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OF TRUE RELIGION, HERESY, SCHISM,
AND WHAT BEST MEANS MAY BE USED
AGAINST THE GROWTH OF POPERY.
[FIRST PUBLISHED 1673. ]
It is unknown to no man, who knows aught of concernment among us, that the increase of popery is at this day no small trouble and offence to greatest part of the nation; and the rejoicing of all good men that it is so: the more their rejoicing, that God hath given a heart to the people, to remember still their great and happy deliverance from popish thraldom, and to esteem so highly the precious benefit of his gospel, so freely and so peaceably enjoyed among them. Since, therefore, some have already in public, with many considerable arguments, exhorted the people to beware the growth of this Romish weed, I thought it no less than a common duty to lend my hand, how unable soever, to so good a purpose. I will not now enter into the labyrinth of councils and fathers, an entangled wood, which the papists love to fight in, not with hope of victory, but to obscure the shame of an open overthrow, which yet in that kind of combat many heretofore, and one of late, hath eminently given them. And such manner of dispute with them to learned men is useful and very commendable. But I shall insist now on what is plainer to common apprehension, and what I have to say without longer introduction.
True religion is the true worship and service of God, learned and believed from the word of God only. No man or angel can know how God would be worshipped and served unless God reveal it: he hath revealed and taught it us in the holy scriptures by inspired ministers, and in the gospel by his own Son and his apostles, with strictest command, to reject all other traditions or additions whatsoever: according to that of St. Paul, “ Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema, or accursed.” And Deut. iv. 2. “ Ye shall not add to the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish aught from it.” Rev. xxii. 18, 19: “ If any man shall add, &c. If any man shall take away from the words,” &c. With good and religious reason, therefore, all protestant churches with one consent, and particularly the church of England in her thirty-nine articles, article 6th, 19th, 20th, 21st, and elsewhere, maintain these two points, as the main principles of true religion—that the rule of true religion is the word of God only; and that their faith ought not to be an implicit faith, that is, to believe, though as the church believes, against or without express authority of scrip ture. And if all protestants, as universally as they hold these two principles, so attentively and religiously would observe them, they would avoid and cut off many debates and contentions, schisms and persecutions, which too oft have been among them, and more firmly unite against the common adversary. For hence it directly follows, that no true protestant can persecute, or not tolerate, his fellow-protestant, though dissenting from him in some opinions, but he must flatly deny and renounce these two his own main principles, whereon true religion is founded; while he compels his brother from that which he believes as the manifest word of God, to an implicit faith (which he himself condemns) to the endangering of his brother's soul, whether by rash' belief, or outward conformity: for “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”
I will now as briefly shew what is false religion, or heresy, which will be done as easily; for of contraries the definitions must needs be contrary. Heresy, therefore, is a religion taken up and believed from the traditions of men, and additions to the word of God. Whence also it follows clearly, that of all known sects, or pretended religions, at this day in Christendom, popery is the only or the greatest heresy; and he, who is so forward to brand all others for heretics, the obstinate papist, the only heretic. Hence one of their own famous writers found just cause to style the Romish church “ Mother of error, school of heresy.” And whereas the papist boasts himself to be a Roman Catholic, it is a mere contradiction, one of the pope's bulls, as if he should say, universal particular, a catholic schismatic. For catholic in Greek signifies universal; and the Christian church was so called, as consisting of all nations to whom the gospel was to be preached, in contradistinction to the Jewish church. which consisted for the most part of Jews only...
Sects may be in a true church as well as in a false, when men follow the doctrine too much for the teacher's sake, whom they think almost infallible; and this becomes, through in-. firmity, implicit faith; and the name sectary pertains to such a disciple.
