Part III. Chapter VII.
Of the excusableness of the people's receiving ministerial offices from men in schism, rather than live without any at all.
But under such divisions, the rightful bishops and clergy, supposing the sufferers to be in the right, may be too few to give general opportunities, for all those good Christians who would keep to them, to communicate in ministerial offices. And in vast numbers of places, for the people to shun communion with the clergy adhering to the anti-bishops, or taking part with them, will be to have no communion at all in any ministerial offices, since they can not have them from any others. I do not say it will be so with the clergy themselves, whose part and place being to afford ministerial offices, they need not want them unless they please: and if they can have any, though but one or two to join with them therein, they may minister in an holy assembly, who have Christ in the midst of them, as he himself says. But though they will not fall under this necessity, nor have such ground to plead the favour of this case; yet the people often may. And supposing the schism, what is to be done by the people in this case? If they are careful to shun these ministerial offices from the hands of schismatics, in places where they can have them from others; may they not, without imputation of overlooking the criminalness of schism, have recourse to them as a make-shift, especially if they profess and give out that they do it only on that account, where they can have none else, or rather than live without any at all?
I hope, they may, and that the necessity of having public worship and ministerial offices, will excuse the faultiness and obliquity of having it at the hands of one communicating in a schism, or out of the unity of the church.
To persuade this, I observe, that schism is breaking the one body into parties, or making sedition in the church. And the spirit of schism, or the malignity of having to do with a sedition or party, is as it is an owning or espousal thereof, and that in opposition to the true body. But when in mere necessity, men, who live among them, have to do with such, and profess they take up with them only because they are in want of others, whom, as they ought, so they gladly would associate and join with; such professed serving of their own necessity, and disapproving of the others party, is not to own and espouse them. And much less is it to take their part, and stand by them against the true body: since this coming near them at all, is only for want thereof; and before they appear to oppose the right, they should be put into the opportunity of siding and closing with it. So that where they can have no assemblies for right communion, the making a shift with the other for that time, speaks no opposition against them.
I grant, to stand quite off from them, and to have no communion or correspondence with them in their separate ways, is the clearest disclaiming of any schism, or sedition. And this, as it may be paid, so is more reasonably exacted, under the settlement of a right government. But under others, when the disobedient have got all into their hands, and make the number in all places, this way of disclaiming, by refusing all communion and correspondence, admits of some relaxation and abatements. It doth so plainly in the civil state, where some dealings and correspondence of the dutiful and well affected with the rebels, which would have been sentenced as rebellion in better times, will not then be reputed rebellious. And under like prevalence of schisms, which leave no opportunities of communicating with any else, I think such abatements may also find place in the church too. Especially, considering the necessity of public communion and church assemblies, the great defectiveness and scarcities whereof had almost dropped and lost religion in the patriarchical age. And also considering the necessity, which our religion in particular lays upon communion, the communion of saints being one of the things professed in the creed; which may make it more reasonable to presume such abatements in favour thereof. When there is no opportunity of ministerial offices by any others, to communicate with.
But that the necessity of having some ministerial communion, will be an excuse in such case for the faultiness of having this at the hands of one ministering in a schism, when it can not be had from others; seems reasonable to me, from considering the nature and importance of things; and the abatements God himself has been willing to make on such necessity, with other like duties; and I think it was so held and practiced by the church and people of God, when they could have no ministerial offices but from schismatics, and also to give relief in some other compassionable cases about communion, which have only like plea for abatements, as this case has.
1. As to the nature and importance of the things themselves, public worship, or communion in ministerial offices, is a duty more of natural and essential obligation; to pay such public worship, being naturally incumbent on all men. And withal, it is so important in itself. For communion in ministerial offices, or in common and public worship, must both declare, or testify the sense, which mankind have of their common or public Lord; and also sustain, or bear it up in the world. It is the way for God, who most justly claims and expects the worship and service of all his reasonable creatures, not to be left without witness, but even in a degenerate and rebellious world, to have some always visibly standing by him, and paying him his due honour and homage. It is also the way for him, to preserve alive a sense thereof among all his other subjects and children, whom he, as a common Lord and father, is concerned continually to make acquainted therewith, and to try with the power and influences thereof.
