THE METHOD OF A SYNOD, OR, A RATIONALL AND sure Way to compose and settle the Differences and Controversies in Religion to the Contentment of honest and wise men, and all the Lovers of Christian Peace.

By G. T. Stud. in C. C. C.

Nemo nostrum dicat jam se invenisse veritatem: Sictam quaeramus quasi ab utris (que) nesciatur. Aug. cont. Manich.
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LONDON, Printed, and are to be sold by William Larnar. MDCXLII.

A METHOD OR, WAY OF PROCEEDING in SYNOD.

NO Age from the first entrance of Sinne into the World ha's en­joyed so pure and certaine a hap­pinesse but that it ha's still beene mingled and disturb'd with some infelicity: and on the other side, on Time ha's beene so miscrable and unfortunate, but the good will of God towards Mankind, whose flesh his blessed Sonne wore, ha's temper'd it with some sweetnesse. The experience of all Ages witnesses this, the Histories of all people abundantly prove it. This present Age of ours is a most cleere Testimonie to assert the same: Oh all you that passe by, was ever griefe and distraction [Page 2] like ours? Which to prove, I meane not to runne the Story of all our Evils, nor of that Good wherewith we are somewhat recreated and relieved; but onely to re­count one most eminent Good, and one Evill diame­trally opposed to that Good; our great and eminent Good is this: That divine Mercy ha's illuminated these Kingdomes with the beames of Sacred Truth, and the knowledge of the true (that is) of the Christian Religion, for all others besides it are most certainly false: Our Exceeding great Evill to that Good oppos'd, is, That either humane ignorance, or perversenesse ha's not on­ly mask't, but dangerously clouded the beauty of that Truth with Errors, and torne us into various parts, nay parcels of parts, quite contrary to the nature, spirit and Genius of Christian Religion, which is most entirely one, the Author of which is one; and the Prince of peace, the Doctrine, the Gospell of peace, the Profes­sors call'd the Sonnes of peace; and to say all in a word, The foundation of which is that great Pacification be­twixt GOD and man; and the end of it eternall peace and tranquillitie. Is it not then strange, that of this Re­ligion such and so many Dissentions should be borne? Christ himselfe tels us no.Mat. 10. I came not to send peace into the Earth; but a sword, &c. And the enemies of a man shall be those of his owne house; which words doe not shew the end of Christs comming, but an event like to arise from thence by the aversnesse of some or the most of men from his Discipline.

From Religion sprung that hate of the Jewes towards the Samaritans whose service hee would not use even in businesse that concerned his life, nor the Samaritan his: hence the Samaritan woman admires that Jesus should [Page 3] aske water of her to drinke, Joh. 4. From such hate and dissent of minds, Schismes, Factions, Secessions into seve­rall parties arise. For as Love is an Affection of Union, so hate of disseparation. Hence Synagogues, are oppos'd to Synagogues, Temples to Temples, Altars rais'd against Altars, consecrated and frequented, which neither part wiladmit of Commerce with the other. This is the cause, that voyces not unlike those of the Jsraelites scattering themselves into Factions, are heard amongst us now; To thy Tents (O Israel!) they have no share in God, nor in his Sonne Jesus Christ. For both Factions equally ap­propriate to themselves that glorious name of the true Israel, and take it from the other; as if this were pos­sessed with plenary absolute power of judging above the other; or as if the GOD of Heaven had prejudg'd that great name to this partie alone, which hee graciously bestowes upon, and publishes to his whole Church: nei­ther yet do's this im bitterdnesse of dissenting minds rest and fixe it selfe in Schisme; but if peradventure one partie find it selfe too strong for the other, it do's not feare to begin a persecution against the adverse, and to contrive, and labour the utter destruction of it, passing by no Engine fit for that purpose which either wit can invent, or Religious choller can dictat, or the very Shop of Hell can furnish them withall. They are mad, and commit outrages upon the same; the goods and bodies of men alive, upon their dust, Sepulchers, and memory when they are dead, nay upon the soules of living and dead men, and that with all kinds of armes; with mock­ing, Calumnies, and Execrations, Excommunications, Anathematismes, Libels, Prisons, Banishments into re­mote and barbarous Ilands, from their deare Wives and [Page 4] Children, till the adverse part be either quite extinct, or submit it selfe to the will of the prevailing side, by abjuring their owne opinion, and receiving that opini­on which they lately blam'd, and protested against.

Thus the Gentiles persecuted the first and best Chri­stians; thus the Arians the Orthodox Divines. If we looke upon our present state here at home, I need not cast about for more Arguments to prove this; all this Towne, all this Kingdome confesses, That from Chri­stian Religion our greatest good, dissentions and im­portunate vexations of one another have flow'd, not im­mediately from Religion it selfe, but our vice, or weak­nes, or both. And now I come to the Remedy of these miseries and evils, and most hopefull appearing way to repossesse us in that good which wee our selves have forfeited. Physitians say the nature of Remedies is such that they are never applied in vaine; that they either doe good, and truely are what they are said to be, or a great deale of harme: which very thing perswades me, first to remove certaine perverse remedies in this case of controverted Religion, devised by men, and some­times used.2. Ill. Re­med.

