Rutherfurd Against Separatism
Part Four (( On Separation from Corupt Churches. Samuel Rutherfurd. Of the following questions, Q. 2 through Q. 4 are from A Peaceable and Temperate Plea for Paul’s Presbytery in Scotland (1642), chapters 9-11. Q. 1 is from The Due Right of Presbytery; Or, A Peaceable Plea for the Government of the Church of Scotland (1644), pp. 221-255. These extracts were originally published together in Anthology of Presbyterian & Reformed Literature, volume 2, number 2. ))
Copyright © 1997 Naphtali Press
Q. 4. Whether or not separation from a true church because of the sins of professors and manifest defense of scandalous persons can be proved from God’s Word to be lawful.
Divers places of Scripture are abused by Separatists, to maintain the lawfulness of their separation (2 Cor. 6:17). Come out from amongst them and separate yourselves saith the Lord, and teach no unclean thing, and I will receive you. OBJECTION ONE. Ergo, says Ainsworth, (( Ainsworth, Counterpoyson, page 8. )) it is commanded us of God to come out of a corrupt church, and separate from it, if we would be in covenant with God.
ANSWER. This is no local separation commanded the Corinthians, as Erasmus Sacerius (( Erasmus Sarcerius, in loc. 2 Cor. 6. )) observes, but a separation in affection, and if it were a local separation, it is from the idol table of the Gentiles, at which some did eat at Corinth to great offence of the weak (1 Cor. 8:10; 10:17, 18). But from this is badly concluded separation out of the Church of Corinth, or any other true church, where the Word and Sacraments are in purity, supposing some errors are practised by some. Paul borrowed this place from Isa. 52:11, as Calvin (( Calvin in loc. )) thinks, where the Lord charges the people to come out from Babylon, seeing Cyrus had proclaimed liberty to them to come home, and applies it to the case of Corinth, that they should flee all fellowship with idols, and idols’ temples and tables; because light and darkness, Christ and Belial cannot agree, as he cites from Ezk. 37, Ezk. 43:7, Lev. 26, in the former verse, as Marlorat (( Marloratus in 2 Cor. 6. )) teaches. Now this separation in Corinth was in a church from the idolatry in it, which separation we allow, but not a separation out of a church, else the words would bear that Paul will have them to forsake the Church of Corinth, for idolatrous tables in it, and set up a new church of their own, which the Separatists dare not say, and is contrary to other places (1 Cor. 9:4; 1 Cor. 11; 1 Cor. 14), where he commands and allows their meeting and public church communion. Therefore this place proves not their point.
2. This separation is such a separation as is between light and darkness, Christ and Belial, but the separation is not from external communion, which Separatists urge, but from all spiritual and internal communion. For Separatists teach that always there are in the church visible hypocrites and true believers, for the which cause Master Barrow says, it is compared to a draw net wherein there are both good and bad. Now hypocrites and believers together in one visible church are light and darkness together, and external church communion with the hypocrite (which is lawful) cannot be a touching of an unclean thing, and so church fellowship with the wicked cannot be Christ and Belial together.
3. That separation here commanded is from the worship of God corrupted in the matter, where need force the Corinthians behoved to be joined to idols (v. 16), For what agreement hath the Temple of God with idols? Now he means that the faithful who were temples of the Holy Spirit should not sit and eat at the idol’s table, which is called (1 Cor. 10:20, 21) the Devil’s table and cup. But what logic is this? Separate from idols, Ergo, separate from a church, where the true worship of God is, and is professed and taught. This is to be yoked with Christ’s body, Spouse, truth, but to flee the errors that are in the body, which we also teach.
OBJECTION TWO. They object (Rev. 8:4) Go out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. Ergo, we must separate from the church where there is anything of Rome’s worship.
ANSWER. It follows not; for it is as if one would say, the wrath of God is to come upon the whore of Rome, who has overturned the foundation of true faith, Ergo, if Corinth will not excommunicate the incestuous man after you have warned them of their duty, come out of that Babel also lest you be partakers of her sins. For they teach, were a visible church never so sound, pure, holy, fair in doctrine and life, yet if they refuse to cast out a scandalous person, and will spare and defend him, they are to be separated from, and those that stay in that church, and keep communion with her, are partakers of her sins. Howbeit some saving truths remain in the Church of Rome, and in that we keep yet a material and real union with Rome in as far as they profess one God, three persons, two natures in Christ, etc., but we have separated from Rome. 1. Because their doctrine of professed and commanded idolatry, and their other heresies evert the foundation of faith. 2. Because they lay another foundation above the foundation Christ (the Pope, and a multitude of idol gods). But it follows in no sort, Ergo, we are to separate from every true church of Christ that is incorrigible in one fault or other.
