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Chapter X.

Independency no schism.

We are come now to the chapter that must do the work intended, or else “operam et oleum perdidimus.” “Independentism a Great Schism,” is the title of it. What this Independentism is he doth neither here declare, nor in any other part of his book; nor do I know what it is that he intends by it. I hear, indeed, from him that it is a “schism,” a “sect;” but of what peculiar import, or wherein it consists, he hath not declared. I suppose he would have it taken for separation from true churches; but neither doth the notion of the name, though individiously broached, and disavowed by them to whom it is ascribed, import any such thing, nor is the thing itself owned by them with whom he pretends to have to do. I find, indeed, that he tells us that all sectaries are Independents, — Anabaptists, Seekers, Ranters, Quakers. Doth he expect that I should undertake their defence? What if it should appear that I have done more against them than our reverend author, and many of his brethren joined with him? He may, perhaps, be willing to load myself and those which he is pleased to call my “associates,” my “party,” I know not what, with their evils and miscarriages; but is this done as becomes a 265Christian, a minister, a brother? What security hath he that, had he been the only judge and disposer of things in religion in this nation, if I and my associates had been sent to plant churches among the Indians, he should have prevented eruption of the errors and abominations which we have been exercised withal in this generation, unless he had sent for Duke d’Alva’s instruments to work his ends by? and, indeed, there is scarce any sect in the nation but had they their desires, they would take that course. This may be done by any that are uppermost, if they please. But how shall we know what it is he intends by Independentism? All, it may be, that are not Presbyterians are Independents. Among these some professedly separate both from them and us (for there are none that separate from them but withal they separate from us, that I know of), because, as they say, neither theirs nor ours are true churches. We grant them to be true churches, but withal deny that we separate from them. Is it possible at once to defend both these sects of men? Is it possible at once with the same arguments to charge them? The whole discourse, then, of our reverend author being uniform, it can concern but one of these sects of Independents; which it is, any man may judge that takes the least view of his treatise. He deals with them that unchurch their churches, unminister their ministers, disannul their ordinances, leaving them churchless, officerless, and in the like sad condition. Is this Independentism a schism? Though that it is properly so called he cannot prove, yet I hope he did not expect that I should plead for it. What I shall do in this case, I profess, well I know not. I here deny that I unminister their ministers, unchurch their churches. Hath this author any more to say to me or those of my persuasion? Doth not this whole discourse proceed upon a supposition that it is otherwise with them with whom he hath to do? Only, I must tell him by the way, that if he suppose by this concession that I justify and own their way, wherein they differ from the congregational ministers in England, to be of Christ’s institution, or that I grant all things to be done regularly among them and according to the mind of Christ, therein I must profess he is mistaken. In brief, by Independentism he intends a separation from true churches, with condemning them to be no churches, and their ministers no ministers, and their ordinances none or antichristian. Whatever becomes of the nature of schism, I disavow the appearing as an advocate in the behalf of this Independentism. If by Independentism he understand the peaceable proceeding of any of the people of God in this nation, in the several parts of it, to join themselves, by their free consent, to walk together in the observation and celebration of all the ordinances of Christ appointed to be observed and celebrated in particular churches, so to reform themselves 266from the disorders wherein they were entangled, — being not able in some things to join in that way of reformation which many godly ministers, commonly called Presbyterians, have engaged in and seek to promote, without judging and condemning them as to the whole of their station or ordinances; — if this, I say, be intended by Independentism, when the reverend author shall undertake to prove it schism, having not in this book spoken one word or tittle to it, his discourse will be attended unto. This whole chapter, then, being spent against them who deny them to be true churches and defend separation, I marvel what can be said unto it by me, or how I come to be concerned in it, who grant them true churches and deny separation.

But our reverend author, knowing that if this bottom be taken from under him, he hath no foundation for any thing he asserts, thought it not sufficient to charge me over and over with what is here denied, but at length attempts to make it good from mine own words; which if he do effect and make good, I confess he changes the whole nature and state of the dispute in hand. Let us see, then, how he answers this undertaking.