First of all the sufficiency of implicite faith, by which wee believe without knowledge of the thing it selfe, what the Church and Prelats believe, is obtruded upon us as a speciall Remedy, when Religion is distemper'd and sick. With this kind of faith, (sayes the jesuite) the Catholique Collier perplext and confuted the Di­vell. And indeed this is a way without doubt not onely to remove dissentions in Religion, but take away even Religion it selfe which cannot be without knowledge and faith, Rom. 10.10. Hab. 2.4. 2 Cor. 4.13.

[Page 5] 2. another Device not unlike this, to settle Reli­gion, is a strange Position, yet received in the world; namely, That every man may be sav'd in his owne Re­ligion: But this Assertion is a Remedie worse then the Disease of Religion, and leads those which are possess'd with that Error to certaine destruction; because that opinion makes Error incurable, since no man upon this ground, That his owne Religion will save him, needs to lay downe or correct his error. Mahomet devis'd this to establish his Alcoran and exempt it from Discepta­tion. This prevaild in Paganisme, as appeares by that inscription of an Altar at Athens; To the Gods of Asia, to the Gods of Europe, and Affrica, to unknowne and for­reigne Gods. By this way the Devill sought to establish himselfe, providing that his Kingdome should not be divided against it selfe to perish.

3. A third perverse Remedie is prohibition of dis­pute about Religion, which layes a foundation for most stupid ignorance. and this is dangerous, whether that Religion which prevailes amongst a people be true or false: if true, by reason of the inconstancie of mans minde ready to be Apostate from true Religion, there needs dispute to confirme it: if false, lest receiv'd Error should be turn'd over, and consecrated to perpetuity.

4. The Romanists prescribe us three Remedies more. They send us to the Catholiqne Church, that is, the representative body of the Roman Church, the Bishop of Rome, the Cardinalls, inferior Bishops, and other Praelaticall men subject to the Pope: and because they believe that all the subordinate Bishops, Cardinalls and Prelates gather'd together may erre, they exempt the Pope from a possibility of erring, and turne us over to [Page 6] his Holinesse for definitive Sentence, and peremtory Decree, in the Doubts, Controversies, and Differences in Religion. But this Remedy for two Reasons is vaine. First, because the Christian world cannot bee convinc'd of the Truth of that Article of Infallibility in the Pope. Secondly, when they goe about to prove his Holinesse infallible by the Scriptures, they teach us unawares to run to the Scripture as the great President, and most certaine Determiner in Religion.

5. If this way of cure doe not please us, they give us a receipt of all the Greeke and Latine Fathers; they bid us swallow and digest them, and then pick out our Religion from their consent and agreement: But this Remedie is hopelesse for many Reasons, but especially for that which the Romanists with us agree upon; name­ly, That every Father might Erre, and be quite out as well as we.

6. For further Remedy, They send us to consult with the Decrees of antecedent Councels, and if the Con­troversie be there once decided, they advise us not to call it againe into question. But what if a good Cause be ill pleaded and cast; not for any fault in it selfe, but in the assertors silence for feare or unskilfulnesse in the Patronage of his cause? must we then take the Result of his weaknesse for truth upon the word of a Councell?

7. Some have thought it a hopefull Remedie in case of divided Religion, To supplicate God Almighty that he would be pleas'd to send some man from the dead, that of him we might know how God judges of the o­pinions of dissenting men. But our Saviour takes us off from this, Luk 16. They have Moses and the Prophets, whom if they will not heare, neither will they believe though one should rise from the dead.

