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I Have something to say to thee of the number of these cases, somewhat of the order, and somewhat of the manner of handling and resolving them. I. That there are so many is because there are really so many difficulties which all men are not able to resolve. That they are no more, is partly because I could not remember then any more that were necessarily to be handled, and I was not willing to increase so great a book with things unnecessary. II. As to the order, I have some reasons for the order of most of them, which would be too tedious to open to you. But some of them are placed out of order, because, 1. I could not remember them in due place. 2. And great haste allowed me not time to transpose them. If you say that in such a work I should take time, I answer, You are no competent judges, unless you knew me and the rest of my work, and the likelihood that my time will be but short. They that had rather take my writings with such defects which are the effects of haste, than have none of them, may use them, and the rest are free to despise them and neglect them. Two or three questions about the Scripture, I would have put nearer the beginning if I could have time; but seeing I cannot, it is easy for you to transpose them in the reading.
III. The resolution of these Cases so much avoideth all the extremes, that I look they should be displeasing to all that vast number of Christians, who involve themselves in the opinions and interests of their several sects as such; and that hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ with respect of persons. But there will be still a certain number of truly Catholic, impartial readers, whose favourable acceptance I confidently prognosticate; and who, being out of the dust, and noise, and passions of contending sides and parties, and their interests, will see a self-evidencing light in those solutions, which are put off here briefly, without the pomp of formal argumentation, or persuading oratory. The eternal Light reveal himself to us, by Christ who is the Light of the world, and by the illumination of the Spirit and Word of Light; that we may walk in the Light, as the children of Light, till we come to the world of glorious, everlasting Light. And what other defect soever our knowledge have, if any man hath knowledge enough to kindle in him the love of God, the same is known of Him, and therefore is beloved by Him, and shall be blessed with and in Him for ever.
Quest. I. How to know which is the true church, among all pretenders, that a Christian's conscience may be quiet in his relation and communion.
I Have written so much of this already in four books, (viz. one called, "The Safe Religion," another called, "A Key for Catholics," another called, "The Visibility of the Church," another called, " A True Catholic, and the Catholic Church described,") that I shall say now but a little, and yet enough to an impartial, considerate reader. The terms must first be opened: 1. By a church is meant, a society of Christians as such. And it is sometimes taken narrowly, for the body or members as distinct from the head, as the word kingdom is taken for the subjects only as distinct from the king; and sometimes more fully and properly for the whole political society, as constituted of its head and body, or the ' Pars imperans et pars subdita.' 2. The word church thus taken, signifieth sometimes the universal church called Catholic; which consisteth of Christ and his body politic, or mystical; and sometimes some part only of the universal church. And so it is taken either for a subordinate, political part, or for a community, or a part considered as consociate, but not political; or as many particular, political churches agreeing and holding concord and communion without any common head, save the universal Head. 3. Such political churches, are either of divine constitution and policy, or only of human. 2. By Christians, I mean such as profess the essentials of the Christian religion. For we speak of the church as visible. 3. By ' true, ' may be meant, either reality of essence, opposite to that which is not really a church in this unequivocal acceptation; or else sound and orthodox, in the integrals, as opposite to erroneous and defiled with much enormity. And now I thus decide that question. Prop. l. The true Catholic church consisteth of Christ the Head, and all Christians as his body, or the members. As the kingdom consisteth of the king and his subjects».
Prop. Ii. As all the sincere heart-covenanters make up the church as regenerate, and mystical or invisible; so all that are christened, that is, baptized, and profess consent to all the essentials of the baptismal covenant, not having apostatized, nor being by lawful power excommunicated, are Christians, and make up the church as visibleb. Prop. m. Therefore there is but one universal church, because it containeth all Christians; and so leaveth out none to be the matter of another.c Prop. iv. It is not ignorance or error about the mere integrals of Christianity, which maketh them no Christians who hold the essentials, that is, the baptismal covenantd. Prop. v. That the baptismal covenant might be rightly understood and professed, the churches have still used the creed as the explication of the covenant, in point of faith; and taken it for the symbol of the Christian belief. And no further profession of faith was or is to be required, as necessary to the being of Christianitye. Prop. vi. If proud usurpers or censurers take on them to excommunicate, or unchristian, or unchurch others, without authority and cause, this maketh them not to be no Christians, or no churches, that are so used f. Prop. vii. Therefore to know which is the true catholic or universal church is but to know who are baptized, professed Christians *.
