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CAUSES AND GROUNDS OF CONTENTION; which are commonly Pride, Self-Love, Envy, Covetousness.
(1.) Only by Pride cometh contention, saith the wisest of men; Prov. xiii. 10: whose observation is seconded by all experience; for, what is it, that kindies this fire every where, but height of insolence, and over-weening?
"I am better than thou," raises the furious and bloody contestations for precedency: "I am holier than thou," causes a contemptuous separation from company, better, perhaps, than ourselves: "I am wiser than thou," is guilty of all the irregular opinions, that the world is disquieted withal. These three quarrels of emulation, for worth, holiness, wisdom, are they, that put the whole earth into combustion *.
[1.] In that tribe, which should be sacred, who knows not, what broils have been raised, for but a Priority of Place? What scuffling, and shouldering, and bloodsheds have been, in the records of his tory, betwixt the trains of Canterbury and York, whether's Cross should take the wall! And what high terms have been between the Sees of Rome + and Constantinople, to the great trouble of Emperors and Councils, he must needs be a stranger to the Churchstory, that knoweth not. Yea, what is it, that hath made such havock in the Church of Christ, for these many hundred years, but the Man of Sin, his advancing himself above all that is called God? so as he, that was first an humble subject, ready to lick the dust of the feet of princes, now would be lording it over the great monarchs of the earth; who must think it no small honour, to be admitted to hold his towel, to serve in his dish, to bear his canopy, to hold his stirrup, to lead his horse, to kiss his foot. He, that was once, singulis minor, a servant of servants, is now major universis : so much greater than a General Council, that, to make but the comparison, is heretical. Lastly, he, that was once dragged to every bar, now makes but one tribunal with || God. How hast thou climbed up into heaven, O Lucifer! How hast thou said in thy heart, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation! Isa. xiv. 14.
[2.] In the second place, what divisions are wont to be made by an over-conceit of Sanctity, needs no other instance, than that of the proud Pharisees; who thereupon kept their distance from the Sons of the Earth, as their scorn styled them; and could say, as they had learned of their arrogant predecessors §, Stand by thyself:
* Dum gloriam usurpant, turbant pacem. Bernard. Ep. 126. + Antique Roma throno quòd urbs illa imperavet, jure Patres privilegia tribuere; et, eû consideratione moti, 150 amantissimi Dei Episcopi nova Roma throno æqualia privilegia tribuere, &c. Concil. Chalced. Acts 15. Can. 27. + Vide Librum Sacr. Cer. Hodie tenere Concil. Generale esse supra Papam; dicet hæreticum. Paul. Grysald. Aquil. de Confes.-Nec à Papa ad Deum potest appellari, cum sit idem Tribunal. Vival. Caf. Bullæ 2. nu, 5.-Papa Rome est absolute supra Gener. Concil. ita ut nullum in terris supra se judicium agnoscat. Bellar. De Rom. Pont. l. ii. c. 26. Azor. Instit. mor. p. i. c. 14. Valent. Anal. l. viii. c. 7. § Μίασμον γὰρ ἡγῆναι τὸ τινὸς ἄψαθαι. Epiph, de Samarit.
come not near to me; for I am holier than thou; Isa. lxv. 5. And, under the times of the Gospel, what need we any other witness, than the cells and cloisters of retired votaries, whose very secession proclaims their contempt of sinful seculars; and doth as good as say, This people, which knoweth not the Law, is accursed? And, what other can be the language of those picked combinations of Saints out of Churches, Churches out of Parishes, Members out of Congregations, and Seekers out of Select Members, which we hear of in our woeful subdivisions?
[3.] But that, which is guilty of the most general debate, is the over-valuation of Wisdom: out of the opinion whereof, every man is ready to idolize his own imagination; and to fall foul on any, whosoever will not fall down and worship it. Hence are those infinite paradoxes, not in philosophy only, but, which can never be enough lamented, in matter of religion; daily hatched, and stiffly maintained, to the unspeakable disturbance of our Christian peace. Whosoever, therefore, desires to have his bosom a meet harbour for peace, must be sure to quit it of this blustering inmate of pride; which, wherever it lurks, will be raising storms and tempests of contention.
(2.) The pew-fellow to pride is Self-Love, and no less enemy to
This makes a man to sacrifice to himself, with Sejanus; and to admire and over-prize ought of his own; and weds him to his own particular interest, with the neglect, or, if need be, the affront of all others.
This moves every man to make that challenge, which the blessed Apostle most justly professed, And I think also, that I have the Spirit of God; 1 Cor. vii. 40. And, if a Micaiah will be pretending a different light, this stirs up a Zedekiah to buffet him; and to ask, Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee? 1 Kings xxii. 24.
