On the Peace & Purity of the Church

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.  Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.  For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.  Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good.”

Ps. 122:6-9

“Plead with your mother, plead…  let her therefore put away her whoredoms out of her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts, lest I strip her naked…”

Hos. 2:2-3

“…when Ahab saw Elijah…  Ahab said unto him, ‘Art thou he that troubleth Israel?’  And he answered, ‘I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord…'”

1 Kings 17:17-18

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Order of Contents

Intro
Articles
Quotes
On the Blame-Shifting of Latitudinarians

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Intro

One of the main aims of Church discipline, which should also be the aim of all Christians, is to seek the peace and purity of Christ’s Church.

It is not always readily clear however, what that principle calls for in particular situations; and the phrase is often readily misused by those who have little care for the purity of the Church, or her peace.  If all parties are seeking the peace of the Church in purity, and seeking the purity of the Church in peace, disputes and scandals can be resolved in a healthy manner.

Here are numerous historic resources that will help you and your Church in seeking the peace and purity of Christ’s Kingdom.


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Articles

1600’s

Gillespie, George – pt. 2, Ch. 7, ‘That the Ceremonies are Inexpedient Because they Disturb the Peace of the Church’  of English Popish Cermeonies  (1637), pp. 26-30

As a summary statement of this chapter, Gillespie states, “I will therefore observe four marks whereby it may be known, when contentions are in a Church, which side is reprehensible and also who are to be blamed as the troublers of our Israel.”

Those four marks are: (1) the motive (whether they may have a bad motive or not, with a good motive), (2) the measure (whether their contentions be unequal and excessive, or not), (3) the matter (whether it be light or weighty) and (4) the manner (whether they argue by imposing, dictated, claimed authority alone, or by God’s Word and reason).

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1800’s

Black, Sr., John – Church Fellowship: A Sermon, Preached at the Opening of the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, May 16, 1816  (1819)  109 pp.

Black, Sr. (1768-1849).  See this Intro to the work at Log College Press.

“While it is to be deplored that there is ecclesiastical division amongst the churches of Christ throughout the world, who hold to different creeds, and church unity is a thing to be earnestly desired and prayed for, yet such unity must begin with love. If there is such love — which itself is the gift of God — then there is hope that barriers to unity will be overcome in the Lord’s great mercy. ” – Intro, Andrew Myers


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Quotes

Early Church

Nazianzen

As quoted by Alexander Shields, A Hind Let Loose…  (Glasgow, 1797), after the Preface

“Discord is better for the advantage of piety, than dissembled discord.”

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1500’s

John Calvin

Institutes of the Christian Religion, bk. 4, ch. 1, section 16

“Holy Scripture bids us [to] correct our brothers’ vices with more moderate care while preserving sincerity of love and unity of peace.”

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Letter to Thomas Cranmer, April 1552

“This other thing also is to be ranked among the chief evils of our time, viz., that the Churches are so divided, that human fellowship is scarcely now in any repute amongst us, far less that Christian intercourse which all make a profession of, but few sincerely practice.  If men of learning conduct themselves with more reserve than is seemly, the very heaviest blame attaches to the leaders themselves, who, either engrossed in their own sinful pursuits, are indifferent to the safety and entire piety of the Church, or who, individually satisfied with their own private peace, have no regard for others.

Thus it is that the members of the Church being severed, the body lies bleeding.  So much does this concern me, that, could I be of any service, I would not grudge to cross even ten seas, if need were, on account of it.”

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1600’s

Richard Sibbes

The Bruised Reed, in Works, vol. 1

“Wherever Christ comes He brings division, not only between man and Himself, but between man and man, and between church and church; of which disturbance Christ is no more the cause than medicine is of trouble in a diseased body.  Harmful agents are the real cause, for the purpose of medicine is to bring health.”

“Excess of passion in opposing evil, though not to be justified, yet shows a better spirit than a calm temper when there is just cause of being moved.  It is better that the water should run somewhat muddily than not run at all.  Job had more grace in his ill temper than his friends in their seemingly wise demeanour.  Actions stained with some defects are more acceptable than empty compliments.”