» 1 Cor. xi. 3. 1 Cor. xii. 12. Epli. i. 22, 23 1 Cor. vi. 15. 1 Cor. xii. 27.
*> Epli. iv. 4,5. Malt, xxviii. 19, 20.
'. Eph. iv. 4, 5. 1 Cor. xii. 12. Mark x villi.
a Rom. xiv. 1. 6, 7. xv. 1. ;t, 4.
Prop. vm. The reformed churches, the Lutherans, the Abassines, the Coptics, the Syrians, the Armenians, the Jacobites, the Georgians, the Maronites, the Greeks, the Moscovites, and the Romanists, do all receive baptism in all its visible essentials, and profess all the essentials of the Christian religion, though not with the same integrityh.
Prop. ix. He that denieth any one essential part, in itself, is so a heretic as to be no Christian, nor true member of the church, if it be justly proved or notorious; that is, none ought to take him for a visible Christian, who know the proof of his denying that essential part of Christianity, or to whom it is notorious '. Prop. x. He that holdeth the essentials primarily, and with them holdeth some error which by unseen consequence subverteth some essential point, but holdeth the essentials so much faster, that he would forsake his error if he saw the inconsistence, is a Christian notwithstanding: and if the name heretic be applicable to him, it is but in such a sense, as is consistent with Christianity11.
Prop. xi. He that is judged a heretic and no Christian justly by others, must be lawfully cited, and heard plead his cause, and be judged upon sufficient, and not unheard, or upon rash presumption '.
Prop. xii. Christianity and heresy being personal qualities, and no where found but in individuals, nor one man guilty of another's errors, it followeth that it is single persons upon personal guilt that must be judged m. Prop. xm. Any man may judge another to be a Christian or heretic, by a private judgment of discerning, or the reason which guideth all human actions: but only churchrulers may judge him by that public judgment, which giveth or denieth him his public privileges and communion n.
'I Cor. xv. 1, 2, &c. Matt, xxviii. 19, 2O. 'Rom. xiv. 8, *.
•' Rom. vi. 1, '.', &c. '' Kplies. iv. 4, 5. 'Tit. iii. 10. 3 John.
k James Hi. 2. Phil. iii. 15, 16. Heb. v. 1,\. < Tit. Hi. 10.
Prop. xiv. If by notorious injustice church-rulers condemn Christians as no Christians, though they may thereby deny them oommunion with those public assemblies which they govern, yet do they not oblige the people to take such injured persons for no Christians. Else they might oblige all to believe a lie, to consent to malicious injuries, and might disoblige the people from truth, righteousness, and charity °. Prop. xv. There is no one natural or collective head and governor of all the churches in the world (the universal church) but Jesus Christ; and therefore there is none that by such governing power, can excommunicate any man out of the universal church: and such usurpation would be treason against Christ, whose prerogative it is p.
Prop. xvi. Yet he that deserveth to be excommunicated from one church, deserveth to be excommunicated by and from all, if it be upon a cause common to all; or that nullified his Christianityq.
Prop. xvii. And where neighbour churches are consociate and live in order and concord, he that is orderly excommunicate from one church, and it be notified to the rest, should not be taken into the communion of any of the rest, till he be cleared, or become fit for their communionr. But this obligation ariseth but from the concord of consociate churches, and not from the power of one over the rest: and it cannot reach all the world, where the person cometh not, nor was ever known; but only to those who through neighTM Ezek. xviii. 17. Gen. xviii. 23—85.
• 1 Cor. x. 15. Acts i. 19. 1 Cor. v. 3—5. zi. 3.
0 Matt. V. 11, 12. John xvi. 2.
p 1 Cor. xii. 27—29. Ephes. iv. 5—7. 1 Cor. i. 18, 13. iil. it. I3. Epbes. v. 23. iv. 15. Col. i. 18. ii. 19.
1 3 John. 'Epbes. V. 11. 1 Cor. v. 11.