« AnteriorContinuar »
Believers are also united to one another in Christ. They have been taught, that the salvation made known in the Gospel is suitable to all men, and that all who believe in it are one in Christ Jesus. "In Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; they are all one in him." They are one body, of which Christ is the head. "There is one body and one Spirit,even as they have one hope of their calling," ver. 4, 5. This is the spiritual union of believers in the Lord. But there is also an outward visible union among them, which takes place by their mutual confession of the truth of the Gospel, as the ground of their hope and the bond of their union. Therefore they love one another for the truth's sake, which dwelleth in them, and shall -be witli them for ever, 2 John ver. 2. Hence arise the many exhortations to love one another, as Christ loved them; to forgive one another, as God for Christ's sake has forgiven them; and to do good to the household of faith. All which supposes, that they acknowledge one •another as the children of God, united together in the bonds of the Gospel. It is not only a union in the faith, but in the obedience of Christ; for the disciples are taught to observe all things, ■whatsoever Christ hath commanded, Matt, xxviii. 19, 20.
This is the unity of the Spirit. He enlightens the understanding in the knowledge of the Gospel; leads to the profession of the faith of Christ, and obedience to his laws and ordinances; excites the children of God to unite themselves together to observe his laws, and especially to manifest the uniting tendency of the Gospel, which teaches them to build up one another in their most holy faith. By this men •come to know that they are his disciples; and are led to believe that the Father sent the Son, and that he loved his people, even as he loved Christ. These things shew, that the union and affection of the disciples of Jesus should be manifest to all men; and the most important ends will be answered by their union, and the exercise of mutual love; even that they are united to the Father and the Son; that the Father hath loved them as he loved his Son, and that the world may know that they are the disciples of Jesus. And the apostle inti•mates in the context, that one grand end of our holy calling is, that we endeavour
"to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." This is made manifest when the disciples walk " with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love."
Let us now enquire into the duty of keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.'
1. This implies, that we hold fast that which is the bond of union,or The Truth which unites us to God, and to one another. This is necessary in every one, for his own comfort and joy in the truth, as well as for promoting and maintaining union with the brethren in Christ. The Gospel is the first spring of hope towards God; it is necessary, therefore, that we hold fast the beginning of our confidence, and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end, Heb. iii. 14. In this way we abide in the Father, and in the Son, 1 John ii. 24. Again, as we love one another for the truth's sake, it is necessary that we hold fast the truth, as a motive to mutual love; and to perform the various duties we owe one another, arising from the prin-, ciples and motives of the Gospel. All pretension to love without this is dissimulation or deceit; our hearts must be purified through the truth, to unfeigned love of the brethren, 1 Pet. i. 21. We are to forgive one another, as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us; but unless we hold fast the truth, we cannot feel the force of its motives upon our conduct towards one another. We may, therefore, perceive the necessity of being stedfast in the faith, in order to our keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
2. It is also necessary that we revere the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to preserve the unity here enjoined.
The union of the disciples of Jesus is not only a union in the faith, but also in obedience to the laws of Christ. They are to keep the ordinances as delivered to them by Christ and his apostles, 1 Cor. xi. 1; and to observe all things whatsoever he hath commanded, Matt. xxviii. 20. His new commandment is, "that we love one another, as he loved us," John xiii. 34. 1 John iv. 21. In other words, that we should abide in union with each other and the Lord. But if once we begin to conceive, that we may neglect his commands with impunity, or if we lose sight of his authority, as binding upon our con307
IN THE BONO OF PEACE.
sciences, then every slight reason will form an excuse for neglecting our duty towards one another. The affection of brethren will get cold or lukewarm, and every trifling offence will widen the breach, till our minds be alienated from one another, and from our duty. But on the other hand, we should do every thing we are able to preserve and strengthen our unity; such as, speaking the truth in love one to another; or building up one another in our most holy faith; exhorting one another daily, lest any of us be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin; comforting our brethren under their afflictions, admonishing and watching over one another in love; administering to the necessities of saints; given to hospitality; each should fill up the place assigned him in the body of Christ; every gift must be occupied for the good of the body. Blessed is that servant whom, when his Lord cometh, he shall find so doing. Verily, I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
3. We are to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The Gospel lays a solid foundation for peace with God, and with one another. We are enjoined to live in peace, to let the peace of God rule in our hearts, to which we are called in one body, &c. We should avoid every thing which would mar our peace, either by opinions or practices. We are to avoid questions which gender strife, rather than godly edifying, which is in faith. We should also avoid officiousness, or going about as busy bodies in other men's matters. This often proves a source of disquietude to individuals, and to the churches of Christ. When a case of discipline comes before the church, beware of introducing any thing aside from the matter, or of introducing any thing to retard the decision of the church. We should endeavour to go along with the church; unless we clearly see that they are departing from the truth, or acting in direct opposition to thelaws of Christ. Then, in the spirit of meekness, we should shew our supreme regard to the Lord Jesus Christ, even above our love of peace and unity with our brethren.
