Rutherfurd Against Separatism
Part One (( 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. 1. In what cases is it lawful to separate from a Church?
Q. 1. In what cases is it lawful to separate from a Church?
In this discourse three things must be discussed. 1. With what church retaining the doctrine of fundamentals, we are to remain. 2. Whether our separation from Rome is not warrantable. 3. Whether we may lawfully separate from true churches for the sins of the churches. 1 Cor. 3:11, Another foundation can no man lay, than that which is laid, Jesus Christ. Hence Jesus Christ is the foundation of faith real or personal, and the knowledge of Christ is the dogmatical foundation of faith. Upon this foundation some build gold (that is, good doctrine), some hay and stubble (that is as (( Calvin comm. )) Calvin says, curious doctrine; (( Pareus comm. )) Pareus, vain and frivolous doctrine. We are to distinguish between articles of faith (or resfidei), matters of faith, and fundamental points of faith. Matters of faith I reduce to three. 1. Fundamental points. 2. Supra-fundamentalia, superstructions built upon fundamentals. 3. Circa-fundamentalia, things about matters of faith. For præter fundamentalia, things indifferent and beside the foundation in matters of religion, and moral carriage, I acknowledge none. Fundamentals are the vital and noble parts or the soul of Divinity.
The ignorance of fundamentals condemns, which is to be understood [in] two ways. 1. The ignorance of fundamentals such as are supernatural fundamentals, condemns all within the visible church as a sin, but it does not formally condemn those who are [outside] the visible church (John 15:22). It only makes those who are without the church incurable, but does not formally condemn them, as medicine not known, and so not refused, makes sick men incurable, as a loss, but does not kill them as a sin. 2. Superstructures, which by consequence arise from fundamentals, are fundamental by consequence, and secondarily, as the second rank of stones that are immediately laid upon the foundation, are a foundation in respect of the higher parts of the wall, and therefore are materially fundamental. And the ignorance of these virtually condemns, and the denying of such, by consequence, is a denying of the foundation.
Things about the foundation, circa-fundamentalia, are all things revealed in the Word of God, as all Histories, Miracles, Chronologies, things about Orion, the Pleiades, the North Stars (Job 38:31, 32), that Paul left his cloak at Troas. The knowledge of these is considered three ways. 1. As necessary, by necessity of a mean, necessitate medii, and the knowledge; so is not necessary to salvation. Many are in glory (I doubt not) who lived in the visible church, and yet knew never that Sampson killed a lion. But the knowledge of all these is necessary, necessitate præcepti, because all in the visible church are obliged to know these things; therefore the ignorance of these only, does not actually condemn, but virtually and by demerit leads to condemnation.
2. This knowledge is considered as commanded in the excellency thereof, and so error and bad opinions about these are sinfully ill, though in the regenerate, by accident, such errors condemn not, where the foundation is held.
3. The knowledge of these is considered as commended and enjoined to us with the submission of faith, for the authority of God the speaker, and the malicious opposing of these is a fundamental error, not formally, but by evident consequence. For though the matter of these errors is not fundamental, yet the malicious opposing of these is a fundamental error against this principle, Whatever God has said is true. But God says there were eight souls in the Ark of Noah. Hence because the historical things of Scripture and things about the foundation, as that Paul purified himself with the Jews (Acts 21), that Paul rebuked Peter (Gal. 2), is no less true, because God has so spoken in his Word, than this fundamental point, Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. (1.) It is clear that the specific and essential form of a fundamental article is not taken from the authority of God speaking in the Word (seeing God’s authority is one and the same in all that he speaks), but from the influence that the knowledge of an article has to unite us to God in Christ, and bring us to salvation. (2.) And secondly, it will follow that this, Thou shalt not by the use of things indifferent kill him for whom Christ died, and the like is no less fundamental, by evident consequence, in respect it is spoken by God’s own authority, then articles of our faith. (3.) It follows that formalists ignorantly divide matters of God’s worship, into matters of Faith, or points fundamental, and things indifferent, as if many scriptural truths were not to be found in God’s Word, such as the miracles of Moses, and Elias, the journeys of Paul, which are neither matters fundamental, nor yet things indifferent. (4.) Many things may be fundamental, by consequence, to one who can read the Word, and hear it read, which is not by consequence fundamental to a rude and ignorant man.
The knowledge of points fundamental is necessary, 1. to obtain salvation; 2. to keep communion with a true church, for we are to separate from a church subverting the foundation and laying another foundation.
Fundamentals are restricted by many to the Creed of Athanasius (( Symb. Athanasius. )) , and Gregorius Nazianzen (( Nazian. ora. 52. )) , and Cyrillus (( Cyrill Hierosol. Catech. 4. Symb. )) of Jerusalem, to the Apostle’s Creed (as it is called). Others reduce all fundamentals to the famous Creeds of Nice, of Constantinopole, of Ephesus, of Chalcedon. Estius (( Estius 1.8. dist. 25, s. 2. ad vitam recte instituendam [to regulate life rightly.]. )) restricts fundamentals to things necessary for the well ordering of our life. Davenant (( Davenant de place Eccl. tract. page 28. )) says better, That such are fundamental knowledge whereof is simply necessary to salvation, the ignorance whereof does condemn. Doctor Potter (( Doc. Potter, Charity mistaken, ch. 8, 9 sec. 7. page 216. )) calls them Prime capital doctrines of our Religion, or of that faith which essentially constitutes a true church, and a true Christian; which is good, but that he contra-divides from these things not fundamental, which may be disputed on either side, and cannot be determined by the Word of God, and must lie under a non liquet, is his error. Yet he may know that Bellarmine says (( Bellarmine de Eccle. 1. 3. c. 14., s. 5. Multa sunt de fide quæ non sunt necessaria ad salutem [There are many matters concerning faith which are not necessary for salvation.]. )) rightly, many things are of faith (and clear in Scripture, as historical relations) which are not fundamental. Camero (( Camero de Eccl. Page 272-3. )) , and a greater Divine than Camero, Dom. Beza (( Beza vol. opusc. 2., de notis Eccl. page 141. )) reduces all fundamentals to things which necessarily belong to faith and obedience, and Calvin (( Calvin instit. lib. 2. cap. 16. 18. )) restricts fundamentals within the Apostles’ Creed. Occam (( Occam dial. Page 1. lib. 5. cap. 28., Semper erunt aliqui Catholici qui inversi de (de necessariis ad salutem) explicite permanebunt [There will always be some Catholics who remain easily upset (on what things are necessary for salvation).]. )) will have the militant (Catholic) Church always explicitly or expressly believing things necessary to salvation, and our Divines teach that the Catholic Church cannot error in fundamentals; they mean with pertinency and obstinacy. (2.) In all fundamentals; (3.) totally and finally.
But we are not to believe Papists, who say things are fundamental, but such things only as the Church defines to be fundamental. But (1.), the foundation of our Faith is God’s Word, and God’s Word is necessary to be believed to salvation whether the church defines it or not. To abstain from idolatry is necessary to be believed, though Aaron and the Church of Israel say the contrary; neither does God’s Word borrow authority from men.
(2.) If the church may make points to be fundamental by their definition, whereas before they were not fundamental, then may the church make articles of faith; sure I am Papists, as Gerson, Occam, Almaine, Suarez, yea and a very Bellarmine is against this. Yea, and by that same reason they may make fundamental points to be no fundamental points, and they may turn the Apostles’ Creed into no faith at all, for ejusdem est potestas creare & annihilare [it is in his power to create and destroy].
(3.) There cannot be a greater power in the church, to define articles of faith, than is in God himself; but the very authority of God does not define a matter to be an article of faith, except the necessity of the matter so requires. For God has determined in his Word, that Paul left his cloak at Troas; but Paul left his cloak at Troas, is not (I hope) an article of faith, or a fundamental point of salvation.
(4.) What can the church do (says Vincentius Lyrinens (( Vincentius Lyrinens. advers. heres ca. 32., Denique quid unquam conciliorum decretis enisa est (Ecclesia) nisi ut quod antea simpliciter crederetur, hoc idem postea diligentius crediditur [in finally, whatever she (the church) brought forth in the decrees of the councils, except for what she believed earlier simply, she believed the very same thereafter more earnestly.]. )) .) but declare that that is to be believed, which before in itself was to be believed, and Bellarmine (( Bellarmine de conc. autorit. 1. 2., c. 12, Concilia cum definiunt, non faciunt aliquid esse infallibilis veritatis, sed declarant [On the Authority of Councils; When councils define, they do not make something to be part of infallible truth, but declare it to be.]. )) says, Counsels make nothing to be of infallible verity, and so does Scotus (( Scotus in 1. d. 11., q. 1. )) say, Verity before heresies (erat de fide) was a matter of faith, though it was not declared to be so by the church: Determinatio non facit vertatem, says Occam, The churches determination makes no truth.
