Page images





Home and reasonable Christians would be of the fame religion, if they were thoroughly undersiood by one another--if they did but talk enough together every day, and had nothing to do together but to serve God, and live in peace with their neighbour.






ERE this an age wherein any thing might

be wondered at, it would be matter of deserved admiration, that we are still so far from being cemented together in the unity of the Spirit


* The above extract I have made the inirodu&tory testi. mony; because it best expresses the design of the subsequent quotations, which are chronologically arranged. This is my reason for placing Stillingfeet at the head of them, though he did not die till the year 1699.


and the bond of peace. Must the fire of our uncharitable animofities be like that of the temple, which was never to be extinguished? However, I am sure it is such an one as was never kindled from Heaven, nor blown up with any breathings of the holy and divine Spirit.

May we be happily delivered from the plague of our divisions and animofities! Than which there hath been no greater scandal to the Jews, nor opprobium of our religion among Heathens and Mahometans, nor more common objection among the Papifts, nor any thing which hath been more made a pretence even for ATHEISM and INFIDELITY. For our controversies about religion have brought, at laft, even religion itself into a controversy among such whose weaker judgınents - have not been able to discern where the plain and unquestionable way to heaven hath lain, in fo great a mist as our disputes have raised among us. Weaker heads, when they once fee the battlements shake, are apt to suspect that the foundation itself is not firm enough ; and to conclude, if any thing be called in question, that there is nothing certain.

Religion hath been so much rarified into airy notions and speculations, by the distempered heat of men's spirits, that its inward strength, and the vitals of it, have been much abated and consumed by it. Men, being very loth to put themselves to the trouble of a holy life, are very ready to embrace any thing which may but dispense with that; and, if but lifting themselves under such a party may but shelter them, under a disguise of religion, none are more ready than such to be known by distinguishing names; none more zealous in the defence of every tittle and punctilio that lies most remote from those essential duties, wherein the kingdom of God consists—righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.

It will require both time and skill to purge out these noxious humours. I know of no prescription fo likely to effect this happy end, as an infusion of the true spirit of religion; thereby to take men off from their eager pursuit after ways and parties, notions and opinions, and to bring them back to a right understanding of the nature, design, and principles of CHRISTIANITY.

CHRISTIANITY is a religion which it is next to a iniracle men should ever quarrel or fall out about, much less that it should be the occasion, or at least the pretence, of all that strife and bitterness of fpirit, of all those contentions and animofities which are, at this day, in the Christian world. But our only comfort is, that, whatever our spirits are, our God is the God of peace, our Saviour is the Prince of peace; and that wisdom which this religion teacheth, is both pure and peaceable. Christians were once known by the benignity and sweetness of their difpofition-by the candour and ingenuity of their spirit—by their mutual love, forbearance, and condescenfion towards one another. But either this is not the practice of Christianity, or it was never calculated for our meridian, wherein men's spirits are of too high an elevation. If pride and uncharitableness, if divisions and strifes, if wrath and envy, if animosities and contentions were but the marks of true Christians, Diogenes never need light his lamp at noon to find out such among us. But if a spirit of meekness, gentleness, and condescension, if a stooping to the weakness and infirmities of others, if a pursuit after peace, even when it flies from us, be the indispensible duties and characteristical notes of those who have more than the name of Christians, it may possibly prove a difficult inquest to find out such for the crowds of those who shelter themselves under that glorious name.

The very commands of our SAVIOUR shewed his meekness ; his laws were sweet and gentle laws, not like Draco's, that were writ in blood, unless it were his own blood that gave em.

Preface to his Irenicum.




"HIS is most certain, that, to reduce Christians

to unity of communion, there are but two ways that may be conceived probable; the one by taking away diversity of opinions, touching matters of religion ; the other by shewing, that the diversity of opinions, which is among the several fects of Christians, ought to be no hindrance to

* Though CAILLINGWORTH was not one of the reformers, yet he was the first writer who ably and completely vindicated the reformation against the Papists in his immortal work--The Religion of the Protestants a safe Way to Salvation. The famous passage, which has been so often quoted with applause~The Bible is the Religion of Protestants, &c. would have been - here introduced, had it not been already inserted under the article Protestantism, in “ The Sketch of the Denominations of the Christian World." Protestant, as well as Popish Divines, charged this great and good man with pulling down old buildings in a better manner than he could raise new ones, only because he pulled down and confured the infallibility of the church of Rome. To this curious obje&tion Chillingworth made this memorable reply: “ You impute to me,” (says he) " that “ the way I take is dcftrućtive only, and that I build no

thing. Which firit is not a fault, for the Christian Rio

ligion is not now to be built ; but only I desire to have " the rubbish and impertinent lumber taken off, which you “ have laid upon it, and which hides the glorious fimplicity " of it from those who otherwise would embrace it."

« PreviousContinue »