This is it, that turns every man's goose into a swan, and causes the Hermit to set more value upon his cat, than Gregory upon the world *.
This is it, that requires fair glosses to be set upon our own actions †, and renders us impatient of all contradiction: and, where it finds the least opposition; like a violent torrent which is dammed up with slight turfs, it bears down all before it, and impetuously gusheth forth, and fills the channels, and overspreads the plains: so as, where this prevails, there can be no room for Peace.
(3.) If yet there can be a more direct and professed enemy of peace, it is that of Envy and Malice.
These disaffections to the persons, have ever raised a hostility to the best causes. "My puisné, my rival, my enemy is advanced : I lie still neglected: am I so tame as to suffer it ?" My unequal neighbour goes away with the reputation: no man looks at my
* Bromiard, Summa Prædic. verb. Divitiæ. ↑ Jura Rom. Pontificum sunt reverenter glossanda. Jo. Major. Disp. an Concil, sit supra Papam,
abler parts and better merits: while he is all, shall I abide to be nobody?""Shall Jacob go away with the birthright and blessing saith Esau; Gen. xxvii. 41: "Shall Eldad and Medad prophesy?" saith Joshua; Num. xi. 28. "Shall Moses and Aaron overtop us?" saith Korah, and his company; Num. xvi. 3. "Shall
David be sung up for victories?" saith Saul; 1 Sam. xviii. 8. "Shall Nehemiah build the walls of Jerusalem?" saith Sanballat ; Neh. ii. 19.
Hereupon, straight follow secret underminings, open oppositions, deadly contestations. Envy in the bosom, is like a subterraneous fire shut up in the bo vels of the earth, which, after some astonishing concussation, breaks furiously out, with noise and horror; and if a city, a mountain be in the way, blows it up, or swallows it down into that dreadful gulph which it maketh. And Who is able to stand before envy? saith wise Solomon? Prov. xxvii. 4.
No mortal tongue or pen is able to express the woeful stirs, that have hence been raised in the Christian Church, even from the first plantation of it. No sooner is the woman delivered of her malechild, than this red dragon stands before her to devour it; Rev. xii. 4.
Yea, even in those saddest times, ere the Church could have space to breathe herself from her public miseries, under that hot persecution, begun by Decius and continued by Gallus and Volusianus and Hostilianus Perpenna *, when as the Christians could not meet in their wonted caves and vaults for their holy devotions; yet, even then, an emulous Novatus could be scuffling with Cornelius, the Bishop of Rome, for his Chair; and that so fiercely, as that he forced the Communicants, upon the receipt of the Sacrament, to swear that they would not return from him to that lawful competitor.
What should I speak of the slanders and machinations, raised and pursued against holy Athanasius, not by single persons only, but by Synods; by a Council, that would pretend to † Oecumenical; enough to stuff a volume? From whence did these and all the other tumults, schisms, and heresies of Novatianus, Ursinus ‡, Arius, Sabatius &, Aerius T, and the rest of those Spiritual Incendiaries take their rise, but from the evil eye, which they cast upon the promotions of their corrivals, and the failing of their own? The odious aspersion whereof, Binius, from the false intelligence of some of our own, calumniously throws upon our Wickliffe; whom he slanders, for his missing the Bishoprick of Worcester, to have fallen upon that successful contradiction.
Cornel. Epist. ad Lupicinum, Episcopum Viennensem. + Pseudo-Synodus Sardicensis Epist. Synodali ad Donatum, Episcopum Carthag.-Mediolannense Conc. Univers. ep. 300. et amplius Epis. Cornel. Epist. ad Fabium 163. sinus invidit Damaso. Socr. I. iv. c. 24. || Alexandro Epis. invidit Arius. Theodor. l. i. c. 2. § Sabatius ob negatum Episcopalum separat se. Socr. ¶ August, de Hæresibus. Aeriani ab Aerio Presbytero ægrè ferente quòd non ordinaretur Episcopum.-Theobutas quidam, qui repulsus non meruit Episcopatum, cepit turbare omnia. Euseb. I. iv. c. 22.
1. vi. c. 4.
Not to meddle with the desperate schisms of the Roman Antipopes, some whereof have lasted little less than an age, in an utter ambiguity of the right succession, and have been drenched with streams of blood, and all out of an envious competition of usurped honour; but to look rather home to ourselves; how happy were it, if our present quarrels were as far from envy, as they are from charity, and that malice had not a finger in these spiritual contentions * !
