A SERMON AGAINST SCHISME: OR, The SEPERATIONS of these TIMES.

Preacht in the Church of Wattlington in Oxford-shire, with some Interruption, September 11. 1652.

At a publick dispute held there, Between JASPER MAYNE, D.D. And one—

MAT. 13.47.

[...].

LONDON, Printed for R. ROYSTON, at the Angel in Ivie-lane, 1652.

THE PREFACE.

IF you please to turne to the 19. Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, and to read from the 24. to the 33. verse of that Chapter, there is there mention made of a great Assembly, and concurse of people; Who upon the Instigation of one Demetrius, a Silver-Smith, were confusedly drawne to­gether into a publick Theater. And when they were met there, the Confusion was so great, that the Theater for the time, was quite changed into a Babel; there was a per­fect Division of speech, and Tongues among them, scarce any two spoke the same Language; For some cryed out one Thing, and some cryed out Another, as you may read at the 32. v. of that Chap. Rudenesse, Clamour, Tumult, Noyse, was all that issued from them. Nay 'twas a Meeting so confused, so wholly void of Reason, that the greatest part knew not why they were come together, as you may read in the end, and close of that verse. And hence 'tis, that when Saint Paul would have ingaged him­selfe among them, and would have preacht to them to convert and turne them from their Errour, 'Tis said at the 31. verse of that Chapter, That some of the chief of Asia, who were his Friends, sent to him, and desired him, that he would not adven­ture himselfe among such a rude, Tempestuous rout of peo­ple.

And now, if you desire to know why I have sayd this to you, [Page 2] 'tis to let you see, First, That this hath partly been my case, I have been sent, nay spoken to, by some persons of Quality and Honour, not to ingage my selfe among such a mixt Multitude as this; where my Affronts may be great, but my successe, and Harvest small: And to speak truth to you, if I had been left to the peaceablenesse of my owne quiet Temper, (which never did delight in stormes, nor to dispute with Fire.) If the fierce, and eager Importunity of some who have provokt me, had not drawn me from my Iudgement, I should have followed their Advice, this Meeting had not beene. Nay, I should have lookt upon my Appearance here, as a Distemper, like to theirs, who have provokt and called me hither. For my coole and wiser Thoughts have still suggested to me, that to dispute of Truth with those who doe not understand it, is such a piece of Madnesse, as if I should dispute of Colours with a Blind man, of Musicke with a Deafe, or of the Sent of Flowers with One borne without a Smell.

Next, therefore, having so farre departed from my Reason, as to submit to a Dispute in this great publick Meeting, lest it should prove such a confused Meeting, as I described to you be­fore; A Meeting where my Logick must fight Duels with Men made of Rudenesse, Tumult, Noyse; Or lest it should prove a Meeting where Men who can speak nought but English, shall yet speak divers Tongues; And where some shall cry out one Thing, and some shall cry another, I have made it my humble suit to some persons of Honour here present, that by their presence they will free the place from all such wild Confusions. And that, if I must dispute, I may dispute with civill men, and not undergoe Saint Paul's misfortune, who fought with Beast's at Ephe­sus.

Thirdly, lest this Meeting should prove like the confused Meeting, which I mention'd to you before, in one particular more; That is, lest the greatest part of you should not know why you are this day come together. Before I enter upon a full pursuit, or handling of this Text, it will be needfull that I tell you the occasion of this Meeting, which that I may the better doe, I shall desire you to beleeve, that 'tis not a Meeting of my projection or Contrivance. I appeare not here to raise a Faction, or to draw a party after me, nor to adde to the Rents of the Coun­trey, [Page 3] which are too wide already. Nor am I come hither to revenge my selfe in the Pulpit, or to speake ill of those who have most lewdly railed at me. Let them wallow themselves, as much as they please, in their owne grosse filth, and mire; let them, if they please,Jude 13. be those raging Waves of the Sea, which Saint Iude speakes of, which are alwayes foming out their owne shame, when they have steept their Tongues in Gall, and spewd forth all their Venome, They shall not make me change my Opinion; which is, that to cast dirt for dirt, or to returne Ill-Language for Ill-Language, is a cou [...]se so unreasonable, as if two Men should fight a Duell, and chuse a Dunghill for their weapon. As therefore, I am not come hither to shew my selfe Malitious, so I am not come hither to gaine Applause, or Reputation by this Meeting. No thirst of Fame, no affection of Victorie hath drawne me from my Study to steppe into this Pulpit. I understand my owne Infirmities too well to be so selfe-conceited. Or if my Abilities were farre greater then they are, yet I have alwayes lookt on Fame thus got, to be so slight a Thing, as if a Man should feed on Ayre, or make a meale of shaddows.

