25 February 2008

davenant on christian unity

John Davenant, an English delegate to the Synod of Dort, writes the following in his An Exhortation to Brotherly Communion betwixt the Protestant Churches (1641):

With those Churches it is fitting to retain brotherly communion, which we will not deny but that they retain conjunction and communion with Christ, the Head and Foundation of the holy catholic Church. Yea, except we will yield and confess ourselves to be estranged from the body of Christ, we cannot but be their brethren, who are esteemed to hold brotherly communion with Christ, our elder Brother. For the band of holy brotherhood betwixt Churches themselves, cannot be broken at men's pleasures, except they be also broken betwixt them and Christ, who is the head of all Churches. If the Saxon count the Helvetian - or the Helvetian the Saxon Churches - so alienated and torn asunder from Christ by their errors, that they are neither founded in Christ nor by Christ the elder Brother taken into the brother society of fellow-members, then they may pretend some reason why they renounce communion with them. But if in no wise they dare affirm this, we cannot have just cause to disclaim brotherly communion with those who Christ himself blusheth not to own, and call his brethren...

They who are founded in the same Christ, and rooted in the partaking of eternal life, ought to be founded and rooted in mutual charity. But no Protestant will deny, but that the Protestant churches are founded in the same Christ, our Lord and Savior. It ought therefore to be well weighed and considered whether the office and nature of charity itself doth not wholly detest this: to make an endless schism and rent betwixt churches, for some diversity of opinions. It was Augustine's judgment that "Christian charity could not be kept except in the unity of the Church, and that those who persist in discord belong to the lot and portion of Ishmael." For who will say that there is not brotherly hatred in schism when there is no other original and obstinate persisting in schism but brotherly hatred?

Most sure it is that the proper duties of charity cannot appear and shew themselves in these differences of the Protestant Churches. I appeal to the Apostle himself for my witness (Rom 12:9ff.; 1 Cor 13:5ff.). If we grant those Churches which we conceive somewhat to err in the faith, yet to be sanctified and preserved in Christ, the foundation of the Church, our faith though something the sounder will little avail us if our charity be wanting toward all the saints. For saving faith cannot be unless conjoined with charity or brotherly love as the Scriptures everywhere do witness. "For what shall a man's sound faith profit him, where the soundness of his charity is baned with the deadly wound of schism?" (Augustine).