Even the best cause may be ill managed; and the best management may be ill-grounded. Some preach Christ even of ency and strife, saith the Chosen Vessel; Phil. i. 15. What act can be better, than to preach Christ? what motive can be worse, than strife and envy? so as, the best and worst actions may meet upon the same ground. As ever we desire to avoid the worst of evils, or to enjoy the comfort of our best actions, let it be our care, to rid our souls of this hellish fury of Envy and Maliciousness.
(4.) That, which is the root of all evil, i. e. Covetousness, may well challenge a share in the evil of dissension.
Some, saith St. Paul, having coveted after money, have erred from the faith; 1 Tim. vi, 10: and have not only miscarried in their own persons, but have turned hucksters of the word of God, to the corrupting thereof, to their own advantage † : yea, and of men's souls also; Through covetousness do they, with feigned words, make merchandize of you, saith St. Peter; 2 Pet. ii. 3. Thus did the Pharisees of old; who, under colour of long prayers, devoured widows' houses; Luke xvi. 14: being not more branded with hypocrisy, than covetousness; with whom gain was godliness; 1 Tim. vi. 5.
And from this evil disposition of the heart, a world of quarrels is raised in the Church of God. He, that well knew the pedigree of these mischiefs, hath told us, that the doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, (1 Tim. vi. 4, 5.) arises from this dangerous misprision of gain. Had not the masters of the Pythohess been stripped of the gain they made of that spirit of divination, by the powerful command of the Apostle, the Devil had still possessed the mind; and Paul and Silas had escaped their scourging, and stocking, and imprisonment; Acts xvi. 16, &c. Had not Demetrius the silversmith, and the rest of the craftsmen, lost the rich trade of Diana's shrines, by St. Paul's preaching, Ephesus and he had been quiet; Acts xix. 24, &c.: it is their penny, that makes the uproar. then, he, that is greedy of gain, troubleth not his own house only, (Prov. xv. 27.) but the House of God also.
In short therefore, he, that hath freed his heart of Pride, SelfLove, Envy, Covetousness; and he only, is in a MEET POSTURE FOR
THE ENTERTAINMENT OF PEACE.
* In denario lilis non est obolus amoris. Gerson. λεγόν. 2 Cor. ii. 16.
+ Καπηλεύοντες τὸν
The Second Private way of Peace: The Composing ourselves to a Fit Disposition for Peace: and, therein, (1.) A Meek and Humble Temper:-(2.) Obedience to our Spiritual Guides:-(3.) Charitable Affection to our Brethren :-(4.) A Yieldableness upon Sight of Clearer Truths.
OUR second work must be, TO COMPOSE OURSELVES TO A TEMPER FIT FOR THE HARBOUR OF SO BLESSED A GUEST.
(1.) Which shall be done, if, first, we have our hearts framed by the power of the Holy Spirit of God, to a meek and humble disposition; not thinking ourselves wiser than all our ancestors, or the whole Church of God besides ourselves.
It was a modest resolution of Elihu; I said, Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom; Job xxxii. 7. And much like unto it was the question of a grave and learnedt Bishop, some five hundred years ago; Nunquid Patribus, &c. "Are we more learned and wiser than the Fathers? Do we proudly presume to define that, which their deep prudence thought fit to pass
Not, that the Spirit of God is confined to times or persons, who is most free to breathe where he listeth: or, that a dwarf, sitting upon the shoulders of a giant, cannot see further than he; doubtless, he may and, perhaps, some truths may have risen late, and be long in dressing, ere they come abroad into the world; and, when they do come forth, may shew themselves unto babes, while they are hid from the wise and prudent; Matth. xi. 25.
But, heed must be taken, that we do not rashly determine of obscure and doubtful verities, upon pretence of our private light; and that, not without sure grounds, we run alone, and leave all orthodox antiquity lagging behind us. How easily may we err,
where we see no track before us!
Nothing is more evident, than that there have been further discoveries made of the visible and material heavens, in these latter ages, than ever were known to our predecessors; who could never have believed, that there were such lunets about some of the planets, as our late perspectives have descried: but, in the spiritual heaven, in vain shall we expect any further insight, than the already revealed will of the Father Lath vouchsafed to open to us. No new way thither, no new mysteries there, can be hoped for. That new Gospel, which some blasphemous friars would have foisted upon the Church in her thickest darkness, is justly exploded with abomination and scorn: this Gospel, which we have, is Everlusting §. It may be, some collateral truths may break forth,
Ego certè ab antiquitate non recedo, nisi coactus. Zanch. in Colos. ii. † Potho Pruniensum Episcopus. An. 1150.-Nec enim sapientiores sumus quàm Patres nostri. Bern. ad Hugon. de Sancto Vict. Ep. 77.
Chaucer's Romant of the Rose.
§ Evangelium æternum,