“Luther igenuously confessed that he often acted inconsiderately and moved by various passions.  But when he acknowledged this, God did not condemn him for his errors, but the cause being God’s, and his aims being holy, to promote the truth, and being a man mighty in prayer, and strong in faith, God by him kindled that fire which all the world shall never be able to quench.”

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Richard Ward

The Principal Duty of Parliament-Men, or, A Short & Compendious Treatise Concerning the Unity & Unanimity which Should be in the Members of that Honourable Assembly  (London, 1641), p. 46.  Ward, a civil officer, was speaking to the English parliament.

“5. Remember, that you have all but one end and one aim, that is, you are all of you elected and called to this assembly for the glory of your God, the honour of your king, the welfare of his people, the peace and purity of the Church, the punish∣ing of offenders, the reforming of abuses and the taking away of all polluted and pernicious doctrines and practises from amongst us.  And then the remembrance hereof will be a means to make you one.”

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George Gillespie

English-Popish Ceremonies  (1637), pt. 2, ch. 1, p. 6

“…he [John Sprint] says that the suffering of deprivation for refusing to conform breeds and produces sundry scandals.  First says he, it is the occasion of fraternal discord.  O egregious impudency! who sees not that the ceremonies are the incendiary sparkles from which the fire of contention has its being and burning? so that conforming (not refusing) is the furnishing of fuel and casting of faggots to the fire.”

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Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government  (1646), Appendix, ‘An Introduction to the Doctrine of Scandal’

Question 4, p. 43

7.  Our [prelatist] Doctors say [that] our way is against the
peace of the Church: But I answer [that] their way is Popish and against the truth of God in commanding our
consciences to rest upon the wicked will of men.”

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Question 5, p. 59

“…the Church ministerially does judge, so as the
obligatory power is from the things themselves, not from
the will of human superiors.  No necessity of peace, which is posterior to truth, no necessity of obedience to authority, no necessity of uniformity in these externals, simply, and as they are such, are necessities obliging us to obedience: For things must first in themselves be necessary, before they can oblige to obedience.

I must obey superiors in these things of convenient
necessity, because they are convenient, and most
convenient in themselves, and so intrinsically most
necessary, but they are not necessarily to be done in
themselves, because I must obey superiors, and because I must keep uniformity with the Church.  The will of
superiors do find in things necessity, and good of
uniformity, but they do not make necessity, nor the good of uniformity:

We should be servants of men if our obedience were
ultimately resolved in the mere will of superiors in any the
least circumstance of worship: and what I say of actions,
holds in matters of mere custom also.”

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A Free Disputation Against Pretended Liberty of Conscience…  (1649), ch. 2, p. 32

“The learned and renowned [reformed] professors of Leiden answer [that] the end of synods is not by any means, good or bad, to remove controversies, but to bury them by the power of the Word.

2.  Only external peace separated from truth should not be intended [by synods regarding controversies], but [external peace should be] conjoined with truth and peace of conscience.”

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Matthew Henry

‘Serious Self-Examination Before Ordination’ (1687) in the biographies of Henry by William Tong & J.B. Williams

“Q. IV. What are the ends that I aim at in the great undertaking?

3.  I can appeal to God, that I have no design in the least to maintain a party, or to keep up any schismatical faction; my heart rises against the thoughts of it. I hate dividing principles and practices, and whatever others use, I am for peace and healing; and if my blood would be sufficient balsam, I would gladly part with the last drop of it, for the close up of the bleeding wounds of differences that are amongst true Christians. Peace is such a precious jewel, that I would give anything for it but truth. Those who are hot and bitter in their contendings for or against little things, and zealous in keeping up names of division and maintaining parties, are of a spirit which I understand not. Let not my soul come into their secret.

My ends then are according to my principles, and I humbly appeal to God concerning the integrity of my heart in them.”

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John Owen

The True Nature of a Gospel Church & its Government  (London: William Marshall, 1689), p. 13

“Hence it came to pass, that the reformation of the Church as unto the matter of it, or the purity and holiness of its members, was not in the least attempted until Calvin set up his discipline at Geneva, which has filled the world with clamors against him from that day to this.”