4. We are to seek peace, and pursue it. Not only are we to preserve it, as far as in us lieth; but when peace is broken we should endeavour to restore it, and thus become peace-makers. This
will require us sometimes to exercise self-denial in yielding to others, giving up our own opinions in matters indifferent; not seeking our own profit, but the profit of many that they may be saved. Our honour, and ease, and worldly interest must sometimes be sacrificed to obtain peace. In order to gain our end, we must be "easy to be. entreated;" and ready to be reconciled to our brethren. Any signs of their recovery from error, or relenting for sin, will lead us to '* hope all things, to believe all things, and to think no evil." Our prayer will be, "the Lord give us peace always, by all means." The strong will bear with the infirmities of the weak, and not seek to please themselves, but every one will please his neighbour for his good to edification, Horn. xv. 1, 2. Thus shall we live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with us.
Again, we should cultivate a spirit of union in our intercourse with one another, both in private, and in the church. Instead of wishing to appeac singular, we should have an earnest desire to be of the same mind, and of the same judgment, 1 Cor. i. 10. This state of mind should especially appear in the church. Nothing should be treated as an offence, but a breach of the law of Christ, or a departure from the faith or obedience of Christ. And when we judge that our brother is guilty of either, we should do every thing in our power to restore him, see Matt, xviii. 15. And even when we are called to tell it to the church, our chief desire should be, the recovery of our brother from the error of his ways. If possible, we should all be of the same mind, and of the same judgment; but though this should not be so in our discussion or decision, we should not on that account be divided in our affections or love to one another. Every one should be at full liberty to judge what is right; while each should pay a due deference to the judgment of others, see 1 Cor. i. 10. Phil. ii. 4. &c. As we are not to be divided in our affection, far less are we to separate from the fellowship of the church, on account of different views of a case of discipline, even though the decision of the church should not accord, but be contrary to our views. While the church holds fast the faith of Christ, and acknowledges his authority,
we have no warrant to \separate from | at best but as a sounding bras9 and a our brethren in Christ. This state of tinkling cymbal.
Another breach in the unity of the
matters calls for long-suffering, for bearance, and endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. If it were our duty to separate from the church on such cases, then all who differed from their brethren would be warranted to separate themselves. If the church indeed departs from the faith of Christ, or rejects his authority, the call would then De, "come out of her my people;" but we should be sure this is the case before we take such a step, lest we be found making a schism in the body.
Let me further observe on this head, that in order to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, we must attend regularly on the ordinances of the Gospel, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. The unity of the Spirit is a unity of obedience to all things whatsoever Christ hath commanded. We are to exhort one another daily;—but both exhorters and the exhorted must be present; and so of other duties as a church of Christ. The Lord's Supper sets forth our union as one body; but if we absent ourselves voluntarily, we are breaking that unity; we arc not keeping the unity of the Spirit.
I shall now point out some deviations from the unity here enjoined, to shew when we may be said to act contrary to the exhortation in the text.
1. When we depart from the faith, the bond of our union with God and with one another, we may be said to break the unity of the Spirit. It is only through faith in what the apostles saw and heard of the word of life, that we can have fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, 1 John i. 3. Nor can we then have fellowship with believers in the truth: for a departure from the faith is a forsaking the bond of our union, and the principle of obedience. We love one another for the truth's sake, and should perform every duty from this principle. This is true both as it respects our duty to God and to one another, as brethren in Christ, united together to observe the ordinances of the Gospel. All pretence of doing the will of God without Gospel principles is deceit and hypocrisy, and
Spirit appears, when we give up with the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ as Lawgiver in his kingdom. Now this ia done when we take upon us to alter, subtract from, or add to, any of the laws of Christ, or reject the laws which he hath given for the regulation of our conduct. His disciples are to observe all things whatsoever he hath commanded. But we are not to teach for doctrines the commandments of men. All our conduct as a church or as individuals, must be regulated by the laws of Christ, otherwise, we are rejecting the authority of Christ as our Lawgiver. Now, as our union is founded, not only upon the faith, but also upon the obedience of the Gospel, we destroy the unity of the Spirit, if we walk not in the observance of his laws. Then we shew that our faith is dead, being alone. And if such repent not, they must be cut off as unfit members of a church of Christ. Thus the peace and unity of the church is broken, by the unworthy conduct of professors.