From those words of mine, “The reformation of any church, or any thing in it, is the reducing of it to its primitive institution,” approving the assertion as true, he labours to evince that I deny their churches to be true churches. How so, I pray? “Why, we erect new churches out of no churches; and it had been happy for England if we had all gone to do this work among the Indians.” What will prove England’s happiness or unhappiness the day will manifest; this is but man’s day and judgment; He is coming who will not judge by the seeing of the eye, nor by the hearing of the ear. In the meantime we bless God, and think all England hath cause to bless God, whatever become of us, that he and our brethren of the same mind with him in the things of God have their liberty to preach the gospel and carry on the work of reformation in their native soil, and are not sent into the ends of the earth, as many of ours have been. But how doth our gathering of churches deny them to be true churches? Doth our granting them to be true churches also grant that all the saints in England are members of their churches? It is notoriously known that it is and was otherwise, and that when they and we began to reform, thousands of the people of God in these nations had no reason to suppose themselves to belong to one particular church rather than another. They lived in one parish, heard in another, removed up and down for their advantage, and were in bondage on that account all their days.

But he says, “In some words following I discover my very heart.” I cannot but by the way tell him, that it is a sufficient evidence of his unacquaintedness with me, that he thinks there is need of searching 267and raking my words to discover my very heart in any thing that belongs (though in never so remote a distance) to the worship of God. All that know me, know how open and free I am in these things, how ready on all occasions to declare my whole heart; it is neither fear nor favour can influence me unto another frame. But what are the words that make this noble discovery? They are these that follow: “When any society or combination of men (whatever hitherto it hath been esteemed) is not capable of such a reduction and revocation” (that is, to its primitive institution), “I suppose I shall never provoke any wise or sober person if I profess I cannot look on such a society as a church of Christ.” His reply hereunto is the hinge upon which his whole discourse turneth, and must therefore be considered. Thus then he: “Is not this, reader, at once to unchurch all the churches of England since the Reformation? for it is known during the reign of the prelates they were not capable of that reduction; and what capacity our churches are now in for that reduction, partly by want of power and assistance from the magistrate, without which some dare not set upon a reformation, for fear of a premunire, partly by our divisions amongst ourselves, fomented by he knows whom, he cannot but see as well as we lament.” And hereupon he proceeds with sundry complaints of my dealing with them. And now, Christian reader, what shall we say to these things? A naked supposition, of no strength nor weight, that will not hold in any thing or case, — namely, that a thing is not to be judged capable of that which by some external force it is withheld from, — is the sole bottom of all this charge! The churches of England were capable of that reduction to their primitive institution under the prelates, though in some things hindered by them from an actual reducement; so they are now, in sundry places where the work is not so much as attempted. The sluggard’s field is capable of being weeded. The present pretended want of capacity from the non-assistance of the magistrate, whilst perfect liberty for reformation is given, and the work in its several degrees encouraged, will be found to be a sad plea for some when things come to be tried out by the rule of the gospel. And for our divisions, I confess I begin to discover somewhat more by whom they are fomented than I did four days ago. For the matter itself, I desire our reverend author to take notice that I judge every church capable of a reduction to its primitive institution; which, all outward hinderances being removed, and all assistances granted that are necessary for reformation according to the gospel, may be reduced into the form and order appointed unto a particular church by Jesus Christ. And where any society is not so capable, let them call themselves what they please, I shall advise those therein who have personally a due 268right to the privileges purchased for them by Jesus Christ, in the way of their administration by him appointed, to take some other peaceable course to make themselves partakers of them; and for giving this advice, I neither dread the anger nor indignation of any man living in the world. And so I suppose by this time the author knows what has become of his “quod erat demonstrandum;” and here, in room of it, I desire him to accept of this return.

Those who, in the judgment of charity, were and continue members of the church catholic invisible, by virtue of their union with Christ, the head thereof; and members of the general visible church, by their due profession of the saving truths of the gospel, and subjection to Christ Jesus, their King and Saviour, according to them; and do walk in love and concord in the particular churches whereof, by their own consent and choice, they are members, not judging and condemning other particular churches of Christ, where they are not members, as they are such, as to their station and privileges, being ready for all instituted communion with them as revealed; are not, according to any gospel rule, nor by any principles acknowledged amongst Christians, to be judged or condemned as guilty of schism; — but such are all they for whom, under any consideration whatever, I have pleaded as to their immunity from this charge in my treatise of schism: therefore, they are not to be judged so guilty. If you please, you may add, “Quod erat demonstratum.”