For by this means, he sets forth his worship and truths, as a light, to shine out to all that are in darkness; and sets this light upon a candlestick, or collects the bearers thereof into a body or city; and places this city upon an hill, as our saviour says, to make it conspicuous, and that it may force itself upon the observation of all, who are at a distance. And if any are willing, to pay this almighty Lord, his due honour, and homage; it will train them up daily, in the knowledge, and observance thereof. If they are unwilling, and averse thereto; it will serve to make them willing by degrees. For such daily representation, of God's public worship and homage before their eyes, will be a daily reproof of their ungodly violations, or neglects thereof; and make them uneasy therein, and by degrees awaken, and stir up those natural and innate feeds of truth and piety, which God has planted in all men's souls, though, under such neglects or irreligious ways, they lie dormant, and seems as if they were buried, or almost quite lost, in theirs. Or, if after all, they shall obstinately shut their eyes against this light so shining out upon them, and persist in their wickedness and irreligion; it will clear the justice of an injured God, when he comes to punish them for the same, and leave them wholly without excuse.
Yea, this public worship is necessary, at least as to a great part of men, or as to the keeping them up in any considerable numbers, to keep up religion and devotion, not only among others, but in their own breasts. For devotion is to be upheld and improved in our spirits, by exercise: which, as they have provisions for, and are called to; so all devout people are careful to comply withal, on the constant returns of these opportunities. But though we need to use this exercise to keep it on, we need use none at all to wear it off our minds, which by mere neglect thereof, will sink into forgetfulness of what is good, and into sloth and indevotion, of themselves. Their progress therein, is like that of heavy weights up hill, which need a constant hand to raise and carry them on, but, when that is once off, have enough in their own weight to make them roll down again. And this, all may find by their own experience, men's pious affection, as any heedful observer will soon perceive, unavoidably decaying, and going back for want thereof. Which makes devout minds, justly to dread the want of such opportunities for ministerial offices, as a starving of their religious affections. And for this reason, among others, St. Paul is earnest in pressing attendance on religious assemblies, and cautions them against forsaking the same, because that would endanger the loss of religion itself. Not forsaking the assembling of your selves together, as the manner of some is, saith he to the persecuted Hebrews, when he labours, to fix them in holding fast the Christian profession without wavering, and to guard them against such things, as would most dispose them to draw back, and apostatize from it, Heb. 10, 23, 25. 26. 39.
And for these, and such like reasons, public worship is of so great account in God's sight, that he has framed much of our holy religion, with a particular eye to it; and instituted several great, and most important things, for the sake of it. Such is the church itself, which is instituted for joint and public worship. The society thereby introduced among us, is to associate us in the common worship of that God, whom we all confess: and the fellowship arising thence, is to make us all fellow-worshippers. Such also is the ministry, which God has appointed for his public service, or to minister unto him, either as his mouth unto his people, or as their mouth unto himself, in public assemblies or congregations. Such likewise are those set and solemn times for worship, which he has instituted both among Jews and Christians, and which are all designed for public worship in joint-assemblies. Yea, even our prayers, which are the acts of worship, express communion and joint-society, being put up according to his appointment in the plural number; he having taught us to say, our father which art in heaven, and give us this day, &c. Which speaks the communion and concurrence of more besides our selves. And the holy sacraments, those most eminent acts and instances of worship, are ordained for acts of society and partnership, or of communion therein. We are all baptized into one body. And we, being many, are one bread and one body. And the bread which we break, is the communion of the body of Christ; and the cup of blessing which we bless, is the communion of the blood of Christ, as St. Paul says. And because by their institution, they are not only to be acts of worship, but of public worship, or of joint concurrence or communion therein; therefore doth our church allow no sacrament even to the sick, without three, or two at the least, to make a congregation; and condemns the private and solitary masses of the church of Rome, which are eaten by the priest alone.
Such is the natural obligation, and such the necessity and importance of public worship, which is one of the greatest visible supports of religion, without which it is to be feared it would sink, and be in danger to fail in the earth.
Whereas the paying of this worship in church-unity and dependence on a bishop, though it be a duty too, yet is a duty more of positive obligation. For to have bishops, and to pay all our public worship in communion with them, is no natural duty, which always was incumbent on all men; but came in with Christianity, by positive institution, or particular revelation. And besides, though important in itself, yet, in comparison, it is of less importance, not only the natural parts of the ministration, but the positive too, as the holy sacraments, &c. Being, I conceive, of more weight. And though the want of this union under our own bishops, by the opposite passions and angry tempers which schism introduces, doe greatly eat out true devotion; yet doth it not make so wide a breach and waste therein, as the want of any ministerial offices at all would do.