3. The evidence of knowledge of fundamentals is gravely to be considered. Hence these distinctions.
DISTINCTION ONE. One may believe that Christ is the Son of God by a Divine faith, as Peter does (Matt. 16:17), and yet doubt of the necessary fundamental consequences. Ergo, Christ must be delivered into the hands of sinners, and be crucified, as the same Peter doubted of this. For as one may fall in a grievous sin, though regenerated, and fail in act[ion], and yet remain in grace, in habitu [in condition], the seed of God remaining in him, so may Peter and the apostles doubt of a fundamental point of Christ’s rising from the dead (John 20:8, 9), in an act of weakness, and yet have saving faith in Christ, as it is like[ly] many of the saints at Corinth denied an article of their faith, the rising again of the dead. One act of unbelief makes not an infidel.
DISTINCTION TWO. A simple Papist and a Lutheran, not well educated, believes upon the same former ground, that Christ is true man, and has an habitual faith of this article, that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of David, and yet holds transubstantiation, or consubstantiation, that Christ’s body is in many sundry places in heaven, and earth, on this side of the sea, and beyond sea. Yet the connection between Christ’s humanity and this monster of transubstantiation not being possible, all error may be merely philosophic, that the extension of quantitative parts without or beyond part, is not the essence of a quantitative body, while as the rude man believes firmly that Christ is true man, and so believes contradictory things by good consequence. Therefore the quality of the conscience of the believer is to be looked into, since fundamental heresy is essentially in the mind, and pertinency and self-conviction does inseparably follow it.
(1.) There is a conscience simply doubting of fundamental points, this may be with a habit of sound faith. (2.) A scrupulous conscience which from light grounds is brangled about some fundamental points, and this is often in sound believers, who may and do believe, but with scruples. (3.) A conscience believing opinions and conjecturing and guessing, as in atheists; this is damnable, but where obstinacy is, as defending with pertinency transubstantiation, and that it is lawful to adore bread, this pertinacious defending of idolatry does infer necessarily, that the faith of the article of Christ’s humanity is but false and counterfeit, and not saving.
DISTINCTION THREE. There is a certitude of adherence formal, and a certitude of adherence virtual. A certitude of adherence formal is, when one does adhere firmly to the faith of fundamentals. A certitude of adherence virtual is, when with the formal adherence to some fundamental points, there is an ignorance of other fundamental points, and yet withal a gracious disposition and habit to believe other fundamentals, when they shall be clearly revealed out of the Word. So [in] Luke 24, Christ exponed the resurrection, and the articles of Christ’s sufferings and glorification (vs. 25-27), to the disciples who doubted of these before, and yet had saving faith of other fundamental points (Matt. 16-18).
DISTINCTION FOUR. Hence there are two sorts of fundamentals. (1.) Some principally and chiefly so called, even the elements and beginning of the doctrine of Christ, as Credenda, things to be believed in the Creed, the object of our faith; and petenda, things that we ask of God, expressed in the Lord’s Prayer, the object of our hope specially. (2.) Agenda, things to be done, contained in the decalogue, the object of our love to God and our brethren. Others are so secondarily fundamental, or less fundamental, as deduced from these; yea there are some articles of the Creed principally fundamental, these all are explicitly to be believed, noted by Vigilius Martyr (( Vigtilius Martyr, 1. 2. c. 4. )) and Pareus (( Pareus in prolegomen. in comment. on Hosea 4. )) , as that Christ died and rose again, etc. Other articles are but modi articulorum prolegomen, fundamentalium [preliminary remarks in the manner of fundamental articles], and expositions and evident determinations of clear articles, as Christ’s incarnation, and taking on our flesh is explained by this, conceived of the Holy Ghost, and born of the Virgin Mary; the death and suffering of Christ is exponed by subordinate articles, as that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, etc., and these lesser fundamentals are to be believed, necessitate preacepti, because God commands them, but happily non necessitate meddii. It is possible many are in glory who believe not explicitly, but only in the disposition of the mind (as some are baptized, in voto, in their desire only) these lesser fundamentals. It is enough they have the faith of non-repugnancy, or negative adherence to these, so as they would not deny them, if they had been proponed to them in a distinct and clear way.
DISTINCTION FIVE. The faith of fundamentals is implicit three ways. (1.) In respect of the degree of believing. (2.) In respect of the object. (3.) In respect of the subject, or our adherence to things believed. In respect of degrees the faith is implicit and weak three ways, as Calvin may teach. (1.) Because we are ignorant of some less fundamentals. (2.) Because we see in a mirror and imperfectly. (3.) In respect of believing upon a false ground, as for miracles. In respect of the object, the certainty is most sure, as sure as that God cannot lie.
In respect of our adherence of understanding and affections, in this respect the knowledge of fundamentals must be certain. (1.) By a negative certitude which excludes doubting, and so pastor and people must have a certitude of fundamentals (as Rom. 14:5; Col. 1:9; Heb. 5:12); but for a positive certitude there is not that measure required in a teacher that is in a scholar, for all the body cannot be an eye (1 Cor. 12:17). Yet is a Christian certitude and fulness of persuasion required even of all Christians (Col. 2:2, 3:16), highest and greatest in its kind, though many may be saved with less, yet a distinct knowledge of fundamentals in all is not necessary by a necessity of means, necessitate medii, as Beza (( Beza, vol. 1, opul., p. 141. )) and Doctor Ames (( Amesius de cousti. 1. 4., c. 2., q. 3. )) teach.
There is a faith of fundamentals implicit in respect of will and affections which Papists make a wide faith, as the Jesuite Becanus (( Becanus, 2 pt., de virtuti theolog. c. 2., q. 3. )) think to believe these two fundamentals. (1.) There is a God. (2.) That this God has a providence concerning man’s salvation, though other particulars are not known. Or implicit faith is, says Estius (( Estius, 1. 3., d. 25, q. 2. )) , when any is ready to believe what the church shall teach, which faith (Suarez says (( Suarez de trip. disp. virt. Theolo. 13 sect. 8. )) ) though it include ignorance, yet keeps men from the danger[ous] errors, because it does submit the mind to the nearest rule of teaching, to wit, to the church; the knowledge of fundamentals in this sense does not save, but condemn. Thomas (( Thomas, 22., q. 2., art. 5. )) says better than he.
DISTINCTION SIX. They are not alike, (1.) who believe fundamental heresies; (2.) and who defend them; (3.) and who teach them, and obtrude them upon the consciences of others. For the first, many believe fundamental errors who are ignorant of them, and do think that they firmly adhere to Christian Religion. Occam (( Occam, dialog. p. 7, 1. 4, c.3, trac. 1. )) terms such, hereticos nescientes, ignorant heretics, as the Marcionites, and the Manicheans, and these the church should tolerate while they are instructed. It is true the Jesuit Meratius (( Meratius, de fide dists., 24 sect. 4, n. 7, 8. )) says, When many things are proposed to the understanding for one and the same formal wit, for divine authority, the understanding cannot embrace one but it must embrace all, nor reject one, but it must reject all, which is true of a formal malicious rejection. The Manichean believes nothing because God says it, and has faith sound and saving, in nothing, but it is not true of and actual or virtual contempt, in one or two fundamentals, because believers out of weakness, ignorance, and through strength of temptation may doubt of one fundamental, as the disciples doubted of the resurrection (John 20:9), and yet in habit believe all other fundamentals. But the church is to correct such as profess fundamental heresies, and to cast out of the church seducers and deceivers.
DISTINCTION SEVEN. It is one thing to hate fundamental points, as that Christ is consubstantial with the Father as the Arians do, and another thing, by consequence to subvert a fundamental point, as Papists by consequence deny Christ to be true man, while they hold to the wonder of Transubstantiation, yet they do not hate this conclusion formally, that Christ is true man.
DISTINCTION EIGHT. Though it were true which Doctor Christopher Potter (( Doctor Potter, Charity mistaken., c. 8, sect.7, page 235. )) says, If we put by the points wherein Christians differ one from another, and gather into one body the rest of the articles, wherein they all generally agree, we should find in these propositions, which without all controversy are universally received in the whole Christian world, so much truth is contained, as being joined with holy obedience may be sufficient to bring a man to everlasting salvation. I say, though this were true, yet will it not follow that these few fundamentals received by all Christians, Papists, Lutherans, Arians, Vorstians, Sabellians, Macedonians, Nestorians, Eutychanes, Socinians, Anabaptists, Treithites, Antitrinitarii (for all these be Christians and validly baptized), do essentially constitute a true church, and a true Religion. (1.) Because all Christians agree that the Old and New Testaments are the truth and Word of God, and the whole faith of Christian Religion is to be found in the Old Testament, acknowledged both by Jews and Christians; for that is not the Word of God indeed in the Old Testament, which the Jews say is the Word of God in the Old Testament. Yea the Old and New Testaments, and these few uncontroverted points universally [held] by all Christians, are not God’s Word, as all these Christians expound them, but the dreams and fancies of the Jews saying, that the Old Testament teaches that Christ the Messiah is not yet come in the flesh. The Treithite say there are three Gods, yet are the Treithite Christians in the sense of Doctor Potter, so that one principle as that There is one God, and Christ is God and man, and God is only to be adored, not one of these are uncontroverted. In respect every society of Sectaries have contrary expositions upon these common fundamentals, and so contrary Religions.