Not to hold you therefore any longer in suspense, if you, who know it not already, desire to know the true o [...]casion of this Meeting, 'tis briefely this; I have for some yeares (even with Teares in my eyes) seen one of the saddest curses of the Scripture fulfill'd upon this Nation: With a bleeding Heart I speake it, I have seene, not onely three Kingdoms, but our Cityes, Towns, and Villages, nay even our private Familyes divided against them­selves. I have seene the Father differing in opinion from the Sonne, and I have seene the Sonne differing in opinion from the Father. I have seene the Mother broken from the Daughter, and I have seen the Daughter divided from the Mother. Nay, our very Marriage-Beds have not scapt the curse of Separation. Like Iacob and Esau issuing from the same wombe, I have seene two Twins of Separation rise from between the same Curtains. I have seen the Wedlock knot quite untyed in Religion; I have seene the Husband in opposition to the Wife ▪ goe to one, and I have seene the Wife in opposition to her Husband, for many years together, goe to another Congregation. In a Word (my Brethren,) the Church of Christ among us, which was once as [Page 4] Seamelesse as his Coate, is now so rent by Schismes, so torne by Separations, that 'tis become like the Coate of Ioseph which you reade of in the 37. Chapter of Genesis, at the 3. verse, scarce one piece is colourd like another; And I pray God it prove not like the Coat of Ioseph in one particular more; I pray God the Weaker be not sold by his Brethren, and his Coate be not once more dyed red, once more imbrued in Bloud. This, you will say, is very sad, and yet this is not all; That which extremely adde to the Misery of our Rents, and Separations, is, that the wisest can­not hope they will ere be peeced, or reconciled. For the persons who thus Separate, are so far from beleeving themselves to be in an Errour, that they strongly thinke all Others erre who seperate not too; They thinke themselves bound in Conscience to doe as they doe. Nay, zealous Arguments are urged, and Texts of Scripture quoted, to prove that 'tis a damning sinne not to goe on in Separation. The Churches where their Neighbours met ere now contemned, and Scorned: Nay, I have with mine owne Ears heard a Dining Room, a Chamber, a Meeting under Trees; Nay, I have heard a Hog-stye, a B [...]rne, called places more sancti­fied then they. In a word, one of the great Reasons which they urge, why they thus forsake our Churches, and make divided Congregations, is, because (They say) the people which assemble there are so wicked, so prophane, that they turne Gods House of prayer into a den of Theeves. To keep this infection from spread­ing in my Parish, and to keepe this piece of Leaven from sour­ing the whole Lumpe; And withall to satisfie one, whom I looke upon as a well-meaning, though a seduced, and erring per­son, who hath ingaged her selfe by promise, that if I can take the mist from her Eyes, and cleerly let her see her Errour, she will returne back to the Church, from which she hath for some yeares gone astray; and being invited to doe this in a way of Christian challenge, which hath raised a great expectation in the Countrey, I have taken up the Gauntlet, and here present my selfe before you; and before I enter the Lists, to let you all see the Justice of the Cause which I here stand to defend, I have chosen this Text for my shield; where He, who wrote this Epistle to the Hebrews sayes, Let us consider one another to provoke one another to love and to Good works, not forsaking the Assembling of our selve [...] together, as the manner of some is.

The Division.

IN which words, the only poynt which I shall insist upon, as the fittest, and most seasonable to be preacht to this divided Con­gregation, shall be the point of Schisme; or, in plaine English, Separation, as 'tis exprest to us in these Words, Let us not for­sake the Assembling of our selves together, as the manner of some is. In the pursuit and handling of which words, I will proceed by these[?] two plaine and easie steps. First, I will prove to you, by Arguments, which have a sun-beame for their parent, That the Rent or Separation which is now made in the Church, is a very grievous sinne: Indeed, a sinne so grievous, that I scarce know whether Christians can be guilty of a greater. Next, I will Ex­amine and answer their Arguments, and Texts of Scripture; who doe perswade themselves and others that their separation is no sinne; Nay, that would be a grievous sinne not to separate as they doe. In the meane time I beseech you to lend me a quiet and favourable Attention, whilest I begin[?] with the first of th [...]se parts, and that shall be to prove to you, that the separations of our Times, are great and grievous sinnes.

Among the other Characters and Descriptions which have been made of us Men, we have been called, [...]. That is, a Creature borne and made, and created for Society. Towards the preservation and maintenance wherof God at the Beginning, ordered his Creation of us so, that whereas other Creatures take their Originall and Birth from a Diversitie of parents. He made us Men to spring from one, undivided, single payre[?]. One Adam, and one Eve were the two joyn'd parents of Mankinde. And the Reason of this was, That there might not onely be among us one common Kinred and Alliance, but that we might hold a firme, and constant League and Friendship with each other too. And hence 'tis we see, that without any other Teacher but their owne Naturall Instinct, Men in all Ages have avoided seperati­on, by gathering themselves into formed Bodyes of Cittyes, Towns and Commonwealths. Neighbourhood, Society, mutuall help, and Conversation, being one of the great Ends for which God made us Men. And upon this Ground it hath been disputed, [Page 6] whether a Hermit, or Monastic man, breake not the Law of Na­ture, because he separates himselfe from the company of Men? And 'tis clearly stated by some great Casuists, That if he seperate from others for no End but separation, if he retire himselfe into a Cave or Wildernesse, or Desart, (as some of the Ancient Hermits did) not for Devotion, but out of a hatred, or distaste of the rest of Mankinde; In that particular he cannot well be called a Man, but some wilder Creature, made to dwell in Caves, Desarts, Forrests, Dens.

As then, the Law of Nature doth require us to preserve society and Friendship, so the Law of Christ hath tyed, and woven this knot much faster. We are all of Kinne by Nature, but we are all Brethren as Christians: Men allyed to one another by one common Hope, one common Faith, one common Saviour, one com­mon God, and Lord, and Father of us all. And upon this Ground, when one Christian shall divide or forsake the society of Another, unlesse it be upon a just principle of Conscience, and to avoid a sinne, the Scripture calls it not barely Separation, but Separation which is Schisme. That is, such a Separation as is a Gospel-sinne [...].

Which, that you may the more clearly understand, give me leave to aske you in truth what is Schisme? Why the best Defi­nition of it that was ever yet given is this, That Schisme is nothing else, but a separation of Christians from that part of the Visible Church, of which they were once Members, upon meere fancyed, slight, unnecessary Grounds. In which Definition of Schisme, three things doe offer themselves to your serious observation, to make it formall Schisme, or a signe of Separation. First it must be a separation of Christians from some part of the Visible Church, of which they were once Members; That is, (according to the Definition, a visible Church as it concerns this present purpose) it must be a Deniall of Communion with that Congregation of Christians, with whom they were once united under a rightly-con­stituted Pastor. Next, they who thus separate, must betake them­selves to some other Teacher, whom, in opposition to the for­mer, they chuse to be their Guide, and so make themselves his Followers.

