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or parcel taken separated from the rest, which must make up the sense; so also the workings of God upon your souls must be taken altogether, and you must read them over from the first till now, and set altogether, and not forget the letters, the part that went before, or else you will make no sense of that which followeth. And I beseech all weak and troubled Christians to remember also, that they are but children and scholars in the school of Christ; and therefore when they cannot set the several parts together, let them not overvalue their unexperienced understandings, but by the help of their skilful, faithful teachers, do that which of themselves they cannot do. Inquire what your former mercies signify: open them to your guides, and tell them how God hath dealt with you from the beginning, and tell them how it is with you now; and desire them to help you to perceive how one conduceth to the right understanding of the other. And be not of froward, but of tractable, submissive minds; and thus your self-acquaintance may be maintained, at least to safety, and to some degree of peace, if not to the joys, which you desire, which God reserveth for their proper season.
I should have added more on this necessary subject, but that I have said so much of it in other writings, especially in the "Saints' Rest," part iii. chap. 7; and in my "Treatise of Self-denial," and in "The Right Method for Peace of Conscience."
I must confess I have written on this subject as I did of Self-denial, viz. with expectation that all men should confess the truth of what I say; and yet so few be cured by it of their self-ignorance, as that still we must stand by, and see the world distracted by it, the church divided, the love of brethren interrupted, and the work of Satan carried on by error, violence, and pride; and the hearts of men so strangely stupified, as to go on incorrigibly in all this mischief, while the cause and cure are opened before them, and all in vain, while they confess the truth; so that they will leave us nothing to do, but exercise our compassion, by lamenting the deliration of frenetic men, while we are unable to serve the church, their brethren, or their own souls, from the dilacerations and calamitous effects of their furious self-ignorance. But Christ that hath sent us with the light, which may be resisted, and abused, and in part blown out,
will speedily come with light irresistible, and will teach the proud, the scornful, the unmerciful, the self-conceited, the malicious, and the violent, so effectually to know themselves, as that no more exhortations shall be necessary for the reception of his convictions; nor will he or his servants any more beseech men to consider and know their sin and misery, nor be beholden to them to believe and confess it. (See Jude 14, 15.) And is there no remedy for a stupified, inconsiderate soul? Is there no prevention of so terrible a self-knowledge, as the light of judgment, and the fire of hell will else procure? Yes, the remedy is certain, easy, and at hand: "Even to know themselves till they are driven to study, and seek and know the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ," (John xvii. 3,) and yet is the salvation of most as hopeless almost as if there were no remedy, because no persuasion can prevail with them to use it. Lord, what hath thus locked up the minds and hearts of sinners against thy truth and thee! What hath made reasonable man so unreasonable, and a self-loving nature so mortally to hate itself! O thou that openest, and no man shutteth, use the key that openeth hearts; come in with thy wisdom, and thy love, and all this blindness and obstinacy will be gone. At least commit not the safety of thy flock to such as will not know themselves: but "gather thy remnant, and bring them to their folds, and let them be fruitful and increase; and set up shepherds over them, which shall feed them, and let them fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor be lacking." (Jer. xxiii. 3, 4.) "Ordain a place for them, plant them, and let them dwell therein unmoved; and let not the children of wickedness waste them any more." (1 Chron. xvii. 9.) "As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered, so seek out thy sheep, and deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day." (Ezek. xxxiv. 12.). "Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever." (Psal. xxviii. 9.).