(2.) Who doubts but all Christians will subscribe and swear with us Protestants the Apostles Creed, but will it follow that all Christians are of one true Religion, and do believe the same fundamentals? Now these fundamentals are the object of faith according as they signify things. To us and to the Treithite this first Article (I believe in God) as I conceive does not signify one [and] the same thing. Now join this (I believe in God) with Holy obedience as we expone it, and as the Treithite expone it, it could never be a step to everlasting salvation. For it should have this meaning, I believe there is one only true God, and that there be also three Gods, and what kind of obedience joined with a faith made up of contradictions, can be available to salvation?
(3.) One general catechize and confession of faith made up of the commonly received and agreed upon fundamentals, would not make us nearer peace, though all Christians should swear and subscribe this common Christian Catechize, no more than if they should swear and subscribe the Old and New Testaments, as all Christians will do, and this day do.
DISTINCTION NINE. Though the knowledge of fundamentals is necessary to salvation, yet it cannot easily be defined, what measure of knowledge of fundamentals, and what determinate number of fundamentals does constitute a true visible church, and a sound believer, as the learned Voetius (( Voetius desp. cans. Papanes. )) says.
Hence (1.), they are saved, who soundly believe all fundamentals materially, though they cannot distinctly know them, under the reduplication of fundamentals, nor define what are fundamentals, what not.
(2.) Though a church retains the fundamentals, yet if we are forced to avow and believe as truth, doctrines averting the foundation of faith, against the article of one God; if we must worship as many Gods as there be hosties; if Christ’s Kingly, Priestly, and Prophetical office are overturned, as we were forced in Popery to do, we are to separate from the church in that case.
It is not true what Master Robinson (( Robinson Justification, page 362. )) says, This distinction of fundamentals and nonfundamentals is injurious to growing in grace, whereas we should be lead on to perfection, as if it were sufficient for a house, that the foundation were laid.
ANSWER. It follows not, for the knowledge of fundamentals is only that we may know what is a necessary means of salvation, without which none can be saved, notwithstanding, he who grows not, and is not led on to perfection, never laid hold on the foundation Christ, nor are we hence taught to seek no more, but so much knowledge of fundamentals, as may bring us to heaven. That is an abuse of this doctrine.
Robinson says, Fundamental truths are held and professed by as vile heretics as ever were since Christ’s days, a company of excommunicates may hold, teach and defend fundamental truths, yet are they not a true church of God?
ANSWER. Papists hold fundamentals, and so do Jews hold all the Old Testament, and Papists hold both new and old. But we know they so hold fundamentals, that by their doctrine they overturn them, and though there are fundamentals taught in the Popish Church, which may save if they were believed, yet they are not a true and ministerial church simply; because, though they teach that there is one God, they teach also there are a thousand gods whom they adore, and though they teach there is one Mediator, yet do they substitute infinite mediators with and besides Christ. So that the truth is, [there is] not a formal, ministerial and visible active external calling in the Church of Rome, as it is a visible church, in the which we can safely remain, though fundamentals are safe in Rome, and the books of the Old and New Testaments are there; yet are they not there ministerially as in a mother whose breasts we can suck. For fundamental points falsely exponed, cease to be fundamental points; yea, as they are ministerially in Rome, they are destructive of the foundation, though there are some ministerial acts valid in that church, for the which the Church of Rome is called a true church, in some respect, according to something essential to the true church; yet never sine adjecto [without addition], as if it were a true church where we can worship God. Fundamentals are safe in Rome materially in themselves, so as some may be saved who believe these fundamentals; but fundamentals are not safe in Rome, Ecclesiastice, Ministeraliter, Pastoraliter, in a church way, so as by believing these from their chairs so exponed, they can be saved who do believe them; out of which we may have the doctrine of faith and salvation as from a visible mother, whose daughters we are.
Some say the fundamentals amongst Lutherans are exponed in such a way as the foundation is averted? I answer, there is a twofold aversion of the foundation. One Theological, Moral and Ecclesiastic, as the doctrine of the Counsel of Trent, which is in a ministerial way, with professed obstinacy, against the fundamental truths rightly exponed, and such an aversion of the foundation makes the Popish Church no church truly visible, whose breasts we can suck. But for Lutherans, their subversion of the foundation by philosophic consequences without professed hatred to the fundamentals, and that not in an Ecclesiastic and Ministerial way, does not so avert the fundamentals, as that they are no visible church. The learned Pareus (( Pareus in Jere. c. 12-14, etc. )) shows that there is no difference between us and Lutherans in heads absolutely necessary to salvation; the dissention is in one point only about the Lord’s Supper, not in the whole doctrine thereof, but in a part thereof, not necessary for salvation. There were divisions between Paul and Barnabas; between Cyprian an African Bishop, and Stephanus Bishop of Rome, about baptism of heretics, which Cyprian rejected as no baptism; between Basilius Magnus and Eusebius Cesariensis, because Basilius stood for the Emperor Valens, his power in church matters; so was there dissention between Augustine and Hyeronymus about ceremonies of the Jews, which Hyeronymus thought might be retained to gain the Jews; so there was also between Epiphanius and Chrysostome about the books of Origen. The Orthodox believers agreed with the Novations against the Arians about the consubstansiality of Christ; and though excommunicate persons defend and hold all fundamentals sound, and so may be materially a true church, yet because their profession is no profession, but a denying of the power of godliness, they cannot be formally a visible church, but are for scandals cast out of the visible church.
But (says Robinson (( Robinson, Justification, page 362. )) ) most of England are ignorant of the first rudiments and foundation of Religion, and therefore cannot be a church.
ANSWER. Such are materially not the visible church and have not a profession, and are to be taught, and if they willfully remain in that darkness are to be cast out.
But (says he (( Ibid, page 363, 364. )) ) the bare profession of fundamentals makes not a church, they must be a company of faithful people, and if they must not be truly faithful, then they must be falsely faithful; for God requires true and ready obedience in his Word, according to which we must define churches, and not according to casual things.
ANSWER. This is a special ground that deceives Separatists, their ignorance (I mean) of the visible church. For the visible church consists essentially neither of such as are truly faithful, nor of such as must be falsely faithful; for the ignorant man sees not that the visible church includes neither faith, nor unbelief in its essence or definition. It is true, to the end that professors may be members of the invisible church, they must be believers, and must believe, except they would be condemned eternally. But to make them members of the visible church neither believing nor unbelieving is essential, but only a profession ecclesiastically [entire], that is not scandalous and visible and apparently lewd and flagitious, such as was the profession of Simon Magus, when he was baptized with the rest of the visible church (Acts 8). And God indeed requires of us true worship and ready obedience, as he says, but not that a visible church should be defined by true and sincere obedience. For essentials only are taken in a definition, and casual corruptions are only accidental to churches, and fall out through men’s faults, that therefore should not be in the definition either of a visible or an invisible church, nor should, for it is accidental to a visible church, and nothing invisible can be essential to that which essentially is visible. The visible church is essentially visible.
About separation from Rome we hold these Propositions. 1. Profession consists not only in a public ministerial avowing of the truth, but also in writing, suffering for the truth, and death-bed confessions of the truth. These worthy men in their own bowels, as Occam, Petrarcha, Gerson, Mirandula, these who in their deathbed renewed confidence in merits, Saints, Images, were the true church, and the other side the false church, all the Churches of Asia excommunicated by Victor, as Bellarmine (( Bellarmine, de verbo Dei, lib. 3, ch. 6. ))
says and Binnius; Pope Stephen (( Binnius, tom. 1, concil. fol. 133. )) then and his Council denying communion to Cyprian and fourscore of Bishops must be the Separatists, and his adherents the true church.
The separation from a true church, where the Word of God orthodox is preached, and the Sacraments duly administered, we think unlawful, and the place for separation mainly I would have vindicated is 2 Cor. 6:14. Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, etc. Robinson (( Justification, page 264-5. )) will have this strong for their separation, and says:
1. It is true, he finds fault with the believing Corinthians, communication with the unbelievers in the idol feasts, but with all it must be considered, that the Apostle upon this particular occasion delivers a general doctrine, as from fornication (1 Cor. 5), to forbid co-mingling with fornicators, with covetous persons, with idolaters, etc., and as he forbids partaking with the wicked in their evils, yet then therein did he forbid all religious communion with them, since their very prayers, and other sacrifices are their evils, wherein whilst the godly communicates with them, what do they else but acknowledge their common right and interest in the holy things with them?
ANSWER. It is good that Robinson with the interpreters does acknowledge, that Paul forbids communicating with unbelievers at idol feasts, as the place will command us to separate from the Mass Service, and therein let it be that he infers a general, Ergo, you are to separate from all the worship of the Gentile’s idols, and are not to be mixed with them in their service, which they give to their false gods; but this is not the general which includes separation from a church, in the service of a true God, the service being lawful, and only evil to some worshippers and by accident, because they eat to themselves damnation, but not damnation to others.
