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learned to obey, as far as lawfully I may, my judgment is exceedingly far from being enslaved ; and according to that, by God's assistance, shall be my practice; which, if it run cross to the prescriptions of authority, it shall cheerfully submit to the censure thereof. In the meantime, all petitioning of any party about this business seems to thwart some declarations of the House of Commons, whereunto I doubt not but they intend for the main inviolably and unalterably to adhere. Add hereunto, that petitioning in this kind was not long since voted breach of privilege, in them who might justly expect as much favour and liberty in petitioning as any of their brethren in the kingdom; and I have more than one reason to suppose that the purpose and design of theirs and others was one and the same.
3. There are no sinall grounds of supposal that some petitions have not their rise from amongst them by whom they are subscribed, but that the spring and master-wrieels giving the first motion to them are distant and unseen; myself having been lately urged to subscription upon this ground, that directions were had for it from above (as we used to speak in the country);-yea, in this I could say more than I intend, aiming at nothing but the quieting of men's spirits, needlessly exasperated; only I cannot but say, that honest men ought to be very cautious how they put themselves upon any engagement that might make any party or faction in the kingdom suppose that their interest, in the least measure, doth run cross to that of the great Council thereof; thereby to strengthen the hands or designs of any, by occasioning an opinion that, upon fresh or new divisions, (which God of his mercy prevent !) we would not adhere constantly to our old principles, walking according to which we have hitherto found protection and safety. And I cannot but be jealous for the honour of our noble Parliament, whose authority is every day undermined, and their regard in the affections of the people shaken, by such dangerous insinuations; as though they could in an hour put an end to all our disturbances, but refuse it. This season, also, for such petitions seems to be very unseasonable, the greatest appearing danger impendent to this kingdom being from the contest about church government; which, by such means as this, is exceedingly heightened, and animosity added to the parties at variance.
4. A particular form of church discipline is usually, in such petitions, either directly expressed or evidently pointed at and directed unto, as that alone which our covenant engageth us to embrace; yea, as though it had long since designed that particular way, and distinguished it from all others, the embracing of it is pressed under the pain of breach of covenant,-a crime abhorred of God and man. Now, truly, to suppose that our covenant did tie us up absolutely to any one formerly known way of church discipline,-the words formally engaging us into a disquisition out of the word of that which is agreeable to the mind and will of God,—is to me such a childish, ridiculous, selfish conceit, as I believe no knowing men will once entertain, unless prejudice, begotten by their peculiar interest, hath disturbed their intellectuals. For my part, I know no church government in the world already established amongst any sort of men, of the truth and necessity whereof I am convinced in all particulars; especially if I may take their practice to be the best intepreter of their maxims.
Fourthly, Another “postulatum” is, that men would not use an over-zealous speed, upon every small difference, to characterize men (otherwise godly and peaceable) as sectaries; knowing the odiousness of the name,' among the vulgar, deservedly or otherwise imposed, and the evil of the thing itself, rightly apprehended, whereunto lighter differences do not amount. Such names as this I know are arbitrary, and generally serve the wills of the greater number. They are commonly sectaries who, “jure aut injuriâ,” are oppressed. Nothing was ever
1 “Nunc vero si nominis odium est, quis nominum reatus ? quæ accusatio vocabulorum nisi aut Barbarum sonat aliqua vox nominis, aut maledicum, aut impudicumi”—Tertul. Apol.
persecuted under an esteemed name. Names are in the power of many; things and their causes are known to few. There is none in the world can give an ill title to others, which from some he doth not receive. The same right which in this kind I have towards another, he hath towards me; unless I affirm myself to be infallible, not so him. Those names which men are known by when they are oppressed, they commonly use against others whom they seek to oppress. I would, therefore, that all horrid appellations, as increasers of strife, kindlers of wrath, enemies of charity, food for animosity, were for ever banished from amongst us. Let a spade be called a spade, so we take heed Christ be not called Beelzebub. I know my profession to the greatest part of the world is sectarism, as Christianity; amongst those who profess the name of Christ, to the greatest number I am a sectary, because a Protestant;' amongst Protestants, at least the one half account all men of my persuasion Calvinistical, sacramentarian sectaries; amongst these, again, to some I have been a puritanical sectary, an Arian heretic, because anti-prelatical; yea, and amongst these last, not a few account me a sectary because I plead for presbyterial government in churches: and to all these am I thus esteemed, as I am fully convinced, causelessly and erroneously. What they call sectarism, I am persuaded is “ipsissima veritas,” the “ very truth itself,” to which they also ought to submit; that others also, though upon false grounds, are convinced of the truth of their own persuasion, I cannot but believe: and therefore, as I find by experience that the horrid names of heretic, schismatic, sectary, and the like, have never had any influence or force upon my judgment, nor otherwise moved me, unless it were unto retaliation, so I am persuaded it is also with others; for “ homines sumus:" forcing them abroad in such liveries doth not at all con-. vince them that they are servants to the master of sects indeed, but only makes them wait an opportunity to cast the like mantle on their traducers. And this usually is the beginning of arming the more against the few with violence, impatient of bearing the burdens which they impose on others’ shoulders; by means whereof Christendom hath been made a theatre of blood, and one amongst all, after that by cruelty and villany he had prevailed above the rest, took upon him to be the only dictator in Christian religion. But of this afterward.