Now in any competition of duties, the rule is, that things of positive obligation, shall give way to things of natural obligation; and positives of less importance, to positives of more importance; in those cases, and times, where we can not do both. The natural there, takes place of the positive; and the greater, sets aside the less. Particularly, as to the keeping up religion, and church-unity and association, if in any case we can not maintain both, but a competition happens to arise between them; the care of church-unity, must give way to the care of religion. We must look then to keep up as much church-unity, as we may do in keeping up religion, which being once lost, church-unity and association signifies nothing. And not begin the other way, to content our selves with keeping up so much of Christian religion, as we do in strict observance of the rules of church-society and union. For Christ's first and chief design, was to plant and preserve the religion. And that church-unity, which is either valuable, or desirable in the sight of God, is church-unity with true religion, not church-unity without it: and we are tied to keep up church-union for religion's, not religion for union's sake, as I showed before. And therefore the duty and obligation to communicate in some ministerial offices, will be a fair excuse for doing this out of the way of church-unity or dependence on our own bishops, when both can not have place.
And thus I think the scripture determines in such cases, and that,
2. These abatements, are what God himself has been willing to make on such necessity, in other like duties. He has not required, that men should stick so fast to those duties, or parts of duty, which are inferior, or subservient, or appendages unto others; as that for their sakes, they should drop other duties, which are principal or superior to them: nor is he willing, that in care, of preserving their practice of lesser virtues inviolable, they should at any time let the weightier fall. So that to think he will abate, and relax something of the duty of church-union, when that is necessary to keep on the more important duty, of public ministration; and that he doth not the people up to such strict care of communicating in the unity of the church, as must drop and let fall all communion in ministerial offices, when they are not to be had, but at the hands of those who minister in breach thereof: is only to think, that he is ready to make the same equitable allowance, on any competition in these, as he doth on like competitions in other duties.
And that almighty God is willing to make these abatements on such necessity and competitions, I conceive may sufficiently appear by the following instances.
Circumcision, and sacrifice, and the sabbath, are all positive duties. But circumcision and sacrifice, being of more importance, they were to take place of the sabbath; and whensoever it so fell out, that they could not observe both, men might be excused in breaking the sabbath rest, to labour in circumcision, as they did whensoever the Eighth day of the child's age, which was appointed for his circumcision, fell to be on the sabbath day; or in sacrifices, with the labour whereof, the priests in the temple continually profaned the sabbath, and were blameless, as our Lord determines. And God himself declares, I will have mercy before sacrifice: which imports, according to our Lord's allegations and applications of it, that men should drop the duty of sacrifice to attend the duty of mercy, when, for the time, they must let one fall, and could not pay both. So, making the necessity of performing natural duties, an excuse for the omission of positive; and the necessity of performing more important duties, an excuse for the omission of less important, when there is a necessity of letting one fall.
Thus also it was a positive duty, and rule among the Jews, that the priests should kill the sacrifice, according to what is said in the law, (Lev. 1: 4, 5). The people, who brought it, as it is there ordered, were to lay their hands upon the head of the sacrifice. But it was left to the priests to kill it, as Josephus relates. Whence the priests were able to give the number of the paschal sacrifices at any passover, as they did to Cestius Gallus, as the same author testifies. And this, is the account of the Jewish doctors. But under Hezekiah, when, by reason of the great and general defection, which had been in the days of his father ahaz, the priests, who had sanctified themselves, were too few, as the text says, to slay all the burnt-offerings; rather than any of the sacrifices should drop, their brethren the levites slew them, and helped the priests therein till the work was ended, and till the other priests had performed their legal cleansings, or sanctified themselves, 2 Chron. 29. 34. And the same, on a like want of the regular and appropriate ministers, to have recourse to for this ministration, was done again (2 Chronicles 30. 17).