2. But he forbids (says he), all partaking with the wicked in their evils. I distinguish their evils in their evils, of their personal sins in not worshipping the true God in faith, sincerity and holy zeal, that I deny, and it is to be proved, Christ himself and the Apostles ate the Passover, and worshipped God with one whom Christ had said had a devil, and should betray the Son of Man, and was an unclean man, (John 13:11, 12:18). He forbids all partaking with the wicked in their evils, that is, in the unlawful and idol worship, or in their superstitions and will-worship; that is true, but nothing against us, or for your separation.
If it is said, Judas was neither convicted of his treachery to Christ, nor was he known to the apostles by name to be the man, for some of them suspected themselves, and not Judas to be traitor, but you communicate with such as be professed and avowed Traitors, and persons known to be scandalous, and so you acknowledge you have a common right in these holy things, with these persons.
ANSWER. 1. Christ showed to the disciples that they were an unclean society, and that one had a devil, and therefore though they knew not the man by name who had the devil, they knew the society to have a devil, and to be unclean, for that one man his cause, and so neither Christ nor his disciples should have taken part with the evils, and the prayers and sacrifices of the wicked. For in so doing they acknowledge that they have common right and interest in the holy things of God, with some who have a devil, and with an unclean society. But you cannot condemn Christ and the disciples communicating at that Supper.
2. Though the scandalous person is not convicted of the scandal, that makes the scandal more grievous and heinous to the scandalous person, in that he dare remain in a sin, though he is convicted of his guiltiness by the church; but it does not make the person’s scandal no scandal, and no uncleanness at all, for magis and minus non variant speciem, more or less of sin does not vary the nature of sin. Now if Paul will [have] the Corinthians to meet together to eat the Lord’s body (as he does, 1 Cor. 11), and know that there be amongst them carnal men, such as go to law with their brethren before Infidels, such as deny the resurrection, such as come drunk to the Lord’s Supper, though they are not convicted of these sins by the church, yet if they are known to others, as Paul declares them in that Epistle, they must pollute the Lord’s Table before the church convict them, no less than after the church has convicted them, though the pollution may be more and greater after church conviction than before. Yet Paul wills all the Corinthians to acknowledge their communion with the sins of the non-convicted, and with their abominable and wicked sacrifices and prayers, which none can teach or believe of the Apostle led by an infallible spirit, and therefore to communicate with them, is not to take part of their evils.
3. He says at last (( Robert Coachman, The cry of the Stone, sec.4, p.10,11. )) , they who communicate at the same table with scandalous persons, what do they else but acknowledge their common right and interest in the holy things of God, with such scandalous persons? And this is that which Master Coachman says, This banquet of the Lord’s Supper is the nearest fellowship that the Saints have in this world; what lying signs and deceivable demonstrations do these make who communicate they care not where, nor with whom, but think if they examine themselves, it is well enough, forgetting that it is an act of communion? For if we sever the word Sacrament from communion, we put out God’s term and put in our own.
But I answer (1.), these who are baptized by one spirit unto one body, as all visible churches are (1 Cor. 12, 13), and professedly hear one Word preached, do thereby acknowledge they have one communion, right and interest in these holy things, to wit, in a communion with Christ in remission of sins, and regeneration sealed in baptism, and in one common Savior, and common faith preached in the gospel. And is this communion unlawful, and this fellowship a lying sign, because all baptized, and all hearing one gospel, and that in an avowed profession, are not known to be regenerated? Then should no infants be baptized, except they know all in the visible congregation baptized with them to be regenerated also, for it is certain that we have a communion most [entire] and visible with all who are baptized.
(2.) It is no inconvenience to profess that we are all one visible body in the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10:17), though we are not one invisible, true, and mystical, and redeemed body of Christ, as it is said (1 Cor. 10:2), That all were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea (v. 3), and that all did eat the same spiritual meat (v. 4), and that all did drink the same spiritual drink, that rock Christ. Yet did they not sin in this and partake with the wicked in their evils, to wit, in their wicked prayers and sacrifices; because it is said (v. 3), God was not pleased with many of them in the wilderness, because (v. 6), They lusted after evil things, and many of them were idolaters, epicures, fornicators, tempters of Christ, and murderers, and there fell of them in one day twenty three thousand (v. 7-11). And upon the same ground Paul says in the same place (v. 16-17), that we many (speaking of the Corinthians) are all one bread and one body, and yet (v. 21), many of these were partakers of the Table and cup of the devils, and in the next chapter, many came drunk to the Lord’s Table, many did eat and drink their own damnation, and were stricken therefore of God with sickness and death (v. 18-20, 21, 30, etc.). And yet (v. 33), Paul charges them to come together to the Lord’s Supper, so far is he from a shadow of separation. The Sacrament is a seal of their unity of one body, and is a seal of their communion with Christ (v. 16), but all who receive the sign, have not a communion with Christ, nor are they all sealed as one body mystical of Christ; only they are in profession by eating one bread, declared to be one body, and do become one body visible, and no question many make the sacrament to themselves a lying sign, and a blank ordinance. But first, this is not the sin of such as do communicate with those, who receive the blank seal, and make the Sacrament to themselves a lying seal and damnation; for they are commanded to examine themselves, and to eat, but they are not commanded to examine their fellow communicates, and they are to judge themselves, but not to judge their fellow communicates.
Master Coachman (( Ibid, sec. 4, p. 11. )) : How can any godly man consent or say Amen (says he) to such an holy action, when it is jointly done, by such, as for the most part, are the enemies of God?
ANSWER. 1. This makes against the man, and the Churches of New England; for they admit constantly to the hearing of the Word, and so to the prayers of the church, those who are not received members of the visible church. How can any godly man say Amen to the action of hearing the Word, when it is jointly done by God’s enemies? I prove the antecedent; the unity of faith hearing one word of faith preached (Eph. 4:5), makes a visible body in profession, even as the joint partaking of one bread, and one cup in the Lord’s Supper, makes one body, by obsignation or sealing (1 Cor. 10:16, 17).
2. Division of hearts in hearing, while some follow Paul, some Apollo, some Cephas, makes a schism and division in Christ’s body (1 Cor. 13). Ergo, in hearing one and the same Word preached, there is a visible church-union, for all division of that kind presupposes a union, and unity in a visible incorporation.
3. 1 Cor. 14:26, When ye come together (as one church body) every one of you has a Psalm, has a Doctrine; He that prophecies edifies the church (v. 4), so ye may all prophecy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted (v. 31), it is shame for a woman to speak in the church (v. 35). Therefore the saints [who] meet together in one church to be edified, and comforted by doctrine and hearing of the Word, do all jointly perform an action of hearing and learning of the Word of God, and are in that one church, and one visible body, and called one church, that the church may receive edifying (vs. 4, 5). Seek that ye may excel (by prophesying) to the edifying of the church (v. 12). If therefore the whole church come together, unto some place, etc. (v. 23) If there be not an interpreter, let him keep silence in the church (v. 28). And these who understand, are all to say Amen, to that which is prophesied (v. 16, 17). And yet that action of hearing and saying Amen to the Word preached, and to the prayers of the church, is done by many unregenerated, who are yet in the state of enmity with God, as our Brethren grant, in that they do admit all to be a church, and one church hearing the Word preached.
But how can they say Amen (says he) to a holy action done by God’s enemies?
ANSWER. 1. This objection is no less against Paul and the Word of God, than against us; for many enemies to God, whose hearts are rocky, thorny and stony ground, do hear the Word of God, and that by God’s commandment (Matt. 13:2-5, etc.). The deaf and the blind are commanded to hear (Isa. 42:18; 28:9, 10), and these whom God has covered with a spirit of slumber, are to hear the words of the sealed book (Isa. 29:9-11), even those who stumble at the Word, and fall, and are broken (Isa. 8:14-16; 1 Pet. 2:8). What godly man can say Amen, to such a holy action, as is performed by God’s enemies?
2. The godly say Amen to actions of God’s worship two ways. (1.) As it is the ordinance of God enjoined and commanded, to the wicked and hypocrites, no less than to the godly. And we are to countenance their communicating, as we do their hearing of the Word, and to join with them both, in our real and personal presence, and say Amen with them, as the disciples gave their personal Amen, and their countenance and presence to a holy action at the last Supper, with one of their number, whom they knew to have a devil, and to be a traitor, and dipped their hand in the dish with this man, after Christ had warned them that there was such an one. But this is but to say Amen to the external worship, which is lawful, according to the substance of the act.
(2.) The godly may be thought to say Amen to the actions of worship performed by the enemies of God, by approving, allowing, and commending the manner of their performing the holy actions of God’s worship. That is, they may be thought to approve the manner of their hearing and receiving the Sacraments; that is, when they approve their performing of those holy actions without faith, and with wicked hearts and hands, and when they allow that they eat to their own damnation. Thus no godly man can say Amen to holy actions performed by God’s enemies, nor is our external communicating with them a saying Amen to the wicked manner of receiving the seals. This is most unreasonable, and cannot be proved by God’s Word.