Thirdly, they must erect a New Assembly, or place of Con­gregation, as a New Church distinct from that from which they doe divide.

[Page 7]Lastly, This choyce of a New Guide, and Separation from the Old, this Erection of a New Church, and Division from the former must be upon slight unnecessary Grounds; For if the Cause, or Ground of their Separation be needlesse, vaine, unne­cessary, if it spring more out of Humour, Pride, desi [...]e of change, or Hatred of their Brethren, then out of any Christian love to keepe themselves from sinnes; 'Tis in the Scripture-Language Schisme, That is, a sinne of Separation.

Or if you will heare me expresse my self in the language of a very learned Man (who hath contrived a clue to lead us through this Labyrinth) This breach of Communion, This separation from a Church rightly constituted; This choyce of a New Guide, New Teacher, New Instructer. Lastly, This setting up of a New Con­gregation, or place of private Meetings, is the same sinne in Re­ligion ▪ which Sedition, or Rebellion is in the Commonwealth or State. For upon a right examination of the matter 'twill be found, That Schisme is a Religious, or Ecclesiasticall Sedition, as Sedition in the State is a civill, Lay-schisme.

Which two sinnes, though they appeare to the World in di­verse shapes, the one with a Sword, the other with a Bible in his Hand; yet they both agree in this, that they both disturbe the publick peace. The one of the State, where men are tyed by Laws as Men; The other of the Church, where men should be tyed by Love as Christians.

To let you yet farther see, what a grievous sinne this sinne of Schisme or Separation is; If the time would give me leave, I might here rayse the Schoolemen, Antient Fathers, and Generall Councells from the dead, and make them preach to you from this Pulpit against the sinne of Separation. I might tell you, that in the purest Times of the Church, a Schismatick, and Hereticke were lookt upon as Twinnes; The one as an Enemy to the Faith, the other to Communion. But because in our darke Times, learn­ing is so grown out of date, that to quote an Ancient Father, is thought a piece of Superstition; And to cite a Generall Councell is to speake words to our New Gifted men unknowne, I will say nothing of this sinne, but what the Scripture sayes before me.

First, then, I shall desire you to heare what S. Paul sayes in [Page 8] this case, in the last Chapter of his Epistle to the Romans at the 17. verse. Turne to the place, and marke it well I beseech you. Now I beseech you, brethren, sayes he there, Marke them which cause Divisions, and offences, contrary to the Doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them: That is, in other words, Separate your selves from them. And then he gives you a Character, and De­scription of those Separaters at the 18. verse of that Chapter; And sayes, For they that are such, serve not our Lord Iesus Christ, but their owne Belly. And by good words and faire speeches deceive the Hearts of the simple.

In which words, Foure things are so exactly drawn to life, as makes them a perfect Prophecye, or rather picture of our Times ▪ The first is, that there were some in S. Pauls dayes, who caused Divisions in the Church; Men, who in a way of Schisme, and Separation, made themselves the Heads and Leaders of divided Congregations.

Next, The Ground upon which they built their Separation; 'twas not upon any just, true, lawfull, Scripture-Ground. For the Text sayes, 'Twas contrary to the Doctrine which the Apostles taught, and preacht. But the true cause, or Ground, why they thus caused Separations, was meerly self-Interest; And that they might gaine by their Divisions. Nay, 'twas such a poore, base, unwor­thy selfe-Interest, that 'tis there said, they did it in compliance to their Belly.

The third thing which will deserve your observation, is, the cunning Art they used to draw the weake to be their Followers. 'Tis there sayd, that by good Words and faire Speeches, they decei­ved the Hearts of the simple, especially the simple of the weaker sex. And who these were, S. Paul, in other words, but to the same purpose tells you, in the 3. Chapter of his second Epistle to Timo­thy at the 5, 6, 7. verses of that Chapter. Where speaking of such Coseners, he sayes, they had a Forme of Godlinesse, an outward seeming Holynesse to deceive and cosen by; And that under this Forme of Godlynesse they crept into Houses, and there led Captive silly Women, loaden with sinnes, and drawne away with divers Lusts. Women so unable to distinguish Right from Wrong, that they were alwayes learning, and never able to come to the Know­ledge of the Truth.

[Page 9]And certainly, my Brethren, 'tis no new thing under the sunne, to see the weaker sexe misled by holy Formes, and Shews. 'Tis no new thing, I say, under the Sunne, for a man that makes long prayers, to eat up a Widdows House; Or for a cunning Angler to catch the sillyer sort, with a hooke bayted with Religion. 'Twas so in our Saviours time, and 'twas so in S. Pauls. And whether their demure lookes, their precise carriage, their long prayers, their good words and fayre speeches, be not the Hooke, and snare, by which weake people are caught now; whether the feasting of, their Bellyes, or the making Gayne of Godlinesse; Or whether the Itch and pride of being the Leaders of a Faction; Or whether the vaine Ambition of being thought more holy or more gifted than the rest, be not the true end of those, who doe now cause Separations, I will not rashly censure, but I have some reason to suspect▪ But this is not all.

The fourth, and last thing, which most deserves your observa­tion, is, that Separation in that place is such a Scripture-sinne, that S. Paul commands us to separate from those, who doe thus cause Separations. Heare the place, I pray, once more repeated to you, I beseech you, Brethren, sayes he, Marke them who cause Divisions among you, and avoid them. That is, as I said be­fore, Separate your selves from them. If they, who upon no just cause doe Separate, must be Separated from, I hope you'l all confesse that Separation is a sinne.

