “if any man draw back;” the word signifies to keep back, to withdraw, to sneak and slink away out of fear, to fail or faint in any enterprise: and thus this word is rendered in the New Testament. (Acts xx. 20.) 202οὐδέν ὑποεστειλάμην, “I did not withhold,” or “keep back any thing that was profitable for you;” and so it is said of St. Peter, (Gal. ii. 12.) ὑπέστελλεν ἑαυτὸν, “he slunk away,” or “withdrew himself, fearing them of the circumcision;” and the Hebrew word which is here rendered by the LXX. “to draw back,” is rendered elsewhere ἐκλείπειν, which is “to fail,” or “faint;” from all which it appears, that by “drawing back,” the apostle here means, men’s quitting their profession of Christianity, and slinking out of it, for fear of suffering for it.
“My soul shall have no pleasure in him:” these words are plainly a μείωσις, and less is said than is meant; for the meaning is, that God will be extremely displeased with them, and punish them very severely. The like figure to this you have Psal. v. 4: “Thou art not a God that hast pleasure in wickedness;” which in the next verse is explained, by his hatred and detestation of those who are guilty of it, “Thou hatest all the workers of iniquity.” So that the plain sense of the words is this, that apostacy from the profession of God’s true religion, is a thing highly provoking to him, and will be most severely punished by him.
In speaking to this argument, I shall consider these four things.
I. The nature of this sin of apostacy from religion.
II. The several steps and degrees of it.
III. The heinousness of it.
IV. The great danger of it, and the terrible punishment it exposeth men to. And when I have spoken to these, I shall conclude all with a short exhortation, “to hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.”
I. We will consider the nature of this sin of 203apostacy from religion: and it consists in forsaking or renouncing the profession of religion, whether it be by an open declaration in words, or a virtual declaration of it by our actions; for it comes all to one in the sight of God, and the different manner of doing it does not alter the nature of the thing. He indeed that renounceth religion by an open declaration in words, offers the greatest and boldest defiance to it; but he is likewise an apostate, who silently withdraws himself from the profession of it, who quits it for his interest, or for fear disowns it and sneaks out of the profession of it, and forsakes the communion of those who own it. Thus Demas was an apostate, in quitting Christianity for some worldly interest; “Demas hath forsaken us, having loved this present world,” saith St. Paul, (2 Tim. iv. 10.)
And those whom our Saviour describes, (Matt. xiii. 20, 21.) “who received the word into stony ground,” were apostates out of fear—“they heard the word, and with joy received it; but having no root in themselves, they endured but for a while, and when tribulation and persecution ariseth because of the word, presently they fall off.”
And there is likewise a partial apostacy from Christianity, when some fundamental article of it is denied, whereby, in effect and by consequence, the whole Christian faith is overthrown. Of this Hymeneus and Philetus were guilty, of whom the apostle says, that they “erred concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection was past already, and thereby overthrew the faith of some;” (2 Tim. ii. 17, 18.) that is, they turned the resurrection into an allegory, and did thereby really destroy a most fundamental article of the Christian religion.204
So that to make a man an apostate, it is not necessary that a man should solemnly renounce his baptism and declare Christianity to be false; there are several other ways whereby a man may bring himself under this guilt; as by a silent quitting of his religion, and withdrawing himself from the communion of all that profess it; by denying an essential doctrine of Christianity; by undermining the great end and design of it, by teaching doctrines which directly tend to encourage men in impenitence, and a wicked course of life; nay, to authorize all manner of impiety and vice, in telling men that whatever they do they cannot sin; for which the primitive Christians did look upon the Gnostics as no better than apostates from Christianity; and though they retained the name of Christians, yet not to be truly and really so. And there is likewise a partial apostacy from the Christian religion; of which I shall speak under the
II. Second head I proposed, which was, to consider the several sorts and degrees of apostacy. The high est of all is, the renouncing and forsaking of Christianity, or of some essential part of it, which is a virtual apostacy from it: but there are several tendencies towards this, which they who are guilty of, are in some degree guilty of this sin. As,
1. Indifferency in religion, and want of all sort of concernment for it; when a man, though he never quitted his religion, yet is so little concerned for it, that a very small occasion or temptation would make him do it; he is contented to be reckoned in the number of those who profess it, so long as it is the fashion, and he finds no great inconvenience by it; but is so indifferent in his mind about it, (like Gallio “who minded none of those things”) that he can turn 205himself into any other shape, when his interest requires it; so that though he never actually deserted it, yet he is a kind of apostate in the preparation and disposition of his mind: and to such persons, that title which Solomon gives to some may fitly enough be applied—they are “backsliders in heart.”
