Page images
PDF
EPUB

holy calling. Your work is full of danger, full of duty, and full of mercy. You are called to the winning of souls ; an employment near a-kin unto our Lord's work, the saving of souls; and the nearer your spirits be in conformity to his holy temper and frame, the fitter you are for, and the more fruitful you shall be in your work. None of you are ignorant of the begun departure of our glory, and the daily advance of its departure, and the sad appearances of the Lord's being about to leave us utterly. Should not these signs of the times rouse up ministers unto greater seriousness ? What can be the reason of this sad observation, That when formerly a few lights raised up in the nation, did shine so as to scatter and dispel the darkness of popery in a little time; yet now when there are more, and more Jearned men amongst us, the darkness comes on apace? Is it not because they were men filled with the Holy Ghost, and with power; and many of us are only filled with light and 'knowledge, and inefficacious notions of God's truth? Doth not always the spirit of the ministers propagate itself amongst the people ? A lively ministry, and lively Christians. Therefore be serious at heart; believe, and so speak; feel, and so speak; and as you teach, so do; and then people will feel what you say, and obey the word of God.

And, lastly, for people: It is not unfit that you should hear of ministers work, and duty, and difficulties. You see that all is of your concernment. All things are for your sakes, as the apostle saith in another case,

Then only I entreat you, 1. Pity us. We are not angels, but men of like passions with yourselves. Be fuller of charity than of censure. We have all that you have to do about the saving of our own souls; and a great work besides about the saving of yours. We have all your difficulties as Christians; and some that you are not acquainted with, that are only ministers temptations and trials.

2. Help us in our work. If you can do any thing, help us in the work of winning souls. What can we do, say you O! a great deal. Be but won to Christ, and we are made. Make haste to heaven, that you and we may meet joyfully before the throne of God and the Lamb.

3. Pray for us. How often and how earnestly doth Paul beg the prayers of the churches ! And if he did so, much more should we beg them, and you grant them; for our necessities and weaknesses are greater than his : 2 Thess. iii. 1, 2. Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord m.ny have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you : and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

R 2

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

IN A LETTER FROM THE AUTHOR, TO A MINISTER IN THE

COUNTRY.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Your earnest desire of information about some difference
amongst Nonconformists in London, whereof you hear so
much by flying reports, and profess you know so little of the
truth thereof, is the cause of this writing.
You know, that not many months. ago

there was fair-like
appearance of unity betwixt the two most considerable parties
on that side; and their differences having been rather in
practice than principle, about church-order and communion,
seemed easily reconcileable, where a spirit of love, and of a
sound mind, was at work. But how short was the calm?
For quickly arose a greater storm from another quarter; and
a quarrel began upon higher points, even on no less than the
'doctrine of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, and the justifi-
cation of a sinner by faith alone. Some think, that the re-
printing of Dr Crisp’s book gave the first rise to it. But we
must look farther back for its true spring. It is well known,
but little considered, what a great progress Arminianism bad
made in this nation before the beginning of the civil war.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]

And surely it hath lost little since it ended. What can be the reason why the very parliaments in the reign of James I. . and Charles I. were so alarmed with Arminianism, as may be read in history, and is remembered by old men; and that now for a long time there hath been no talk, no fear of it; as if Arminianism were dead and buried, and no man knows where its grave is? Is not the true reason to be found in its universal prevailing in the nation ?

But that which concerneth our case, is, that the middle way betwixt the Arminians and the Orthodox, had been espoused, and strenuously defended and promoted, by some Nonconformists, of great note for piety and parts; and usually such men that are for middle ways in points of doctrine, have a greater kindness for that extreme they go half-way to, than for that which they go half-way from. And the notions thereof were imbibed by a great many students, who laboured (through the iniquity of the times) under the great disadvantage of the want of grave and sound divines, to direct and assist their studies at universities; and therefore contented themselves with studying such English authors as had gone in a path untrod, both by our predecessors, and by the Protestant universities abroad.

These notions have been preached, and wrote against, by several divines amongst themselves; and the different opinions have been, till of late, managed with some moderation; to which our being all borne down by persecution, did somewhat contribute.

It is a sad, but true observation, That no contentions are more easily kindled, more fiercely pursued, and more hardly composed, than those of divines; sometimes from their zeal for truth; and sometimes from worse principles, that may act in them, as well as in other men.

The subject of the controversy is, about the justifying grace of God in Jesus Christ. Owned it is by both: and both fear it be abused : either by turning it into wantonness; hence the noise of Antinomianism: or by corrupting it with the mixture of works; hence the fears, on the other side, of Arminianism. Both parties disown the name cast upon them. The one will not be called Arminians: and the other hate

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

both name and thing of Antinomianism truly so called. Both sometimes say the same thing, and profess their assent to the doctrinal articles of the Church of England, to the Confession of Faith and Catechisms composed at Westminster, and to the Harmony of the Confessions of all the reformed churches, in these doctrines of grace. And, if both be candid in this profession, it is very strange that there should be any controyersy amongst them.

Let us therefore, first, take a view of the parties, and then of their principles. As to the party suspected of Antinomianism and Libertinism, in this city; it is plain, that the churches wherein they are concerned, are more strict and exact in trying of them that offer themselves unto their communion, as to their faith and holiness, before their admitting them; in the engagements laid on them to a gospel-walking at their admission, and in their inspection over them afterwards. As to their conversations, they are generally of the more regular and exact frame; and the fruits of holiness in their lives, to the praise of God, and honour of the gospel, cannot with modesty be denied. Is it not unaccountable, to charge a people with licentiousness, when the chargers cannot deny, and some cannot well bear the strictness of their walk? It is commonly said, that it is only their principles, and the tendency of them to loose walking, that they blame. But, waving that at present, it seems not fair to charge a people with licentious doctrines, when the professors thereof are approved of for their godliness; and when they do sincerely profess, that their godliness begun with, and is promoted by the faith of their principles. Let it not be mistaken, if I here make a comparison betwixt Papists and Protestants. The latter did always profess the doctrine of justification by faith alone. This was blasphemy in the Papists ears. They still did, and do cry out against it, as a licentious doctrine, and destructive of good works. Many sushicient answers have been given unto this unjust charge. But to my purpose: The wonder was, that the Papists were not convinced by the splendid holiness of the old believers, and by the visible truth of their holy practice; and their professing, that as long as they lived in the blindness and darkness of popery, they were profane ;

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »