« AnteriorContinuar »
wicked, and godliness is ever despised by them; of which Lactantius f assigns this reason, 'That he who sins, wants to have s a free opportunity of finning, and thinks he can no otherwise s enjoy securely the pleasure of his ill deeds, than when there 'are many who delight in the fame faults. Hence they study
* to destroy and cut off root and branch, those who are witnes
* ses of their wickedness, and they cannot endure that good
* mens lives should be a reproof, as it were, of theirs. There
* fore by the friendship of the wicked, piety is endangered.' We have some amongst us, that put on a form of godliness,
but have denied the power thereof: of such f Bernard in his time thus complained: 'Woe to this generation, which hash
* the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy: If indeed •* that should be called hypocrisy, which now through its pre- * valency cannot be hid, and through its impudency seeks not
* to be hid. At present rottenness and corruption affects the
* whole body of the church, and the wider it spreads, the more s desperate; and the more inwardly it spreads, the more daris gerous: for if an heretic, an open enemy, should rife up, he
* would be cast out; if a violent enemy, she (i. e.J the church) s would perhaps conceal herself from him. But now, whom
* shall the church cast out? or whom stall she hide herself
* from? All are friends, and all are enemies; all are in mutual
* connexions, as relations, yet in mutual contests, as adversa'ries: all are fellow-members of one family, yet none are
* promoters of peace: all are neighbours, yet all are seekei s of
* their own things: by profession servants of Christ, in reality s they serve Antichriit: they make an honourable figure Ly '* the good things they have received from the Lord, while, 'dt
* the lame time, they give no honour to the Lord.' I will fay of these men, My soul, come not into their council; my glory, be not in their assembly.
But there are many others, zealous of peace and truth, agreeing in fundamentals, and standing equally against the common, enemies of the reformed religion, who, notwithstanding, differ (alas !) about matters not necessary to salvation, and split into opposite parties, and cause strife: while this fierce contentioii spreads itself among the brethren, it affords a continual occasion to their enemies to insult and molest them. Could any owe find out a remedy for this epidemical distemper, he would ddx E e c 2
f Lactantius on Justice, b. 5. p. 382, 383..
+ Hence let contending nations know, ••.,
What direful mischiefs from their discords flwo,.
Certain it is, that all wife and good men on both sides, (however they differ among themselves) are unanimous in this at least, That these are not times for strife, but times that call for prayer and reformation; for, such are the prayers they every where offer up: 'May God turn the heart of the fathers to 'the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest
* he come andsmite the earth with a curse. These do not well
* consult their own interest, who, because of disputes among the 'learned, perhaps never to be ended, will needs be tearing the
* church by perpetual divisions. Our brethren, that seriously s profess they differ from us in smaller matters of religion, for
* no other reason, than a fear of offending, these ought to be
* embraced with the greatest affection. Let all causes of of
* fence be presently removed, that we may not stumble twice
* on the fame stone. If we fall upon it again, we are broken 'in pieces. We will not grant them this praise, that they are
* more studious of peace and concord than ourselves. You may 're-exact a conformity in fundamentals and things necessary jn 'religion 5 but in matters of indifference, and not absolutely 'necessary, you may give a larger liberty. No body should s assume to himself a liberty of dividing the church, and dissoli ving brotherly unity on such a ground as neither Christ, nor
* the apostles, nor the primitive church in its purest state would
* ever have approved.'
It must be confessed, that all kinds of controversy will never be at an end; nevertheless we can bid farewel to all discord; for variety of opinions, and unity among those that hold them, are not things inconsistent. Why mould there dwell in the breast of a Christian, the fierceness of wolves, the madness of dogs, the deadly poison of serpents, the cruel savagencss of beasts? as Cyprian long since complained. Thatis (faith Gregory) a new and unheard of manner of preaching, that forces a belief with stripes: therefore let all bitter railing and accufation be gone; May the God of peace bring all into order and peace.
III. Especially and above all, I humbly beseeeh you, that, having laid aside all designs of smaller importance, you would mind this one thing, how you may gain to Christ the fouls com
+ En Quo difctriia gentes
Ptrduxit tniferas. ,
* conversing with them, he might; nourish and encrease an ho'ly flame in his heart.'
List up your eyes and behold the fields white, and ready to harvest; fee how you are on every side surrounded with crouds of poor hungry souls, with open mouth and earnest looks begging spiritual bread from you. If we have the bowels of thechief Shepherd in us, let us feed his sheep. Some are almost .worn out with old age and various troubles: others lessen thd majesty of scripture by insisting much on things of little moment, and sill the ears of the multitude with a vain noise of words, or tickle them with smooth speeches. In such a situation, if you, who are furnished with all kind of gifts, and have so full and fair opportunity, do not burn with zeal to God, and love to souls; I tremble to look forward to the dreadful and •Wretched end of you all. .'
IV. Lastly, I will conclude, with a few things which I thought necessary for students of Theology, and candidates for the ministry, who have at this needful time willingly devoted themselves to this service, or are about to doit: We have long borne the burden and heat of the day; we are veteran soldiers almostworn out. The next age will possibly produce more tractable minds, and men of gentler dispositions than our times afford. I congratulate you on account of your birth especially, if your natural birth be, or shall be ennobled and fanctified by regeneration: and this is the more reasonable, because all our famous chronologers and searchers into times, who have bestowed much time and pains in that study, are big with expectation, like a woman big with child, past the time of her reckoning, who therefore expects her pains to come upon her every hour. It is very probable, that the day which all the prophets foretold, and all good men have, as it were with outstretched neck, been eagerly looking for, is now at hand.
Do you, therefore, ye brave youths, the hope and desire of the reviving church, with eagerness lay hold on this favourable opportunity of enriching your minds with all necessary gifts-and endowments. Keep yourselves close night and day at your studies and most fervent prayers: tie will make the best divine, that studies on his knees. And how shall we contend for the truth, or defend it against the adverfaries, if we are destitute of gifts? Neither a good disposition, nor the charms of elo<quence, nor a graceful gesture,, nor good manners, can compensate for the want of gists.
But on the other hand, bewnre, brethren, lest while the tree of knowledge every day thrives and prospers, the tree of life