3. A voluntary separation from a church of Christ, which keeps the faith and commandments of God, stands opposed to the keeping of the unity of the Spirit. None have a warrant to separate from a church as described above. Indeed, I apprehend, there is no scriptural authority to separate from a church, unless we are prevented from doing the will of the Lord, or are obliged to act contrary to his authority; then we ought to obey God rather than men. Some justify themselves for leaving a church, because something hath displeased them; or because they are dissatisfied with some decision of the chuich, or with some member or members of it, &c. But any, or all of these together, in so far as they do not unhinge the Gospel, or the authority of Christ, give no warrant for separation.* Our minds may be uneasy on these accounts, and we may suppose that we cannot remain with any degree of comfort, and that all this arises from our regard to the will of Christ. But after all, the fault may he in ourselves. This uneasiness may arise from not exercising that lowliness, meek
* It would seem that the late Archibald M'Lcan was of a 'somewhat different opinion from our correspondent on this point. See his fife by W. Jones, p. 20, Xote. But we are aware, that it is a sentiment which some churches in the Scotch Baptist connexion have lately found it Tory convenient Vo inculcate. Wo mean no offence to our friend by this hint. Editor.
ness, long-suffering, and forbearing one another in love, which we should exercise towards our brethren, in order to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Such, indeed, is the weakness of our minds under opposition, that we are apt to conceive that our brethren have fallen from the truth, and given up the authority of the Lord, when they only swerve through prejudice, weakness, or temptation, and not from any fixed principle, either with respect to the Gospel, or the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is possible we may be overmuch righteous, and run to extremes of strictness with our brethren; but in doing so. we lose sight of that long-suffering and forbearance so often enjoined upon the disciples, one to another. Antichrist was to scatter the power of the holy people, by chang-! ing times and laws; when this is the case, then the call is, " Come out of her my people, that ye partake not of her sins, and receive not of her plagues:" but it is not of such we speak, but of churches founded upon the commission of our Lord to his apostles, as recorded in Matt, xxviii. 19, 20.
4. Standing aloof from the churches of Christ upon similar grounds with the above, may be viewed as opposed to the injunction in the text. Perhaps some member or members are not so agreeable as is wished; therefore we will not unite with the church to do the will of the Lord. Or, a church may have done some deed, of which we do not approve; therefore, we will not join with the church to observe the will of Christ. But what is.the amount of this f It is because professors and churches are not in all respects what we would have them, or because they are not perfect; therefore, we will not take part with them to observe the laws of Jesus. But the question with every fearer of the Lord should be—Does this church hold the truth as the ground of their hope, and the bond of their union? and are they observing all things whatsoever Christ hath commanded? If so, the duty of such is clear, viz. to take part with them, resolved to do the will of Christ; that they may build up one another in their most holy faith; and glorify their heavenly Father. We are not to look for perfection even in a church of Christ; but while we enjoy its privileges, we should lay our account with things
which will require self-denial, longsuffering, forbearance and forgiveness. We must exercise Christian charity. The want of this has been the source of strife and division; hence arises the complaint of the want of love and its fruits, and upon this ground many forsake or stand aloof from the churches of Christ. But our duty is to exemplify the law of love, and to call our brethren to do the same.
5. A neglect of our duty to one another, is another deviation from the duty enjoined in the text. We cannot expect unity of affection, if we are not united in our exertions to promote the welfare of one another. If men, engaged in any cause of importance, do not unite in promoting it, the work will go heavily on; but if they thwart one another in their exertions, it will likely come to nought; and whenever such things take place, they mar the confidence, and damp the affections of one towards another. Just so is it in a church of Christ. Every one can make tiie application.