And what sinne thinke you is this sinne of Separation? Why, I know some of you will thinke it strange if I should say, 'tis a sinne of the Flesh. And yet S. Paul sayes, that 'tis a sinne of the Flesh, in the 3. Chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians. Marke I beseech you what he sayes in that place. Are ye not carnall? sayes he there. For whereas there are among you Envyings, and Strifes, and Divisions; Are ye not carnall, and walke as men? Sayes He at the 3. verse. Againe, when one saith, I am Paul; And when another saith, I am of Apollos; Are ye not carnall? sayes he at the 4. v. of that Chapter. If to divide and separate from the Followers of S. Paul, and to make themselves the Followers, and Disciples of Apollos; or if by way of Separation to make themselves the markes of severall Churches, to which Apostles were the Guides, were a sinne of Carnality; [Page 10] (as S. Paul sayes it was) what shall we say of some people of our Times? who instead of severall Apostles to divide themselves by, doe chuse to themselves Guides so meane, so unlearned, so lia­ble to Errour, that they perfectly make between them the pi­cture of Mistakes: The Blinde leading the Blinde, and both fallen into a Ditch? 'Tis not now, as 'twas then. When some said, we are of Paul, and when others said, we are of Cephas, and when others said, we are of Apollos; Others, we are of Christ. Though to make the Names of Christ, or Paul, or Cephas, names of Fi­ction, was a sinne. But we are faln on Times so made of Se­paration, that people doe divide themselves by Teachers, whose second Trade is Teaching. Teachers so obscure, so bred to ma­nuall Occupations; Teachers so sprung up from the basest of the people. Lastly, Teachers, so accustomed to the Trewell, Forge, and Anvill, that I almost blush to name them in the Pulpit. 'Tis not now sa [...]d, we are of Paul, And we are of Apollos; But we are of Wat Tyler; We are of Iacke Cade; We are of Alexan­der the Coporsmith; We are of Tom the Mason; and we are of Dicke the Gelder. And whether to Divide and Separate under such vulgar Names as These, be no a sinne of the Flesh, I leave to every one of you, who have read S. Paul, to judge.

And here, now, if Time were not a Winged Thing, or if it would but stay my leisure, I might lay before you many other places of the Scripture, which clearly doe demonstrate that Separation is a sinne. For though, like the Ghost of Samuel, which you read of in the Scripture, it usually appeare cloathed in the Mantle of a Prophet, though it were Holinesse in the Tongue, And precisenesse in the Face; yet to let you see what an Apple of Sodome it is; How it lookes with a Virgin check without, and is nought but Rottennesse within, I shall once more desire y [...]u to heare what S. Paul sayes of it, In the 5. Chapter of the Galatians at the 19. and 20. verses of that chapter, Where he once more reckons it among the sinnes of the Flesh. As for Example, The Works of the Flesh are manifest, sayes he, which are these▪ Adulterie, Fornication, Vncleannesse, Lasciviousnesse, Idolatrie, Witchcraft, Hatred, Variance, Emulation, Wrath, Strife, Seditions, Haeresies, sayes our English▪ Translation. But the words in the Originall Greek, (which are the true Word of God) will beare it [Page 11] thus. [...], That is, Divisions, Sects, Envy­ings, Murthers, Drunkennesse, Revellings, and such like. Of the which I tell you before, sayes he, As I have told you in Times past, Th [...]t They which doe such Things shall not Inherit the Kingdome of God. Where you see Seditions, Sects, and Schismes, as well as Adulterie, and Murther, are there listed by S. Paul among those works of the Flesh, which doe shut men out of Heaven[?], and exclude them from salvation.

Many such like places of the Scripture I might lay before you. But I will content my selfe with one Argument more; which shall not onely prove to you, That Separation is a sinne; But one of the Greatest sinnes, of which Christians can be guilty.

To make this cleare to you, and beyond all Dispute, or Questi­on. That which I will say to you (and mark it well) is this. 'Tis a Rule in Divinity, (and tis a Rule infallible) That those sinnes are the Greatest, which are most contrary, and doe most oppose the greatest Christian vertues. Now the Three Great Christian ver­tues which doe make and constitute a Christian, are set downe by S. Paul, in the 13. chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians, at the last verse, where he sayes, Now abideth Faith, Hope, and Charity; But the Greatest of these is Charity. Thus, then, stands the case. Distrust in Gods promises, or an unbeliefe in his power, is a very great sinne. For 'tis a sinne which doth oppose and quite cut off the wings of Hope. Haeresie, or the strife, and obstinate Defence, and persisting in a knowne Errour, is a farre greater sinne. For 'tis a sinne against Faith, a sinne which strives to draw a Cloud about the Beames of Truth. But if it be true what S. Paul sayes, (as most certainly it is) If it be true that Charity is greater then either Faith, or Hope, Then 'twill follow by Good Logick and all the Consequence of Reason; That that sinne which doth untie, and break the Bond of peace; That sinne which destroyes Christian Friendship, and Communion; Lastly, That sinne which rends, and teares the Cords of Charity asunder, is a farre greater sinne then unbeliefe or Haeresie. And the sin which doth all this is the sin of Separation.

First 'tis a greater sinne in it selfe, and the very formality of the sinne. As being the worst Extreme to the best, and greatest vertue, Namely, The vertue of Love; By which Christ would have his [Page 12] Followers distinguisht from the rest of Mankinds. For by this shall all men know, sayes he, that you are my Disciples, if yee love one another. As you may read in the 13. chapter of Iohn at the 35. verse. And agreeable to this is that which is delivered here in this Text, where the Authour of this Epistle to the Hebrewes sayes, Let us consider one another to provoke one another to Love. And not forsake the Assembling of our selves together, as the manner of some is.