But Robinson (( Justification, page 265. )) will prove that in this place (2 Cor. 6), the Lord forbids communion not only with evil works of wicked men, but with their persons, and that he commands a separation, not only real, but personal.
1. Because (says he) the Scripture has yoking of the unbelievers in marriage as the occasion of spiritual idolatrous mixture, which he reproves; now this joining was not in an evil, or unlawful thing, but with the wicked and unlawful persons.
ANSWER. If the man had formed a syllogism it should be a crooked proportion, If Paul alludes to the marriage with infidels, then as we are not to join with pagans in lawful marriage, so neither with scandalous Christians in lawful worship. This connection is gratis said, and we deny it. But as we are not to marry with Pagans, so not to sit in their idol temple, and to be present in their idol worship, else we were not to admit them, or their personal presence to the hearing of the Word, contrary to yourselves and to 1 Cor. 14:24, 25. So if because we are not to marry with them, we are not to be personally present with them, at the receiving of the Sacrament, neither at the hearing of the Word, nor are we to be baptized, because Simon Magnus, and many hypocrites are baptized. Local separation from idol worship in the idol temple, we teach as well as Robinson. But what then? He commands local and personal separation from all the professors of the truth, in the lawful worship of God. This we deny.
2. The very terms (says Robinson) believers, unbelievers, light, darkness, Christ, Belial, do import opposition not of things only, but of persons also, for things’ sake. So the faithful are called righteousness (( 1 Cor. 5:21. )) , light (( Matt. 5:14. )) , and the ungodly darkness (( Ephes. 5:8 )) , and so not only their works, but their persons are called.
ANSWER. (1.) We deny not opposition of persons, and local separation from persons in idol worship at an idol table; but hence is not concluded personal separation from wicked men in the lawful worship of God. (2.) This is for us: we are to separate from the persons, because the worship is unlawful, and idol worship. And therefore the contrary rather follows, if the worship were lawful, we would not separate; for remove the cause, and the effect will cease.
3. The Apostle (says he) forbids all unlawful communion in this place; but there is an unlawful communion of the faithful with the wicked in things lawful, as with the excommunicated, idolatrous, heretics, or any other flagitious person in the Sacraments, prayers, and other religious exercises. And the Jews were to separate themselves, not only from the manners of the Heathen, but even from their persons (Ezra 9:1, 2; 10:2, 3; Neh. 9:10, 28, 30). And Paul reproves the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5), for having fellowship, not only in the person’s incest, but with the incestuous person, whom therefore they were to purge out, and to put away from amongst themselves (vs. 5, 7, 13).
ANSWER. It is true, there is an unlawful communion of the faithful, that is overseers and guides of the church to whom God has committed the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, with excommunicated persons, in that they retain one worthy to be excommunicated in the bosom of the church. But communion with the church in the holy things of God, is not hence concluded to be unlawful, because the guides of the people communicate with that church where the excommunicated person is suffered. It is the sin of the church guides that an excommunicated person is not cast out, and that he is suffered to communicate at the Lord’s Table, and to profane it in not discerning the Lord’s body. But it is not the sin of either guides or the people, to communicate at one table with the excommunicated person, or him that deserves to be excommunicated, for not casting out is one thing, and to communicate with the excommunicated in the true visible church is another thing. The former is a sin not to use the power that Christ has given, but to communicate with the excommunicated person, is not a sin, but remembering of the Lord’s death at Christ’s commandment, for one sin makes not another sin to be lawful, or to be no sin. To deliver one unto Satan is to debar one from the Lord’s Supper, and to repute him as a publican and to judge him not worthy of the communion in the holy things of God with the church. But this is not to repute the church or guides or members as publicans and heathens and as not worthy of church-communion with the man who is cast out. We see the Church of Corinth rebuked for not excommunicating the incestuous man, but not forbidden to come and eat the Lord’s Supper with him, and these who came and did eat their own condemnation (1 Cor. 11). Yea, they are commanded to come to the public meeting. Ergo, it is one thing not to excommunicate the scandalous (a sin), and another thing to communicate with the scandalous, which is not a sin directly, nor forbidden at all. Though Paul has an allusion to the Lord’s separating of the Jews from all other people, yet it follows not that we are to separate from the wicked men and unrenewed, professing the truth that way. [1.] Because there was a typical separation in marriage with Canaanites; the marriage was null, and the Moabites and Ammonites ought not to enter the Temple.
[2.] The Jews are to separate from the manners of heathen, and from the persons of strange wives, yea and to put their wives of the Canaanites after they had married them, away from them, in token of their repentance, because the marriage was not only unlawful, but null, as is clear (Ezra 9:1-3, Neh. 9:1, 2). And this was a peculiar law binding the holy seed, but does not infer the like separation of Christians (1 Cor. 7:11, 12); for it is not lawful for a Christian to put away a pagan wife, or for the believing wife to forsake the pagan husband, and therefore that Jewish separation cannot infer a separation from persons and worship of unbelievers. And it is true that Paul commands to cast out the incestuous person, and to separate him from the church, but it follows not, therefore the church was to separate from the public worship because he was not cast out.
4. Says Robinson, the Apostle enjoins such a separation, as upon which a people is to be esteemed God’s people, the Temple of the living God, and may challenge his promise to be their God, and to dwell amongst them, and to walk there; and as for the Temple, the stones and timbers thereof, were separated from all the trees of the forest, and set together in comely order; and he has reference to separating of the Jews from all other people (as appears, Lev. 23; 24; 26:11, 12). And this must be the condition of the Israel of God, to the world’s end.
ANSWER. There is a separation from idol worship here, such as is proper to the people in covenant with God, de jure, the visible church should separate from idols and the profane world in their idol worship, and sinful conversation. Ergo, they should separate from the worship of God. What sewing is here? This is nothing for separation from the true church, or true worship, for sins of worshippers. Hear what interpreters say:
Non debet hoc simpliciter, de solo discessu, aut migratione, quæ corpore fit, accipi, quasi mox migrandum sit ex omnibus locis, in quibus vel superstitiones exercentur, vel flagitiose et inhoneste vivitur, sic ex hoc mundo migrandum esset (( Gualther, comm. in loc. )) [This ought not to be taken simply as applying to departure alone, or removal, wihich is done physically, as though as soon as it is to be removed from all places in which either superstitions are practiced or life is carried on disgracefully and dishonorably, it ought thus to be removed from this world]. Calvin (( Calvin, comm. in loc. )) , de fugienda idololatria hic concionatur. Item, Nihil non sibi licere putabant in siquidem infidelium couvivia frequentando, communicabant profanos et impuros ritus cum illis, atque cum gravissime peccarent, sibi tamen videbantur innoxii, ergo hic invenitur Paulus in externam idololatriam [Calvin, Here he addresses the subject of fleeing idolatry. Likewise: They thought nothing forbidden to them in the way of frequenting the banquets of unbelievers, they participated in unholy and unclean rituals with them; and even though they were sinning most grievously, to themselves they seemed blameless, and so here Paul finds them to be in outward idolatry.]. Bullinger (( Bullinger, comment. polit. eccles., lib. I., cap. 14, N. 2., 2 Cor.6, v.14, At loquitur de infidelibus Paulus, apud quos nec legis cultusque dei nec veræ fidei nec evangelii vel fundamenti rudera erant [Commentary on Church Polity; But Paul is speaking of unbelievers, among whom there are no rudiments of the law and worship of God, nor of the true faith, nor of the gospel or the basis for it.]. )) , Ego quam simplicissime intellego de contagione morum, voluptatum, sacrorum adeoque idolothytorum et rerum prophanarum omnium communione, putant quidam protenus migrandum ex quibus tibet urbibus, si non omnes, in his, per omnia deo obedient [Bullinger: I take it to mean, as plainly as possible, [removal from] the pollution of morals, pleasures, even sharing of sacred objects belonging to idol-sacrifice, and all profane matters; some think it means departure directly from any cities at all, if not everyone in them will obey God in all things.]. Meyer (( Seb. Meyer. )) , Objurgat ne majorem, quam dedeceret Christianos, cum Ethnicis haberent consuetudinem, vel idolothytis sciscendo, evangelii vel fidei vel conjugium contrahendo, vel ludos theatrales spectando [Meyer: He exhorts them not to have any more familiarity with the heathen, which is unsuitable for Christians, either in accepting what belongs to idols, or in contracting a marriage not of the gospel or the faith, or in watching theatrical games.]. Marlorat (( Marlorat. )) , Hortatur ut caveant ab omni sordium. Ita Theophylactus, Ambrosius, et Augustinus. Paraphrastes, non in loco (inquit) sed in affectibus est fuga, quam suadet [Marlorat: He urges that they be on their guard against any kind of uncleanness. So Theophylact, Ambrose and Augustine have it. The paraphrast says that he is advising a flight not from a place, but from influences.]: so Beza, and Papists are not against this. Estius, neque Corinthii vocabantur habitare cum infidelibus, neque negotiari, neque cibum sumere. (Chap. 8 v. 10) Signis vocat vos ad mensam etc. Vetat arctam societatem, et necessitudinem ex qua oriebatur periculosa quædam necessitas communicandi in moribus et religione. Salmeron docet non licere Christianis jungi cum idololatris, non relinquendo patriam aut locum, sed cultum illorum [Estius: nor were the Corinthians called upon to reside with unbelievers, or to do business with them, or eat dinner with them (8:10). By signs he calls us to the table, etc. He opposes exclusive alliances with them, and the relationship out of which a certain dangerous inevitability of sharing in their habits and religion used to arise. Salmeron teaches that it is not permitted to Christians to be joined with idolaters, not meaning the leaving of their country or neighborhood, but of their form of worship.].
