Imagens das páginas

love and good works, not forsaking T4v Imrwayuyh, the congregation, as the manner of some is, but let us exhort one another, &c. Upon which place Esthius (a modern and learned interpreter*) hath this gloss. Qui conventibus ecclesiasticis, SfC. or,' they, that withdraw themselves from the publick congregation, are in danger of an unavoidable and fearful ruin; for that thereby they make a schism in the church, (the doing whereof is most dangerous and displeasing to God) and ingender sects:' (so Esthiuson the text.) Whereby they do worse by Christ, than the persecuting Jews; they divide his seamless coat, and give an occasion to the adversary, of rejoicing and triumphing over the church.

Therefore Ignatius in his epistles exhorts t, and that with much earnestness, the Christians to frequent the church, to be often present and seldom absent from the meetings of God's people there, lest that, by their continued absence, they fall at length from the faith, having first lost their love to God and his saints. Which love is commonly chilled by the cold breath of conventicles, where hatred and malice (against those of a contrary judgment) with sedition is commonly hatched and fomented, as hath been found by sad experience in this sinful nation.

I might here accumulate the testimonies of other interpreters upon this place, to confirm this truth concerning the unlawfulness of conventicles.

Cornelius A Lapide writes thus upon this text, much to our present purpose. The apostle (says he) by this word imo-wttyvyh, intelligit ccetus ecclesioe et conventus fidelium ad sacram synaxim, et ad verbum Dei precesque publicas, fyc.i.e. He understands the meeting of the church in publick prayer, in receiving of the holy sacrament, and to hear the word. Hos ergo conventus apostolus vultfrequentari, SfC. 'Therefore the apostle would have these publick meetings frequented, that so men and women may make a clear and open profession of their faith, which is a great means to beget mutual love and affection in those, who agree in the same faith with us'J. By this open profession we likewise encourage and incite others to profess the same faith, to worship the same God, in that manner, and after that way, as it is done by us, who hereby shew ourselves to be an example of good works. And examples we know are more prevalent than words or precepts. They have a greater influence upon men's practice in a way of conformity and obedience.

Besides the forenamed Ignatius amongst the fathers, Chrysostome, Theodoret, Theophylact, and Oecumenius interpret thisjtextin the same sense with a Lapide and Esthius; who, indeed, light their candle at those bright burning tapers, whom God did set up for the good of his church, to enlighten it, and to direct it in the ways of truth. And|| he that despiseth them (with the rest of the ancient fathers) despiseth God who sent them.

The second scripture proof against private meetings, as before were defined, is this, Mat. xxiv. 26. Wherefore, if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desart, go not forth; behold, he is in the secret places, hrut Ta^t>oic, believe it not. Most of the ancient fathers (there* Qui conventibus ecclesiasticis per fastum et superbiam sese subtrahunt, proxirai sunt-graviori ruinae. Est. in loc. + Ignat. in£p. ad Ephes. & Smyrnenses. t III' publici coetut fore, now despised, because they are enemies to heresies) as Origen, Augustine, and others interpret this place of the private corners of schismatieks and hereticks, who labour to draw the people's minds from the love of the public congregation, and engage them to their private meetings, whereby they commonly entangle them in their errors and heresies. Therefore if they say, as the Donatisis * once did, that Christ is only amongst them in their crypts and conventicles, believe them not, for they do contrary to the precept and practice of Christ; he wills or enjoins us to f confess him and his truth before men, i. e. to make an open profession of our faith, both in times of persecution and peace. He himself ever J taught publickly, as he witnessed of himself before Pilate; he || did so teach us this lesson, that truth seeks not corners, hut loves the light (therefore it is sometimes called light in the holy scriptures. Eph. v. 8. Walk as children of the light, Vid. Act. xxvi. 18.) But they, that§ hate the truth, delight in darkness, dare not say that in an open congregation, which they spawn and vent in a conventicle or private meeting. Therefore avoid them, join not with them, beware of making a schism in the church or making that rent wider, which was first begun of late by the presbyterians; adhere not to schismaticks, whose portion, without a deep repentance for so great a sin, as wounding Christ's church, shall be after death in the land of darkness, because they loved darkness rather than light. I never read that saying of Augustine**, but with horror and dread, when I considered the common guilt. 'Foris ab ecclesia constitutus et separatus a communione unitatis, ct vinculo caritatis, ajterno supplicio punireris, etiamsi pro Christi nomine vivus combureris, i.e. 'He, or she, that out of pride or peevishness, separates himself from the body of the church,' (whose members are knit together by the ligaments of one faith and bond of love) 'that man shall be punished with everlasting torments, although he should die in the flames, and be burnt for the name of Christ.' Such biting truths as these are the cause, why schismaticks and hereticks love not to read the fathers, nor vouchsafe so much as to name them in their sermons or writings. 'Therefore let no man deceive you with vain words,for, for such things, cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not then companions with them: For ye were sometimes darkness, but are now light in the Lord, walk as children of light.' Eph. v. 6, 7, 8. And conform yourselves to the ft example of our lord and master Jesus, who ft preached in the synagogues and the temple, notwithstanding they were places full of disorder and corruption. He |||| called the temple a den of thieves, and are there not too many in oursf §§ The doctrine of the law was then corrupted by the hvlificiK, the false glosses of the scribes and pharisees, and is not the doctrine of the gospel as much corrupted by ours? Besides all this, they were loose and wicked in their lives, witness that charge of our Saviour, to his followers and auditors, against the Jewish doctors, Do not after their works, &c. **• Notwithstanding all these corruptions and deformities in the Jewish church, yet our Saviour Christ made no separation from it, but came and preached in those places of publick concourse, where the seducers and false teachers were.

