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Of Unity in Religion
PELIGION being the chiefe Band of hu? mane Society, it is a happy thing, when it selfe, is well contained, within the true Band of Unity. The Quarrels, and Divisions about Religion, were Evils unknowne to the Heathen. The Reason was, because the Religion of the Heathen, consisted rather in Rites and Ceremonies; then in any constant Beleefe. For you may imagine, what kinde of Faith theirs was, when the chiefe Doctors, and Fathers of their Church, were the Poets. But the true God hath this Attribute, That he is a lealous God; And therefore, his worship and Religion, will endure no Mixture, nor Partner. We shall therefore speake, a few words, concerning the Unity of the Church; What are the Fruits thereof; what the Bounds; And what the Meanes?
The Fruits of Unity (next unto the well Pleasing of God, which is All in All) are two; The One, towards those, that are without the Church; The Other, towards those, that are within. For the Former; It is certaine, that Heresies, and Schismes, are of all others, the greatest Scandals; yea more then Corruption of
Manners. For as in the Naturall Body, a Wound or Solution of Continuity, is worse then a Corrupt Humor; So in the Spirituall. So that nothing, doth so much keepe Men out of the Church, and drive Men out of the Church, as Breach of Unity: And therefore, whensoever it commeth to that passe, that one saith, Ecce in Deserto; Another saith, Ecce in penetralibus; That is, when some Men seeke Christ, in the Conventicles of Heretikes, and others, in an Outward Face of a Church, that voice had need continually to sound in Mens Eares, Nolite exire, Goe not out. The Doctor of the Gentiles (the Propriety of whose Vocation, drew him to have a speciall care of those without) saith; If an Heathen come in, and heare you speake with severall Tongues, Will he not say that you are mad? And certainly, it is little better, when Atheists, and prophane Persons, do heare of so · many Discordant, and Contrary Opinions in Religion; It doth avert them from the Church, and maketh them, To sit downe in the chaire of the Scorners. It is but a light Thing, to be Vouched in so Serious a Matter, but yet it expresseth well the Deformity. There is a Master of Scoffing; that in his Catalogue of Books, of a faigned Library, sets Downe this Title of a Booke; The morris daunce of Heretikes. For indeed, every Sect of them, hath a Divers Posture, or Cringe by themselves, which cannot but Move Derision, in Worldlings, and Depraved Politickes, who are apt to contemne Holy Things.
As for the Fruit towards those that are within; It is Peace; which containeth infinite
Blessings: It establisheth Faith; It kindleth Charity; The outward Peace of the Church, Distilleth into Peace of Conscience; And it turneth the Labours, of Writing, and Reading of Controversies, into Treaties of Mortification, and Devotion.
Concerning the Bounds of Unity; The true Placing of them, importeth exceedingly. There appeare to be two extremes. For to certaine Zelants all Speech of Pacification is odious. Is it peace, Iehu? What hast thou to doe with peace? turne thee behinde me. Peace is not the Matter, but Following and Party. Contrariwise, certaine Laodiceans, and Luke-warme Persons, thinke they may accommodate Points of Religion, by Middle Waies, and taking part of both; And witty Reconcilements; As if they would make an Arbitrement, betweene God and Man. Both these Extremes are to be avoyded; which will be done, if the League of Christians, penned by our Saviour himseife, were in the two crosse Clauses thereof, soundly and plainly expounded; He that is not with us, is against us: And againe; He that is not against us, is with us: That is, if the Points Fundamentall and of Substance in Religion, were truly discerned and distinguished, from Points not meerely of Faith, but of Opinion, Order, or good Intention. This is a Thing, may seeme to many, a Matter triviall, and done already: But if it were done lesse partially, it would be embraced more generally.
Of this I may give onely this Advice, according to my small Modell. Men ought to take heede, of rending Gods Church, by two kinds of Controversies. The one is, when the Matter of the Point controverted, is too small and light, not worth the Heat, and Strife about it, kindled onely by Contradiction. For, as it is noted by one of the Fathers; Christs Coat, indeed, had no seame: But the Churches Vesture was of divers colours; whereupon he saith, In veste varietas sit, Scissura non sit; They be two Things, Unity, and Uniformity. The other is, when the Matter of the Point Controverted is great; but it is driven to an over-great Subtilty, and Obscurity ; So that it becommeth a Thing, rather Ingenious, then Substantiall. A man that is of Iudgement and (understanding, shall sometimes heare Ignorant Men differ, and know well within himselfe, that those which so differ, meane one thing, and yet \they themselves would never agree. And if it come so to passe, in that distance of Iudgement, which is betweene Man and Man; Shall wee not thinke, that God above, that knowes the Heart, doth not discerne, that fraile Men, in some of their contradictions, intend the same thing; and accepteth of both? The Nature of such Controversies is excellently expressed, by S. Paul, in the Warning and Precept, that he giveth, concerning the same, Devita profanas vocum Novitates, Evo Oppositiones falsi Nominis Scientiæ. Men create Oppositions, which are not; And put them into new termes, so fixed, as whereas the Meaning ought to governe the Terme, the Terme in effect governeth the Meaning. There be also two false Peaces, or Unities; The one, when the Peace is grounded, but upon an implicite ignorance; For all Colours will agree in the Darke: The other, when it is peeced up, upon a direct Admission of Contraries, in Fundamentall Points. For Truth and Falshood, in such things, are like the Iron and Clay, in the toes of Nabucadnezars Image; They may Cleave, but they will not Incorporate.
Concerning the Meanes of procuring Unity; Men must beware, that in the Procuring, or Muniting, of Religious Unity, they doe not Dissolve and Deface the Lawes of Charity, and of humane Society. There be two Swords amongst Christians; the Spirituall, and Temporall; And both have their due Office, and place, in the maintenance of Religion. But we may not take up the Third sword, which is Mahomets Sword, or like unto it; That is, to propagate Religion, by Warrs, or by Sanguinary Persecutions, to force Consciences; except it be in cases of Overt Scandall, Blasphemy, or Intermixture of Practize, against the State; Much lesse to Nourish Seditions; To Authorize Conspiracies and Rebellions; To put the Sword into the Peoples Hands; And the like; Tending to the Subversion of all Government, which is the Ordinance of God. For this is, but to dash the first Table, against the Second; And so to consider Men as Christians, as we forget that they are Men. Lucretius the Poet, when he beheld the Act of Agamemnon, that could endure the Sacrificing of his owne Daughter, exclaimed;
Tantum Relligio potuit suadere malorum. What would he have said, if he had knowne of the Massacre in France, or the Powder Treason