« AnteriorContinuar »
- wicked, and godliness is ever despised by them; of which Lac
tantius + affigns this reason, That he who sins, wants to have - a free opportunity of finning, and thinks he can no otherwise
(enjoy securely the pleasure of his ill deeds, than when there 1.6 are many who delight in the fame faults. Hence they study 76 to destroy and cut off root and branch, those who are witnes.6 ses of their wickedness, and they cannot eridure that good
• mens lives fhould 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 | Bernard in his time thus complained : “Woe to this generation, which hath : the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy: If indeed *6 that should be called hypocrisy, which now through its pre.6 valency cannot be hid, and through its impudency feeks not
to be hid. At present rottenness and corruption affects the ** whole body of the church, and the wider it spreads, the more
defperate; and the more inwardly it spreads, the more dan
gerous : for if an heretic, an open enemy, should rise up, he s would be cast out; if a violent enemy, she (i.e.) the church)
would perhaps conceal herself from him. But now, whom * fhall the church cast out? or whom ftall the 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 6 promoters of peace : all are neighbours, yet all are seekers of • their own things : by profession servants of Christ, in reality " they serve Antichrift: they make an honourable figure ly
the good things they have received from the Lord, while, at • the fame time, they give no honour to the Lord.' I will say of these men, My foul, come not into their council; my glory, be not in their ailembly.
But there are many others, zealous of peace and truth, agreeing in fundamentais, and standing equally against the commou eriemies of the reformed religion, who, notwithstanding, differ (alas !) about matters not necessary to falvation, and 1plit into opposite parties, and cause strife : while this fierce contention spreads itself among the brethren, it affords a continual occasion to their enemies to insult and molest them. Could any one find out a remedy for this epidemical distemper, he would de
† Lactantius on Justice, b. 5. p. 382, 383.
serve well of the church ; but since the experience of so many years has put it beyond doubt that it is difficult, or indeed impracticable to accomplish this by scholastic disputes, or by ope prefsing the conscience with penalties; it were more adviseable to fopite all their debates, than, by fruitless strife, to tear afunder the church ; and in fine, to have recourse to that which is the most useful, if not the only rule for promoting peace, Phil. jii. 16. Wherein we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule : with which agrees well that most wholesome advice given by Toffanus to the college of Tubing, in the following words : All bitter railings and accusations ought juftly to be • laid afide, and the judgment of thefe matters in debate left « wholly to the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Chrift, and to our « own pofterity, who, not being authors but spectators of the « debate, will judge more impartially about it. Our adversa
ries still live and become bolder every day; they make it their business, night and day, to plot and contrive how they may
extinguish the light of the gospel that has arisen, and bring « ancient darkness; in the mean time, we who, at first, with one 6 accord, by God's grace, preached the gospel, do now, with « weapons of death turned against one another, rush mutually « on destruction; thereby exhibiting a delightful spectacle to « our enemies, who place more of their safety and confidence « in our contentions, than the weak foundation of their own « cause.
Let us therefore frequently consider that of the apoftle, Gal, V. 15. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. What Cicero said of the discords of great men, our countryman Davenant scruples not to affirm concerning those of the churches, That they commonly end, either in the ruin of both parties, or in the unjust tyranny of that side which overcomes. It is greatly to be feared, that every one, by these continual and fierce debates, is hastening (may God prevent it his own ruin ; yet I doubt not but that all dife cords amongst the godly might be extinguished, whatever some may alledge to the contrary, if the minds of some were freed from the violent emotions of suspicion, anger, and envy. Bez hold, brethren, what a seasonable and proper softening plaister our skilful Phyfician hath applied to us all at this time. God grant it the desired effect ; left the scar not being right closed up, the wound should break out again.