2. Another tendency to this sin, and a great degree of it, is withdrawing from the public marks and testimonies of the profession of religion, by forsaking the assemblies of Christians for the worship and service of God; to withdraw ourselves from those, for fear of danger or suffering, is a kind of denial of our religion. And this was the case of some in the apostles time, when persecution grew hot, and the open profession of Christianity dangerous; to avoid this danger, many appeared not in the assemblies of Christians, for fear of being observed and brought into trouble for it. This the apostle taxeth some for in this chapter, and speaketh of it as a letting go our profession, and a kind of deserting of Christianity: (ver. 23. 25.) “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering—not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is.” He doth not say they had quitted their profession, but they had but a loose hold of it, and were silently stealing away from it.
3. A light temper of mind, which easily receives impressions from those who lie; in wait to deceive and seduce men from the truth. When men are not well rooted and established in religion, they are apt to be inveigled by the crafty insinuations of seducers, to be moved with every wind of doctrine, and to be easily shaken in mind by every trifling 206piece of sophistry that is confidently obtruded upon them for a weighty argument.
Now this is a temper of mind which disposeth men to apostacy, and renders them an easy prey to every one that takes a pleasure and a pride in making proselytes. It is true, indeed, a man should always have a mind ready to entertain truth, when it is fairly proposed to him; but the main things of religion are so plainly revealed, and lie so obvious to every ordinary capacity, that every man may discern them; and when he hath once entertained them, ought to be steadfast and unmoveable in them, and not suffer himself to be whiffled out of them by an insignificant noise about the infallibility of a visible church; much less ought he to be moved by any man’s uncharitableness and positiveness in damning all that are not of his mind.
There are some things so very plain, not only in Scripture, but to the common reason of mankind, that no subtilty of discourse, no pretended authority, or even infallibility of any church, ought to stagger us in the least about them; as, that we ought not, or cannot believe any thing in direct contradiction to sense and reason; that the people ought to read and study the Holy Scriptures, and to serve God and pray to him in a language which they understand; that they ought to receive the sacrament as our Saviour instituted and appointed it—that is in both kinds; that it can neither be our duty, nor lawful, to do that which God hath forbidden, as he hath done the worship of images in the second commandment, as plainly as words can do it. Upon any one of these points, a man would fix his foot, and stand alone against the whole world.207
4. Another degree of apostacy is, a departure from the purity of the Christian doctrine and worship in a gross and notorious manner. This is a partial, though not a total apostacy from the Christian religion; and there have been, and still are some in the world, who are justly charged with this degree of apostacy from religion; namely, such as, though they retain and profess the belief of all the articles of the Christian faith, and worship the only true God, and him whom he hath sent, Jesus Christ, yet have greatly perverted the Christian religion, by superinducing and adding new articles of faith, and gross corruptions and superstitions in worship, and imposing upon men the belief and practice of these as necessary to salvation. And St. Paul is my warrant for this censure, who chargeth those who added to the Christian religion, the necessity of circumcision, and observing the law of Moses, and thereby perverted the gospel of Christ, as guilty, in some degree, of apostacy from Christianity; for he calls it preaching another gospel, (Gal. i. 7, 8.) “There be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ: but though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you, than that which we have preached, let him be accursed.” And those who were seduced by these teachers, he chargeth them with having in some sort quitted the gospel of Christ and embraced another gospel: (ver. 6.) “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel.” So that they who thus pervert and corrupt the Christian doctrine or worship, are plainly guilty of a partial apostacy from Christianity; and they who quit the purity of the Christian doctrine and worship, and 208go over to the communion of those who have thus perverted Christianity, are in a most dangerous state, and, in the judgment of St. Paul, are in some sort removed “unto another gospel.” I shall now proceed, in the
III. Third place, to consider the heinousness of this sin. And it will appear to be very heinous, if we consider what an affront it is to God, and how great a contempt of him. When God hath revealed his will to mankind, and sent no less person than his own Son out of his own bosom to do it, and hath given such testimonies to him from heaven, by signs and wonders, and divers miracles and gifts of the Holy Ghost; when he hath transmitted down to us so faithful a record of this revelation, and of the miracles wrought to confirm it in the books of the Holy Scriptures; and when we ourselves have so often declared our firm belief of this revelation: yet, after all this, to fall from it, and deny it, or any part of it, or to embrace doctrines and practices plainly contrary to it; this certainly cannot be done without the greatest affront and contempt of the testimony of God himself; for it is in effect, and by interpretation, to declare, that either we do not believe what God says, or that we do not fear what he can do. So St. John tells us (1 Ep. v. 10.), “He that believeth not God, hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record which God hath given of his Son.”