But Robinson (( Robinson, Justification, page 266-7. )) says, Papists, Atheists, Idolaters, Anabaptists, and many more, do worship Jesus, from whose societies notwithstanding you profess separation. 2. The Ishmaelites and Edomites do worship the true God, though not after a true manner, and yet the Israelites were a people separated from them. An Edomite might not bear any public office among the Jews to the third generation. Yea, Israel was commanded to separate from Israel, for a usurpation of the ministry (Num. 16), and upon Jeroboam’s defection in the ministry, worship and new devised holy days (2 Chron. 11:13-15; 1 Kings 12:28-32).
ANSWER ONE. Papists, Anabaptists, and Idolaters, are disavowed by us, and from them we separate; because though they profess the true God as Edom did, yet they closely do evert the fundamentals. Neither we, nor the reformed churches, in words or by consequence, evert the fundamentals, and necessary points of salvation, and if the Church of Corinth was not to be separated from, nor Thyatira, where the resurrection was denied, and false doctrine maintained, you have no reason to parallel us with Papists, Atheists, and Anabaptists.
ANSWER TWO. No covenant is made with the one true God, and the Edomites and Ishmaelites; but the promises are made to us, and to our children, and to as many as the Lord shall call, by the true gospel preached (Act 2:39).
The Apostles (says he) (( Ibid., page 271. )) disjoins righteousness and unrighteousness, light and darkness, as far asunder, as believers and unbelievers, as the Temple of God and idols, in which former also the union between Christ and Belial, is as monstrous as in the latter: Also all unbelievers are led by the devil, and cannot be the matter of the true church, and that some persons led by the devil and some not should be the matter of the true church is unknown to Scripture.
ANSWER. In the text (2 Cor.6), righteousness and unrighteousness, light and darkness are as far asunder as the temple of God and Idols, and as Israel and Edom. I answer in respect of the object material of false worship, they cannot morally be united, that is true. Believers at Corinth worshipping the true God in Christ, cannot be united with such, as in idol temples are at one and the same idol worship, and as to marry Christ and Belial, light and darkness, is a monster, so it is no less morally monstrous, than the true worshippers of God in Corinth, who give themselves out for the servants of God, should be joined in any society with the service of dumb Idols, and thus far Israel and Edom, a servant of God and an idolater, must separate and part companies. But [not true] in respect of the persons, that they may be united in no visible corporation and church; else you may say by this argument, because faith in the eleven apostles and unbelief in Judas, are as contrary as light and darkness, Christ and Belial, and as Israel’s true worship and Edom’s false worship, and because the righteousness, light and faith of the Apostolic Church (Acts 8), and the unrighteousness, darkness and unbelief of Simon Magnus are contrary to [each] other (as they are as contrary as light and darkness), that therefore the eleven disciples and Judas made not one visible church and the Apostolic Church, and Simon Magnus and others in the gall of bitterness with him, though baptized and joined to the church, did not make up one visible church, but there be in it beside unbelievers, though not seen. There is no visible church of your own, wherein this monstrous combination of light and darkness is not. And so all your churches are false in their constitution, if there may not be a union of the persons of men led by God, and regenerated, and of hypocrites led by Satan, and unregenerated; and these meeting to one and same true worship, as Judas and the eleven did eat one and the same passover.
The Scripture (says Robinson) (( Ibid., page 272. )) denounces the same judgment of God (Ezk. 18), upon him that defiles his neighbors wife as to him who lifts his eyes to the mountains and the idols thereof, and murderers are excluded out of the heavenly Jerusalem as well as idolaters, and (Matt. 18), we are to esteem every obstinate offender as a heathen and a publican. And Paul charges the Corinthians to avoid fornicators, etc. (1 Cor. 5), as well as idolaters. So all carnal men are idolaters, making their belly their God, and the Apostle to Titus calls profane persons unbelievers or infidels. Ergo, we should walk toward the one, as toward the other, that is, separate from them both.
ANSWER. (1.) It is true, God denounces judgment against lewd and unknown hypocrites, as against worshippers of the gods of Zidonians, as your places prove (Ezk. 18; Rev. 22). But your logic is poor and blind, that you will separate from the true church, in which there are secret hypocrites, and so from your own churches, as you separate from the Church of the Zidonians, who worship professedly Baal, and deny Jehovah to be God. You make arguments without head or foot.
(2.) Murderers are excluded out of heaven, and haters of their brethren, who are murderers from life eternal (1 John 3:15), as idolaters. What then? Ergo, you will exclude them out of the visible church, and separate from them. It is good that you come out with Anabaptists to make these only of your visible church, who shall reign in glory with Christ, and these only, and all [outside] your visible church to be firebrands of Hell (as Rev. 22:15).
(3.) We are (1 Cor. 5), to avoid fornicators, no less Idolaters, true. Ergo, we are to separate from the church, where there are fornicators, seeing they make the church to be false in its constitution, as we are to separate from a society of heathen Idolaters who worship a false god? Do you love such consequences? Men not forsaken of mother wit would say, I must separate from Aaron, and the whole Church of Israel, in the act of adoring the golden calf, which is indeed a separation from the false worship of the church; but not separate from the church. But would you hence infer, because God punishes fornication no less than idolatry, that I am to separate from the church, and all their persons and society in the very true worship of God, because some few persons there are fornicators and carnal? Surely then Paul did not his duty, who commanded communion with the Church of Corinth (1 Cor. 5), wherein there were carnal men, and deniers of the resurrection, and such as for gain went to the law, with their brethren, and that before infidels. Yea, because all sin in the demerit thereof (except you devise venials) exclude men out of the New Jerusalem, we must separate from all churches on earth, for there are none so clean, but there is some sin it, which excludes out of the New Jerusalem, as idolatry does, though there are degrees of sin. But some ignorant ones say the place (1 Cor. 5:11), is to be expounded of eating at the communion table, or if it be of familiar eating and drinking, of civil conversing, then much more are we not to communicate with them at the Lord’s Table. But not to eat with such a one, is not to keep entire fellowship with him, as the phrase notes (Ps. 41:9), He that eat of my bread has lift up his heel against me. (John 13:18; Ps. 55:13) So does Chrysostome, Theophylactus, Oecumenius, expound this place. Bullinger, contubernium & interiorem convictum prohibet [He forbids their dwelling together and deeper intimacy.]. So Calvin, Peter Martyr, Beza, Piscator, Pareus; so Erasmus and Aquinas, Hayme, Gagneius. Nor is all eating whatsoever with heathen persons forbidden. Paul practiced the contrary (Act. 13; 14:5-9; 17:16, 17; 27:34-36; 28:11, 12; 1 Cor. 10:27).
The wife is not to separate, a toro & mensa [from bed and table], from the excommunicated husband, nor the son from the excommunicated father. No positive Law can cancel the Law of nature, nor can hence be concluded that it is unlawful to keep any church communion with these, or to separate from the communion, though they be at the Table. [1.] Because such eat damnation to themselves, not to others. [2.] Because no private person can separate for the church’s sin, if the man is not convicted. (3.) And lastly, here is to be observed, that if the church is not in its right constitution, that is, as Mr. Robinson (( Ibid., page 273. )) teaches us, if it is not a people in whose hearts the Lord has written his covenant, we are to separate from it, so as if one is found to be nonconverted, though not scandalous, he must be excommunicated for nonconversion, never breaking out in scandals, a thing contrary to the Word of God, as I have proved already.
Mr. Robinson (( Ibid., page 267. )) objects (Act. 2:40), Save yourself from this untoward generation. ANSWER. That is, from the malicious Jews who deny Christ to be the Messiah. But what is this to separate from the true church, professing Christ?
But Robinson says, You deny visibly God, and his Son Christ.
ANSWER. (1.) Such as are thus scandalous are to be cast out.
(2.) If the church neglects to cast them out, we are not to cast out and excommunicate the church by separating from them, no more than the godly forsook the Church of the Jews, where there were many scandalous persons.
(3.) There are great odds between a forward generation professedly denying Christ to be come in the flesh, as the Jews (Act. 2), and between a church where there are many wicked persons, who in their life and conversation deny Christ, and yet do believe soundly or orthodoxly the fundamental points of salvation, and hold in profession the orthodox faith; for though we are to separate from the bad conversation of such a generation, yet are we not to separate from the church worship, and church society of such a generation. Therefore, Paul might well break off communion with the Church of the Jews, whereof he was once a member; because after Christ’s death, accension, and the gospel was preached, it now became a fundamental point of salvation, simply necessary to be believed by all (That the son of Mary was the Messiah), which because the Jews maliciously denied, they left off to be a church. But a scandalous life in many of the professors, is not for that any ground to separate from the visible church, professing such fundamental points.