Where is there a Christian church that we could live in, in the Earth (yea, except the Anabaptists’ church), a church of white paper as fair as heaven, and the sun, that there is not a spot on more than on the triumphing church? This on Earth is a city in the Moon.
OBJECTION THREE. They object, Come not ye to Gigal, neither go ye up to Bethaven; therefore the people were to separate from idolatrous Israel.
ANSWER. I have proved that the true prophets commanded church fellowship with Israel after their idolatry, and judge if this is good, Go not to Bethaven, that is the house of vanity, called Babel the house of God, where Jeroboam’s calves were worshipped, Ergo, separate from all the worship of God in Israel. We say, Ex negatione specici, male concluditur negatio generis [Negation of a genus is ill argued from negation of a species], separate from Jeroboam’s calves; therefore separate from all true worship of God in Israel, it is a bad consequence.
OBJECTION FOUR. They object, In the Old Testament the Law consisted of outward ordinances, and if they were outwardly performed, there was no cause to separate from them. But under the New Testament, all things are become new and spiritual, where Christ has given power to all the faithful to censure scandalous sins, all should separate from a corrupt church. So Master Barrow. (( Barrow, Discovery, page 39, 40. )) But Master Smith (( Smith, Parallel, page 29, 30. )) helps him: All things were shadows in the Old Testament, David, Jehoshaphat, etc., suffered known sins in the land, yet were they the true matter of the typical church, being typically and ceremonially clean; for to the constitution of the typical church, there was not required true holiness, but ceremonial cleanness. Holiness was required of them for their acceptation before God, but not for the constitution of their church. So there were there typical saints, typical hypocrites, that might have no communion together till they were purified, and yet being indeed wicked persons, they might have church communion together. But our constitution, ministry, communion, separation are contrary to theirs, true holiness is required under the New Testament. Robinson (( Robinson, Justification of Separation, page 248. )) adds, No man could absolutely separate from the Church of the Jews, for it was the only one visible church upon the face of the Earth, tied to one Temple, Altar, Sacrifice, Priesthood, and place. They had not excommunication, as we have now, the offender was by bodily death cut off from the commonwealth, as from the Church.
ANSWER. It is most false that external performances of duty were sufficient to make men members of the visible church of the Old Testament. 1. Because man slayers, adulterers, etc., were to be cut off and excommunicated from the congregation of the Lord, and their prayers were not accepted of God, even by Moses’ Law (Num. 35:33, 34; Isa. 10:11, 14, 15; 66:3-5). 2. It is false (( Rutherfurd: If this difference of ceremonial and spiritual holiness between the church of the Old and the church of the New Testament stands, then the church of the New Testament, where there are any hypocrites, shall be no true visible church. Because hypocrites in the New Testament have but ceremonial and external holiness, not real or spiritual, as the hypocrites of the Old Testament. )) that all the worship under the New Testament is so spiritual that outward performances of external profession in the New Testament does not also make professors ecclesiastically holy and separated from other people not of the visible church. For Ananias, Saphira, Simon Magnus, for the time were externally holy, and differenced from pagans [outside] the church by their baptism and external profession. Then Barrow most quit all places in the Old Testament, for separation from a wicked ministry (as Prov. 15), The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination to God), was as true in the Old as in the New Testament. Ergo, the sacrifices offered by the wicked priests were no ordinances of God, and did pollute others, who did communicate with him.