And all along in this Epistle to the Hebrews, the apostle sets himself to aggravate this sin, calling it “an evil heart of unbelief to depart from the living God;” (chap. iii. 12.) And he frequently calls it so, κατ᾽ ἐξοχὴν, and by way of eminency, as being of all sins the greatest and most heinous: (Chap. x. 26.) 209“If we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth.” That the apostle here speaks of the sin of apostacy, is plain from the whole scope of his discourse; for having exhorted them before, (ver. 23.) “to hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering, not forsaking the assembling of themselves together,” he immediately adds, “for if we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth;” that is, if we fall off from Christianity after we have embraced it. And (chap. xii. 1.) “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us;” that is, the great sin of apostacy from religion, to which they were then so strongly tempted by that fierce persecution which attended it; and therefore he adds, “let us run with patience the race which is set before us;” that is, let us arm ourselves with patience against the sufferings we are like to meet with in our Christian course. To oppose the truth, and resist the clear evidence of it, is a great sin, and men are justly condemned for it. (John iii. 19.) “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light:” but to desert the truth after we have been convinced of it, to fall off from the profession of it after we have embraced it, is a much greater sin. Opposition to the truth, may proceed in a great measure from ignorance and prejudice, which is a great extenuation; and therefore St. Paul tells us, that, after all his violent persecution of Christianity, he found mercy because he .did it “ignorantly and in unbelief.” To revolt from the truth after we have made profession of it; after we have “known the way of righteousness, to turn from the holy commandment;” this is the great aggravation. The apostle makes wilfulness an usual ingredient 210into the sin of apostacy, “If we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth.”
And as this sin is one of the greatest affronts to God, so it is the highest and most effectual disparagement of religion: for it is not so much considered, what the enemies of religion speak against it, because they speak evil of the things which they know not, and of which they have had no trial and experience; but he that falls off from religion, after he hath made profession of it, declares to the world that he hath tried it, and dislikes it, and pretends to leave it, because he hath not found that truth and goodness in it which he expected, and, upon long experience of it, sees reason to prefer another religion before it. So that nothing can be more despiteful to religion than this, and more likely to bring it into contempt; and, therefore, the apostle (ver. 29, of this chapter) calls it a” trampling underfoot the Son of God, and making the blood of the covenant a profane thing, and offering despite to the Spirit of grace:” for we cannot put a greater scorn upon the Son of God, who revealed this doctrine to the world; nor upon his blood, which was shed to confirm and seal the truth of it; and upon the Holy Ghost, who came down in miraculous gifts to give testimony to it; than, notwithstanding all this, to renounce this doctrine, and to forsake this religion. But we shall yet farther see the heinousness of this sin, in the terrible punishment it exposeth men to; which was the
IV. Fourth and last thing I was to consider. And this is represented to us in a most terrible manner, not only in this Epistle, but in other places of Scripture. This sin is placed in the highest rank of pardonable sins, and next to the sin against the 211Holy Ghost, which our Saviour declares to be absolutely unpardonable. And indeed the Scripture speaks very doubtfully of the pardonableness of this sin, as being near akin to that against the Holy Ghost, being said to be an “offering despite to the Spirit of grace.” In the sixth chapter of this Epistle, ver. 4, 5, 6, the apostle speaks in a very severe manner concerning the state of those, who had apostatized from Christianity, after the solemn profession of it in baptism: “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened (that is, baptized) and have tasted of the heavenly gift, (that is regeneration) and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost; and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come (that is, have been instructed in the Christian religion, and endowed with the miraculous powers of the gospel age, for the Jews used to call the age of the Messias, seculum futurum, or “the world to come”); it is impossible for those to be renewed again unto repentance;” where the least we can understand by impossible is, that it is extremely difficult; for so the word impossible is sometimes used; as when our Saviour says, “it is impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And (chap. x. 26.) the apostle, speaking of the same thing, says, “if we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sin;” that is, they who renounce Christianity, since they reject the only way of expiation, “there remains no more sacrifice for their sins.”