And as Schisme, or Separation upon a slight, or needlesse Ground is in it selfe one of the greatest sinnes; So tis one of the greatest sinnes too, in its dangerous Effects. Besides the Hatred, Envy, Strife, which it begets among Men of divided Interests, and Mindes, Tis many times the Coale which sets whole States and Common-wealths on fire. It pretends, indeed, very much to the Spirit, And at first cloaths it selfe in the Dresse of Humility and Meekn [...]sse; But they who have written the Chronicles of the Church can tell you, That those pretences to the Spirit have no sooner gathered strength, but they have proceeded to bloudy Bat­tells, and pitcht fields. Where the Meeke persons have throwne aside their Bibles; and have changed the Sword of the Spirit into the Sword of Warre. The proceedings of the Donatists in Affricke, and of the Iohn-of Leyden-Men at Munster are two sad Examples of the truth of what I say.

The Grounds of Separation examined.

2

BUt here, perhaps, will some of you, who heare me this day, say, What's all this to us? In saying this which you have hitherto said, like those who wrote Romances, you have but created an Adversary out of your own fancy, and then foyl'd him; or like the man in Aristotle who drove his shaddow before him, you first frame a man of Ayre, and then cry he flyes from you. But if this be to conquer, one of our Gifted Men who is at all no Scholler, can as well triumph over men of Ayre, and shad­dowes, as your selfe. To let you see, therefore, that I am one of those, who desire not to fight Duels with naked unarmed Men, nor to meet any in the Field, before we have agreed upon the [Page 13] just length of our Weapons: If your patience will hold out so long, who come disinterested hither, This second part of this Sermon shall be spent in the pursuit of that, which Master Deane of Christ-church just now very seasonably noted as a Defect in our present way of Arguing, and Dispute, which was, that the Grounds were not examined upon which the present Separations of these Times, do build themselves. These Grounds, therefore, I shall now in the next place call to some reckoning and Account, And in the doing of this, I will hang up a payre of Scales before you, you shall see their Arguments placed in One Scale, and my Answers in the Other: And because no Moderatour sits in the Chayre to judge (which was a thing foreseen by me, but could not well be compast) I shall make you the Iudges who heare me this day. And because the Rudenesse, and Ill-language of those who have disturbed me in this Pulpit, hath made me stand before you here like a man arraigned for Errour, I will freely cast my selfe upon God, and you the Countrey. Thus, then, I shall proceede.

Here (as I said before) may some of the Separating party, say to me, How doth the former part of your Sermon concern us? We separate, 'tis true, But not on those false Grounds which you have all this while described. We grant, indeed, That if we broke Communion with you out of Faction, or Selfe-Interest, or Pride, or desire of Gaine, or meere Love of Separation, you might well call us Schismaticks; and we should well deserve that Name. But the Ground on which we separate from you, is, because you are not fit to be Assembled with, you are sinners; wicked, lewd, profane, notorious sinners. The places where you meet breathe nothing but Infection. Your Teachers preach false Doctrine; and your people practise Lyes. In a word, we cannot with the safety of our Conscience frequent your Congregations. Since to appeare there would be an enterprize as dangerous, as if we should make Visits to a Pest-house ▪ and there hope to scape the Plague.

This you will say (good people) is very hard language. And How, thinke you, do they prove it? why, as they thinke by two cleare places of the Scripture, which no man can oppose ▪ and not make Warre with Heaven. Two places of Scripture, I say, have [Page 14] beene produced, and quoted to me, like Sampson and Achilles, with Invincible Lances in their Hands. Places which doe not onely allow, but command a separation; Nay, they command it so fully, that if they should not separate, or forsake our Congre­gations, they say they should sinne greatly, and disobey the Scri­pture. And what are these two places?

The fi [...]st you shall finde set downe in the 5. last verses of the 6. Chapter, of the second Epistle of S. Paul to the Corinthians, where the words run thus. Be ye not unequally yokt together with unbeleevers. For what Fellowship hath Righteousnesse with unrighte­ousnesse? And what Communion hath Light with Darknesse? And what Concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an Infidell? And what agreement hath the Temple of God with Idolls? For ye are the Temple of the living God; Levit. 26.11. As God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walke in them; And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye seperate, Esay 52.11. saith the Lord, and touch not the uncleane thing, and I will receive you. This is their first great place, which they urge for separation. Will you now heare their second? That you shall finde set downe in the 4. first verses of the 18. Chapter of the Revelations. Where the words run thus, After these things, sayes S. Iohn there, I saw another Angel come downe from Heaven, having great power; and the Earth was light­ned with his Glory. And he cryed mightily, with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the Great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the Habi­tation of Divells, and the hold of every foule Spirit; And the Cage of every unclean, and hatefull Bird. For all Nations have drunke of the wine of the wrath of her Fornications; And the Kings of the Earth have committed Fornication with her. And the Merchants of the Earth are waxed rich, through the Abundance of her Delicacyes. And I heard Another voyce from heaven, (sayes he) saying; Come out of her my people, that yee be not partakers of her sinnes, and that yee receive not of her plagues.

These two places of Scripture (if you will heare me expresse my selfe in the thred-bare Language of the Times) They say, doe hold Forth themselves soe clearely, that I may sooner quench the sunne than finde an Answer to them. Nay, to deale freely with you, these two places, and these only are a piece of the Challenge [Page 15] which hath occasioned this Dispute. For I am promised by Her, whom I here come to undeceive, that if I can answer these two places, she wil be my Convert; And will separate from these who doe now make separations.

