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members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is ChristP." "as we have many members in one body so we being many, are one body in Christ; and every one members one of another V He that woundeth or dismembereth your own bodies, shall scarce be taken for your friend; and are you Christ's friends, when you dismember or wound his bodyr? Is it lovely to see the children or servants in your family together by the ears? Are civil wars for the safety of a kingdom? Or doth that tend to the honour of the children of God, which is the shame of common men? Or is that the safety of his kingdom, which is the ruin of all others? "We are all fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of Gods." We are God's building'. "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God: and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy: for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are0." "Will he destroy the defilers, and will he love the dividers and destroyers? If it be so great a sin to go to law unnecessarily with brethren, or to wrong them x, what is it to disown them, and cast them off? And if they that salute and love only their brethren, and not also their enemies, are not the children of God »; what are they that separate from, and condemn even their brethren?5. Church-dividers either would divide Christ himself between them, or else would rob him of a great part of his inheritance: and neither of these is a little sin. If you make several bodies, you would have several heads: and is Christ divided? saith the apostle, 1 Cor. i. 13. Will you make him a sect-master? He will be your common head as Christians; but he will be no head of your sects and parties; (I will not name them). Or would you tear out of the hands of Christ, any part of his possessions? Will he cut them off, because you cut them off? Will he separate them from himself, because you separate from them, or separate
'1 Cor. xii. 12. i Rom. xii. 4, 5.
'Quicquid ad multitudinem vergit, antipathiamcontinet; etquanto magis multitude) augerur, tauto et antipathia; quicquid vero ad unilatem tendit, sympathiam hakct; et quanto magis ad unitatem accedit, tanto puriori sympathia augetur. Paul Scaliger, EpUt. Cath. lib. iii. p. i?6.
• Eph. ii. 19. '1 Cor. iii. 9. "1 Cor. iii. 16,17.
1 1 Cor. 6.8. i Matt. v. 47.
them from you? Will he give them a bill of divorce, whenever you are pleased to lay any odious accusation against them? Who shall condemn them, when it is he that justifieth them? Who shall separate them from the love of God? Can your censure or separation do it, when neither life, nor death, nor any creature can do it'? Hath he not told you, that "he will give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand "." Will he lose his jewels, because you cast them away as dirt? He suffered more for souls than you, and better knoweth the worth of souls! And do you think he will forget so dear a purchase? or take it well that you rob him of that which he hath bought so dearly? Will you give the members and inheritance of Christ to the devil, and say, 'They are satan's, and none of Christ's.' "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant."
& Church-dividers are guilty of self-ignorance, and pride, and great unthankfulness against that God that beareth with so much in them, who so censoriously cast off their brethren. Wert thou ever humbled for thy sin? Dost thou know who thou art, and what thou carriest about thee, and how much thou offendest God thyself? If thou do, surely thou wiltjudge tenderly of thy brethren, as knowing what a tender hand thou needest, and what mercy thou hast found from God. Can he cruelly judge his brethren to hell upon his petty differences, who is sensible how the gracious hand of his Redeemer, did so lately snatch him from the brink of hell? Can he be forward to condemn his brethren, that hath been so lately and mercifully saved himself?7. Church dividers are the most successful servants of the devil, being enemies to Christ in his family and livery. They gratify satan, and all the enemies of the church, and do the very work that he would have them do, more effectually than open enemies could do it. As mutineers in an army may do more to destroy it, than the power of the enemy. 8. It is a sin that contradicteth all God's ordinances and means of grace; which are purposely to procure and maintain the unity of his church. The Word and baptism are to gather them into one body, and the Lord's-supper to signify and maintain their concord, as being one bread, and one bodyb. And all the communion of the church is to express and to maintain this concord. The use of the ministry is much to this end, to be the bonds and joints of the unity of believersc. All these are contemned and frustrated by dividers. 