2. The Sacraments of the Jewish Church in substance were one and the same with our Sacraments (Heb. 13:8; 1 Cor. 10:1-3; John 8:56; 6:50-51; Col. 2:11, 12; 1 Cor. 5:7). All say this except Papists, Anabaptists, Arminians, Socinians, and not for notoriously wicked persons to use the Sacraments with profane and wicked hearts, was most unlawful and made them in that no members of the true church, but as Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa. 1:10), as Ethiopians, Egyptians and Philistines (Amos 9:7), and such were forbidden to take God’s covenant in their mouth, seeing they hated to be reformed (Ps. 50:16, 17). Their prayers were abomination when their hands were bloody (Isa. 1:15); their sacrifices like the murdering of a man, and the sacrificing of a dog, which was abomination to God (Isa. 66), and so all the means they use. But I believe, if Christ was the Spouse, Priest, head of the body to the Church of the Jews, as to us, to the constitution of this body visibly worshipping him in a church-state, there was required that the people should be not only typically holy, but really, by real declaration of all that drew nigh to him. And the Song of Solomon says, that the communion was moral, spiritual, besides that it was typical in some points. And this is directly contrary to their confession, (( Third Petition to K. James, 3. pos. )) where they make separation from a corrupt church moral, and to that separation of the godly from the wicked was taught of God, before the Law, under the Law, and under the gospel, and they teach, That all true churches from the beginning, to the end of the world, are one in nature, and essential constitution. And would the Lord have these to receive the seals of his covenant, as true members typical of a typical church. This they say is 1. to take God’s name in vain. 2. That the Lord does seal unrighteousness. 3. That he profanes his sons blood and death; then a people laden with iniquity, a Sodom, a generation of idolaters might all by God’s typical command, claim to the promises of the covenant, and they only.
3. The common believers amongst the Jews had the power of the keys, as well as we, if Separatists teach right; for they had power to to rebuke one another (Lev. 19:17), and this to them is a part of the power of the keys, as Smith (( Smith, Parallel, page 60, 61. )) says, they had the power of ordination to lay hands on their officers, and the right of election, as they (( Separatists third petition, 3 pos. 3 reason, p. 47. )) would prove from Lev. 8:2, 3, a place notwithstanding abused, for the congregation there is the princes of the congregation, as it is a hundred times taken in the Old Testament, else how could six hundred thousand persons, beside aged men, women and children, lay hands on the officers? They did also excommunicate no less than our church of believers, as they say; (( Separatists third petition, 8 pos. )) therefore their church in the essence of a visible church was every way as ours, except in some accidental ceremonies.
4. Lastly, suppose the Jews were the only visible church that none could separate from, yet Christ and Belial, light and darkness should never dwell together.
OBJECTION FIVE. They object, A little leven levens the whole lump, and so a scandalous sinner not censured, makes the whole church an infected lump; therefore we are to separate from that church, if they go on, except we would be levened. So Robinson, Ainsworth, Smith, Canne, object.
ANSWER. There is a double infection, one physical as leven, that by touching levens, and pestilent clothes that by touching defile the air or men’s bodies. The comparison holds not in this, I am sure. There is a moral infection by evil example, and so the incestuous Corinthian, not excommunicated, did infect, if any should use his company as a brother and member of the church; of this latter sort, the place (1 Cor. 5) is to be understood. The incestuous man would infect, if the guides and the apostle’s spirit should not cast him out. Hence it is true that church guides, in not excommunicating, did what was in them morally, to infect and leven the church. But 1., it follows not that the church was actu secundo, and actually infected, howbeit, not thanks to the guides. 2. It follows not that they should separate from a church that might infect; because that is not God’s means of eschewing infection, to lop out of one true church to another for one fault.
The eschewing and separating from the error of the church, and the man’s company, is enough to them to eschew the infection. 1. They urge, But it is a tempting of God to stay in an infected lump, suppose you are not actually infected yourself, for no thanks to you, as it is a tempting of God, to keep company with a wicked man, suppose by God’s grace, you learn not his wicked fashions. A man is guilty of self-murder, who rides a swelling and dangerous river, and sins in so doing, suppose God graciously pardons his rashness, and carries him through the river safe.
ANSWER. To stay in everyplace where sinners are, and to haunt the wicked man’s company as his companion, is a sinful tempting of God, suppose you are not actually ensnared. But to stay in the company or church, carefully fleeing every spot and foul air, that may blow sin upon you, is no tempting of God.
2. They thus urge, to stay a member of a levened church, and keep church-communion with the infected church, is to tempt God; therefore God calls you to separate from that church.
ANSWER. To stay a member of that church wholly levened, and where the matter of worship is leven, and fundamental points corrupted and obtruded upon the conscience, is to tempt God; for then I keep communion with a levened church, as levened, such as is Babel. But the assumption is now false, and the case not so here, but to keep myself and remain a member of a church levened in part with one sin, and to take no part with the sin, and yield no consent thereunto, is not tempting of God. Paul joined as a member with the church of Corinth, and acknowledged them as a church, and commanded to keep church fellowship with them (1 Cor. 5:4), even when this levened lump was souring amongst them.