Robinson (( Ibid., page 269. )) says from (John 17:6, 7, 9), Where the church is said to be given to Christ, and chosen out of the world, it is clear that the true visible church is gathered by separation from the world.
But I answer, to be given to Christ and chosen out of the world is meant only of the elect and invisible church. But Arminians, Pelagians, and old Anabaptists expound it of the visible church, that they may make Judas, whom they alleged was chosen out of the world, no less than Peter, an example of their universal election, and of the small apostasy, of the truly elected and regenerated. And you have to side with you in this, the apostate Peter Bertius (( Petrus Bertius, de apostasia Sancterom, page 21-22. )) , the Arminians at Hage (( Collocut. Collocut. Hagiensis, page 414, Orthodoxi citant illud Joann. 17 quos dedisti mihi ego custodivi. Respondent refutari consecutione (de impossibilitate apostasiæ) verbis illis sequantibus, nisi filius perditionis [Conference at Hage; The orthodox cite that place in John 17, ‘those whom you gave me I have kept.’ to refute it by consequence (on the impossibility of apostasy) they answer with the words that follow those, ‘except the son of perdition.’]. )) , Arminus (( Armin. Antiperli., page 225. )) himself, the Socinians, as Socinus (( Socinus, paratect>. Theol, log. cap. 12, p.46, 55, 56, cap. 13, p. 61. )) , Theoph. Nicolaides (( Theoph. Nicolaid., resit. tract. de eccles., cap. 3, page 26, cap. 4, page 67, 68. )) . And you may see yourselves refuted by Ames (( Amesius, in coronide (in closing) are. 5, cap. 5, fuse page 456-7. )) refuting the Arminians in the conference at Hage, and this you expressly say with Arminians and Socinians, (1.) because (as you say) Judas was one of them, whom the Father had given to Christ out of the world, whom alone of all them so given to him, he has loosed. Ergo, Christ speaks of a visible donation.
ANSWER. The Antecedent is false (John 6:37), All that the Father had given me, comes unto me, and him that comes unto me I will in no ways cast out (v. 39). And this is the Father’s will which has sent me, that of all which he has given, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. But Judas was cast out and loosed, and is not raised up at the last day, as one which comes, that is, believes in Christ.
(2.) This is the very exception of the Arminians, and Ames answers, quæ Scriptura manifesto est judicio Iudam non ita Christo datum & commendatum fuisse a Patre ut cæteros [This Scripture is a clear indication that Judas had not been so given to Chirst and entrusted to Him by the Father, as the rest had.].
Christ (says Robinson) speaks of such persons as the world hated, because they were not of the world (John 15:14). But the wicked world does not hate men, as they are elected before God, and invisibly or inwardly separated, but as they are outwardly separated, whether they be inwardly so or not.
ANSWER. Invisible election and the contrary spirit that children of God are led by, which is most unlike to the spirit that leads the world, is the true ground and cause why the world does hate them, and this choosing out of the world, is seen and made visible by the fruits of the Spirit to the wicked world. But the consequence is nothing; he speaks of election that is visible or made visible, yet not as visible. For often Paul terms the visible churches, saints, temples of the Holy Spirit, the sons and daughters of the living God, as a thing formally, and properly invisible. For faith and the spirit of adoption are not things visible or obvious to the senses, but Separatists are often deceived with this: he speaks to the visible saints, Ergo, he speaks to them as visible saints. This is the vain of ignorant Anabaptists. Paul writes to the visible church, but every privilege that he ascribes to them does not agree to them, as they are visible. He says to the visible church of Colossians (3:3), your life is hid with Christ in God. An invisible life cannot agree to the Colossians, as they are a visible church, so separation from the world made manifest and visible is the cause why the world hates the children of God; yet that separation is formally invisible and not seen to the eye of men, for it is an action of God to choose men out of the world, and no mortal eye can see his actions, as they are such. And therefore except Robinson proves that this choosing out of the world is common to elect and reprobate, and to be seen in Peter and Judas, he brings nothing against us to prove his point, but he plainly contradicts his own tenants. For in his first reason, he will have the true church separated from the world, as Judas the traitor was separated from the world, which we grant that is separation in show, and in profession, and so makes his visible church to be made up of traitors and hypocrites, who cannot be the Spouse of Christ, nor a part of Christ’s mystical body, and his redeemed flock. Now he still harps on this, that the visible church rightly constituted is the Spouse of Christ, the redeemed of God, the mystical body of Christ, and so he contradicts himself, and says with us that there is no visible separation from the world, essential to such a church as they dream of, to wit, of called saints, temples of the Holy Spirit, etc., and therefore never one of that side understood to this day the nature of a true visible church, though they talk and write much of it. For the truth is, the essence and definition of a church agrees not equally to a true church and a visible church; yea a visible church as it is visible is not formally a true church, but the redeemed church only is the true church.
Lastly, he speaks (says he) of such a choosing out of the world as he does of sending unto the world (v. 18). Which sending as it was visible and external, so was the selection and separation spoken of.
ANSWER. The choosing out of the world is not opposed to sending unto the world; for sending unto the world is an apostolic sending common to Judas with the rest, whereby they were sent out to preach the gospel to the world, of chosen and unchosen, of elect and reprobate. But to be chosen out of the world, and given to Christ, is proper to the elect only, who are chosen out of the loosed and reprobate world.
It is also false that the sending of the apostles is altogether visible; for the gifting of them with the Holy Spirit is a great part of sending the apostles (as our brethren say, a gifted man is a sent Prophet), but the Lord’s gifting of the Apostle is not visible.
You cannot (says Robinson (( Justification, page 272. )) ) be partaker of the Lord’s Table and of devils. Ergo, we must separate from the ungodly.
ANSWER. The table of idols is that table of devils and of false worship kindly in respect of the object that we must separate from; but a scandalous person at the Lord’s Supper partakes of the table of devils by accident, in respect the person being out of Christ eats damnation to himself, but it is not per se and kindly, the table of devils to others, and therefore I must not separate from it. The Supper was to Judas the Devil’s table; because Satan entered in him with a sup, to cause him to betray the Lord, and Christ told before, one of the twelve had a devil, and so to one of the twelve the Supper was the Devil’s table, yet could not the disciples separate therefrom.
Further he objects, Paul condemns the Church of Corinth as a leavened lump, and as contrary to the right constitution, finding so many aberrations and defections from that state, wherein they were gathered unto a church, who dare open so profane a mouth as to affirm, this faithful laborer would plant the Lord’s vineyard with such impes, or gather unto the church flagitious persons, drunkards, incestuous persons, or such as denied the resurrection?
ANSWER. (1.) Paul never insinuates in one letter, that these wicked persons marred the constitution and matter of the visible church; but only that they marred that constitution of the invisible church, that being bought with a price, they should give their bodies to harlotry, and that in denying the resurrection they denied the Scriptures, and turned Epicures, who said, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die. But there is nothing to insinuate separation from the church, as false in the constitution.
(2.) Paul does not plant wicked men as impes in the Lord’s vineyard. They plant themselves in the room of true members of the church invisible, and as the redeemed of God, when they are not so indeed, and this sort of planting is given improperly to the pastors. But if you understand by planting, the casting out of the draw-net of the word of the kingdom preached, and the inviting of as many to come in as they do find (Matt. 22:9-10), even good and bad, this way it is the mouth of truth, and not a profane mouth, that Pastors invite professors to come in, and be members of the visible church, though their acts of inviting have no kindly influence in the hypocrisy of their profession who are invited. To profess the truth is good and laudable, and to deny it before men, damnable, and to invite men to this profession of the truth, is good and laudable also. And wisdom sends out her maidens, and by them invites simple ones and fools to profess the truth, and to come to the visible church (Prov. 9:4; 1:20, 21), but pastors do not plant drunkards, and flagitius persons in the visible church, but the Apostolic Church calling to her communion Simon Magnus, (Acts 8), does not plant them as hypocrites, but as external professors.
Mr. Coachman (( Coachman, Cry of the Stone, page 5. )) says, It is no wrong to leave the carnal multitude, as it was no hurt to Jehosaphat, when Elisha in his presence protested against Joram, as one, between whom and God he would not intercede.
ANSWER. Put case Jehosaphat is a church visible worshipping God aright, you wrong his society, if you leave the shepherd’s tent, where Christ feeds amongst the Lilies till the day break, because there are foxes in these tents, and wicked persons.
Is it not (says he) sweeter to converse with the godly, than with the ungodly? Is not the presence of faithful Christians sweeter, when one comes to pour out his prayers, and offer his oblation, than the society of carnal men?
ANSWER. This will prove it is lawful to separate from Pharisees preaching the truth in Moses’ chair, the contrary whereof you were (Sect. 4 page 10), because it is sweeter to hear the Word with the godly, than the ungodly.