Again, it was a positive duty and rule, that the legally unclean, as lepers, or they who had touched dead bodies, or any persons, either men or women, under any accidents or things which their law judged uncleanness, should not eat of the passover, or other holy things, Lev. 15. 31. &c. 22. 4, 5, 6. and Numbers 9: 6. But yet, rather than lose the passover, at a time when there was the greatest reason for them to partake therein, they were allowed to let fall this legal rite, and the legally unclean were admitted under Hezekiah. When he came to the throne, his first and chief care, was to set up a reformation of religion, which had suffered so exceedingly in Ahaz's reign. And in pursuit thereof, he calls, not only judah, but also Israel, to the keeping of his first passover, at the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, which he had cleansed and restored from the pollution of idols, to the worship and service of the true God, 2 Chron. 30. 1. And when, upon his letters, not only they of Judah, but several also of Israel were come; that he might not baulk the beginning of the reformation, nor the people lose the end of their coming, especially they of Israel, viz. out of Ephraim, Manassah, Issachar and Zebulon, who had never been there before, since the days of Solomon; they were admitted to eat in their legal uncleanness without legal cleansings, rather than go without the passover, though this was to eat it otherwise than it was written (2 Chron. 30. 18, 19). And in so doing, it is said God accepted them, v. 20.
The like I may observe of the Christian pass-over, or of our holy eucharist. This, by a positive rule among us, or by our blessed saviour's commandment, and institution, is to be administered in wine. And it is not lawful to consecrate, or administer the same in any other liquor but wine, or the juice of the grape, after it is perfected and purged by fermentation. But this positive duty, of doing it in wine, seems to be meant strictly, only whilst wine can be had, wherewith to keep up this holy administration; and with allowance to those Christians and countries, who have no wine, rather than live without the blessed eucharist, to administer it in some other liquor, which comes as near it, and is made as like to it, as they can. And Julius bishop of Rome, directed the Egyptian bishops, that in case of necessity, where they could not have wine for this purpose, they should squeeze a cluster of grapes into the chalice, and mixing some water therewith, use it instead thereof. And like to this, is done at this day, by the Christians of Abyssinia (that large and potent Christian kingdom in Africa) who, though they have good grapes, yet through the heat of their climate, or other causes, can make no wine thereof; and also by the Copts in Egypt, and by the Christians of St. Thomas in India; who, for want of true wine, all use water infused on raisins, and squeezed from them, as we are told by those, who have given the best accounts of those places.
3. Thus the people and church of God have held, and practiced, under the greatest schisms of former times.
1. It did so, I conceive, in the schism of the kingdom of Israel, or of the ten tribes. The good people among them, were not without sacrifices, and ministerial offices, to be had in their synagogues and high places, as well as at jeroboam's calves. And the worship of the true God, must needs have failed, much more, and much sooner in Israel, than it did, had it been otherwise.
In some persecutions, indeed, raised against the worshippers of the true God, there were none left to minister to them. As it was in jezebels persecution, when she cut off the prophets of the Lord, and when those hundred prophets, whom good Obadiah saved, were all hid, and kept secret in two caves, 1 Kings 18. 4, 13. So that Elijah knew of none, who went about affording any religious ministrations, but himself; and accordingly tells God, that of all his prophets, he was left alone, 1 Kings 19. 10, 14. And then, the seven thousand souls, who, as God tells the prophet, had not bowed the knee to Baal, but kept true to him all that time, verse 18. Could not resort to ministerial offices, because they were not in the way of those, who could afford them. Or, sometimes, when the kingdoms were not at wars, and when that would be connived at, notwithstanding the order of the kingdom of Israel to the contrary, made at first by jeroboams wicked policy; they might go up now and then, to the temple at Jerusalem. As Tobit, who lived under such failure of true worship and ministrations, says he did at the feasts, carrying his first-fruits and tenths with him, to give to the sons of Aaron: though in this going up, he says he was alone, when all the tribes, and the house of his father, sacrificed to Baal, before they were led away captive by the Assyrians.
But that way of keeping up religion, and the worship of the true God, in those ten tribes, which was both general, to the body of good people among them; and constant, or a way of doing it in all times: was the ministrations of their own kingdom; or such ministerial offices, as were performed among themselves. That is, by their own prophets, trained up in their own schools or colleges; and by their own priests, who were to preach the law, and to minister religious offices. These priests and prophets, being in the place of shepherds, were bound to administer these offices, and are severely. Blamed and threatened by God in Israel, as well as others were in Judah, if, instead of feeding their flocks, they should only feed themselves. And if he required the one, to minister them; since the relative carriage and dependence ought always to be reciprocal between relatives, he must in consequence allow the other, I think, under this necessity to resort to them. For I conceive, the pastors can not stand bound, to preach to those, who are bound never to hear them; or to minister to those, who are in no wise allowed to partake in their ministrations. And these ministrations, those good people had to communicate in, not only at jeroboams calves, where God was profaned by the worship of images, but also in their synagogues, or high places.