I take her at her word, and doe thus contrive, and shape my Answers; Marke them I beseech you. As for the first place in the 6. Chapter of the second Epistle to the Corinthians; you are to understand, that when S. Paul wrote that Epistle, The City of Corinth was not wholly converted to the Faith, but was di­vided in Religions, some were yet Heathens, and sacrificed to [...]: Others did imbrace the Gospell, and gave up their Names to Christ.

N [...]verthelesse, th [...]y were not so divided in Religions, but that dwelling together in the same City, certaine Neighbourly Ci­villities, and Acts of kindnesse past between them. As for Ex­ample, when a Heathen or Vnbeleever offerd a sacrifice to his Idol, 'twas usuall, for old Acquaintance sake, to invite his Chri­stian Friends to be Guests to his sacrifice; And to eate of his meate which was offered to his Idol, As you may read, 1 Cor. 10.27, 28. And the place where the sacrifice was eaten, and where the Feast was made, was, for the most part in the Temple of the Idol, As you may read, 1 Cor. 8.10. Now, this mingling of Religions; This meeting of Christians with Heathens, at a Hea­then Feast; Nay, at a Feast where the Meat was first offerd to an Idol, Nay in that Idol was offered to the Devils, as you may reade, 1 Cor. 10.20. Nay, this meeting of Christians with Heathens at an Idol sacrifice, and their eating with them of that sacrifice in the very Temple of the Idol, was a thing so dangerous, so apt to call weake Christians back againe to their former Idolatry, That Saint Paul thought it high time to say, Be not thus unequally jokt[?] with unbeleevers. In which expression he doth cast an eye upon that Law of God, which you may read set downe in the 22 Chapter of Deuteronomye, at the 9, 10, 11. verses of that Chap­ter. Where God sayes, Thou shalt not sow thy Vineyard with diverse seeds; Nor shalt thou plough thy field with an Oxe, and an Asse yokt together; Nor shalt thou weare a Garment of divers sorts, Name­ly, of Linnen, and Woollen woven together in one piece. To the My­sticall meaning of which Law, S. Paul here alludes, when he sayes, Be not unequally yokt with Vnbeleevers. For a Christian [Page 16] mingling with a Heathen, in a Heathen Congregation: Nay, a Christian mingling with a Heathen in the Temple of an Idol, was a more disproportion'd sight, then to see an Oxe yokt with an Asse in the same Plough; Or th [...]n to see Corn sown with Grapes in the same Field; Or then to see Wool mixt with Linnen in the same Garment. In a Word, the Idolatry of the Heathens was so incon­sistent with the Religion of the Christians, that S. Paul proceeds, and sayes, that they might as well reconcile Light to Darkn [...]sse, or contrive a League betweene Christ and Belial; Or tye a Marriage knot between Righteousnesse and sinne, as make it hold in fitnesse; That Christians who are the Temples of God, and of his holy Spirit, should meer, and eate, and beare a part in the Idol Temples of the Heathens. And these Infidels, these Heathens, who did not believe in Christ; These Corinthians unconverted, These Worshippers of Idols, who strived to draw the Christians back to their former Superstitions, were they from whom S. Paul bids his New Converts separate themselves. Come out from among them, and be ye separate, sayes he, at the 17. verse of that Chapter. O, (in the Language of the place) Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the uncleane thing, and I will receive you. Which words are but a string struck by the Prophet Esay 52.11. Esay first, and spoken by him, of the separation of the Iewes, from the then Idolatryes of the Heathens. And that this is the true Interpretation of this place, will appeare to any who shall compare, what S. Paul here sayes, with that which he sayes, in the 10. Chapter of his first Epistle to the Co [...]inthians, from the 19. to the 30. verse of that Chapter.

This then, being so, Let me aske the zealous persons, who thus de­light in Separation, are They from whom they separate such Infi­dells, such Heathens, such Worshippers of Idols, as S. Paul doth here describe? Doe they see any Gods of Gold, erected in our Tem­ples? Or doe they see any Images of Silver adored, and sacri­ficed to by our Congregations? Doe any of us make prayer ▪ to a stocke? Or doe any of us burne Incense to a Stone? Nay, l [...]t them (if they please) examine us by their private-meeting. Cate­chisme. Doe we not confesse the same God that they doe? Doe we not beleeve in the same Iesus Christ? Do we preach another Gospel? Or hope to be saved by any other Name but His? Are not our Congregations built on the Scripture-Rock? Is not Christ [Page 17] our Corner Stone, and his Apostles our Foundation? Doe we not agree with them in all things, but where they differ from the Scripture? As for Example, we doe maintaine, and say, that separation is a sinne. They doe maintaine and say, That 'tis a Christian Duty; We urge that Text which sayes, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptisme; They urge no Text, which sayes, Men must be twice Baptised. We say, that if a Child of God doe breake Gods Laws, a Child of God sinnes. Some of them say that God beholds no sinne in his Children. Lastly, we say of the Scripture, as 2 Pet. 3.16, S. Peter said of S. Pauls Epistles; That there be some things in seem, very hard to be understood, which they who are unlearned w [...]st to their owne Destruction. They say unlearned Gifted Me are the best Expounders of the Scripture; What they meane by Gifted Men I will not here examine. But that which I will say is this, because We differ in Opinions to divide themselves from us; Nay to apply such a reproachfull place of Scripture to us, as makes us no better then Infidels, and Heathens, and Worshippers of Idols, is to revile us with the Word of God, and to Libell us with Scripture.

