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VII.

UNITY BY THE WAY OF THE CROSS.

THERE HERE is a unity of the Church which does not need to be sought after or prayed for, because it is already enjoyed. The oneness of all true believers throughout the world with their Lord, and with one another in Him, has already existed as a fact, and is for the most part acknowledged by those within its hallowed circle. To the reality and indefeasibility of this union all evangelical Christians count it a privilege to bear witness, inscribing on their banner the motto, "Unum corpus sumus in Christo."

But we should not be satisfied with the recognition and declaration of this spiritual unity. We should pray and labour for a unity which will be recognised not only within itself, but by those that are without-the unity for which our Saviour longed so earnestly as He looked down the coming ages before He left the world: a unity so manifest that the world must see it, and, seeing it, cannot but be convinced that He around Whom all so

lovingly gather must be in very deed the Son of God and King of men.

Where are we, now that we are nearing the closing decade of the nineteenth century? How far have we reached? Surely something has been gained, some progress made. This much, surely, at all events: that we have entered on the right path, so that there need be no steps. retraced. If we do not yet see as clearly as we would

wish how this visible manifest union is to be attained, we have had a good deal of quite demonstrative instruction as to how it is not to be attained. We have learned, for instance, that it is not to be attained by organisation, political or ecclesiastical—that it is a thing of the inner life, and not of the outer shell-that it cannot be attained by building a great house round about a divided family, so as to have them all within the same enclosure; but that its essence is to be sought in the one spirit pervading the family, whether they all dwell under the same roof or not. We have learned, by whatever slow degrees, the old lesson, that the union of which we are in search is a union like that which subsisted in all its fulness between the Father and the Son (John xvii. 20-23), even when one was in heaven and the other on earth.

It is not less obvious that unity is not to be reached through forced uniformity. To us now, who have learned the lesson, it does seem very strange that an attempt to reach it thus could have been made by those who had in their hands the New Testament, almost every page of which is a standing rebuke to those who attach vital importance to matters of form. The familiar illustration of the body and its members might have been a sufficient barrier against so foolish an error. What sort of bodies should we have if all the different members were reduced by some act of uniformity to the same shape? Then, indeed, might the hand say to the foot, "I have no need of thee;" and each of them to the head, "I have no need of thee;" for head, feet, and hands would be all alike, and quite too many of them! We may certainly now set it down as among the things surely believed among us, that true Christianity is not a thing of outward form but of inward life—that "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love.'

And here again we are, beyond all question, in the right path.

But experience has proved that, even after learning that the unity required is a unity the essence of which is in faith, it is possible to take a wrong road to it. It has been found possible to replace faith which works through love by a faith which works through logic, and which, therefore, instead of making harmony, has multiplied divisions. In place of the simple faith of the Scriptures, which is the resting of the heart on the Lord Jesus Christ, there came a prodigious effort of intellect, exhausting itself in the attempt to grasp a great system of the universe; and the unity of faith was supposed to lie in absolute identity of opinion through all that mighty range! These days are, happily, past, and we have come, or are fast coming, back to the simplicity which is in Christ, and learning, with the Apostle of the Gentiles, to look forward to the day when we shall "all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine ... but speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things unto Him which is the Head, even Christ; from Whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love."

There are few things more hopeful in the prospects of the cause of union than the growing disposition among Christians to make less of abstract truth, and more of Him who said, "I am the truth;" less of faith as a thing in itself, and more of it as a link which binds us all to

Him; in a word, less of creed and more of Christ. Oh, how much better than the "one Church, one creed, one mode of baptism," of the sectary, is the "one Lord, one faith, one baptism," of the Apostle,-one Lord, on Whom we all believe, and into Whom we are all baptized by the one Spirit into the one body; bowing alike in trustful adoration to the one God and Father of all, and looking forward in one hope of our calling to the Father's house, into whose many mansions shall gather from north, south, east, and west, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, one ransomed Church, one family and "household of God."

This recognition of the personal Christ as the object of the Church's faith is far more satisfactory than the attempt which has also been made, in the interests of Christian union, while not abandoning what may be called the documentary idea of unity, to limit its difficulties by limiting the size of the document to which all should subscribe to reduce, as we might say, the creeds of the churches to their lowest terms-to find some "least common denominator" for all the denominations, so that they might be added up by their numerators into one. result. We by no means say that efforts in this direction have been fruitless, for it is plain that many of the divisions of the Church have been due to the attempt to include far too much in the Church's creed, and the movement in the direction of brevity and simplicity has been wholesome and hopeful in the main; but then there is always. the fear and not only the fear, but the danger of reducing the creed too much, getting it down to terms so low that it ceases to be a Christian creed at all, and leaves room for a "Christianity" without Christ. On the other hand, when the scriptural idea of faith as a living link to a living Saviour is kept prominent, all that is essential.

in the creed of the Church is conserved; for there cannot be this outgoing of the soul to Christ without the most cordial acceptance of His teaching about Himself and the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the way of salvation, and the whole circle of saving truth. We do not say that more extended creeds have not been of service, and are not needed still, especially as a guarantee for the teaching in the Church; but as a basis of Christian fellowship and fully acknowledged brotherhood, we hold that nothing more is necessary than evidence of unfeigned faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. "Unum corpus sumus IN CHRISTO." That is enough: "Christ is all and in all.”

But, so far, we seem to be getting farther and farther from a union that is manifest to the world. A great ecclesiastical organisation is a visible thing; uniformity, though less impressive, is yet quite easily observed; even a creed is something that can be made visible after a fashion by the use of the press; but this "faith in Christ" withdraws the essential unity so entirely into the spiritual region that the world cannot be expected to follow it there and find it out, and be any the wiser or better for it. It remains, then, to show how this unity of faith in Christ can be made manifest to the world.

And here it will be safe to go back to the Apostle again. "Neither circumcision," he says, "nor uncircumcision, but faith"-so far so good, and what next?"Faith working through love." Here we have the transition from the invisible to the visible. The faith which links each Christian to Christ is unseen by men, but the love which is the result of it, need not, cannot in fact, be concealed from them, if it is there in force. And every effort should be made to promote love among Christians, and to induce them to avail themselves of all means within their reach, not only of cherishing it in their hearts, but also

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