3. But they urge, the incestuous man’s sin not censured, infected the church; the infected church infects the worship.
ANSWER. I deny that the sin of the worshippers infects the worship to others that are not guilty. It infects the worship to themselves, but not to others. A worship corrupt by accident only through the fault of the worshipper, may and does make the Lord’s Supper damnation to the eater, and therefore the eater is forbidden so to eat. A worship in the matter and intrinsical principle unjust and sinful is defiled both to the man himself and to all that take part with him, as the teacher of false doctrine and all that hear and believe are defiled; but if the sin of an unworthy communicant even known to be so, is damnation to himself, and defiles the worship to others, then Paul would have said, he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh his own damnation, and the damnation of the whole church, and Paul should have forbidden all others to eat and drink withal, who communicates unworthily, if he allowed separation. But he says, he eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not to others.
4. They urge thus, We must only strive to rebuke, and censure one another, but we must not stay a member of that church, in the which we are not permitted to do the duty that Christ has commanded us, for the station and place is unwarrantable, where we are necessitated to sin, that is, to omit a duty of the keys, that God has given to all the faithful. Ergo, we must separate from that church, where all the faithful may not use the keys.
ANSWER. Also if the power of the keys is in the hands of the people, as some teach, so as they are under a commandment of God to rebuke authoritatively, and judicially to censure and excommunicate, their universal omission of that duty seems to be sinful; and (howbeit I am loath to teach separation) I see not how the authors who give the power of the keys to all private Christians, are not to separate from all churches where Presbyterian government is, no less than the strictest separatists do.
Affirmative precepts tie not in all differences of time. To rebuke your brother is always lawful, so it is done observing due circumstances; but that every believer rebukes church-wise, and judicially by the power of the keys, does not tie at all, because Christ never gave that power to all. Some duties tie absolutely, as to pray; these cannot forbear. Suppose a church should make a law, like Darius, to borrow a dumb devil for thirty days, and to pray none, that church should not be heard, and not acknowledged in that. Other duties tie conditionally, as not to pray in public with a man notoriously serving Satan, and deserving to be excommunicated; yet if the church excommunicates not, we are not to separate from the prayer of the church, because that person is suffered there. So these duties that tie upon a condition that depends upon others and not upon myself, tie not always. I am obliged to believe what point the pastor teaches, but not absolutely, but upon condition it agrees to God’s Word.
5. They urge, But I am necessitated in a false church to communicate with those whom I know to be no members of the true church, but limbs of Satan, because in God’s court they are excommunicated, and no members of the church; but through the corruption of these that have the power of the keys, these are permitted to be members of the church, who in God’s court are no members at all; and if I remain in the church, I must communicate with them, yea if I remain in the church, I must communicate at that table where the holy things of God are profaned by dogs and swine; therefore in that case I must separate.
ANSWER. In your holiest independent church where discipline is most in vigor, you meet with this doubt, and must separate also, if this reason is good. For suppose you know one to be guilty of adultery and murder, and had seen it with your eyes, the party guilty to you is not guilty to the church. For 1., you are but one; none is guilty ecclesiastically, and to be debarred penally and judicially from the holy things of God, except by confession to the church, or by two or three witnesses. 2. You know what is held by all our divines, yea even the Canon Law and Papists teach that the church cannot judge of hid things, and acts of the mind. So says Thomas Aquin., Cajetan, (( Thomas Aquin. Caieton de authoritat. pap. cap. 19. )) Soto, (( Soto, 22 q. 1. art. 3. )) Durandus, Almain, (( Almain de postest. eccl. cap. 10. )) Gerson, (( Gerson, de vita spir. lect. 4. lit. G. H. )) Navar., (( Navar. in Sumin cap. 27. n. 57. )) Driedo, (( Driedo de libert. Christ lib. 3 ca. 5 )) Joan. Major., Paludan, (( Paludan in 4 q. 3 )) Antonin.; (( Antonin. 3 )) their ground is good. The church cannot judge of that they cannot see; and the church’s power of the keys is all for the external policy of the church, and therefore such a sin cannot be the object of church censure, or cause of separation. Excommunication is ever used against external scandals (Matt. 18:15; 1 Cor. 5:1; 1 Tim. 1:19, 20; 2 Thes. 3:14). Show one place where the church excommunicates for non-regeneration.