Would They take it well, if we should apply to Them that place which sayes; Woe to you, yee Hypocrites, yee Blind Leaders of the Blind; you who strayne at Gnats, and yet securely swallow Camels? Would They take it well, if we should quote a place of Scripture, and make it call Them whited Sepulchers; which showe fayre and beautifull without, and hold nought but stinke, and Rot­tennesse within? Againe, would They take it well if we should apply to them, that place which speakes of Men, who have a Forme of Godlinesse, but deny the power thereof? Men, who like the old Pharisees, with a long prayer in their Mouth, creep into Houses, and there leade Captive silly Women? Lastly, would They take it well if we should apply that place to Them, which sayes; That as Iannes, and Iambres withstood Moses, so doe these men re­si [...]t the Truth? Men of corrupt Mindes; Reprobate concerning the Faith? (as 'tis in the Greek, and the Margin of your Bibles) [...], Men purblinde, voide of Iudgement con­cerning the true knowledge of the Faith? If they would not take it well, why doe they not observe the Rule of Equity, and Iustice, which is, To doe to us, but as They would have us doe to them?

[Page 18]But here perhaps, will some of you who heare me this day, say; We doe not separate from you, because you are out-right unbeleevers, Pagans, Infidels, or Heathens; But because you weare the Names of Christians, and yet live the Lives of Heathens. Though you doe not worship Idols, yet there is Covetousnesse among you, which S. Paul calls Col. 3.5. Idolatry. And though you d [...] [...]fesse Christ, yet you walke disorderly; And doe commit [...] sinnes which they who denyed Christ did. Though we see no Gods of Gold nor Silver in your Temples, yet if we came there, we might see a Congregation of such people as S. Paul in other places bids us Separate from. As for Example, turne to the 3. Chapter of his second Epistle to the Thessalonians, and the 6 verse. Doth he not there command us In the name of the Lord Iesus to withdraw our selves from every Brother, who walkes dis­orderly, and not according to the Traditions which he taught? Or if this place be not cleare enough, turne to the 5. Chapter of the first Epistle of S. Paul to the Corinthians, and to the 11. verse, Doth he not there say, that if Any man that is called a Brother, be a Fornicatour, or Covetous, or an Idolater, or a Rayler, or a Drunkard, or an Extortioner, with such a one we are not to keep Company, No, not to eat?

I grant, indeed, S. Paul sayes so, and doe think it very fit that S. Paul should be obeyed. But how doth this prove that they are to forsake our Congregations? That there are such men among us, as S. Paul doth there describe, is a Truth too cleare to be denyed. But are our whole Congregations composed of such men? Are all Drunkards? Are all Fornicatours? Are all Raylers? Are all Extortioners? Are all, both Priests and People so like one another, that when they meete they make not a Church. Assembly, but a Congregation of such sinners? Or are they onely some? And they, perhaps, the lesser part who are guilty of those sinnes? Nay suppose they should be farre the greater part, who are guilty of these sinnes; yet you know out Mat. 13. Saviour Christ compares the Church to a Field sowne with good seed; But then he tells us too. That to the Worlds end, among the good seed there shall still grow Weeds, and Tares. Againe, in the 13. chapter of S. Mathew at the 47. and 48. verses of that Chapter, he compares the Kingdome of God here in this World, to a Net cast into the Sea, which inclosed Fishes of all [Page 19] sorts, Bad as well as Good. And what the meaning of this draught of mingled Fishes is, I shall desire you to read at the 49. and 50. verses of that chapter, where he sayes; That at the End of the world, and not till then, the Angles shall go forth, and shall separate the wicked from among the Iust: [...], sayes the Originall Greek, They shall separate the wicked fro the midst of the Iust, which clearely doth prove to us, That till this fi [...]all Separation, in the Church of God here on earth, there will alwayes be a mixture: To divide or separate, therefore, from the whole Congregation, because some wicked men are in it, is a course so unreasonable, as if they should refuse a Field of Corne[?] because there grew some weeds, or should renounce a Field of Wheat because it beares some Tares.

Besides, I would faine know, how farre they will extend the meaning of that Text, where S. Paul sayes, That they are not to eat with a Brother, who is a Drunkard, or Adulterer, or Rayler, or Extortioner. Will they extend it to all sorts of persons who are such? If they will, Then if a Woman have a Drunkard to her Husband, she must separate from him because he is a Drunkard, if she doe not, every time she eats with him, she disobeyes S. Paul; and in every meals she makes with him she commits a Scripture sinne. By the same reason also, If the Sonne have a Drunkard to his Father, he must remove Tables, and not dyet with his Father. And so there will be one Division more then those the Scripture speakes of: For that onely tells us that the time shall come when the Sonne shall be divided from the Fa­ther, and the Mother from the Daughter. But if this Interpreta­tion be true, the Wife must divide and break her selfe from her distemper'd Husband too.

Nay give me leave to goe one step farther yet. If the sinnes of a part be a just sufficient Ground to separate from the whole, Why doe not they who separate, divide and fall assu [...]d [...]r? For here let me ask them, and let me ask without offence; Are they all so Innocent, so pure, so free, so voyd of sinne, that there is not one disorderly Brother among them? Is their place of private Meetings so much the New Ierusalem, That no Drunkard, no Adulterer, nor Rayler enters there? I wish there did not, my Brethren. We Ministers should not then so oft be called Dumb Doggs, Idol shepheards, Limbs of Antichrist, Baals Priests, by [Page 20] Tongues, Jam. 3.6. wich if S. Iames say true, are set on fire of Hell.

If then, it be not the meaning of S. Paul in that place, that we should separate from all because some of those All are wicked, upon what other just Ground doe they break Communion with us? Is it because we preach in Churches? They are Gods House of prayer. Made his by the Piety, and Devotion of our Fathers, who if they lived now would hardly call them Saints, who pre­ferre a Barne, nay a Hog-stye before a consecrated Temple. Or is it because there is Haeresie or Superstition mixt with our once Common Forme of prayer? If there had been, you see that scandall is removed. Or doe we persecute, or force, or drive them from our Congregations? We are so farre from that, that you see, they are ready to require that our publick Congregations, should stoope, and bow the Knee to their private Meetings. What other secret rea­son tis which thus divides them from us, I can by no meanes think, unlesse it be wrapt up in the Mystery and cloud of the 18. chap. of the Revelations, which is their other strong Herculean place of Scripture, which hath been urged to me to make good their Separation. From which dark place of Scripture when I have re­moved the veyle and Curtaine, I will put a period, and conclusi­on to this Sermon.