St. Peter likewise expresseth himself very severely concerning this sort of persons, (2 Epist. ii. 20, 21.) “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour 212Jesus Christ, (that is, after they have been brought from heathenism to Christianity) they are entangled therein again, and overcome; the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” He seems loath to say how sad the condition of such persons is; but this he tells them, that it is much worse than when they were heathens before; and he gives the reason: “for it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” And St. John calls this sin of apostacy, the “sin unto death;” and though he do not forbid Christians to pray for them that are guilty of it, yet he will not say, that they should pray for them: (1 Epist. v. 16.) “If any man see his brother sin a sin, which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death: there is a sin unto death; I do not say, that he shall pray for it.” Now that by this sin and death, the apostle means apostacy from the Christian religion to idolatry, is most probable from what follows: (ver. 18.) “We know that whosoever is born of God, sinneth not (that is, this sin unto death); but he that is begotten of God, keepeth himself, and the wicked one toucheth him not (that is, he is preserved from idolatry, unto which the devil had seduced so great a part of mankind); and we know that we are of God, and the whole world, ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ κεῖται, is under the dominion of that wicked one, (viz. the devil, whom the Scripture elsewhere calls the God of this world;) and we know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true:” (that is, hath brought us from the worship of false gods to the knowledge and worship of the 213true God;) and then he concludes, “Little children keep yourselves from idols:” which caution hath no manner of dependance upon what went before, unless we understand the “sin unto death” in this sense; and it is the more probable, that it is so to be understood, because apostacy is so often in this Epistle to the Hebrews called “the sin,” by way of eminency, as it is here by St. John: “Whosoever is born of God, sinneth not.”
So that, at the very best, the Scripture speaks doubtfully of the pardon of this sin; however, that the punishment of it, unrepented of, shall be very dreadful. It seems to be mildly expressed here in the text, “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him:” but it is the more severe, for being expressed so mildly, according to the intention of the figure here used: and therefore, in the next words, this expression, of God’s taking no pleasure in such persons, is explained by their utter ruin and perdition: “But we are not of them that draw back unto perdition.” And in several parts of this Epistle, there are very severe passages to this purpose: (chap. ii. 2, 3.) “If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” And (chap. x. 26, 27.) “If we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin; but a certain fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversary. He that despised Moses law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, that hath trodden under foot the Son of God? &c. For we 214know him who hath said, Vengeance is mine, I will recompense, saith the Lord.” And, again, “the Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” What can be more severe and terrible than these expressions?
I will mention but one text more, and that is Rev. xxi. 8. where, in the catalogue of great sinners, those who apostatize from religion, out of fear, do lead the van: “He that overcometh shall inherit all things, (which is elsewhere in this book expressed by continuing “faithful unto the death;”) and I will be his God, and he shall be my son: but the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake, which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” “The fearful, and unbelievers, and liars;” that is, they who out of fear relapse into infidelity, and abide not in the truth, shall be reckoned in the first rank of offenders, and be punished accordingly.
And thus I have done with the four things I propounded to speak to from these words: the nature of apostacy; the several steps and degrees of it; the heinous nature of this sin; the danger of it, and the terrible punishment it exposeth men to.
And is there any need now, to exhort men to hold fast the profession of faith, when the danger of drawing back is so evident, and so terrible? or is there any reason and occasion for it? certainly there is no great danger amongst us, of men’s apostatizing from Christianity, and turning Jews, or Turks, or heathens: I do not think there is, but yet, for all that, we are not free from the danger of apostacy; there is great danger, not of men’s apostatizing from one religion to another, but from religion to infidelity 215and atheism; and of this worst kind of apostacy of all other, I wish the age we live in had not afforded us too many instances. It is greatly to be lamented, that among those who have professed Christianity, any should be found that should make it their endeavour to undermine the great principles of all religion—the belief of a God and his providence; and of the immortality of the souls of men; and a state of rewards and punishments after this life; and to bring the most serious matters in the world into contempt, and to turn them into jest and raillery. This is not only a renouncing of Christianity, the religion which God hath revealed, but even of the religion which is born with us, and the principles and notions which God hath planted in every man’s mind: this is an impiety of the first magnitude, and not to be mentioned without grief and horror; and this, it is to be feared, hath had a great hand in those great calamities which our eyes have seen; and I pray God it do not draw down still more and greater judgments upon this nation: but I hope there are none here that need to be cautioned against this horrible impiety, and highest degree of apostacy from the living God. That which people are much more in danger of, is apostacy from the purity of the Christian