I shall not digress to a recharge upon this reverend author, and those of the same profession with him, as to their mistakes and miscarriages in the work of reformation, nor discuss their ways and principles, wherein I am not satisfied as to their procedure. I yet hope for better things than to be necessitated to carry on the defensative of the way wherein I walk by opposing theirs. It is true, that he who stands upon mere defence is thought to stand upon none at all; but I wait for better things from men than their hearts will yet allow them to think of. I hope the reverend author thinks that as I have reasons wherewith I am satisfied as to my own way, so I have those that are of the same weight with me against him. But whatever he may surmise, I have no mind to foment the divisions that are amongst us; hence I willingly bear all his imputations without retortion. I know in part how the case is in the world. The greatest chargers have not always the most of truth; witness Papists, Lutherans, Prelatists, Anabaptists. I hope I can say in sincerity I am for peace, though others make themselves ready for war.

But we must proceed a little farther, though, as to the cause by me undertaken to be managed, causelessly. The discourse of our author from the place fixed on, wherein he faintly endeavours to make good the foundation of this chapter, which I have already considered, consists 269of two parts:— 1. His animadversions on some principles which I lay down, as necessary to be stated aright and determined, that the question about gathering churches may be clearly and satisfactorily debated. Some of them, he says, have been handled by others; which if it be a rule of silence to him and me, it might have prevented this tedious debate. Whatever his thoughts may be of my pamphlet, I do not fear to affirm of his treatise that I have found nothing in it, from the beginning to the ending, but what hath lien neglected on booksellers’ stalls for above these seven years. For the rest of those principles which he excepts against as he thinks meet, I leave their consideration to that farther inquiry which, the Lord assisting, I have destined them unto. The way of gathering churches upon a supposition of their antecedency to officers, he says, is very pretty; and he loads it with the difficulty of men’s coming to be baptized in such a case. But as I can tell him of that which is neither true nor pretty in the practice of some whom he knows, or hath reason so to do, so I can assure him that we are not concerned in his objection about baptism; and with them who may possibly be so, it is a ridiculous thing to think it an objection. And for that part of my inquiry, whether the church be before ordinary officers, or they before it, as light as he is pleased to make of it, it will be found to lie very near the bottom of all our differences, and the right stating of it to conduce to the composure and determination of them. His charges and reflections, which he casts about in his passage, are not now to be farther mentioned; we have had them over and over, — indeed we have had little else. If strong, vehement, passionate affirmations, complaints, charges, false imputations, and the like, will amount to a demonstration in this business, he hath demonstrated Independentism to be a great schism.

He shuts up his discourse as he began it, reciting my words adding, interposing, perverting, commenting, inquiring; he makes them speak what he pleases, and compasses the ends of his delight upon them. What contentment he hath received in his so doing know not, nor shall I express what thoughts I have of such a course of procedure. This only I shall say, it is a facile way of writing treatises and proving whatever men have a mind unto.

