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Irenicum: Healing the Divisions Among God's People (Puritan Writings) Hardcover – June, 2003
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These are the last sermons Burroughs preached before he died. His heart was obviously broken by the divisions and scuffles he saw his brothers undergoing with one another. He pleads for unity among Christians, yet addresses the issues that seriously divide. Nothing could be more timely or relevant for our day!
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The Puritans excelled in determining the spiritual cause of a malady, and its cure, and Burroughs was no exception. Any such condition (and Burroughs treats them all), if sustained to the head (mind) was curable, but if allowed to enter the heart, 'the danger is great.' It was the momentous cause, firstly, of a heart-division between God and the believer. 'Were the stream of your heart wholly after God, it would run strongly and bear down opposition before it. Let not man's hearts be cut and divided...their wisdom should be how to work all for God, not how handsomely to contrive that God may have part and themselves part.' p 13
Secondly, one feels wan as the reader succumbs to the subtext of Burroughs's story, that is, the insidious heart-divisions between the people of God. The first area that becomes tainted by the vexing of dissenters is the way of acceptable worship. Burroughs withstood the urging of uniformity at the cost of peace, and preferred yielding to difference in practice. He bade his blessing on those who, for conscience sake, worshipped God in their own way. Nonetheless, Burroughs warned that Christ has not left men at absolute liberty to worship as they please, until such time as spiritual means are made effectual to the heart: 'especially considering that, if you grant this liberty, men may choose whether any of those spiritual means of Christ should at all come to them.' p 29 A refusal to be healed spiritually by Christ, and so to be directed to the true way of worship that God instituted and is pleased with, means our spiritual pride is often only mitigated. Burroughs had an acute sense of this, instead calling us 'self-lovers', and that God is exceedingly provoked with the needless contentions amongst His self-gratifying people. It led to these, his final sermons.
It is widely accepted that this is the woeful condition of church affairs at large. Burroughs nailed alike the politics and the calculated evil in our own hearts. As a lasting 'cure' and show of unified strength he justified the coercion of those with a seared conscience: 'If you will have none to command your conscience, let conscience then command you. If you will rebel against your conscience, it is just with God to suffer men to tyrannize over your conscience.' p 58 There is nothing sadder than those, who upon having the true condition of their heart revealed, will not wholly and unconditionally flee to Christ alone for refuge.