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Chapter V.

The third chapter of my treatise, consisting in the preventing and removing such objections as the precedent discourse might seem liable and obnoxious unto, is proposed to examination by our reverend author in the third chapter of his book, and the objections mentioned undertaken to be managed by him; with what success, some few considerations will evince.

The first objection by me proposed was taken from the common apprehension of the nature of schism, and the issue of stating it as by me laid down, — namely, hence it would follow that the “separation of any man or men from a true church, or of one church from others, is not schism.” But now waiving, for the present, the more large consideration of the name and thing, — which yet in the process of my discourse I do condescend upon, according to the principle laid down, — I say that, in the precise signification of the word, and description of the thing as given by the Holy Ghost, this is true. No such separation is in the Scripture so called, or so accounted: whether it may not in a large sense be esteemed as such, I do not dispute; yea, I afterward grant it so far as to make that concession the bottom and foundation of my whole plea for the vindication of the reformed churches from that crime. Our reverend author re-enforces the objection by sundry instances: as, — 1. “That he hath disproved that sense or precise signification of the word in Scripture;’’ how well, let the reader judge. 2. “That supposing that to be the only sense mentioned in that case of the Corinthians, yet may another sense be intimated in Scripture, and deduced by regular and rational consequence.” Perhaps this will not be so easy an undertaking, this being the only place where the name is mentioned or thing spoken of in an ecclesiastical sense; but when any proof is tendered of what is here affirmed, we shall attend unto it. It is said, indeed, that “if 240separation in judgment in a church be a schism, much more to separate from a church.” But our question is about the precise notion of the word in Scripture, and consequences from thence, not about consequents from the nature of things; concerning which, if our author had been pleased to have stayed a while, he would have found me granting as much as he could well desire. 3. 1 John ii. 19 is sacrificed, ἀμετρίᾳ τῆς ἀνθολκῆς, and interpreted of schism; where (to make one venture in imitation of our author) all orthodox interpreters and writers of controversies expound it of apostasy, neither will the context or arguing of the apostle admit of another exposition. Men’s wresting of Scripture to give countenance to inveterate errors is one of their worst concomitants. So, then, that separation from churches is oftentimes evil is readily granted. Of what nature that evil is, with what are the aggravations of it, a judgment is to be made from the pleas and pretences that its circumstances afford. So far as it proceeds from such dissensions as before were mentioned, so far it proceeds from schism; but in its own nature, absolutely considered, it is not so.

To render my former assertions the more unquestionably evident, I consider the several accounts given of men’s blamable departures from any church or churches mentioned in Scripture, and manifest that none of them come under the head of schism. “Apostasy, irregularity of walking, and professed sensuality,” are the heads whereinto all blamable departures from the churches in the Scripture are referred.

That there are other accounts of this crime our author doth not assert; he only says, that “all or some of the places” I produce as “instances of a blamable separation from a church do mind the nature of schism as precedaneous to the separation” Whatever the matter is, I do not find him speaking so faintly and with so much caution through his whole discourse as in this place: “All or some do it; they mind the nature of schism; they mind it as precedaneous to the separation.” So the sum of what he aims at in contesting about the exposition of those places of Scripture is this: “Some of them do mind” (I know not how) “the nature of schism, which he never once named as precedaneous to separation; therefore, the precise notion of schism in the Scripture doth not denote differences and divisions in a church only.” “Quod erat demonstrandum.” That I should spend time in debating a consideration so remote from the state of the controversy in hand, I am sure will not be expected by such as understand it.

Page 77 [p. 122] of my treatise I affirm, “That for a man to withdraw or withhold himself from the communion external and visible of any church or churches, on the pretension or plea, be it 241true or otherwise, that the worship, doctrine, or: discipline instituted by Christ is corrupted among them, with which corruption he dares not defile himself, it is nowhere in the Scripture called schism; nor is that case particularly exemplified or expressly supposed, whereby a judgment may be made of the fact at large, but we are left upon the whole matter to the guidance of such general rules and principles as are given us for that end and purpose.” Such is my meanness of apprehension, that I could not understand but that either this assertion must be subscribed unto as of irrefragable verity, or else that instances to the contrary must have been given out of the Scripture; for on that hinge alone doth this present controversy (and that by consent) turn itself. But our reverend author thinks good to take another course (for which his reasons may easily be conjectured), and excepts against the assertion itself in general, first, as “ambiguous and fallacious,” and then also intimates that he will scan the words in particular. “Mihi jussa capessere [fas est].” 1. He says that, “I tell not whether a man may separate where there is corruption in some one of these only, or in all of them; nor, 2. How far some or all of these must be corrupted before we separate.” Ans. This is no small vanity under the sun, that men will not only measure themselves by themselves, but others also by their own measure. Our author is still with his finger in the sore, and therefore supposes that others must needs take the same course. Is there any thing in my assertion whether a man may separate from any church or no? any thing upon what corruption he may lawfully so do? any thing of stating the difference betwixt the Presbyterians and Independents? do I at all fix it on this foot of account when I come so to do? I humbly beg of this author, that if I have so obscurely and intricately delivered myself and meaning that he cannot come to the understanding of my design nor import of my expressions, he would favour me with a command to explain myself before he engage into a public refutation of what he doth not so clearly apprehend. Alas! I do not in this place in the least intend to justify any separation, nor to show what pleas are sufficient to justify a separation, nor what corruption in the church separated from is necessary thereunto, nor at all regard the controversy his eye is always on; but only declare what is not comprised in the precise Scripture notion of schism, as also how a judgment is to be made of that which is so by me excluded, whether it be good or evil. Would he have been pleased to have spoken to the business in hand, or any thing to the present purpose, it must not have been by an inquiry into the grounds and reasons of separation, how far it may be justified by the plea mentioned, or how far not; when that plea is to be allowed, and when rejected; but this only was incumbent on him to prove, — namely, that such a 242separation upon that plea, or the like, is called schism in the Scripture, and as such a thing condemned. What my concernment is in the ensuing observations, that “the Judaical church was as corrupt as ours, — that if a bare plea, true or false, will serve to justify men, all separatists may be justified,” he himself will easily perceive. But, however, I cannot but tell him by the way, that he who will dogmatize in this controversy from the Judaical church, and the course of proceedings amongst them, to the direction and limitation of duty as to the churches of the gospel, — considering the vast and important differences between the constitutions of the one and the other, with the infallible obligation to certain principles, on the account of the typical institution in that primitive church, when there neither was nor could be any more in the world, — must expect to bring other arguments to compass his design than the analogy pretended. [As] for the justification of separatists of the reason, if it will ensue upon the examination for separation, and the circumstances of the separating, whereunto I refer them, let it follow, and let who will complain.