The godly in every place lament the present deplorable ftate of the church; and, from the destruction of fome, do, conjec. turę what danger hangs over all,
+ Hence let contending nations know, What direful mischiefs from their discords flow.' Certain it is, that all wife and good men ou 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 o the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, left • he come and fmite the earth with a curfe. 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"
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 fțumble twice
on the same 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 in • religion ; but in matters of indifference, and not absolutely 6 necessary, you may give a larger liberty. No body should 6 assume to himself a liberty of dividing the church, and diffol.
ving brotherly unity on such a ground as neither Chrift, nor
the apostles, nor the primitive church in its purest state would 6 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 should there dwell in the breast of a Christian, the fierceness of wolves, the madness of dogs, the deadly poison of serpents, the cruel savageness of beasts? as Cyprian long since complained. That is (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 beseech you, that, han ving laid aside all designs of smaller importance, you would mind this one thing, how you may gain to Christ the souls com
breaf ofbe deadly. Jong Game
t- En quo difcordia gentes
mitted to you, to which all earthly things are to be postponed. This is the labour, this the work incumbent on us.
Put far from you a vile, niggardly sparing of your gifts, an immoderate care for worldly things, an excellive indulgence of the vile body. Let it not seem much to us to spend a little sweat for the sake of those souls for which Chrift so willingly and plentifally poured out his own most precious blood. If we hide the Lord's talent in a napkin, where shall we find a napkin to dry up our tears of blood for fo bafe a crime?
Remember, brethren, that it will be required at our hands, bow we have spent every portion of that time which is given us; how much of it have we already lost in unprofitable filence! But among all the oppressions, under which you have long groaned, I persuade myself, there is none you have more forrowed for than that of being so long withholden from feeding poor hungry fouls. The prefert opportunity is flippery, and may be loft, as to what concerns futurity, the clouds return after the rain. Up then ye servants of God, mind this your business, and the Lord thall be with you : don't regard the ufual murmurings of the flesh. Look forward to that heavenly crown : « They that be wife shall shine as the brightness ** of the firnament; and they that turn many to righteousnefs " as the stars for ever and ever.” • With the hopes of this, let us rouze up and fortify our drooping hearts, against the mockings and troubles we may expect for the sake of the gospel; What bowels of compassion ought we to put on, when we speak to such men of saving their fouls, and shunning perdition, into which they may quickly fall, but who, in the mean time, have not the least thought a. bout these things themselves ? A famous author in Amefius * coinplains, “That the words of life in some preachers and • teachers lips die away, as to any power or efficacy : For so • coldly and unconcernedly do they deliver the word of God, " that it seems to die in their lips. Hence, as they themselves Pare cold and dead preachers, so they leave their hearers in a • cold and dead frame. I knew one who left Paris for this rea
fon, because he said, he was more and more benumbed with " the lectures and sermons he heard from day to day in that ci
ty; and was afraid, that if he staid much longer there, his soul
would have perished with spiritual cold: wherefore he join: « ed himself to lively minifters, as unto live-coals; that fo by
* Cafes of Conscience, book 3. p. 16.'
Iconversing with them, he inight nourish and encrease an hou • ly flame in his heart.'
Lift up your eyes and behold the fields white, and ready to: harvest ; see how you are on every side surrounded with crouds. of poor hungry fouls, with open inouth and earnest looks bega ging fpiritual bread from you. If we have the bowels of the chief Shepherd in us, let us feed his sheep. Some are almost worn out with old age and various troubles : others. leffen the majesty of scripture by insisting much on things of little moment, and fill 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 fo 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 miniftry, who have at this needful time willingly devoted them selves to this service, or are about to do it: We have long borne. the burden and heat of the day; we are veteran soldiers almoft. worn 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 fanétified by , regeneration : and this is the more reasonable, because all our famous chronologers and fearchers into times, who have bestow.. ed much time and pains in that study, are big with expectati.. : on, 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 chureh, 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 : He will make the best divine, that studies on his knees. And how shall we contend for the truth, or defend it against the adversaries, if we are destitute of gifts ? Neither a good disposition, nor the charms of eloquence, nor a graceful gesture, nor good manners, can compensate for the want of gifts.
But on the other hand, beware, brethren, left while the trec of knowledge every day thrives and prospers, the tree of life