Tis there said, that S. Iohn heard an Angel proclaime aloud, and say, Babylon the Great is fallen, is fallen; and is becometh Habitation of Divels, the Hold of every uncleane Spirit, and a Cage of every uncleane, and hatefull Bird; As you may read at the 2. verse of that chapter. Tis farther said, That he heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her my people, that yee be not partakers of her sinnes, and that ye receive not of her plagues. As you may read at the 4. verse of that chapter, where by Ba­bylon fallen, they understand the Church of England fal [...]e. By the Habitation of Divels, the Hold of foule Spirits, and Cage of uncleane Birds. They understand our Parish Churches, and Congregations which meet there; which, they say, are so much a Cage of uncleane Birds, places so corrupt, so full of wic­kednesse, and sinne, that God, by his Spirit, as it were, by a voice from the Clouds, hath said unto them, Come out of them, my people, divide your selves from them, lest ye be partakers of this sinnes, and go sharers in their plagues. This is, or must be that Interpretation of that place; or else 'twill no way serve to uphold [Page 21] their Separation. If, I say, by the Habitation of Divells, and Cage of uncleane Birds be not meant our Church Assemblyes, from which they doe divide, they doe but build a House of straw, and choose the sand for a Foundation. I am sure I have been told that this was the very Interpretation which the Gentleman gave of this place ▪ who just now disputed with me, at a dispute which not long since he had with Mr. Gibson of Chinner.

But now will you heare my censure of this wilde Interpretation? Take it then, thus. Among the severall Expounders of the Reve­lation, I once met with one, who when he came to interpret the Seven Angels, which blew the Seven Trumpets. He said that by one of those Angels was meant Luther, by another Queen Elizabeth. And when he came to give the meaning of the Locusts which ascended from the Bottomelesse pit, with Crowns on their Heads, by the Locusts, He understood Schollers of the Vniversi­tie; And by the Crownes on their Heads, He understood Square Caps. Methinkes, these kinde of people deale just so with this place of the Revelation. They see strange visions in it which S. Iohn never saw; Namely, th [...]y see Babylon in our Churches, and uncleane Birds in our Assemblyes. Nay, though the Divels being Spirits are too invisible to be seen, yet, by the benefit of a New-light, they can see sights which no other Eyes can see without being present in the place to which soul Spirits do resort, (as if they had borrowed one of Galilaeo's Glasses) they can see Divels take Notes at our Sermons. But whether in short-Hand, or at length, S. Iohn hath not revealed.

Pardon me, I beseech you, you who are of the more grave and nobler sort, that I am thus pleasant in the pulpit; I am compelled to be so when I meet with people who deale with the Scripture, as men of melancholly Fancyes use to deale with the Clouds. For as I have knowne some Hypocondriack men, who have faigned to themselves flying Horses, winged Troops, and Ships sayling in the Aire; Nay, as I have knowne some, who, like the Melancholly man, who thought himselfe a urinall, have thought they have seene two Armyes in the Skie; and have mistaken Clouds, and Meteors for Soldiers, Trumpets, Drums, and Cannons; So I do not wonder that our Gifted, thinking people should so mistake the Revelation as they doe; or that they should see Monsters in the Scripture Clouds. Where the Scripture is most cleare, they hardly [Page 22] understand it; How then should they finde out the Key to such da [...]ke prophecies as this?

But here may some man say to me, if they mistake this place, whats your Interpretation of it? Why, my Interpretation is the very same which S. Iohn Himselfe delivers, Rev. 14.8. Where the Angel expresseth himself in the very same words. And sayes, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; That great City which made all Nations drinke of the Wine of the Wrath of her Abominations. And what was that Great City? Why the City built on seven Hills; As 'tis de­scribed in another place of the Revelation. That Great City which was the Queen of Nations; Namely, the City of Rome, when 'twas the seat of Heathen Emperours. Lastly, that Great City, which gave Laws to all the World, to worship her False Gods, and to par­take of her Idolatryes. And this was that Great City, which S. Iohn calls Babylon; either, because speaking of the Fall and Ruine of it, He thought it not safe to call it Rome, or by its right and proper Name; Lest, if he had done so, he might draw persecution on the Christians. Or els, Because as Babylon was the Head City of the Persian Monarchy, so Rome was then the Head City of the Roman. In a word, this is that Great City, which was then the great Court of Idolatry ▪ the Queen of Superstitions; And therefore, justly called by the Angel which spoke to S. Iohn, The Habitation of Divels, and Cage of uncleane Birds. And from this Babylon, this Rome, the then City of confusion, the Angel of God bid the Christians of those Times to come forth, and separate themselves; lest they should be partakers of her sins, and go sharers in her plagues. But to say as they do, that the Church of England is that Babylon the great; or that our Parish Congregations from which they do divide them­selves, are the Habitation of Divels, the Hold of foule spirits, and Cage of unclean Birds here mentioned in this chap. is such a piece of Ignorance, as well as zealous slander, that they will never be able to prove it, till they can make the Capitol of Rome stand in our London streets, or till they can make the River Tiber run, where now our Thames doth; or till they can change the Countries in our Mapps, and make the Mid-land Sea flow on our English shore. And farther then this I will not trespasse on your patience; or inlarge my selfe to prove to you that Separation is a Sin.

THE END.

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