« AnteriorContinuar »
I therein do rejoice, yea, I will rejoice." The language of bigots of all ages in regard to him who belongs not to their particular party has been, "He followeth not us. Stand by thyself, for I am holier than thou! We are the people; and wisdom shall die with us." Christ's words are a pointed rebuke to the indulgence of such a temper. "He that is not against us, is for us; and he that gathereth not with us scattereth abroad." There are no neutrals in the holy warfare; for, between the righteous and the wicked there cannot be any middle ground, any fence to climb upon, any "hair-breadth line of suspended morality." Reason and Scripture combine in teaching that each individual is either on God's side or on Satan's: if on the side of the Lord, and engaged in "casting out devils," then he should be fellowshipped, for if disfellowshipped, it is the Saviour himself who is maltreated in the person of a loved disciple, every disciple being the representative of his Master.
Do you wish to ascertain whether a professor of religion, or a candidate for church-membership, be truly converted? You should enquire, not so much what he believes as to the secret decrees of the Almighty; the infallible perseverance of the saints; the attainableness of entire sanctification in the present life; or, the mode of water-baptism; but does he love all who bear the image of Jesus? You are authorized by the great Head of the church to bring his piety to this test. Here you may find the grand criterion and touch-stone of Christian character. For "by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." "He that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."
While upon earth our Saviour prayed for his disciples, that "they all might be one even as he is one with the Father." He would fain see among them that unity of counsel, feeling, purpose and action, which exists among the Persons of the Sacred Trinity. And near his life's close he gave unto his followers a "new commandment," sometimes styled the eleventh commandment, that they "love one another." This was to be their mark of distinction; the chief characteristic; their peculiar badge of discipleship.
2. The Example of the Early Christians. In the first age of the church there were no such sects as Lutherans, and Calvinists, and Wesleyans. Agreement in fundamentals was the only doctrinal unity then insisted on; as Robert Hall expresses it," the door of the church was as wide as the door of heaven;" while the united band of Christ's disciples, assembled around the same family board, by their actions declared, "We, being many, are one bread, and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread." Peter might think circumcision was necessary, and Paul count it of no value at all; and yet both of them be good disciples, and entitled
to a seat at the sacramental table. They rejected all terms of fellowship which were not terms of vital union with Christ and everlasting salvation, admitting to the warm embraces of their love all with whom their Leader communed, the language of their hearts being, "The man who is good enough for Christ, is good enough for us!"
It was undissembled brotherly love which invested the example of the early Christians with an omnipotence of moral power which the adversaries of the cross could neither gainsay nor resist. Surrounding observers admired the delightful spirit of unity and harmony then discernible in the bosom of the church, and were forced to exclaim, "See how these Christians love one another." There is a meaning in the phrase "Communion of Saints," the height, and depth, and length, and breadth of which they in some measure comprehended and enjoyed. They had one head, even Jesus; and one heart, a heart of love for all his followers. Would that their "mantle of charity" had fallen on more of their successors. O for a revival of primitive and apostolic piety!
3. The Evils of Division. From the disastrous consequences attending disunion, I argue the desirableness and necessity of Christian union. Scarcely had the apostles ascended to heaven, and cast their glittering crowns at the feet of their Lord, before numerous schisms broke out in the church of God, sometimes occasioned by the heated partizanship of those who esteemed themselves the most orthodox. And now, in the church universal, there are divisions and sub-divisions almost numberless. As another so truthfully yet sorrowfully says, "Evangelic Christendom has long been in the predicament of a country which has suffered from repeated shocks of an earthquake; the different sects have long stood aloof, the scars remaining, like cliffs that have been rent asunder;' or if, perchance, they have come in contact it has too often been to 'bite and devour one another.'
