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A

DISCOURSE

CONCERNING

EVANGELICAL LOVE,

CHURCH-PEACE AND UNITY.

WITH THE

OCCASIONS AND REASONS OF THE PRESENT DIFFERENCES AND DIVISIONS ABOUT THINGS SACRED AND RELIGIOUS.

Speciosum quidem nomen est pacis, et pulchra opinio unitatis: sed quis ambigat eam solum unicam ecclesiæ pacem esse quæ Christi est?-HILAR.

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A

DISCOURSE

CONCERNING

CHRISTIAN LOVE AND PEACE.

CHAP. I.

Complaints of want of love and unity among Christians, how to be managed, and whence fruitless. Charge of guilt on some, why now removed, and for whose sakes. Personal miscarriages of any not excused. Those who manage the charge mentioned not agreed.

THE great differences that are in the world amongst professors of the gospel about things relating to the worship of God, do exercise more or less the minds of the generality of men of all sorts: for either in themselves, or their consequences, they are looked on to be of great importance. Some herein regard principally that disadvantageous influence which they are supposed to have into men's spiritual and eternal concernments; others, that aspect which they fancy them to have upon the public peace and tranquillity of this world. Hence in all ages such divisions have caused 'great thoughts of heart;" especially because it is very difficult to make a right judgment either of their nature, or their tendency. But generally by all they are looked on as evil: by some, for what they are in themselves; by others, from the disadvantage which they bring (as they suppose) unto their secular interests. Hence there are amongst many great complaints of them, and of that want of love which is looked on as their cause. And indeed it seems not only to be in the liberty, but to be the duty of every man soberly to complain of the evils which he would, but cannot remedy. For such complaints testifying a sense of their evil, and a desire of their cure, can be no more than what love unto the public good requireth of us. And if in any case this

a Judges v. 15.

may be allowed, it must be so in that of divisions about sacred things, or the worship of God, with their causes and manner of management amongst men. For it will be granted that the glory of God, the honour of Christ, the progress of the gospel, with the edification and peace of the church, are deeply concerned in them, and highly prejudiced by them. And in these things all men have, if not an equal, yet such a special interest, as none can forbid them the due consideration of. No man therefore ought to be judged as though he did transgress his rule, or go beyond his line, who soberly expresseth his sense of their evil, and of the calamities wherewith they are attended. Yet must it not be denied, but that much prudence and moderation is required unto the due management of such complaints. For those which either consist in, or are accompanied with, invectives against the persons or ways of others, instead of a rational discourse of the causes of such divisions, and their remedies, do not only open, inflame, and irritate former wounds, but prove matters of new contention and strife, to their great increase. Besides, in the manifold divisions and differences of this nature amongst us, all men are supposed to be under an adherence unto some one party or other. Herein every man stands at the same distance from others as they do from him. Now all complaints of this kind carry along with them a tacit justification of those by whom they are made. For no man can be so profligate as to judge himself, and the way of religious worship wherein he is engaged, to be the cause of blameable divisions amongst Christians, and yet continue therein: reflections therefore of guilt upon others, they are usually replenished withal. But if those are not attended with evident light and unavoidable conviction, because they proceed from persons, supposed not indifferent, yea, culpable in this very matter more or less themselves, by them whom they reflect upon, they are generally turned into occasions of new exasperations and contests. And hence it is come to pass, that although all good men do on all occasions bewail the want of love, forbearance, and condescension that is found among professors of the gospel, and the divisions which follow thereon, yet no comfortable nor advantageous effects do thence ensue. Yea, not only is all expectation of that blessed fruit, which a general serious

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