But now, all this communion of the good people among them, was communicating with those, who ministered in a schism. For the altar at Jerusalem, God himself had appointed as the only altar, whereon they should offer any burnt offering; setting it up for the principle of union, or as that, which should compact together, or keep at one, all the tribes of the Jewish church and nation. And the new altars at Dan and bethel, were set up by jeroboam, in opposition to the one altar at Jerusalem. As were also all those other altars, which the people set up, and whereat they offered sacrifice and burnt incense, in the usual places of their religious assemblies: all the children of Israel being required every sabbath day, and at other set-times, to hold holy convocations in all their dwellings. Or, in their high-places, where Jeroboam built him houses for worship, at the same time when he set up his golden calves at Dan and Bethel, and made priests for them of the lowest of the people; out of which priests of high-places, he took some to be priests at his altar at Bethel. At which high-places, when they were free from all heathen idols, the people, for their devotion and convenience, were very prone, and strongly bent to offer their incense and oblations, as their ancestors had done, in the days of Samuel, and also of Solomon before the building of the temple. And thus prone they were, not only in the ten tribes of Israel, but in that of Judah too; where, under great and careful reformations of religion in other respects, we read so often of the people's burning incense still, and offering sacrifices in the high-places: as under Jehosophat, and Azariah, and Jotham, and under Manasseh after his repentance and restoration to his throne, when though he reformed religion, nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high-places, yet unto the Lord their God only.
So that the priests in the ten tribes, offering all their sacrifices at one or other of these opposite altars, set up altar against altar, and called all the people to take part with new altars, or to become guilty of a schism. Of the criminallness and danger whereof, they were admonished by Hezekiah, who sent posts and proclamations through all Israel, to invite and call them to come and keep the passover at Jerusalem, according to what is written. And this, to prevent God's further wrath, and carrying of the remnant away to Babylon, whither, for this, among other provocations, he had already carried part of them. Yet, the necessity of some public worship or ministerial offices, legitimated this communion of good people in all lawful services, with these schismatical ministers, after the division, when, the kingdoms being no longer one, the people were stopped from going up to worship at Jerusalem.
2. It did the same, in legitimating communion with the schismatical Novatians, when the catholics were sore straightened by the persecuting Arians, and at a loss for ministerial offices in other places. The persecuting Arians, were not for tolerating opposite communions, but for forcing all others to communicate with themselves: persecuting, as Socrates relates, not only the catholics, but also the Novatians, because, though schismatics as to point of discipline and anti-bishops, they were orthodox concerning the Nicene faith. But their greatest severities were against the catholics, to whom, as Sozomen says, they left no oratories; treating the schismatical Novatians something more gently, to whom, as Socrates adds, they allowed three churches, even in the royal city, or Constantinople itself.
Now in this want of catholic oratories, or of ministerial offices in adherence and unity with their own bishops; the catholics, say Socrates and Sozomen, resorted to the Novatian churches, and joined in their assemblies and prayers. And yet, at that time when they did this, the Novatians were schismatics, who having an anti-bishop of their own distinct from the catholic bishop of that church, and being incorporated as a distinct body under him, thereby kept up two heads and two bodies in the same church, which I think is plainly a state of schism. Yea, and those rigors, of refusing reconciliation to those, who had fallen in persecution, (on pretence whereof they fell into this schism at first, by ordaining Novatian an anti-bishop at Rome against Cornelius) they still kept on. And by reason of this, which they alleged and insisted on as their original or ancient precept, they refused, as the aforesaid authors testify, to come to a perfect union. And accordingly, the communion, which they both mention as passing betwixt them, is a communion in prayers; because, according to this ancient precept alleged, the Novatians denied the communion of mysteries or sacraments, which are the seal of remission, which, in the case of those who had fallen, they would reserve, as Socrates observes, to God himself. So that what communion the catholics thought it excusable to hold with them, in this necessity, or want of ministerial offices from their own clergy, was held with men, who plainly officiated in a state of schism.
3. It did the same in our own great rebellion, when our bishops were all driven cut, and deposed with the king. For then, the orthodox and loyal-adherents of the king and bishops, took up with the communion of the parish churches, and thought, that for the sake of public worship and ministerial offices, they might do so, where they had no ministers of their own to communicate with. And yet, what assemblies were, not only in a more barefaced and wicked rebellion, but also in a more flagrant schism, than the established and complying churches and assemblies of that time. So that in the opinion of those our ancestors, it was a good excuse, for having divine offices in such assemblies, when they could have better no where else.