My last task is, to look back to the beginning of this last chapter, and to gather up in our passage what may seem to respect the business in hand; and so the whole matter will be dismissed. The plea insisted on for immunity from the charge of schism, with reference to the episcopal government of the church of England, and the constitution which, under it, it is pretended to have had, he passes over; though, on sundry accounts, his concernments lie as deeply in it as in any thing pleaded in that treatise. The things he is pleased to take 270notice of, as far as they tend in the least to the issue of the debate between us, shall be reviewed. Considering the several senses wherein that expression, “The church of England,” may be taken, I manifest in my treatise in which of them, and how far, we acknowledge ourselves to have been, and to continue, members of the church of England. The first is as it comprises the elect believers in England. What the unity of the church in this sense is was before evinced. Our desire to be found members of this church, with our endeavour to keep the unity of it in the bond of peace, was declared. I am grieved to repeat our reverend author’s exceptions to this declaration. Says he, “Unless he think there are no members of this church in England but those that are of his formed particular churches, I fear he will be found to break the union that ought to be between them.” And why so, I pray? The union of the members of the church in this sense consists in their joint union to and with Christ, their head, by one Spirit. What hath the reverend author to charge upon me with reference thereunto? Let him speak out to the utmost. Yea, I have some reason to think that he will scarce spare where he can strike. God forbid that I should think all the members of the catholic church in England to be comprised, either jointly or severally, in their churches or ours, seeing it cannot be avoided; but you will keep up those notes of division. I doubt not but there be many thousands of them who walk neither with you nor us. He adds, that “by gathering saints of the first magnitude, we do what lies in us to make the invisible church visible.” It is confessed we do so; yea, we know that that church which is invisible in some respects, and under one formal consideration, is visible as to its profession which it makes unto salvation. This, with all that lies in us, we draw them out unto. What he adds about the churches being elect, and the uncomely parts of it, which they may be for a season who are elect believers (because it must be spoken), are useless cavils. For the scornful rejection of what I affirm concerning our love to all the members of this church, and readiness to tender them satisfaction in case of offence, with his insinuation of my want of modesty and truth in asserting these thoughts, because he will one day know that the words he so despises were spoken in sincerity, and with reverence of the great God, and out of love to all his saints, I shall not farther vindicate them. Such hay and stubble must needs burn.

My next profession of our relation to the church of England [was] in respect of that denomination given to the body of professors in this nation cleaving to the doctrine of the gospel, here preached and established by law as the public profession of this nation. But he tells me, — 1. “That many independent churches of this 271nation are grossly apostatized from that doctrine, and so are heretical.” 2. “That the worship was professed, and protested, and established, as well as the doctrine, and that we are all departed from it, and so are schismatical; for we hold communion with them,” he says, “in the same doctrine, but not in the same worship.” Ans. 1. His first exception ariseth from the advantage he makes use of from his large use of the word “Independent;” which will serve him, in his sense, for what end he pleaseth. In the sense before declared his charge is denied. Let him prove it by instance, if he be able. Surely God hath not given orthodox men leave to speak what they please, without due regard to love and truth. 2. As to the worship established in this nation by law (he means the way of worship, for the substantials of it we are all agreed in), I suppose he will not say a relinquishment of the practice of it is schism. If he do, I know what use some men will make of his affirmation, though I know not how he will free himself from being schismatical. For his renewed charge of schism, I cannot, I confess, be moved at it, proceeding from him who neither doth nor will know what it is. His next endeavour is, to make use of another concession of mine, concerning our receiving of our regeneration and new birth by the preaching of the word in England, saying, “Could they make use of our preaching,’’ etc. But the truth is, when the most of us, by the free grace of God, received our new birth through the preaching of the word, neither they nor we, as to the practice of our ways, were in England; so that their concernment, as such, in the concession is very small: and we hope, since, in respect of others, our own ministry hath not been altogether fruitless, though we make no comparison with them.

In rendering of the next passage, which is concerning Anabaptists and Anabaptism, I shall not contend with him; he hath not in the least impaired the truth of what I assert in reference to them and their way. I cannot but take notice of that passage, which, for the substance of it, hath so often occurred, and that is this, “Doth not himself labour in this book to prove that the administration of ordinances in our assemblies is null, our ordination null and antichristian?” for the proof of which suggestion he refers his reader to p. 197 [p. 172] of my book. I confess, seeing this particular quotation, I was somewhat surprised, and began to fear that some expression of mine (though contrary to my professed judgment) might have given countenance to this mistake, and so be pleaded as a justification of all the uncharitableness, and something else, wherewith his book is replenished; but turning to the place, I was quickly delivered from my trouble, though I must ingenuously confess I was cast into another, which I shall not now mention.