6. If we cease to pray for the unity of Christ's people, we are departing from the unity of the Spirit. Our Lord and his apostles frequently prayed for this, John xvii. 20, &c. It is one grand end of his ascension and giving gifts to men, "Till they all come in' the unity of the
faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, and the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." If such be the example of ■ Christ and his apostles, and such the design of the Saviour in giving gifts unto men, should it not be our earnest prayer, that this end may be fully answered? Surely it ought; and a neglect of this duty argues a want of the Spirit of unity, or shews that we are not interested in it as we should be. Indeed, it is the work of God to unite men to himself, and to one another in the truth. He pours his love into our hearts, and teaches us to love one another, and to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. He also allays all those passions which engender strife and divisions, &'c. Let us, therefore, look to him, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper who love her. Then will contending passions cease, and unity and love be promoted. Then shall we blush and be ashamed for our ignorance and perverseness; and
shall learn from sad experience the importance of keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond ofpeace.
7. I only add further upon this, that when we refuse to be reconciled to our brethren, we are not endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit. We may form excuses for this, but we should beware of making such excuses as will not stand the test of the word of God, or his judgment at last. Some may say, our offending brethren are not sufficiently humble and contrite, or have not repented of their sins; perhaps there may be too much truth in this. But are we as willing to forgive and to forbear as we should be? If our brethren shew any relenting for sin, we should hope all things, and believe all things, and endure all things. This is more our duty, than to take our brother by the throat, saying, "Pay me what thou owest." Thou shouldest forgive thy brother, even as thy Lord forgave thee. Mutual concessions should be made— soothing considerations should be used: "confess your faults one to another, and pray one "for another, that ye may be healed."
Let us then, brethren, be besought to attend to the exhortation of the apostle, by all the means in our power. This is the way to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called, ver. 1. Above all, let us hold fast the Gospel as the ground of our hope, and the bond of our union. Let us also revere the authority of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, both as individuals, and as a church of Christ. Thus shall we prevent offences, maintain peace and unity, and enjoy the comforts of love, Phil. ii. 1,2,3.
Cultivate a spirit of love and unity. Be solicitous to unite brethren in the truth; both such as have not been in the fellowship of the church, and those who have left it. To all our endeavours add fervent prayer to God, the God of all grace, that he would crown our endeavours with abundant success; that all whom the Father hath given to his Son may be one in him, and in the Father; and also appear as one body, that the world may know and believe that the Father sent the Son; that they may all be united in the service and enjoyment of God and of the Lamb, where all jarrings shall for ever cease, and perfect love and peace shall reign for ever. Amen.
Original Letter of the late Mr. JQHX HOWARD, the Philanthropist, to Dr. Samuel Stennett.
[Extracted from the new edition of Dr. Stennett's
Works, in 3 vols. Svo. ISM,]
DEAR SIR, Smyrna, Aug. llth, 1136.
I take the liberty to write, as I hope a few lines from your wandering friend will not be unacceptable. My plan in collecting the Rules and Orders and Drafts of the principal Lazarettos in Europe, with the medical treatment of Patients in the Plague being my principal object. I doubt not but you remember I mentioned when I last had the pleasure of seeing you; but not being satisfied with the answers the Physicians gave to my questions, I soon determined to visit the hospitals in Turkey, and to converse with some of those few who had the courage to visit such patients. Some months I have been in this country; I propose myself performing quarantine at Venice. I go out with a foul bill of health, which I prefer, as I shall experience the strict quarantine of forty-two days: but I bless God, my calm spirits and steady resolution has not yet forsaken me.
But, Sir, the principal reason of my writing is most sincerely to thank you for the many, many pleasant hours I have had in reviewing the notes I have taken of the Sermons I had the happiness to hear under your ministry; these, Sir, with many of your petitions in prayer, have been, and are, the songs in 'the house of my pilgrimage.
With unabated pleasure I have attended your ministry; no man ever entered more into my religious sentiments, or more happily expressed them: it ever was some little disappointment when any one occupied your pulpit: Oh, Sir, how many Sabbaths have I ardently longed to spend in Wild Street; on those days I generally,rest, or if at sea, keep retired in my little cabin; it is you that preach; and I bless God I attend with renewed pleasure; God in Christ is my rock, the portion of my soul. I have little more to add, but accept my renewed thanks. I bless God for your ministry; I pray God reward you a thousand fold. My friend, you have an honourable work, many seals you have to your ministry; your very valuable life I trust will be prolonged, as with sincere affection and great esteem I shall ever remain, Dear Sir,
Your obliged Friend and Servant,