END OF SELF-IGNORANCE, AND SELF-ACQUAINTANCE
THE TRUE CATHOLIC,
CATHOLIC CHURCH DESCRIBED;
AND THE VANITY OF THE PAPISTS, AND ALL OTHER SCHISMATICS, THAT CONFINE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH TO THEIR SECT,
THE tumultuary contentions and distractions about the catholic church, which have been raised by many heretical and schismatical firebrands, have moved me to publish these popular sermons, in order to the satisfaction and settlement of such minds as have been ensnared to a misunderstanding of this article of the Creed. It grieved me to hear so many Christians, that were all baptized into the catholic church, and there received the badge of Christianity and catholicism, to be doubtfully inquiring which is the true catholic church, and many dividers confining it to their sects: and lastly, the Seekers, (instructed by the Papists) with seeming seriousness questioning whether there be any church and ministry at all? But never any sect did cause my admiration so much as the Papist! That ever so many princes and learned men should so odiously vilify the catholic church, and that under pretence of magnifying it, and appealing to it. They are not contented in their doctrine of transubstantiation, to deny sense and reason, ('Et contra rationem nemo sobrius') and in many writings to speak diminutively and dishonourably of the Holy Scriptures, (too like to infidels: Et contra Scripturas nemo Christianus ;') but they also cut off themselves (as sectaries) from the universal church, as far as an uncharitable, odious condemning of the far greatest part of the church can do it, and call the church (even that greatest part) by the name of heretics and schismatics; ('Et contra ecclesiam nemo pacificus.') And as confidently and contentiously do they labour to cut off the
main body of believers, and to appropriate the catholic church to themselves, and to make their corrupted sect to be the whole, as if the catholic church had been limited to the Roman in the Scripture, or the Creed; or as if they had the consent of Christ himself for the divorcing of his spouse. And the men that call charity the form, and soul, and life of the new creature, do seem to be insensible of the brand of their unhappiness; and that there is no greater uncharitableness to be found on this side hell, than the malicious reproaching, condemning, and unchurching of the far greatest part of the church of Christ; except that of infidels, who condemn the whole. When you hea: them glorifying of their charity, come hither and rub your eyes, and see what Popish charity is.
For the right understanding of this following discourse, I shall only desire the reader to observe, 1. That it is not a particular church, but the universal, that I am here inquiring after. 2. That I do not intend hereby to equalize the several parts of the catholic church, as to purity of doctrine, discipline, or worship. 3. That yet I would have all Christians join themselves in actual particular communion with the purest churches, if they can obtain it, without greater hurt to themselves or others. than the benefits will countervail. And that I do not intend that we must hold local communion with every congregation, which must be owned as a part of the catholic church. It is possible they may require a participation in some sin of all those that they will admit to their communion: and in such cases, (when they exclude us) we can hold but such a general distant communion, which they cannot prohibit. 4. That when I condemn the schism and uncharitableness of the Papists, or any others, I yet condemn not, but commend our exercise of charity to them, as far as I can discern it.
Lastly, be advertised, that whereas in another book, that comes out with this, (called "Catholic Unity,") I have again taken up many of the particulars wherein the godly are united; I think it need not offend the reader, as an unnecessary repetition, that being but the application of the truth which is here asserted. There I labour to convince the ungodly, that concord can be obtained by no other means, and no other terms, than those which I have here shewed the godly are all agreed in.
Reader, If indeed thou love the church of Christ, join
with me in thy heartiest daily prayers, and in thy faithful diligent endeavours, for the destroying of divisions, and the repairing of decayed charity, and restoring of catholic principles and affections to all the members of the church. RICHARD BAXTER.
December 12, 1659.
THE TRUE CATHOLIC, AND CATHOLIC CHURCH DESCRIBED.
1 CORINTHIANS xii. 12.
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
Ir is a pitiful case with the poor afflicted church of Christ, that almost all the members cry out against division, and yet cause and increase it, while they speak against it. And that all cry up unity, and yet very few do any thing that is very considerable to promote it; but multitudes are destroying unity, while they commend it: and those few that would heal and close the wounds, are not able by the clearest reasons, and most importunate requests, to hold the hands of others from opposing it; and to get leave of the rest to do that work, which they will not do themselves while they extol it. You would think this were rather the description of a bedlam, than of a Christian! to set all on fire, and furiously to rail at all that would quench it, and at the same time to rail as much at incendiaries, and cry out for concord, and against division, and call other men all that is naught, for doing that which they do themselves, and will not be persuaded from! But to the injurious dishonour of Christianty itself it is thus with millions of professed Christians! thus is the church used: the sin and shame is made so public, that no charity can much excuse it, and no shift can cover it from the reproachful observation of those that are without. Alas, our flames do rise so high, that Turks, and Jews, and Heathens stand looking on them, and ask, 'What is the matter that these Christians thus irreconcileably worry one another?' Do we need any proof, when we feel the smart?