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“ meek, for they shall inherit the earth :" such as are gentle, and ready to help, and not tyrannize over neighbours. « Blessed are the merciful, for they shall “ obtain mercy:" What then shall become of those that are cruel, under pretence of doing it for God's fake? « Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall « be called the children of God :" then disturbers and destroyers of their peaceable neighbours shall not be called so. « Blessed are they that hunger and thirst 6 after righteousness, for they shall be filled :" but not those that hunger and thirst after our corn and cattle, houses and land, for conscience fake. “ And « blessed are you,” says Christ, « when men shall re« vile and persecute you,” &c. Then not those that revile and perfecute others that are sober and harmless : not one blessing to the conscience-hunting doctrine and practice of him, that devours the widow and orphans for religion. Were men inwardly and truly religious, they would have so low an opinion of themfelves, so tender a regard to mankind, so great an awe of Almighty God, as that none of these froward passions would have any sway with them. But the mischief is, unmortified pasions pretend to religion; a proud, impatient, arrogant mind would promote it; than which, nothing of man is more remote from it; mistaking the very nature and end of Christ's peaceable religion; which, if the apostle James says true, is « to visit the fatherless and widow, and keep our6 selves unspotted of the world.” But, on the contrary, they turn widow and fatherless out of house and home, and spot themselves with the cruelty and injustice of usurping their poor patrimony, the bread of their lives, and sustenance of their natures : such men as these are void of natural affection; their religion has no bowels, or they are without mercy in the profession of it; which is the reverse of true religion, that makes us“ love enemies, do good to them that “ hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use
aus. " And so much stronger, in fouls truly religious, is the power of love to mankind than any self
revenging passion, that, from an humble and serious E reflection upon the mercies and goodness of God to
them, they do not only suppress any rising of heart against their persecutors '(much more against peaceable Dissenters) but, with much softness and charity, commiserate their ignorance and anger; offering to inform them, and praying that they may be forgiven. This is to be religious; and therefore those that perfecute for religion any ways, are irreligious.
II. The next cause of persecution, is the gross but general mistake which people are under concerning the nature of the church and kingdom of Chrift: for the lamentable worldliness of mens minds hath put them upon those carnal constructions which have made way for all the external.coercion and violence, used by bad and suffered by good men, on the score of re.
ligion, from the beginning. And no wonder if ordi. E!nary persons stumble upon this construction, when
the disciples of Jesus shewed themselves so ill-read in the mysteries of his kingdom, that after all the intimacy they had had with him, they refrained not to alk, “ When shall the kingdom be restored to Israel?” They looked abroad, had a worldly idea in their minds; Jews-like, they waited for external deliverance from
the power of the Romans, rather than an internal sale H vation from the dominion of Satan; and interpreted
those words to worldly loss and freedom, which did relate to the loss and redemption of the foul: but Jesus taught them better things; yet so, as not to deny or flatly discourage and rebuke them; for that, though true, might have been more at that time, than they could have borne; therefore he winds off with them upon the time and the season of the thing; knowing that the time was at hand, that they should be better taught and satisfied of the nature of his kingdom, unto which he referred them. " When the
« Spirit of Truth comes, it shall lead you into all “ truth,'" &c.
That the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, has been before observed; and the reason is so great, that all men of coinmon sense must allow it, upon Christ's principle and argument; ; " for,” says he, " then would my servants fight for me:5" truly implying, becaufe the kingdoms of this world are evidently set up and maintained by worldly force, and that he will have no worldly force used in the business of his kingdom, that therefore it is not of this world. Consequently, those that attempt to set up his kingdom by worldly force, or make that their pretence to use it, are none of his servants: they are truly but men of this world ; such as seek an earthly, and not an heavenly crown and kingdom : themselves, and not Christ Jesus. Where, by the way, let me observe, that though the Jews, to engage Pilate the more easily to their side, impeached Christ of being an enemy to Cæsar, they were enemies, and he appeared a friend to Cæsar; for he came to reforin the lives of men, to make them better subje&ts; to obey Cæsar, not for fear, but for conscience-fake: a way to make Cæsar's province both easy and safe. But the Jews would have had him Cæsar's enemy; one that would have forcibly rescued them from Cæsar's power: that was what they waited for; a captain-general to head the revolt; and, with an high hand, to overbear and captive Cæsar, as he had done them: and it is more than probable, that this appearance being after quite another manner, and to another end, than they expected, they therefore rejected him ; their hearts being set upon the desire of worldly empire.