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James Clark

Presbyterial Government Described, or, A Methodical Synopsis of it, as it is Professed & Practiced in the Church of Scotland…  (Edinburgh, 1695), no page number

“…for no less will God call civil magistrates to an account for their negligence and maladministrations than Church pastors and ministers; therefore both should amicably correspond and cordially concur for advancing the peace and purity of the Church, for which purpose it is our hearty vote that God would pour forth a spirit of wisdom, zeal and holiness upon magistrates, ministers and all ranks and degrees of persons, Amen.”

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1800’s

Philip Schaff

‘Preface’  to The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 1

“Polemics looks to irenics — the aim of war is peace.”

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J.C. Ryle

‘The Fallibility of Ministers’  in Knots Untied

“Controversy in religion is a hateful thing. It is hard enough to fight the devil, the world, and the flesh without private differences in our own camp. But there is one thing which is even worse than controversy, and that is false doctrine tolerated, allowed, and permitted without protest or molestation. It was controversy that won the battle of Protestant Reformation. If the views that some men hold were correct, it is plain we never ought to have had any Reformation at all! For the sake of peace, we ought to have gone on worshiping the Virgin and bowing down to images and relics to this very day! Away with such trifling! There are times when controversy is not only a duty but a benefit. Give me the mighty thunderstorm rather than the pestilential malaria. The one walks in darkness and poisons us in silence, and we are never safe. The other frightens and alarms for a little season. But it is soon over, and it clears the air. It is a plain Scriptural duty to “contend (Jude 3).

I am quite aware that the things I have said are exceedingly distasteful to many minds. I believe many are content with teaching which is not the whole truth and fancy it will be “all the same” in the end. I am sorry for them. I am convinced that nothing but the whole truth is likely, as a general rule, to do good to souls. I am satisfied that those who willfully put up with anything short of the whole truth will find at last that their souls have received much damage. Three things there are which men never ought to trifle with—a little poison, a little false doctrine, and a little sin.

I am quite aware that when a man expresses such opinions as those I have just brought forward there are many ready to say, “He is no Churchman.” I hear such accusations unmoved. The day of judgment will show who were the true friends of the Church of England and who were not. I have learned in the last thirty-two years that if a clergyman leads a quiet life, lets alone the unconverted part of the world, and preaches so as to offend none and edify none, he will be called by many “a good Churchman.” And I have also learned that if a man studies the Articles and Homilies, labors continually for the conversion of souls, adheres closely to the great principles of the Reformation, bears a faithful testimony against popery, and preaches as Jewell and Latimer used to preach, he will probably be thought a firebrand and “troubler of Israel,” and called no Churchman at all! But I can see plainly that they are not the best Churchmen who talk most loudly about Churchmanship.

I remember that none cried “Treason” so loudly as Athaliah (2 Kings 11:14). Yet she was a traitor herself. I have observed that many who once talked most about Churchmanship have ended by forsaking the Church of England and going over to Rome. Let men say what they will. They are the truest friends of the Church of England who labor most for the preservation of truth.

I lay these things before the readers of this paper and invite their serious attention to them. I charge them never to forget that truth is of more importance to a Church than peace. I ask them to be ready to carry out the principles I have laid down, and to contend zealously, if needs be, for the truth. If we do this we shall have learned something from Antioch [Acts 15].”


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On Protecting Against the Manipulative Blame-Shifting of Latitudinarians

Quotes

George Gillespie

English Popish Ceremonies  (1637), pt. 2

ch. 1, p. 7

“4. They, who truly fear the name of God [and refuse the ceremonies], are indeed scandalized by the prelates, their depriving of ministers for refusing to conform: but by the ministers, their suffering of deprivation for this cause, they are not scandalized, but edified.

But fiftly saith Mr. [John] Sprint, it offends the magistrate, by provoking him (persuaded and resolved as he is [as to the lawfulness of the ceremonies]) to disgrace these otherwise well deserving ministers, and to strike them with the sword of authority.