et mutui congressus mire fovent fidem et charitatem, qusc in seccssu at separations diuturuiort tanguascit, &c. Cornel, a Lap. H Luke x. 16.

• Tide August. Ep. 48. + Luke xii. 8. t John xviii.19, SO. II Luke iv. l5. 44.

j John iii. 19 Men love darkness rather than liglit, because their deeds merit. ** Aug.

Xp. S04. ft Christi actio uostri debet esse instructio. Aug. IJLukc zix. 47

IK Mat. 111. 13. if XV. 3. "*• Matthew xxiii. 23,

If this example and practice of our Saviour will not convince and startle into fear and obedience the separatists of our age (both teachers and disciples) I know not what will do it. If Christ should have trod in their steps, been led by their fond opinion, he would have made a separation,andfled from the society of theJews, and not so muchas once gone into the temple, or taught in their synagogues, but he did otherwise; and from what he did we may conclude, that the practice of those phanaticks, who separate themselves from all assemblies, or publick places of God's service, pretending either a want of gifts, or a defect of holiness in the ministers, I say, the practice of such men doth speak them to be thoes antichrists, which the apostle St. John mentions in his first epistle, Now there are many antichrists, whereby we may know it is the last time. They went out from us, &c* i. e. They turned separatists, and therefore antichrists, because they went flat against the practice and precept of Christ, who commands us by his apostle f ' to be of one heart, and of one mind, to think and speak, and do the same thing (in good) to love as brethren,'who forsake not one another's company, and desert not their family, when they discover any infirmity in their father, or any deformity in their mother, but keep close to both in observance and humble duty. We may have communion or fellowship with men's persons in publick worship, and not partake in the guilt of their sins. 'Ille communicat malis, qui consentit factis malorum:' He communicates with the wicked, that consents to their wickedness J ; abhor and forsake his sin, then mayest thou without fear or danger communicate with a wicked man. 'Si inalos odistis, vos ipsi mutamini a scelere schismatis. Si malarum permixtionem timeretis, opatum inter vos in apertissima iniquitate viventem per tot annos non teneretis.' Thus Augustine bespeaks the Donatists; so may I the men of our times; if you hate the ungodly,shew your hatred towards yourselves by repenting and turning from your schism and heresies; and, if you fear the mixture or company of the wicked, shun the society, and abhor the persons of your leaders by whom you are seduced and corrupted.

A third argument, against such meetings in private on the Lords-day, may be deduced from the intent and scope of the fourth commandment, whose morality, in the judgment of all both fathers and modern writers, consists in this, that God be worshiped in the congregation with publick service in an open confession of our faith, and a profession of our love and thankfulness to him for all his mercies and blessings, those which concern ours ouls, and those which respect our bodies, &c. But to wave this and other arguments, which might be produced to confirm my former thesis, I proceed to reasons against conventicles.

First, Reason suggests this truth to our spirits, that our souls, being, as it were, so many sparks of the || Deity, the breath of God, are more § precious than our bodies, which are clods of earth, and by nature cages of uncleanness; by so much greater ought our care to be towards those than these mortal bodies. Now no man, that hath a treasure of jewels or gold about him, will venture alone into a place which is a receptacle of thieves and robbers. None that is found in health will thrust himself, boldly without fear or wit, into the company of those who are infected with the plague, or some other noisome disease. Oh then how do they at once betray their religion, and forfeit their reason, who mingle themselves with hereticks, and resort frequently to the company of schismaticks, who are thieves and robbers, for that they steal the truth out of men's hearts*, and rob their higb-born souls of the love of God and goodness; whose opinions likewise are worse than the plague in the event and consequence; for, as they incurably infect the soul, so, being embraced and followed, they debar men from ever coming to the kingdom of God. See Gal. v. 19. Witness likewise that off Ignatius, which (did our separatists understand his language) they would read with a trembling in their joints, like that great prince in Daniel, c. v. v. 6. when he read his doom on the wall. The words of Ignatius in English are these J: 'They that join themselves in a faction, and adhere in affection to such who separate and divide their hearts from the truth, such men shall not inherit the kingdom of God. They, who shun not the company of false teachers, shall be condemned to everlasting torments.' For as with David we must hate the congregation of the wicked, || for evil doers, such as are perverse schismaticks; so must we delight in the company of the saints, who are such not only in name, but also in practice; being pure in their opinions, holy in their lives, not carnal, nor sensual; they despise not government, neither speak evil of those who are set in authority § over them by God, but are spiritual, heavenlyminded, meek and obedient; these are 'm*7>}, those that excel in virtue, commended by holy David ** for our choice respect and company.