4. Lastly, this necessity of having some ministerial offices, is generally thought to legitimate communion in those churches, which have no bishops. Thus it is in some foreign protestant churches, who have no bishops, to head and unite them; (as our own churches had not here at home, in the days of the great rebellion.) And yet, the people there must unite with their ministrations, because they must unite with some. They must have some divine service and religion. And if they must have it, they must resort to some who minister it. And if they can have no ministration thereof in an episcopal communion, they must take up with it from such other as they can have.
I speak of the case of the people in those churches; and it is not the clergies, but their liberty, of taking up with ministerial offices from the hands of schismatics, in want of others, which I am here discoursing of. And in their case, the necessity is full for their excuse. For it is plain, they can not have those ministrations in episcopal communion, unless their clergy, whom they can resort to for the same, would receive episcopal ordination. And since, in the place where their lot is fallen, they can not have episcopal communion, they will be excused for wanting it. Though worshipping God, or communicating in ministerial offices, is a natural duty; yet the confining this to the communion of a bishop, is a positive limitation. And necessity, though it can discharge no natural duties; yet may sometimes excuse, and supersede positives. So that when they can not communicate in ministerial offices under bishops, they will be excused, I hope, for communicating in the same without them.
And as to the clergy, though I will not here discuss, or determine their case, yet is this necessity, where it can be justly, and fully pleaded, thought by many to bid fair, for excusing and warranting them, in ministering without episcopal powers. For at one time, the priest hood belonged to the first-born. At first it was lodged in the patriarchs. And thus we read of Abraham, that he would command and instruct his children, and his house-hold after him, in the true religion, Gen. 18. 18. And of him, and Jacob, and Job, and other patriarchs offering sacrifices. And from the patriarchs, it came to be vested in the first-born, till the Levites among the Jews, were appropriated and given to God in exchange for them, Numb. 3. 41. And this limiting it afterwards to one tribe, or family, as the line of Aaron among the Jews; or to men episcopally called and ordained, as it is among the Christians; were limitations of positive institution. And therefore necessity, which supersedes, or excuses the want of positives, though it leave them still under the force of naturals, is thought to bid fair towards taking off the exactness of these latter restraints, and bearing men out in parting from them in those things where they can not avoid it, so long as they still keep close to them in others, where they can; if they have this necessity, honestly and fairly to plead for themselves.
Now, if this necessity of people's communicating in ministerial offices, will excuse their communicating with ministers who have no bishops; I see not but it should do the same, in point of communicating with ministers, who are broke off from their own bishop. For surely it is a more flagrant breach of union, to break off from episcopacy itself, than from any particular bishop; and a deeper schism, to cast off all bishops, than to cast off one. And therefore that necessity of communicating in ministerial offices, which is allowed to legitimate and excuse the one, will not be denied to legitimate and excuse the other too.
4. Besides this, of God's people having held and practiced thus, under the greatest schisms of former times; in further confirmation of this liberty, I observe, lastly, how it has done the same, to give relief in some other compassionable cases, about communion, which have only like plea for abatements, as this case has.
For great purposes, (and what will be alluded greater, than preventing a total want of public worship and ministerial offices?) The church has abated in shunning the communion of schismatics, especially before they are cut off by judicial censures; and of excommunicate persons.
For, in abatement of this keeping off from their communion, it has allowed men to communicate with them at the beginning, ere schism, yea, or heresy itself is fully formed, and whilst it is capable of being prevented. An heretic, St. Paul orders not to be rejected from communion, before he has had a first and second admonition: so that till then, in hopes of prevention, they might communicate with him. And accordingly, the catholics did for a good while communicate with the Arians, after the bursting out of that heresy, whilst, by that forbearance, and by the other parties seeking still in their definitions to come as near as they could to the truth, they conceived hopes of remedy, or cure thereof. There being no breach of communion, on account of their different judgments, for some time, but all assembling together, and joining in the fame ministrations, as Sozomen says.
