« PreviousContinue »
their unity in communion. Now the former of these is not to be hoped for without a miracle. What then remains, but that the other way must be taken, and Christians must be taught to set a higher value upon those high points of faith and obedience, wherein they agree, than upon those of less moment, wherein they differ; and understand, that agreement in those ought to be more effectual to join them in one communion, than their difference in other things of less moment to divide them.
Let all men believe the Scriptures, and them only, and endeavour to believe them in the true sense, and require no more of others, and they shall find this not only a better, but the only means to restore unity. And, if no more than this were required of any man to make him capable of church communion, then all men, so qualified, though they were different in opinion, yet, notwithstanding any such difference, must be, of necessity, one in communion.
The presumptuous impofing of the senses of men upon the general words of God, and laying them upon men's consciences together; this vain conceit, that we can speak of the things of God better than in the words of God; this deifying our own interpretations, and enforcing them upon others; this resiraining of the word of God from that latitude and generality, and the understandings of men from that liberty wherein Christ and his
apostles left them, is, and hath been, the only fountain of all the schisms of the church, and that which makes them immortal. Take
these walls of separation, and all will quickly be one. Require of Christians only to believe in Christ, and to call no man master but him only; let those leave claiming infallibility that have no title to it; and let them, that in their words disclaim it, (as. Protestants do) disclaim it likewise in their actions. In a word, restore Christians to their just and full liberty of captivating their understanding to Scripture only; and then, as rivers when they have a free passage run all to the ocean, so it may well be hoped, by God's blessing, that universal liberty, thus moderated, may quickly reduce Christendom to TRUTH and UNITY.
Life, and the Religion of Protestants.
JOSEPH HALL, D.D.
SUCCESSIVELY BISHOP OF EXETER AND OF NOR
WICH.—DIED 1656 *.
Cannot but fecond and commend that great
Clerk, of Paris, who, when King Lewis of France, required him to write down the best word that ever he had learnt, called for a fair skin of parchment, and, in the midst of it, wrote this one word, Measure, and sent it, sealed up, to the King. The King, opening the sheet, and finding no other inscription, thought himself mocked by his Philosopher, and, calling for him, expoftulated the matter.
* Bishop Hall is universally allowed to have been a man of great wit and learning, and of as great meckness and piety. His Treatise on Moderation, whence the above extract is taken, is exceedingly scarce. Indced I have never met with more than one copy, which I found in the library of my worthy and much-esteemed friend, the Rev. Hugh Worthington.
But when it was shewed him, that all virtues, and all religious worthy actions, were regulated by this one word; and that, without this, virtue itself turned vicious, he rested well satisfied. And so he well might, for it was a word well worthy of one of the seven fages of Greece, from whom indeed it was borrowed, and put into a new coat. For while he said, of old, for his motto, nothing too much, he meant no other but to comprehend both extremes under the mention of one; neither, in his fense, is it any paradox to say, that too little is too much ; for, as too much bounty is prodigality, so too much sparing is niggardliness; fo as, in every defect, there is an excess, and both are a transgression of measure. - Neither could aught be spoken of more use or excellency; for what goodness can there be in the world, without MODERATION, whether in the use of God's creatures, or in our own disposition and carriage? There is, therefore, nothing in the world more wholesome, or more necessary, for us to learn, than this gracious leffon of Moderation ; without which, in very truth, a man is so far from being a Christian, that he is not himself. This is the center wherein all, both divine and moral philosophy, meet; the rule of life; the governess of manners; the filken string that runs through the pearl chain of all virtues; the very ecliptic, line under which reason and religion move, without any deviation; and therefore most worthy our best thoughts--of our most careful observance. For, surely, if the want of moderation, in practice, do moft diftract every man in his own particular, the want of moderation, in judgment, distracts the whole world from itself; whence it is that we find fo miserable divisions all the earth over, but especially so woeful schisms and breaches in the Christian world; wherein we see one nation thus divided from another, and each one nation no less divided from itself. For it cannot be, since every man hath a mind of his own, not less different from others than his face, that all should jump in the same opinion; neither can it stand with that natural self-love, wherewith every one is poffeffed, easily to forsake the child of his own brain, and to prefer another man's conceit to his own. Hereupon, therefore, it comes to pass, that while each man is engaged to that opinion, which either his own election, or his education, hath given him, new quarrels arise, and controverfies are infinitely multiplied, to the great prejudice of God's truth, and to the lamentable violation of the common peace. Would to God we could as well redress as bewail this misery, wherewith Christendom is universally infected !
When we hear and see fearful thundering, and lightning, and tempest, we are commonly wont to say, that ill spirits are abroad; nor doubt I but that many times (as well as in Job's cafe) God permits them to raise thefe dreadful blusterings in the air; right so, when we see these flashes, and hear these hideous noises, of contention, in God's church, we have reason to think that there is an hand of Satan in their raising and continuance. For, as for God, we know his courses are otherwise. When it pleased him to make his presence known to Elijah; first there passed a great and strong wind, which rent the mountains, and brake the rocks in pieces, but the Lord was not in the wind. After that wind came an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earth quake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.
But after the fire came a still small voice, and therein was the Almighty pleased to express himself. He that is the Sion of the tribe of Judah delights in the stile of the Lamb of God, and is so termed by John the Baptist, his forerunner, in the days of his flesh, and by John the Evangelist, his apostle, in the state of his glory. Neither was the Holy Spirit