* 1kb. lab. c. 8, T. 18,19. t Phil. i. 2T. it. t. i Aug, Ep. 1-1. II G«u. ii."

i M«k riii. 37- M»«. xvi. S6.

Again, in the second place, as reason fetches an argument against them from the danger of such meetings, where the devil may seize upon thee, (as he did once upon that woman in the theatre asTertullianff records) so my reason tells me (thusshould every one argue with himself) that it is a shame and disgrace for a Christian, a brother of Christ, to follow such a teacher, to make him his master, who is Xoixiosbx©-, a servant to his own belly, and a slave to his lusts; the subserviency to which hath ever been the original of heresies, as Theophylact notes well upon that place of the apostle tU They serve not the Lord Jesus, but their own bellies. This is spoken of schismaticks, whose private meetings end commonly in belly-cheer, in luxury and wantonness. This is too well known in these truth-denying times; and this too was confessed of late to me by a taylor here at Whethamstead to be the cause of his revolt from such private meetings, and coming again to our church; it was, (as he ingenuously said) their disorder and unseemly carriage in their conventicles, that moved him, a man of a tender spirit, to forsake their wicked company, and return to God.

* John x. 8. + I?nat. Epist. ad Philod, t E'Tl? Jc'ta'' "*• T"f i\n8tla{ oxoXaflt",

BxtrtXlUv Bi3 i -Xri(tniA.i>ru, Sec. Ignat. ibid. II Pial. xxvi. 4. }, ver. 8.

■• Psal. xvi. 3. -H- Tertul. cap. 26, lib. de spectaculis,These he calls conventicles, diaboli

ecclesias, &c. t$ Rom. xvi. 18. Il was on the first of April last, l65I, on which day I bap

tized two of his children in the open congregation, one newly born, the other of the age of tws years and a half.

Oh therefore be persuaded in time, before you meet with destruction, to avoid such teachers and their meetings in dark cells and corners. They are nurseries of sin and corruption. Though Israel play the harlot, let not Judah offend: Come ye not to Gilgal, neither go up to Bethaven. Hos. iv. 15. Give not up your names to be those men's disciples, who, for aught ye know, may be the Pope's legates, who broach new opinions contrary to those you have received, and repugnant to the scriptures; such men are not doctores but seductores, not doctors but seducers, not pastors but impostors*. Therefore shun their company, come not-into their private assemblies, lest you be defiled with their pollutions, corrupted by their heresies, which ever end in schism; both which break the bones and bruise the flesh of Christ's church, his t spouse. And he that lives and dies in a schism, cannot hope to be saved, being severed from that body whereof Christ Jesus is the head, which body is quickened by that spirit, whereby we shall be raised. 'If the spirit of him, that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you, he, that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies,' &c.t If then that spirit dwell not in you, you shall not be glorified: As a member that is cut off from the body dies, and by no art can be quickened, or have life put into it, being severed from the influential virtue or activity of that soul which gives life to the body, whereto, whilst it was joined, it lived and moved. I will conclude this third query with that exhortationof theapostle, 'Keep the unity of the spirit, in the bond of peace'||, that is, in love and charity.

If this heavenly fire burns and glows in your Christian breast, you will not, from that which I have delivered, deduce this uncharitable and mistaken inference, as some once did, but are now better informed of my intentions, that I am an enemy to all kinds of meetings of God's saints and servants; I am not, I exhort them often to meet, but when? Not when they should be at church. What to do? Not to take upon them the ministers office to preach, but to repeat what they have heard from the mouths of their orthodox teachers, or to read the scriptures to the unlearned, or to do as David did, i. e. Tell what God hath done for their souls §, the manner of their conversion, the method and means God used to comfort them in their tribulation, or to pray together for the peace of Jerusalem**, for the restoration of the poor distressed church, fora blessing upon the persons and labours of their honest ministers. Let this be the end of your house-meetings, and my soul shall meet with you in commendation of your holy practice, and in prayer fora blessing on your pious exercise; but if you do otherwise, i. e. forsake the church, the place where God*s,people, his servants, do congregate, I fear that it will happen to you, as it doth to the silly sheep that strays from the flock, which becomes a prey to the devouring wolf; or as it did to Dinah, the daughter of Leah, who, leaving her father's house to see the daughters of the land, was met, and ravished by Shechem ff. So they that forsake their ministers, and out of curiosity resign and devote themselves to be followers of those, who are none, they must expect to be defloured of their faith and manners by such seducers, who are spiritual

• Bernard, noti pastores, scd impostores. + Cant. iv. g, 10, $ Rom. viii. 11.

8 Eph, iv. 3. i Psal. lxvi, 18. "Psal. cjxii. 6. ++ Gen. xxiv. 2.

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