OBJECTION SIX. They object, It is not lawful to call God, Father, jointly with these who are not brethren, but sons of Satan, Ergo, we are to separate from such. So Smith reasons.
ANSWER. Except they are all and everyone the sons of God, that are in our visible church, and not one hypocrite or child of Satan amongst them, by this argument we must separate from them, and so the Separatists are to separate from their congregation, wherein they acknowledge there are hypocrites. This is Anabaptistical holiness (Isa. 65).
OBJECTION SEVEN. They object, It is not lawful to make Christ a Mediator to all the profane in the land, and to make all the profane members of his body, Ergo, we are to separate from a confused church.
ANSWER. So were Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, confused churches, wherein there were hypocrites. We make Christ Mediator and Head to the visible church, according to the best part, as Christ speaks (John 17). Thine they were, when Judas was never God’s. And Paul calls Corinth saints, Colosse saints, and faithful brethren, and Peter, the elected according to the fore-knowledge of God, begotten again to a lively hope, where yet there were some at Corinth (2 Cor. 2:16), To whom the gospel was the savor of death unto death, some to whom it was hidden, whom Satan had blinded (2 Cor. 4:3). And some in Colosse carried away with angel worship, not holding Christ, some of those to whom Peter writes were such, who stumbled at the stone laid on Zion, and there was amongst them, false teachers privily bringing in damnable heresies, and many followed their pernicious ways, spots, feasting amongst saints, having eyes full of adultery, that cannot cease from sins, etc.
OBJECTION EIGHT. They object, These that are mixed with unbelievers consent to all the sins of the unbelievers, and to all their profanation of the holy things of God, seeing God has given them the power of the keys to hold out and excommunicate all wicked persons; therefore believers are to separate all profaners of the covenant, except they would forfeit their covenant.
ANSWER. A simple worshipping with hypocrites whom we know not is not a consent to their profanation of the holy things of God; Christ eating the Passover with Judas; the disciples eating the Passover, when Christ said, One of you has a devil, one of you shall betray me, did not import consent, nor partaking with Judas’s profaning of the Sacraments. 2. Neither has God given to all believers the power of the keys that way, as is alleged. 3. Suppose the eldership in whose hands only are the keys, should permit a known adulterer, who never professed his repentance therefore to the Lord’s Table; yet this would not be in the eldership a the sin against the Holy Ghost, and to forfeit the covenant, though it would be a great sin.
OBJECTION NINE. They object, God commands the godly to plead with their mother, because (says he) she is not my wife, nor I her husband, Ergo, if the church turns a harlot, the children are to protest and plead against her, as reputing her no mother, and so they are to forsake her.
ANSWER. If this place proves a lawfulness of separation from the Jewish Church, as from a harlot cast off of God, it shall cross a main principle of Separatists, that the Jewish Church was the only visible church from which it was not lawful to separate, seeing the Messiah behooved to be born there, and the Temple, sacrifices, were only there. Also this pleading was for harlotry and idolatry; but Smith and others say, that wickedness and idolatry did not mar the constitution of the Jewish Church, so being they had ceremonial and typical holiness according to the letter of the outward legal service; and so from this separation from the true church is vainly collected.
Plead with your mother for her harlotries. Hence it follows 1., they were to esteem her as a mother, and of duty as sons to plead with her. 2. If they were to plead with her, and rebuke her, they were to keep communion with her; because non-rebuking for a time is a sign of separation and suspending communion for a time (Ezk. 3:26), Thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover, for they are a rebellious house, Ergo, reproving is a sign of communion.
But they say, they were to plead with their mother by power of the keys; and if their mother would not return to the Lord her first husband, then they were to go on to a full separation from her.
ANSWER. Then two or three faithful ones in the Church of the Jews, no less than in the Christian Church were a true visible church, having the power of the keys. This is contrary to their own doctrine, who make a typical and ceremonial cleanness sufficient to constitute the Jewish Church; but require a real, true, spiritual holiness to the constitution of the Church of the New Testament. For if the children may plead with the mother for want of spiritual chastity and marriage-love to her Lord, and for that contend against her, to separate from her, as from a harlot and non-church, then is real holiness required for the constitution of a visible church amongst the Jews, as amongst us, which Separatists deny.