Schism is a rent or division in the church, when it comes to the separating of congregations; and may also happen to a true church, as well as to à false; vet in the true needs not tend to the breaking of communion, if they can agree in the right administration of that wherein they communicate, keeping their other opinions to themselves, not being destructive to faith. The pharisees and sadducees were two sects, yet both met together in their common worship of God at Jerusalem. But here the papist will angrily demand, What! are Lutherans, Calvinists, Anabaptists, Socinians, Arminians, no heretics? I answer, All these may have some errors, but are no heretics. Heresy is in the will and choice professedly against scripture; error is against the will, in misunderstanding the scripture after all sincere endeavours to understand it rightly : hence it was said well by one of the ancients, “ Err I may, but a heretic I will not be.” It is a human frailty to err, and no man is infallible here on earth. But so long as all these profess to set the word of God only before them as the rule of faith and obedience; and use all diligence and sin. cerity of heart, by reading, by learning, by study, by prayer for illumination of the Holy Spirit, to understand the rule and obey it, they have done what man can do: God will assuredly pardon them, as he did the friends of Job; good and pious men, though much mistaken, as there it appears, in some points of doctrine. But some will say, with Christians it is otherwise, whom God hath promised by his Spirit to teach all things. True, all things absolutely necessary to salvation : but the hottest disputes among protestants, calmly and charitably inquired into, will be found less than such. The Lutheran holds consubstantiation; an error indeed, but not mortal. The Calvinist is taxed with predestination, and to make Göd the author of sin; not with any dishonourable thought of God, but it may be over-zealously asserting his absolute power, not without plea of scripture. The anabaptist is accused of deny
ing infants their right to baptism ; again they say, they deny nothing but what the scripture denies them. The Arian and Socinian are charged to dispute against the Trinity; they affirm to believe the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, according to scripture and the apostolic creed; as for terms of trinity, triniunity, coessentiality, tripersonality, and the like, they reject them as scholastic notions, not to be found in scripture, which by a general protestant maxim is plain and perspicuous abundantly to explain its own meaning in the properest words, belonging to so high a matter, and so necessary to be known; a mystery indeed in their sophistic subtilties, but in scripture a plain doctrine. Their other opinions are of less moment. They dispute the satisfaction of Christ, or rather the word "satisfaction,”asnot scriptural: but they acknowledge him both God and their Saviour. The Arminian, lastly, is condemned for setting up free will against free grace; but that imputation he disclaims in all his writings, and grounds himself largely upon scripture only. It cannot be denied, that the authors or late revivers of all these sects or opinions were learned, worthy, zealous, and religious men, as appears by their lives written, and the same of their many eininent and learned followers, perfect and powerful in the scriptures, holy and unblamable in their lives : and it cannot be imagined that God would desert such painful and zealous labourers in his church, and ofttimes great sufferers for their conscience, to damnable errors and a reprobate sense, who had so often implored the assistance of his Spirit; but rather, having made no man infallible, that he hath pardoned their errors, and accepts their pious endeavours, sincerely searching all things according to the rule of scripture, with such guidance and direction as they can obtain of God by prayer. What protestant then, who himself maintains the same principles, and disavows all implicit faith, would persecute, and not rather charitably tolerate, such men as these, unless he mean to abjure the principles of his own religion? If it be asked, how far they should be tolerated; I answer, doubtless equally, as being all protestants; that is, on all occasions to give account of their faith, either by arguing, preaching in their several assemblies, public writing, and the freedom of printing. For if the French and Polonian protestants enjoy all this liberty among papists, much more may a protestant justly expect it among protés.
tants; and yet sometimes here among us, the one persecutes the other upon every slight pretence.
But he is wont to say, he enjoins only things indifferent. Let them be so still ; who gave him authority to change their nature by enjoining them? If by his own principles, as is proved, he ought to tolerate controverted points of doctrine not slightly grounded on scripture, much moreought he not impose things indifferent without scripture. In religion nothing is indifferent; but if it come once to be imposed, is either a command or a prohibition, and so consequently an addition to the word of God, which he professes to disallow. Besides, how unequal, how uncharitable must it needs be, to impose that which his conscience cannot urge him to impose, upon him whose conscience forbids him to obey! What can it be but love of contention for things not necessary to be done, to mo. lest the conscience of his brother, who holds them necessary to be not done? To conclude, let such a one but call to mind his own principles above mentioned, and he must necessarily grant, that neither he can impose, nor the other believe or obey, aught in religion, but from the word of God only. More amply to understand this, may be read the 14th and 15th chapters to the Romans, and the contents of the 14th, set forth no doubt but with full authority of the church of England: the gloss is this : “ Men may not contemn or condemn one the other for things indifferent." And in the 6th article above mentioned, “ Whatsoever is not read in holy scripture, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man as an article of faith, or necessary to salvation..” And certainly what is not so, is not to be required at all, as being an addition to the word of God expressly forbidden.
Thus this long and hot contest, whether protestants ought to tolerate one another, if men will be but rational and not partial, may be ended without need of more words to compose it.
Let us now inquire whether popery be tolerable or no. Popery is a double thing to deal with, and claims a twofold power, ecclesiastical and political, both usurped, and the one supporting the other.
But ecclesiastical is ever pretended to political. The pope by this mixed faculty pretends right to kingdoms and states,