Now, by the concession of these, as I hope, not unequitable demands, thus much at least I conceive will be attained, viz., that a peaceable dissent in some smaller things, disputable questions, not absolutely necessary assertions, deserves not any rigid censure, distance of affections, or breach of Christian communion and amity. In such things as these,“ veniam petimusque damusque vicissim:” if otherwise, I profess I can hardly bring my mind to comply and close in with them amongst. whom almost any thing is lawful but to dissent.
These things being premised, I shall now set down and make public that proposal which heretofore I have tendered, as a means to give some light into a way for the profitable and comfortable practice of church government; drawing out of general notions what is practically applicable, so circumstantiated as of necessity it must be. And herein I shall not alter any thing, or in the least expression go off from that which long since I drew up at the request, of a worthy friend, after a discourse about it; and this, not only because it hath already been in the hands of many, but also because my intent is not, either to assert, dispute, or make out any thing farther of my judgment in these things than I have already done (hoping for more leisure so to do than the few hours assigned to the product of this short appendix will permit), but only, by way of a defensative, to evince that the rumours which have been spread by some, and entertained by others too greedily, about this matter, have been exceeding causeless and groundless ; so that
I Acts xxiv. 14, xxviii. 22._"Hæresis Christianorum." Tertul.,_"Secta Christ." Id.,_"Hæresis catholica, et hæresis sanctissima,” Constant. Epist. Chr. Syriac. Tileni Syntagma,-quo probare conatur Calvinianos esse hæreticos, Hun. Calv. Tur. Andrews. Epist. ad Molin.
thuugh my second thoughts have, if I mistake not, much improved some particulars in this essay, yet I cannot be induced, because of the reason before recounted (the only cause of the publication thereof), to make any alteration in it; only I shall present the reader with some few things which gave occasion and rise to this proposal. As
(1.) A fervent desire to prevent all farther division and separation,-disunion of minds amongst godly men,-suspicions and jealousies in the people towards their ministers, as aiming at power and unjust domination over them,—fruitless disputes, languishings about unprofitable questions, breaches of charity for trifles, exasperating the minds of men one against another ;-all which growing evils, tending to the subversion of Christian love and the power of godliness, with the disturbance of the state, are too much fomented by that sad breach and division which is here attempted to be made up.
(2.) A desire to work and draw the minds of all my brethren (the most, I hope, need it not) to set in for a thorough reformation, and for the obtaining of holy communion,—to keep off indifferently the unworthy from church privileges and profaning of holy things. Whereunto I presumed the discovery of a way whereby this might be effected, without their disturbance in their former station, would be a considerable motive.
(3.) A consideration of the paucity of positive rules in the Scripture for church government, with the great difficulty of reducing them to practice in these present times (both sufficiently evidenced by the endless disputes and irreconcilable differences of godly, precious, and learned men about them), made me conceive that the practice of the apostolical churches, doubtless for a time observed in those immediately succeeding, would be the best external help for the right interpretation of those rules we have, and pattern to draw out a church way by. Now, truly, after my best search and inquiry into the first churches and their constitution, framing an idea and exemplar of them, this poor heap following seems to me as like one of them as any thing that yet I have seen; nothing at all doubting but that if a more skilful hand had the limning of it, the proportions, features, and lines would be very exact, equal and parallel; yea, did not extreme haste now call it from me, so that I have no leisure so much as to transcribe the first draught, I doubt not but by God's assistance it might be so set forth as not to be thought altogether undesirable, if men would but a little lay aside beloved pre-conceptions. But the printer stays for every line; only I must entreat every one that shall cast a candid eye on this unwillingly-exposed embryo and rude abortion, that he would assume in his mind any particular church mentioned in the Scripture, as of Jerusalem, Corinth, Ephesus, or the like; consider the way and state they were then and some ages after, in respect of outward immunities and enjoyments, and tell me whether any rational man can suppose that either there were in those places sundry particular churches, with their distinct, peculiar oficers, acting in most pastoral duties severally in them, as distinguished and divided into entire societies, but ruling them in respect of some particulars loyally in combination, considered as distinct bodies; or else that they were such single congregations as that all that power and authority which was in them may seem fitly and conveniently to be intrusted with a small handful of men, combined under one single pastor, with one, two, or perhaps no associated elders. More than this I shall only ask, whether all ordinary power may not, without danger, be asserted to reside in such a church as is here described, reserving all due right and authority to councils and magistrates? Now, for the fountain, seat, and rise of this power, for the just distribution of it between pas. tors and people, this is no place to dispute; these following lines were intended merely to sedate and bury such contests, and to be what they are entitled,
''Anica o isireiss jázruges copétara.- Pind., Od, i. Olym., 54, 55.