OBJECTION TEN. They object, Abraham behooved to separate from his father’s house, for the idolatry thereof, before Abraham’s family was made the true church of God; therefore there is no remaining in a church where the worship is corrupted?
ANSWER. Separation from a society professing idolatry and corrupting altogether the doctrine of the covenant, such as was Abraham’s father’s house, we grant is lawful; their father was a Hittite, and their mother was an Ammorite (Ezk. 16:3-5; Isa. 51:1-2). But what is this to separate from a church where are the true signs of God’s presence, the Word and Sacraments in substance professed. 2. God in a particular call went before Abraham to make a church of him, of whom the Messiah was to come, and to whom he was to give his covenant, whereas his covenant was not in Abraham’s father’s house. This call is not made, nor this revelation to these who separate from the church and true covenant.
OBJECTION ELEVEN. They object, The ministry of the gospel should be as the holy flock, (( Smith, Parallel, page 107. )) as the flock of Jerusalem in their solemn feasts, that the oblation might be sanctified; but when the people is a confused profane multitude, they are not the oblation of the Lord, and so not the church that we can remain in to, and offer such lamed sacrifice to God in our prayers?
ANSWER. The same will follow in their churches, where minister and professors being whited walls, and painted hypocrites, though not known to others. A scabbed sacrifice is offered to God, and that hypocrites are in the church always, we and they agree and teach jointly. 2. What though the people are profane and known to be a bad sacrifice, seeing they profess the truth, shall they be excluded from the prayers of the church, and none offered to God in the prayers of the church, but only believers? Shall not these be offered in prayer to God, who are yet unconverted? What means that petition then (Thy kingdom come)? Is it not a prayer of the churches for the non-converted?
OBJECTION TWELVE. They object, With that church we cannot join with, as members thereof, where images and pictures of devils are laid upon God’s altar for spiritual sacrifices, which is as abominable to God, as unclean beasts were under the Law, and Christ cannot be a priest to offer these in public church service to God. But profane men in the church are such pictures of devils, Ergo, the true church should not offer them to God, nor should we stay in that church where such are offered, as Christ will not offer unto God.
ANSWER. 1. That same inconvenience shall ever retort upon the objectors, because hypocrites that are still in the visible church, shall be images and pictures of devils offered to God, and Christ can be no priest to offer such to God.
2. That a visible church may be a holy oblation laid upon the altar of God, to be offered to God, by our high priest Christ, it is not required for the essence of a true and acceptable sacrifice of worship, that all and everyone of the congregation be holy and spiritually clean. For then the church of the Lord’s disciples and followers in the days of his flesh, should not be a clean offering to God, for amongst them was Judas. The church of believers (Acts 2) should not be a holy oblation, but an offering to God of images and pictures of devils; for in their visible church was Ananias, Saphira and Simon Magnus. Christ our high priest bears the twelve tribes of Israel in his breast, and offers Israel to God as the typical priest did; yet all and every idolatry, sorcerer, murder in Israel, are not written on Christ’s breast, but only those that are sealed of every Tribe (Rev. 7). It is sufficient to make the oblation holy, that there are some few believers that are stamped with the image of God, and offered in a holy and clean oblation to God, by our high priest Christ. For amongst Separatists were found revolters that left their congregation, and wrote against the Separation; yet these were once offered to God while they were visible saints, and esteemed to be taught of God and sound believers.
OBJECTION THIRTEEN. They object, that it is not lawful to have communion with a church, where there is any superstition or idolatry, or false worship. For David would not take up the names of idols in his lips; nor is it lawful to touch the garment spotted of the flesh, in respect, one Achan taking the accursed spoil, brought judgment on all the rest, and therefore they must separate who would be free of the curse.