272Page 167, we arrive at that which alone almost I expected would have been insisted on, and, quite contrary thereto, it is utterly waived, — namely, the whole business of a national church; upon which account, indeed, all the pretence of the charge this reverend author is pleased to manage doth arise. Take that out of the way, and certainly they and we are upon even terms; and if we will be judged by them who were last in possession of the reiglement of that church, upon supposition that there is such a church still, they are no more interested in it than we, yea, are as guilty of schism from it as we. But that being set aside, and particular churches only remaining, it will be very difficult for him to raise the least pretence of his great charge. But let us consider what he thinks meet to fasten on in that discourse of mine about a national Church. The first thing is, my inquiry whether the denial of the institution of a national church (which he pleads not for) doth not deny, in consequence, that we had either ordinances or ministry amongst us? to which I say, that though it seems so to do, yet indeed it doth not, because there was then another church-state, even that of particular churches, amongst us. With many kind reflections of “my renouncing my ministry, and rejecting of my jejune and empty vindication of their ministry” (which yet is the very same that himself fixes on), he asks me “how I can in my conscience believe that there were any true ministers in this church in the time of its being national?” and so proceeds to infer from hence my denying of all ministry and ordinances among them. Truly, though I were more to be despised than I am (if that be possible), yet it were not common prudence for any man to take so much pains to make me his enemy whether I will or no. He cannot but know that I deny utterly that ever we had indeed, whatever men thought, a national church; for I grant no such thing as a national church, in the present sense contended about. That in England, under the rule of the prelates, when they looked on the church as national, there were true churches and true ministers, though in much disorder, as to the way of entering into the ministry and dispensing of ordinances, I grant freely: which is all this reverend author, if I understand him, pleads for; and this, he says, I was unwilling to acknowledge, lest I should thereby condemn myself as a schismatic. Truly, in the many sad differences and divisions that are in the world amongst Christians, I have not been without sad and jealous thoughts of heart, lest, by any doctrine or practice of mine, I should occasionally contribute any thing unto them; if it hath been otherwise with this author, I envy not his frame of spirit. But I must freely say, that having together with them weighed the reasons for them, I have been very little moved with the clamorous accusations and insinuations of this author. In 273the meantime, if it be possible to give him satisfaction, I here let him know that I assent unto that sum of all he hath to say as to the church of England, — namely, “That the true and faithful ministers, with the people in their several congregations, administering the true ordinances of Jesus Christ, whereof baptism is one, was and is the true church-state of England;” from which I am not separated. Nor do I think that some addition of human prudence, or imprudence, can disannul the ordinances of Jesus Christ, upon the disavower made of any other national church-state, and the assertion of this, to answer all intents and purposes. I suppose now that the reverend author knows that it is incumbent on him to prove that we have been members of some of these particular churches in due order, according to the mind of Christ, to all intents and purposes of church membership, and that we have, in our individual persons, raised causeless differences in those particular churches whereof we were members respectively, and so separated from them with the condemnation of them; or else, according to his own principles, he fails in his brotherly conclusion, ἰδοὺ Ρόδος, ἰδοὺ πήδημα. I suppose the reader is weary of pursuing things so little to our purpose. If he will hear any farther that Independents are schismatics; that the setting up of their way hath opened a door to all evils and confusions; that they have separated from all churches, and condemn all churches in the world but their own; that they have hindered reformation and the setting up of the presbyterian church; that being members of our churches, as they are members of the nation, because they are born in it, yet they have deserted them; that they gather churches, which they pretend to be “spick and span new,” they have separated from us; that they countenance Quakers and all other sectaries; that they will reform a national church whether men will or no, though they say that they only desire to reform themselves, and plead for liberty to that end; — if any man, I say, have a mind to read or hear of this any more, let him read the rest of this chapter, or else converse with some persons whom I can direct him to, who talk at this wholesome rate all the day long.