[Page] 8. There remaines another horrible kind of Reme­die, and yet sometimes used; namely, the adjuration of damned Spirits in the bodies of the possess'd men by Ex­orcismes and Conjurations to make them answere con­cerning the truth of controverted opinions. And this is so execrable that I need say nothing against it. Wee know that Christ Jesus would not take the Testimony of such spirits concerning him, but commanded them to hold their peace. But I dismisse these wilde Reme­dies, and come to those which are voted sober, holy and true, by the most learned Writers of the best reformed Churches: which Remedies may be distributed into Rernedies preparatorie, and Remedies Aphaereticall, or powerfull to take away Dissentions of minds in Re­ligion. To the Remedies preparatorie chiefly belong Prayers and supplications to God for the knowledge of truth, and the impetration of Christian peace; which prayers joyn'd with fasting and humiliation in dust and ashes cannot but be efficacious, because (according to Gods owne command) we pray for the peace of Israel. To our prayers let a serious Correction of our lives be added, or else our Prayers are nothing but a fruitlesse noyse. Hee that do's the will of my father shall know of the Doctrine, whether it be of God, &c. John 7. Let those causes which beget and nurse dissention be taken away: let humility out our pride; let benevolence take place of envy, longanimitie of anger; let a sober kind of wisedome in nice questions set a bound and measure to our desire of knowing somthing more then others; let hate and bitternesse be laid downe, and in stead of them let the bowels of compassion bee put on towards those which dissent from us in Religion and seem to be in the error; which wee may easily doe if we consider these foure things. 1. How difficult a thing it is to dis­cover truth, and decline error. 2. That those who [Page] crosse our opinion, doe it rather out of ignorance then a studied malice to procure eternall destruction for their owne selves and others. 3. That those whom wee ap­prehend to bee in such an error may possibly bee of the number of Gods elect, and permitted to fall into that error, that God may raise them with more glory: and can we then determine any thing rigorously against our brethren the members of Christ, and not onely the ser­vants, but the sonnes of God, and the elect heyres of hea­ven? Thus much of preparatory Remedies disposing us to the discovery of truth, and the reconciliation of divided parts in Religion. The piety and wisedome of our Soveraigne Lord, and of this great and honourable Councell ha's already shewed us the most hopefull Re­medie of our distempers, namely a Synod. The defini­tion of which (though it might be heere not unartifici­ally as also that authoritie by which a Synod ought to be call'd, I willingly omit. A young Divine may easi­ly trip in a politicall discourse: but I have resolved with my selfe not to touch on any thing which is not safe for me, nor to say any thing which a wise man perhaps will not venture to say after me. But will you now heare the judgement of grave, honest, and learned Divines con­cerning the qualifications and accomplishments of such as are fit to be Synoders? Such men (say they) ought to be convein'd as are instructed with wisedome, sanctity of life, and experience of things, such as burne with the zeale of God, and the salvation of men, with the love of truth, and Christian peace; such as are acknowledg'd by probable reasons to have the Spirit of Truth, by which they are enabled to discerne betwixt true and false, good and bad; and since Laicks as well as Eccle­siastick men may be endowed with such abilities; Laicks (say the same Authors) whether they be inplace of office and Dignitie, nor more private may be admitted to the [Page] sacred Convent: the dore of the house where such'a Convent is held, they would have thus inscrib'd with golden let­ters. Let no man enter here, but he that is studious of Truth and peace: may God himselfe place his Angel with a flaming sword at the entrance of this Paradise where divine Truth and the lovely Concord of the Church is consulted about, to keepe back all those who are otherwise minded. Amen.

In such a Synod Divines agree, That the Prerogatives of Princes, making of war, with other Politicall chings, are not to be handled; but things pertaining purely to Religion, such as are (say they) the Doctrine of Faith and manners, & Ordo Ecclesiasticus, the interpretation of which words I permit to every man, because I mean to be offensive to none, except it be for not rendring them. In dogmatis, or in opinions two things are to be consi­der'd; 1. the truth of them; 2. how great the necessitie is of knowing, beleeving and doing according to them. The end of such a sacred Convent should be the illustra­tion of Truth, the conservation and propagation of it, extirpation of errors the peace of the Church, whence exists the glory of God, and the eternall salvation of man. Now whether a presidence in such a Synod be com­patible to any one particular man, or whether to avoid confusion, severall Presidents to succeed one another may not be needfull, I leave to the resolution of honest and wise men. But I think some kind of President might be very usefull to propose thines to be done, to aske o­pinions, to collect them by the service of Notaries, and governe the whole action.

Actions which passe in such a Synod by Divines are re­duc'd to three; 1. acurate disceptation about controver­sies; 2. mature consultation; 3. A free speaking of eve­ry ones sentence concerning what is enquir'd, the rule of all which is the Word of God contain'd in the old and new Testament. All men which write upon this [Page] subject agree, that Disputations in Synods ought not to be made in Rhetoricall flourishes, but in Logicall concise argumentations, in which all extemporality and praeci­pitant hast must be taken heed of. They advise the Dis­putants on both sides to take time enough for just medi­tation, & for the avoiding of many absurdities, to com­prise in writing the summ of what they intend to speak, and thence to recite it. The Disputation being ended, grave and mature deliberation is to be used both about the Controversies themselves and Arguments urg'd by both sides, that by contracting the whole Dispute to a narrow compass, the truth at one intuition may appeare and be receiv'd with the content and astipulation of the whole body. And because nothing ha's more hindred the discovery of Truth, & agreement of men in Religion, then that some men who have tyed themselves to opini­ons at home, bring them to the Synod, and resolve to pro­nounce them there: therfore it is necessary (sayes my Author) that sanctum juramentum a holy Oath should be given to every man convented to speak all in the feare of God from a good conscience, to maintain nothing which he thinks false, to conceal nothing which he thinks true though it make against himselfe, not to urge any thing which is doubtfull for a thing certaine, but that he will be ready to doe all which lies in him that may conduce to the discovery of Truth, and promotion of Christian peace. From minds of men dispos'd as aforesaid to recon­ciliation and agreement, from a Synod thus administred and regulated, we may expect by Gods mercy and bles­sing, a glorious rising and breaking forth of Truth and peace upon us, and have cause to receive them with Be­nedictions Jubiles, and such like acclamations.

Truth and righteousnes look downe from heaven upon us, and we see Ierusalem as a Citie at unity within it selfe. Pray for them that love her: peace be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

FINIS.

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