ANSWER. It is not lawful to communicate with the holiest church on earth in an act of false worship, we grant. But every false worship does neither make a true church, a false church, or no church; neither gives it a ground and warrant of separation. For there was much false worship in Corinth, where many were partakers of the idol’s table (1 Cor. 8:10), and many denied the resurrection, and so Thyatira, Pergamos (Rev. 2), where were Balaam’s doctrine and Jezebel the false prophetess, and yet none of these are to be separated from, as false churches. And the Separatists would observe this, that when churches in the New Testament are most sharply rebuked, if communion with these churches going on in their sins is idolatry and false worship, and offering devils’ images to God, how is it, that the Lord and his apostles rebuke the faults, but never warn the true and sound believers to separate and make a new church, seeing this is the only remedy to them, and there is not another way to escape the judgment of the whole church. 2. David would not take the names of idols in his lips, nor would touch the garments spotted of the flesh, nor consent unto, or countenance idols, but to communicate with a church where there is a profane people and a false worship in some points, is not to touch unclean garments, for the clean and the sound worship of God is clean, and as for the example of Achan, it is most impertinent. Israel knew not Achan’s sacrilege till the Lord found out the man, and if this stands good, a lurking hypocrite, and an unseen Achan in a visible congregation brings a curse on the congregation, and from such a congregation we are to separate. What madness is this. We are to separate from a society, before we know any Achan to be amongst them. But Separatists say, God would not have punished Israel by making them fly before the men of Ai (Josh. 7) if Israel did take no part with Achan, but because of Achan’s sacrilege they were punished (v. 11). Israel hath sinned and transgressed my covenant, which I commanded them: for they have taken the accursed thing.
ANSWER. This gives us occasion to speak a little of the communion with other men’s sins. We partake these ways of the church’s sins. 1. When we work with them, and are helping causes; this communion is unlawful. 2. When we counsel or persuade to false worship. 3. When we omit what we are obliged to do, or commit that we should not do, from whence others are occasioned to sin; for by moral interpretation, he promoves the sin of others, who do not give all due and obliged diligence to hinder the committing of sin. 4. Those who consent to sin, who approve or praise the fact, and the committers of the fact. 5. Those that do not rebuke sins. 6. Those who are not displeased for it, and do not mourn for it (Ezk. 9) and are not humbled for it, and do not pity the sinner, and pray that God in his mercy or justice may be glorified. Now of all these we are properly to consider how Israel did properly communicate with Achan’s sin.
Some say there is a seventh way different from all, when we in heart desire to do, what others do wickedly, in the external fact. As Israel also coveted in their heart what Achan took with his hands, or when we do the same sin by analogy, that others are doing, as the mariners are punished for Jonah’s sin, whenas they were doing a sin by analogy like the sin of Jonah. For Jonah fled from God’s presence, as if God could not have followed him through seas, and had been like the idol gods, and the mariners did the same. They worshipped an idol god, and knew not the God that made heaven and earth. Now, wherein none of these seven ways we partake of the sins of a church, how can their worship be defiled to us, or have any influence to infect us? But the truth is, Israel was guilty of Achan’s sin, because they did not carefully observe, and warn one another to take heed that they meddled not with the accursed thing; but Joshua never dreamed of separation from Israel for Achan’s sin, and the text says not that. For they could not separate from the church for Achan’s sacrilege which was known to them, [until] God discovered the same, else by this text we are to separate from all churches where there lies hidden and covered Achan’s, and unseen hypocrites, and thus we behooved to remove and separate up to the Church Triumphing, in heaven, or then with Anabaptists, find a spotless church on earth.
OBJECTION FOURTEEN. They object, To be present at a Mass is to countenance an idol worship, so to be present in a church worship where there is any error in the worship is to countenance the error. For what worship we countenance to that we say, Amen, and so we must consent to the wrong constitution of a church where are profane people?
ANSWER. 1. To countenance a worship professedly idolatrous, where the name of the worship imports the worshipping of a false god, is unlawful, for others do interpret our presence a joint worshipping with them. But our presence at every lawful worship that is acknowledged lawful, does not give so much as interpretatively signification of our consent to every particular in the worship, because hearing, discerning, choosing or refusing, believing or not believing, according as you find the points agreeable to God’s Word, or dissonant therefrom, intervenes between your presence at the worship, and your consent to the worship. Now the act of consenting, approving and receiving the point of worship is formally to partake of the worship, else we could not obey the precept (1 Thess. 5:21) Try all things. Some things in the preacher are to be borne with; the preachers of the Separation have not an apostolic and infallible spirit, if any of them preach unsound doctrine, the presence of the hearers does not involve them in the guilt of the preacher’s erroneous worship. The Pharisees corrupting of the Law was known and rebuked by Christ, but yet Christ forbad Separation. Hear them (Matt. 23) they sit in Moses’ chair.