What seems to be my particular concernment I shall a little farther attend unto. Some words (for that is the manner of managing this controversy) are culled out from pp. 259, 260 [p. 198], to be made the matter of farther contest. Thus they lie in my treatise: “As the not giving a man’s self up unto any way, and submitting to any establishment, pretended or pleaded to be of Christ, which he hath not light for, and which he was not by any act of his own formerly engaged in, cannot, with any colour or pretence of reason, be reckoned to him for schism, though he may, if he persist in his refusal, prejudice his own edification; so no more can a man’s peaceable 274relinquishment of the ordinary communion of one church, in all its relations, be so esteemed.” These words have as yet, unto me, a very harmless aspect; — but our reverend author is sharp-sighted, and sees I know not what monsters in them; for, first, saith he, “Here he seems to me to be a very sceptic in his way of Independency.” Why so, I pray? “This will gratify all sects, Quakers and all, with a toleration.” How, I pray? It is schism, not toleration, we are treating about. “But this leaves them to judge, as well as others, of what is and what is not according to the mind of Christ.” Why, pray, sir, who is appointed to judge finally for them? “Why, then, should they be denied their liberty?” But is that the thing under consideration? Had you concluded that their not submitting to what they have not light for its institution is not properly schism, you should have seen how far I had been concerned in the inference; (but excursions unto Quakers, etc., are one topic of such discourses.) But now he asks me one question, it seems, to try whether I am a sceptic or no. “Whether,” saith he, “does he believe his own way to be the only true way of Christ (for he hath instituted but one way), having run from and renounced all other ways in this nation?” I promise you this is a hard question, and not easily answered. If I deny it, he will say I am a sceptic, and other things also will be brought in. If I affirm it, it may be he will say that I condemn their churches for no churches, and the like. It is good to be wary when a man hath to deal with wise men. How if I should say that our way and their way is, for the substance of them, one way, and so I cannot say that my way is the only true way exclusively to theirs? I suppose this may do pretty well. But I fear this will scarce give satisfaction, and yet I know not well how I can go any farther. Yet this I will add: I do indeed believe that wherein their way and our way differ, our way is according to the mind of Christ, and not theirs; and this I am ready at any time (God assisting) personally to maintain to him. And as for my running from ways of religion, I dare again tell him these reproaches and calumnies become him not at all. But he proceeds. “If so,” saith he, “is not every man bound to come into it, and not upon every conceived new light to relinquish it?” Truly, I think Mr C. himself is bound to come into it, and yet I do not think that his not so doing makes him a schismatic; and as for relinquishment, I assert no more than what he himself concludes to be lawful.

And thus, Christian reader, I have given thee a brief account of all things of any importance that I could meet withal in this treatise, and of many which are of very little. If thou shalt be pleased to compare my treatise of schism with the refutation of it, thou wilt quickly see how short this is of that which it, pretends to; how untouched 275my principles do abide; and how the most material parts of my discourse are utterly passed by, without any notice taken of them. The truth is, in the way chosen by this reverend author to proceed in, men may multiply writings to the world’s end without driving any controversy to an issue. Descanting and harping on words, making exceptions to particular passages, and the like, is an easy and facile, and, to some men, a pleasant labour. What small reason our author had to give his book the title it bears, unless it were to discover his design, I hope doth by this time appear. Much of the proof of it lies in the repeated asseverations of it,” It is so, and it is so.” If he shall be pleased to send me word of one argument tending that way that is not founded in an evident mistake, I will promise him, if I live, a reconsideration of it.

In the meantime, I humbly beg of this reverend author that he would review; in the presence of the Lord, the frame of spirit wherein he wrote this charge; as also, that he would take into his thoughts all the reproaches and all that obloquy he hath endeavoured to load me causelessly and falsely withal. As for myself, my name, reputation, and esteem with the churches of God, to whom he hath endeavoured to render me odious, I commit the whole concernment of them to Him whose presence, through grace, I have hitherto enjoyed, and whose promise I lean upon, that he will “never leave me nor forsake me.” I shall not complain of my usage (but what am I?) — of the usage of many precious saints and holy churches of Jesus Christ, into Him that lives and sees, any farther than by begging that it may not be laid to his charge. And if so mean a person as I am can in any way be serviceable to him, or to any of the churches that he pleads for, in reference to the gospel of Christ, I hope my life will not be dear to me that it may effect it; and I shall not cease to pray that both he and those who promoted this work in his hand may at length consider the many calls of God that are evident upon them, to lay aside these unseemly animosities, and to endeavour a coalition in love with all those who in sincerity call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.

For the distances themselves that are between us, wherein we are not as yet agreed; what is the just state of them, the truth and warrantableness of the principles whereupon we proceed, with the necessity of our practice in conformity thereunto; in what we judge our brethren to come short of, or wherein to go beyond the mind of Jesus Christ; with a farther ventilation of this business of schism, — I have some good grounds of expectation that possibly, ere long, we may see a fair discussion of these things, in a pursuit of truth and peace.

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