9. Church-division is a sin (especially to us) against as great and lamentable experiences as almost any sin can be. About sixteen hundred years the church hath smarted by it. In many countries where the Gospel prospered, and churches flourished, division hath turned all into desolation, and delivered them up to the curse of Mahometanism and infidelity. The contentions between Constantinople and Rome, the Eastern and the Western churches, have shaken the Christian interest upon earth, and delivered up much of the Christian world to tyranny and blindness, and given advantage to the Papacy to captivate and corrupt much of the rest, by pretending itself to be the centre of unity. O what glorious churches, where the learned writers of those ages once lived, are now extinct, and the places turned to the worship of the devil and a deceiver; through the ambition and contentions of the bishops, that should have been the bonds of their unity and peace! But doth England need to look back into history, or look abroad in foreign lands, for instances of the sad effects of discord? Is there any one, good or bad in this age, that hath spent his days in such a sleep, as not to know what divisions have done, when they have made such ruins in church and state, and kindled such consuming fires, and raised so many sects and parties, and filled so many hearts with uncharitable rancour, and so many mouths with slanders and revilings, and turned so many prayers into sin, by poisoning them with pride and factious oppositions, and hath let out streams of blood and fury over all the land? He that maketh light of the divisions of Christians in these kingdoms, or loveth not those that speak against them, doth shew himself to be so impenitent in them, as to be one of those terrible effects of them, that should be a pillar of salt to warn after ages totake heed. 10. Yea, this is a heinous aggravation of this sin, that commonly it is justified, and not repented of by those that do commit it. When a drunkard or a whoremonger will confess his sin, a church-divider will stand to it and defend it: and woe to them that call evil good, and good evil. Impenitency is a terrible aggravation of sin. 11. And it is yet the more heinous, in that it is commonly fathered upon God. If a drunkard or whoremonger should say,' God commandeth me to do it, and I serve God by it,' would you not think this a horrid aggravation? When did you ever know a sect or party, how contrary soever among themselves, but they all pretended God's authority, and entitled him to their sin, and called it his service, and censured others as ungodly, or less godly, that would not do as bad as they? St. James is put to confute them that thought this wisdom was from above, and so did glory in their sin, and lie against the truth, when their wisdom was from beneath, and no better than earthly, sensual, and devilish. For the "wisdom from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy, &cd." 12. Church-divisions are unlike to our heavenly state, and in some regard worse than the kingdom of the devil, for he would not destroy it by dividing it against itself*. O what a blessed harmony of united holy souls, will there be in the heavenly Jerusalem, where we hope to dwell for ever! There will be no discords, envyings, sidings or contendings, one being of this party, and another of that; but in the unity of perfect love, that world of spirits, with joyful praise will magnify their Creator. And is a snarling envy or jarring discord the likely way to such an end? Is the church of Christ a Babel of confusion? Should they be divided, party against party here, that must be one in perfect love for ever? Shall they here be condemning each other, as none of the children of the Most High, who there must live in sweetest concord? If there be shame in heaven, you will be ashamed to meet those in the delights of glory, and see them entertained by the Lord of love, whom you reviled and cast out of the church or your communion, causelessly, on earth. Remember now that schism, and making parties and di
'Rom. viii. 33. &c. » John x. 2B.
visions in the church, is not so small a sin as many take it it for: it is the accounting it a duty, and a part of holiness, which is the greatest cause that it prospereth in the world; and it will never be reformed till men have right apprehensions of the evil of it. Why is it that sober people are so far and free from the sins of swearing, drunkenness, fornication, and lasciviousness, but because these sins are under so odious a character, as helpeth them easily to perceive the evil of them. And till church-divisions be rightly apprehended, as whoredom, and swearing, and drunkenness are, they will never be well cured. Imprint therefore on your minds the true character of them, which I have here laid down, and look abroad upon the effects, and then you will fear this confounding sin, as much as a consuming plague. The two great causes that keep divisions from being hated as they ought, are, 1. A charitable respect to the good that is in church-dividers, carrying us to overlook the evil of the sin; judging of it by the persons that commit it, and thinking that nothing should seem odious that is theirs, because many of them are in other respects of blameless, pious conversations. And indeed every Christian must so prudently reprehend the mistakes and faults of pious men, as not to asperse the piety which is conjunct; and therefore not to make their persons odious, but to give the person all his just commendations for his piety, while we oppose and aggravate his sin: because Christ himself so distinguished between the good and the evil, and the person and the sin, and loveth his own for their good, while he hateth their evil; and so must we: and because it is the grand design of satan, by the faults of the godly to make their persons hated first, and their piety next, and so to banish religion from the world; and every friend of Christ must shew himself an enemy to this design of satan. But yet the sin must be disowned and opposed, while the person is loved according to his worth. Christ will give no thanks for such love to his children, as cherisheth their churchdestroying sins. There is no greater enemy to sin than Christ, though there be no greater friend to souls. Godliness was never intended to be a fortress for iniquity; or a battery for the devil to mount his cannons on against the church; nor for a blind to cover the powder-mines of hell.