Answer: Our refusal to conform to inconvenient ceremonies, being a necessary duty, if the magistrate be provoked therewith, we are blameless: neither can it any otherwise provoke him to disgrace those well deserving ministers than Moses his seeking of liberty for Israel to go and serve God according to his will provoked Pharaoh the more to oppress them, or than Christ’s preaching of the truth and his abstaining from the superstitious ceremonies of the Pharisees provoked them to disgrace Him and plot his hurt.  Howbeit we are not ignorant that the magistrate is not provoked by our refusing to conform, except as it is misreported, misdeemed, and misconstructed to him by the false calumnies of our adversaries: which being so, he is not incited by our deed, but by theirs.”

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ch. 5, p. 23

“Yet it is the verdict of some (Sarav., N. Fratri & Amico, Art. 17) that the blame lies not upon the ceremonies, but upon ministers themselves, who leave their places and draw all this evil upon themselves.  This is even as Nabal blamed David for breaking away from his master, when he was chased away against his will (1 Sam. 23:10); and as Julian, when he had impoverished the Christians, laughed them to scorn, as if they had impoverished themselves to get that blessing which Christ had promised to the poor. (Socrates, bk. 3, ch. 12)

The Canon Law speaks for the lord’s bishops, which are persecuted from citty to city.  ‘Nec ipsi in hoc peccant, quoniam non sponte sed coacte hoc agunt: sed illi qui eos persecuuntur: nec ipsis Episcopis hoc imputari potest, sed illis qui eos hoc agere cogunt.’ (Decr., pt. 2, causa. 7, q. 1, ch. 36)  How is it that they are not ashamed, who say that ministers leave their own places and callings, when they would faine abide in them, and with heavy hearts are thrust from them.

Neither is this all the injury which is occasioned by the ceremo∣nies: they make godly and zealous Christians to be mocked and nicknamed puritans, except they can swallow the camel of conformity.”

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ch. 9, p. 43

“But if in a froward tergiversation [change of position], the fornicator begin to reply that he also is scandalized and provoked to go on in his fornication obstinately, by the pastor’s rebuking him for so light a matter, and that the pastor’s reproof to him has appearance of evil, as much as his fornication has to the pastor: Albeit here it may be answered that the pastor’s reproof is not done inordinate [inordinately], neither has any appearance of evil, except in the fornicator’s perverse interpretation, yet for stopping the fornicator’s mouth as well more forcibly as more quickly, the pastor rejoinds that if any scandal follow upon his reproof, it is not to be regarded, because the thing is necessary and that because fornication being a great sin, he may not but reprove it.

So, albeit our argument of scandal [against the ceremonies] holds out against the ceremonies considered by themselves, without making mention of the unlawfulness of them in themselves: albeit also when the scandal of non-conformity (if there be any such) is compared with the scandal of conformity, we say truly, that this has appearance of evil in its own condition, and that has none, except in the false interpretation of those who glory in gainsaying.”

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J.C. Ryle

‘The Fallibility of Ministers’  in Knots Untied

“I am quite aware that when a man expresses such opinions as those I have just brought forward there are many ready to say, “He is no Churchman.” I hear such accusations unmoved. The day of judgment will show who were the true friends of the Church of England and who were not. I have learned in the last thirty-two years that if a clergyman leads a quiet life, lets alone the unconverted part of the world, and preaches so as to offend none and edify none, he will be called by many “a good Churchman.” And I have also learned that if a man studies the Articles and Homilies, labors continually for the conversion of souls, adheres closely to the great principles of the Reformation, bears a faithful testimony against popery, and preaches as Jewell and Latimer used to preach, he will probably be thought a firebrand and “troubler of Israel,” and called no Churchman at all! But I can see plainly that they are not the best Churchmen who talk most loudly about Churchmanship.

I remember that none cried “Treason” so loudly as Athaliah (2 Kings 11:14). Yet she was a traitor herself. I have observed that many who once talked most about Churchmanship have ended by forsaking the Church of England and going over to Rome. Let men say what they will. They are the truest friends of the Church of England who labor most for the preservation of truth.”

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But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.  This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.  For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”

James 3:14-18

They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace; when there is no peace.’  Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush…  at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord.”

Jer. 6:14-15

“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.  For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.”

Isa. 48:10-11

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