A COUNTRY ESSAY
THE PRACTICE OF CHURCH GOVERNMENT THERE.
Our long expectation of some accommodation between the dissenting parties about church government being now almost totally frustrate,-being also persuaded, partly through the apparent fruitlessness of all such undertakings, partly by other reasons not at this time seasonable to be expressed, that all national disputes tending that way will prove birthless tympanies,—we deem it no ungrateful endeavour, waiving all speculative ideas, to give an essay, in such expressions as all our country friends concerned in it may easily apprehend, of what we conceive amongst us may really be reduced to comfortable and useful practice: concealing for a while all arguments for motives and inducements unto this way, with all those rocks and shelves, appearing very hideous in former proposals, which we strive to avoid; until we perceive whether any of our giants in this controversy will not come and look, and so overcome it, that at first dash the whole frame be irrecoverably ruined.
Neither would we have any expect our full sense to each particular imaginable in this business, —it being only a heap of materials, mostwhat unhewed, that we intend, and not a well-compacted fabric;and if the main be not condemned, we are confident no difference will ensue about particulars, which must have their latitude. However, if it be received as candidly as it is offered, no inconvenience will ensue. Now, that the whole may be better apprehended, and the reasons, if not the necessity, of this undertaking intimated, we shall premise some things concerning the place and persons for whose use is this proposal.
First, For ministers. The place having all this while, through the goodness of God, been preserved in peace and quietness; and by the rich supply of able men sent hither by Parliament, there are in many parishes godly, orthodox, peace-loving pastors.
Secondly, For the people.
1. Very many, as in most other places, extremely ignorant, worldly, profane, scandalously vicious.
1 The form being given to this essay at the first, I thought not good to alter any thing about it. VOL VIII.
2. Scarcely any parish where there are not some visibly appearing, of all ages, sexes, and conditions, fearing God, and walking unblamably with a right foot, as beseemeth the gospel; though in some places they are but like the berries after the shaking of an olive-tree
3. Amongst these, very few gifted, fitted or qualified for government.
4. Many knowing professors, and such of a long standing, inclined to separation, unless some expedient may be found for comfortable communions; and in this resolution seem to be settled, to a contempt of allurements and threatenings.
5. Seducers everywhere lying in wait to catch and deceive wellmeaning souls, any thing discontented with the present administration of church affairs.
6. Upon all which it appears, that comfortable communion is not to be attained within the bounds of respective parishes.
Farther to carry on our intentions, we would desire of authority,
1. That our divisions may not be allotted out by our committees, -who, without other consideration, have bounded us with the precincts of high constables,—but be left to the prudence of ministers, and other Christians, willingly associating themselves in the work.
2. That men placed in civil authority may not, by virtue of their authority, claim any privilege in things purely ecclesiastical.
In the several parishes let things be thus ordered:
1. Let every minister continue in his station, taking especial care of all them that live within the precincts of his parish; preaching, exhorting, rebuking, publicly, and from house to house; warning all,— using all appointed means to draw them to Jesus Christ and the faith of the gospel; waiting with all patience on them that oppose themselves, until God give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and in so doing, rest upon the calling he hath already received.
2. Let the respective elders of the several parishes, to be chosen according to the ordinance of Parliament (annually, or otherwise), join with the ministers in all acts of rule and admonition, with those other parts of their charge which the parochial administration doth require.
3. Let all criminal things, tending to the disturbance of that church administration which is amongst them be by the officers orderly delated to such as the civil magistrate shall appoint to take cognizance and determine of such things.
And thus far have we proposed nothing new, nothing not common; neither in that which follows is there any thing so indeed, may it be but rightly apprehended.
For the several combinations of ministers and people :
1. Let the extremes of the division not be above eight or ten miles distant, and so the middle or centre not more than four or five miles from any part of it,—which is no more than some usually go to