Or, after the breach of communion is made, and different churches are set up, though we do not go to theirs, it has allowed them to come to our assemblies, in hopes to cure them. Thus, at the beginning of our reformation, after the division from their church, notwithstanding their adherence to the Pope, and all their errors both in worship and doctrines, the papists were allowed for several years under Queen Elizabeth, to come to our churches. And the dissenters from the episcopal communion among us, are all schismatics; but yet they have not been driven out thereof, but allowed to join with us in public offices, when they would come into our churches, as still they have been invited and encouraged to do, if they were not under sentence of excommunication from the bishops courts. Yea, though their offences were liable to ipso facto excommunications by several canons: such ipso facto excommunications, being only sententia lata ab ipso jure, a sentence passed by the law, which, as the canonists say, needs sententiam latam a judice, another sentence passed by the judge, an ipso facto excommunication by any canons, not barring men from communion, till there be a declaratory sentence, as Lyndwood notes. Thus also, they, who, in heathen persecutions, fell to sacrifice to idols, were segregated, or shut out from communion, by the primitive canons. And with men excluded, it is made unlawful to communicate by the canons of the apostles, and others, as I showed before. And Gaius Diddensis, and his deacon, were suspended from communion themselves, for communicating with lapsers. And yet, in great need thereof, and when there was hopes thereby to recover them; when in prison, the Egyptian martyrs did in great charity communicate with them, both at their common tables, and in prayers, as Dionysius Alexandrinus reports. In these and other rules of discipline, where there are great reasons for favor and abatements, the church itself would have no want thereof. In things, that will not bear extremities, or the rigor of law, as the fathers in the council in Trullo, and St. Basil also in his canons, say, they are to relax and make abatements, according to custom, and the form received.
Thus, on great reason, have some equitable abatements of the rigor of the foresaid rules, for shunning of communion with men fallen into heresy, or schism, or other depriving crime, still been made in the church, and some reasonable liberties indulged in those cases. It was thought reasonable to recede thus, and to take these liberties, when put thereto to serve other people's necessities; must it not needs be to the full as much so, when put thereto to serve our own? It was allowable, to serve the spiritual wants of the offenders: can it be less so, to serve those of innocent men? So that, as it suits, as I showed before, with the reason of things, and with the equitable allowances made by God himself on such competitions: it suits no less, I conceive, with the practice of the church, and with the concessions and allowances thereof, to take up with ministerial offices from one in a schism, rather than to live without any at all, or when they cannot be had at the hands of other men.
Albeit therefore, to avoid the guilt of schism, men are to disclaim, and stand off from the communion of anti-bishops and their adherents, and not to participate in their ministrations: yet is that strictly, I think, on supposal of room or opportunity to participate more regularly with others. But want of other ministrations, will be an excuse for the faultiness, of seeking them from them; and it will be allowed, I conceive, to take up therewith from schismatics, rather than to live without any ministerial offices at all.
And thus, under the paucity or small number of the rightful bishops and clergy their adherents, and their insufficiency, as is alleged, for affording general opportunities, especially in a persecuting time, which allows no freedom of open and promiscuous assemblies: will both a due conviction and conscience of the criminalness of schism, and the exercise of public worship and devotion, be kept up, and provided for in the church of Christ. They will preserve a conscionable sense of schism, by owning the unlawfulness of communicating with the ministrations of schismatics, where they can have others, perhaps on all occasions, however for the most part, at least in competent measure, though not in returns so constant as they wish they could; yea, and though in these cases, they must be at some pains for these ministrations, or have them with peril, or persecutions. I say, though with pains or persecutions. For, in such divisions, we must not think it an indifferent thing, which assemblies we resort to for communion: nor hold our selves free, to go among those, who are met in the unity of the church, in the morning; but to a schismatical congregation, in the afternoon.
Nor must any fancy themselves at liberty, to seek religious offices from men ministering in a schism, when that is necessary to qualify themselves for some secular office or advantage, or to serve a worldly turn. Nor when it is necessary to save their pains, or to shun fleshly perils, where they might have the same religious offices in the unity of the church, but with persecutions. For in the abatements here pleaded for in the present case, from necessity, I speak not of worldly necessity, or of abating where it is necessary for our worldly interests and convenience, or to prevent outward losses and sufferings. But of necessity for religion, and God's service; for our duty, not for our carnal ends: or, of abating of the strict observance of this command of keeping unity, where it is necessary to the keeping and discharge of other of God's commandments happening to stand in competition therewith, which he sets more by. And they will keep up the practice of devotion, and the public ministries and profession of religion, by admitting the necessity of some ministrations for an excuse; and so taking up with ministerial offices from them, when they can not otherwise, though with persecutions, be supplied therewith, but must live without any at all.