But to fill up the measure of the mistake he is engaged in, he tells us, p. 75, that “this is the pinch of the question, whether a man or a company of men may separate from a true church, upon a plea of corruption in it, true or false, and set up another church as to ordinances, renouncing that church to be a true church. This,” saith he, “is plainly our case at present with the doctor and his associates.” Truly, I do not know that ever I was necessitated to a more sad and fruitless employment in this kind of labour and travail. Is that the question in present agitation? is any thing, word, tittle, or iota spoken to it? Is it my present, business to state the difference between the Presbyterians and Independents? Do I anywhere do it upon this account? Do I not everywhere positively deny that there is any such separation made? Nay, can common honesty allow such a state of a question, if that were the business in hand, to be put upon me? Are their ordinances and churches so denied by me as is pretended? What I have often said must again be repeated: the reverend author hath his eye so fixed on the difference between the Presbyterians and the Independents, that he is at every turn led out of the way, into such mistakes as it was not possible he should otherwise be overtaken withal. This is, perhaps, “mentis gratissimus error;” but I hope it would be no death to him to be delivered from it. When I laid down the principles which it was his good will to oppose, I had many things under consideration as to the settling of conscience in respect of manifold oppositions, and, to tell him the truth, least valued that which he is pleased to manage and to look upon as my sole intendment. If it be not possible to deliver him from this strong imagination, that carries the images and species of 243Independency always before his eyes, we shall scarce speak “ad idem” in this whole discourse. I desire, then, that he would take notice, that as the state of the controversy he proposes doth no more relate to that which peculiarly is pretended to lie under his consideration than any other thing whatever that he might have mentioned; so when the peculiar difference between him and the Independents comes to be managed, scarce any one term of his state will be allowed.

Exceptions are, in the next place, attempted to be put in to my assertion, that there is no example in the Scripture of any one church’s departure from the union which they ought to hold with others, unless it be in some of their departures from the common faith, which is not schism; much with the same success as formerly. Let him produce one instance, and “en herbam.’’1414   “I am cast to the ground, I own myself conquered.” — Ed. I grant the Roman church, on a supposition that it is a church (which yet I utterly deny), to be a schismatical church, upon the account of the intestine divisions of all sorts; on what other accounts other men urge them with the same guilt, I suppose he knows by this that I am not concerned. Having finished this exploit, because I had said “if I were unwilling I did not understand how I might be compelled to carry on the notion of schism any farther,” he tells me, “though I be unwilling, he doubts not but to be able to compel me.” But who told him I was unwilling so to do? Do I not immediately, without any compulsion, very freely fall upon the work? Did I say I was unwilling? Certainly it ought not to be thus. Of his abilities in other things I do not doubt; in this discourse he is pleased to exercise more of something else.

There is but one passage more that needs to be remarked, and so this chapter also is dismissed. He puts in a caveat, that I limit not schism to the worship of God, upon these words of mine: “The consideration of what sort of union in reference to the worship of God” (where he inserts in the repetition, “mark that!”), “as instituted by Jesus Christ, is the foundation of what I have farther to offer;” whereto he subjoins, “The design of this is, that he may have a fair retreat when he is charged with breach of union in other respects, and so with schism, to escape by this evasion. This breach of union is not in reference to the worship of God in one assembly met to that end.” I wish we had once an end of these mistakes and false, uncharitable surmises. By the “worship of God” I intend the whole compass of institutions, and their tendency thereunto; and I know that I speak properly enough. In so doing I have no such design as I am charged withal, nor do I need it. I walk not in fear of this author’s forces, that I should be providing beforehand to secure my retreat. I have passed the bounds of the precise notion of schism before insisted on, and yet doubt not but, God assisting, to make good 244my ground. If he judge I cannot, let him command my personal attendance on him at any time, to be driven from it by him. Let him by any means prove against me, at any time, a breach of any union instituted by Jesus Christ, and I will promise him that with all speed I will retreat from that state or thing whereby I have so done. I must profess to this reverend author that I like not the cause he manages one whit the better for the way whereby he manageth it. We had need watch and pray that we be not led into temptation, seeing we are in some measure not ignorant of the vices of Satan.

Now, that he may see this door of escape shut up, that so he may not need to trouble himself any more in taking care lest I escape that way, when he intends to fall upon me with those blows, which as yet I have not felt, I shall shut it fast myself, beyond all possibility of my opening it again. I here, then, declare unto him, that whenever he shall prove that I have broken any union of the institution of Jesus Christ, of what sort soever, I will not, in excuse of myself, insist on the plea mentioned, but will submit to the discipline which shall be thought meet by him to be exercised towards any one offending in that kind. Yet truly, on this engagement, I would willingly contract with him, that in his next reply he should not deal with me as he hath done in this, neither as to my person nor as to the differences between us.


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