But to return : Christ told his disciples, that he had « chosen them out of the world :" how, pray ? Not to converse, or live bodily in it? No such matter: but he had chosen or singled them from the nature, Spirit, glory, policy, and pomp of this world. How perfons,
fo qualified, can make a worldly church or kingdom, unless they desert Christ's doctrine, is past my skill to tell. So that the capacity that Christians stand in to Christ is spiritual, and not worldly or carnal: and for that reason, not carnal or worldly, but Spiritual methods and weapons only, are to be used to inform or reclaim such as are ignorant or disobedient. And if we will give ancient story credit, we shall find that worldly weapons were never employed by the Christian church till she became worldly, and so ceased to be truly Christian.
But why should I say the church? The most abused word in the world! It is her leaders have taught her to err ; and that of believing as the church believes, is so far from being true in point of fact, as well as reason, that the church ber self has long believed as the clergy, that is, the priest, believed, ever since that sort of men have practised a distinction from, and superiority upon, the laity. He that will peruse the ecclesiastical story, delivered us by Eusebius Pamphilus, Socrates Scholafticus, Evagrius, Ruffinus, Sozomen, and more especially the councils, B. Usher, aye, and Baronius bimself, will find but too many and sad instances of the truth of this. '
In short, people apprehending the church and kingdom of Christ to be visible and worldly, like other societies and governments, have thought it not only to be lawful, but necessary, to use the arts and force of this world to support his church and kingdom ; efpecially since the interest of religion hath been incorporated with that of the civil magistrate : for from that time he hath been made custos utriusque tabule; and such as offend, though about church-inatters, have been reputed transgressors against the state, and confequently the state interested in punishing the offence. Whereas had Christians remained in their primitive simplicity and purity, in the self-denying, patient, and suffering doctrine of Christ: Christianity had stood in boly living, and not in worldly regiment; and its compulfion would have been love, its arms reason and truth,
and its utmost rigour, even to obftinate enemies or apostates, but renouncing of their communion, and that not till much forbearance and many Christian endeavours had been used to reclaim them.
To sum up all: the kingdoms of this world stand in outward, bodily and civil matters; and here the laws and power of men reach and are effectual. But the kingdom and church of Christ, that is chosen out of the world, stands not in “ bodily exercise," (which, the apostle says, “ profits little”) nor in times nor places, but in faith, and that worship which Christ tells us is in " fpirit and in truth.” To this no worldly compulsion can bring or force men; it is only the power of that King of righteousness whose kingdom is in the minds and fouls of the just; and he rules by the law of his own free Spirit, which, like the wind, « bloweth where it listeth.u" And as without this Spirit of regeneration, no man can be made a member of Christ's church or kingdom, and lefs a minister, so neither is it in the power of man to command or give it; and consequently all worldly force, employed to make men members of Christ's church and kingdom, is as ineffectual as unnatural. I could be very large upon this point; for it is very fruitful, and so much the cause of persecution, that if there were never another to be assigned, this were enough; and upon due consideration it must needs meet with every
man's judgment and experience. I will here add the i sense of memorable Hales of Eton upon this subject.
- When our Saviour, in the Acts, after his resurrrection, was discoursing to his disciples concerning the • kingdom of God, they presently brake forth into < this question, “ Wilt thou now restore the kingdom " unto Israel ?” “Certainly this question betrays their ? ignorance: their thoughts still ran upon a kingdom, « like unto the kingdoms of the world, notwithstandsing they had so long and so often heard our Saviour
to the contrary. Our Saviour therefore shortly takes
John iii. 8.