We have not found (says Coachman) the honorable name of Christians or godly men given to liars, swearers, etc.; no comfort, no privileges belong to them in that state. It belongs not unto them, but unto us to build the house of the Lord (Ezra 4:3).
ANSWER. Yea, God bestows the privileges of external calling unto good and bad, even to those who prefer their own lusts to Christ (Matt. 22:9; Luke 14:17-19).
(2.) The place of Ezra is corrupted, for those were the open adversaries of Judah and Benjamin (v. 1), and were not the church at all.
(3.) Only pastors are public and authoritative builders of the church, not private Christians.
The wicked (says he) have the things of this life above the godly, Ergo, they should not be invested in the highest perogatives above the godly, also it is a presumption to say to any carnal man, ‘This is the body of the Lord, that was given for thee.’
ANSWER. (1.) It is the cry of a stone to reason thus. This argument is as much against God’s providence as against us; for God sends to Capernaum and Bethsaida, the privilege of Christ’s presence, in preaching the gospel, and working miracles, yet they are an unworthy people.
(2.) Pastors of the separation give the body of Christ to lurking hypocrites; are they not herein presumptuous also?
They object, To live in the want of any of God’s ordinances is not lawful (as Matt. 28:20; 2 Chron. 30:8; Cant. 1:7-8).
So says Robinson (( Justification, page 201. )) . A man is not only bound in his place to admonish his neighbor, but also to see his place be such, as he may admonish his brother, a calling absolutely tying a man to the breach of any of God’s commandments, is unlawful and to be forsaken.
ANSWER. (1.) Seeing affirmative precepts tie not ad semper, and Christian prudence is to direct us here, there are some in church communion whom we cannot without palpable inconveniences rebuke. The ministers of New England in their answer to the n. question, say, such as are not free (servants or sons) may stay in parochial assemblies in Old England, so as they partake of no corruptions, and live not in the want of any ordinances (they mean not [lacking] the Lord’s Supper) through their default. Now to separate from the Lord’s Supper, because of the wickedness of fellow worshippers, is their default, which is against Robinson; yet we see not how masters or fathers should separate from Christ’s true church, more then servants or sons.
(2.) Not to admonish, in some cases, is not a breach of a commandment, nor living besides scandalous persons in a church, or for any to abstain from the seals because such are in the church, except we would go out of the world; for Robinson presses always personal separation, no less than church separation.
Robinson. There is the same proportion of one member sinning, of a few, of many, of a whole church. Now if one brother sins and will not be reclaimed, he is no longer to be reputed a brother, but a heathen. Ergo, so are we to deal with a church though there is a different order. The multitude of sinners do no ways extenuate the sin.
ANSWER. (1.) Then may whole churches by this reason, be excommunicated, which our brethren deny.
(2.) There is the same proportion to be kept when one sins, and when a whole church sins; but by observing due order, one may admonish a private brother, but not anyone, or many private persons, may admonish and proceed after our Savior’s order, against a whole church in a church way. In respect they are still inferior to a whole church. Sister churches and synods are to keep this order with one particular church that is incorrigible; for private persons have relation of brotherhood to private persons, and the relation is private, and churches have church relation to churches, and the relation is public. Nor are whole churches to be excommunicated, [until] God first removes the candlestick, as we see in Rome, and the Seven Churches in Asia.
It is considerable [1.], if the whole church is obstinate and incorrigible, or some few, or the most part. [2.] If sins are against the worship of God, as idolatry, or sins of a wicked conversation, the worship of God remaining pure, and sound, at least in professed fundamentals.
[3.] If the idolatry is essential idolatry, as adoring of the work of men’s hands, or only idolatry by participation, as Popish ceremonies, the Surplice, and Cross, being as means of worship, but not adored, and so being idols by participation, as Ames (( Amesius, his Fresh Suite Against Ceremonies. )) and M. Ball (( John Ball, his answer to M. Cann, par. 2, page 23. )) do well distinguish, and before them, so does the learned Reynold (( Reynold de Idololatria lib 2., cap. 2. )) , and Bilson (( Bilson of Chri. ar. Subject, part 4, page 321-2. )) make use of the distinction.
[4.] All lenity must be used against a church, if not more lenity, than we use in proceeding against single persons.
[5.] Divers degrees of separation are to be considered, hence these consideration:
CONSIDERATION ONE. There is a separation Negative, or a non-union, and a separation Positive. Though a Church of Schismatics retains the sound faith, yet separating from others, be deserted by any, it is a Negative separation from a true church, and laudable, as the faithful, in Augustine’s time, did well in separating from the Donatists, for with them they were never one, in that faction, though they separated not from the true faith held by Donatists, but kept a Positive union with them, so do all the faithful well to separate from the churches of the Separatists.
CONSIDERATION TWO. If the whole and most part of the church turns idolatrous, and worships idols (which is essential idolatry), we are to separate from that church. The Levites and the two Tribes did well, as Mr. Ball (( Ball, in loc. cit. )) says, to make a separation from Jeroboam’s calves, and the godly laudably (2 Kings 16:11), did not separate from the Israel, and church of God, because the Altar of Damascus was set up, and because of the high places. Things dedicated unto idols, as Lutheran Images, may be called, and are called (1 Cor. 10:34) idolatry; yet are they idolatry by participation, and so the Cup of Devils (1 Cor. 10). Paul does not command separation from the Church of Corinth, and the Table of the Lord there.
CONSIDERATION THREE. There is a separation from the church in the most part, or from the church in the least and best part. In Achab’s time Israel, and the church thereof, for the most part worshipped Baal. Elias, Micajah, Obadiah, and other godly separated from the Church of Israel in the most part. Jeremiah wished to have a cottage in the wilderness (no doubt a godly wish) that he might separate from the church all them for the most part corrupted; yet remained they a part of the visible church and a part in the visible church, and therefore did he not separate from the church according to the least and best part thereof. The godly in England who refused the Popish ceremonies, and Antichristian Bishops, did well not to separate from the visible church in England, and yet they separated from the main and worst part, which cannot be denied to be a ministerial church.
CONSIDERATION FOUR. If a church is incorrigible in a wicked conversation, and yet retains the true faith of Christ, it is presumed God has there some to be saved, and that where Christ’s ordinances are, there also Christ’s church presence is. And therefore I doubt much if the church should be separated from, for the case is not here as with one simple person, for it is clear, all are not involved in that incorrigible obstinacy, and that is yet a true visible communion, in which we are to remain. For there is some union with the head Christ, were the faith is kept sound, and that visibly, though a private brother remaining sound in the faith, yet being scandalous and obstinately falgitious is to be cast off, as a heathen, yet are we not to deal so with an orthodox church, where most part are scandalous.
CONSIDERATION FIVE. I see not, but we may separate from the Lord’s Supper, where bread is adored, and from baptism where the sign of the Cross is added to Christ’s ordinances, and yet are we not separated from the church; for we professedly hear the Word, and visibly allow truth of the doctrine maintained by that church, which do pollute the Sacraments, and we are ready to seal it with our blood, and it is an act of visible profession of a church, to suffer for the doctrine mentioned by that church.
CONSIDERATION SIX. We may hold what Ambrose (( Ambrose commen., in loc., lib. 6, cap. I, Signa est ecclesia quæ fidem respuat, nec Apostolica prædicationis fundamenta possideat, ne qualibet perfidiæ possit aspergere, deserenda est. (It is a sign that a church which disapproves of the faith, and does not abide by the Apostolic foundations of preaching, ought to be abondoned, so that it cannot scatter its its treachery wherever it pleases. )) says well, that a church [lack]ing the foundation of the apostles, is to be forsaken.
CONSIDERATION SEVEN. There is a forced separation through tyranny from personal communion, and a voluntary separation. David was forced to leave Israel, and was cast out of the inheritance of the Lord. The former is not our sin, and our separation from Rome has something of the former. The latter would be wisely considered.
CONSIDERATION EIGHT. There may be causes of non-union with a church, which are not sufficient causes of separation. Paul would not separate from the Church of the Jews, though they rejected Christ, till they openly blasphemed (Acts 13:44-46; 18:16). And when they opposed themselves and blasphemed, Paul shook his raiment and said unto them, Your blood be upon your heads, I am clear, from henceforth I will go to the Gentiles. There is a lawful separation, and yet before the Jews came to this, there was no just cause why any should have joined to the Church of the Jews, which denied the Messiah, and persecuted his servants (Acts 4, 5), seeing there was a cleaner church, to which converts might join themselves (Acts 2:40-42).
CONSIDERATION NINE. There is no just cause to leave a less clean church (if it is a true church), and to go to a purer and cleaner, though one who is a member of no church has liberty of election, to join to that church which he conceives to be purest and cleanest.
CONSIDERATION TEN. When the greatest part of a church makes defection from the truth, the lesser part remaining sound, the greatest part is the church of separatists, though the maniest and greater part in the actual exercise of discipline is the church; yet in the case of right discipline, the best though fewest is the church. For truth is like life, that retires from the maniest members unto the heart, and there remains in its fountain in case of danger.