doctrine and worship, so happily recovered by a regular reformation, and established among us by all the authority that laws, both ecclesiastical and civil, can give it; and which, in truth, is no other than the ancient and primitive Christianity; I say, a defection from this, to those gross errors and superstitions, which the reformation had pared off, and freed us from. I do not say, that this is a total apostacy from Christianity; but it is a partial apostacy and defection, and a very dangerous one; and 216that those, who, after they have received the knowledge of the truth, fall off from it into those errors and corruptions, are highly guilty before God, and their condition certainly worse, and more dangerous, than of those who are brought up in those errors and superstitions, and never knew better; for there are terrible threatenings in Scripture against those who fall away from the truth, which they once embraced, and were convinced of. “If we sin wilfully, after we have received the knowledge of the truth,” &c. and “if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”
God considers ever man’s advantages and opportunities of knowledge, and their disadvantages likewise; and makes all reasonable allowances for them; and for men to continue in the errors they have been always brought up in; or, which comes much to one, in errors which they were led into by principles early infused into them, before they were in any measure competent judges of those matters; I say, for such persons to continue in those errors, and to oppose and reject the contrary truths, against which, by their education, they have received so strong and violent a prejudice, this may be in a great degree excusable, and find pardon with God, upon a general repentance for all sins, both known and unknown, and can not be reasonably charged with the guilt of this great sin of apostacy: but not to abide in the truth, after we have entertained and professed it, having sufficient means and advantages of knowing it, hath no excuse.
I would not be rash in condemning particular persons of any society or communion of Christians, provided they be sincerely devout, and just, and sober to the best of their knowledge; I had much 217rather leave them to God, whose mercies are great, than to pass an uncharitable censure upon them, as to their eternal state and condition: but the case is far otherwise where the opportunities of knowledge are afforded to men, and men love darkness rather than light; for they who have the means and advantages of knowing their Master’s will, are answerable to God as if they had known it; because if they had not been grossly negligent, and wanting to themselves, they might have known it.
And this, I fear, is the case of the generality of those who have been bred up to years of consideration and choice in the reformed religion, and forsake it; because they do it without sufficient reason, and there are invincible objections against it. They do it without sufficient reason; because every one amongst us knows, or may know upon very little inquiry, that we hold all the articles of the faith which are contained in the ancient creeds of the Christian church, and into which all Christians are baptized; that we inculcate upon men the necessity of a good life, and of sincere repentance, and perfect contrition for our sins, such as is followed with real reformation and amendment of our lives, and that, without this, no man can be saved by any device whatsoever.
Now what reason can any man have, to question whether he may be saved in that faith which saved the first Christians, and by believing the twelve articles of the Apostles’ Creed, though he cannot swallow the twelve articles which are added to it in the creed of Pope Pius IV. every one of which, besides many and great corruptions and superstitions in worship, are so many and invincible objections against the communion of the Roman church, as I could particularly shew, if it had not been already done, in so 218many learned treatises upon this argument? What is there then, that should move any reasonable man to forsake the communion of our church, and to quit the reformed religion?
There are three things chiefly with which they endeavour to amuse and art right weaker minds.
1. A great noise of infallibility, which, they tell us, is so excellent a means to determine and put an end to all differences. To which I shall at present only object this prejudice; that there are not wider and hotter d inferences among us, about any thing whatsoever, than are amongst them, about this admirable means of ending all differences; as, where this infallibility is seated, that men may know how to have recourse to it, for the ending of differences.
2. They endeavour to frighten men with the danger of schism. But every man knows, that the guilt of schism lies at their door, who impose sinful articles of communion; and not upon them, who, for fear of sinning against God, cannot submit to those articles; which we have done, and are still ready to make good, to be the case betwixt us and the church of Rome. But,
3. The terrible engine of all is, their positive and confident damning of all that live and die out of the communion of their church. This I hate fully spoken to upon another occasion, and therefore shall only say at present, that every man ought to have better thoughts of God, than to believe, that he. who delighteth not in the death of sinners, and would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, will confirm the sentence of such uncharitable men, as take upon them to condemn men for those things, for which our Saviour in his gospel condemns no man. And of all things in 219the world, one would think that the uncharitableness of any church should be an argument to no man to run into its communion.
I shall conclude with the apostle’s exhortation, verse the 23d of this chapter; “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; and provoke one another to charity and good works; and so much the more, because the day approacheth, in which God will judge the faith and lives of men by Jesus Christ, according to his gospel/220
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