But" is Christ divided?" and shall his people never be seen as "one" in answer to his intercessory prayer, so that the world may "believe" and be saved? Well might the immortal Whitefield, who was a Congregational Methodist, or rather, a Methodist Calvinist, exclaim, "How do I long to see bigotry and party zeal taken away, and all the Lord's servants more knit together." "Thousands," says Baxter, "have been drawn to Popery, and confirmed in it, by the divisions of Protestants." When that man of God was questioned respecting his own views, he replied, “I am a Christian-a mere Christian-of no other religion,-my church is the Christian church;" and, he added, with a sentiment worthy of the seraphic John, " I should rather die a martyr to love, than any other article of the creed." Amen, amen! my soul replies, "I should rather die a martyr to love than any other article of the Creed."
One of the reasons assigned for Julian's apostasy, is, that when
he saw the dissensions of Christians, and their rancor against each other, he took refuge from their broils in the guilt of Paganism. The absence of union destroys that community of interest, and sympathy of feeling, which ought ever to distinguish the followers of Jesus; it weakens their hands, and impedes their prayers; it hardens the irreligious, and supplies infidels with objections; it prevents the impartial study of the Bible, and swells the ranks of scepticism; it grieves away that tender Spirit which "like a peaceful dove flies from the realms of noise and strife;" it retards the conquests of Christianity, and the renovation of the world. A want of union has long given Popery high vantage ground against Protestantism, has long paralyzed the very nerves of the church, and been consuming her best blood.
"Sectarian light puts out Christian fire." Yet, alas! how many there are who will do nothing for the enlightening of this dark world, unless, forsooth, the candle can be carried on their own candlestick; nor labor side by side with any except those who do homage to the particular shiboleths of their favorite party. Verily, this is "putting a price on the Bread of Eternal Life, and throwing a bar across the entrance to a city of refuge!" O! it is enough to make one cry out, not with anger, or indignation, God forbid! but with pain, and sadness of heart, at the miserable narrowness of some of our Christians! Now, “if all Christ's disciples are hereafter to inhabit the same heaven, would not the principle of sectarian divisions, if admitted there, carry discord among those harmonious ranks, more than their heavenly hallelujahs, and grate upon the ears of angels and the Lamb?"
4. Christians are engaged in the same cause. Their interests are identified together, whether conscious of it or not. They are united not only by all the elements which go to fraternize the angels above but a new element has been introduced by the redemption of Christ. The great Law of Love, originally written on the heart of man, and subsequently proclaimed amid the thunders and lightnings of Sinai, was at length re-published on Mount Calvary. Or as one writer beautifully expresses it, the two tables of the Law were brought from the Jewish temple into the Christian church, that they might lean against the cross, and be sprinkled with its blood. Thus was a new central point of attraction established. Thus were Jew and Gentile placed on an equal footing by the common salvation of Christ; for "he is our peace who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us, to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace. Then they who were once afar off were forthwith welcomed as fellow-citizens of the saints, and of the household of God."
The cross of Jesus, like the ark in the wilderness, is the grand centre around which his people are to rally and unite; and it is
morally impossible for them to separate and withdraw from each other, in affection, without meanwhile retiring just that distance from the cross. Christians belong to the same family; have been gathered into the same fold under one Shepherd; are journeying in the same "strait and narrow path;" and bound to the same celestial home. They are guided in their onward, upward march by the same Angel of the Covenant; illumined by one divine light; animated by similar glorious hopes; and actually baptized by one Spirit into one body. They are virtually one in principle, and entirely one in destiny. Christ, the heavenly Bridegroom, has but one bride, fitly styled "the Lamb's wife," the church universal. Surely here are reasons the strongest for Christian unity and brotherly love. Surely the children of God stand in an endearing relationship to each other, and have peculiar claims on each other's affections. If they, therefore, are found disputing and contending, well may we exclaim, "Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon; lest the Philistines rejoice and the uncircumcised triumph!"
The sincere, though mistaken individual, he whose motives are pure, whose heart has been changed; and whose life is consistent, even while clinging to some errors, is loved more by the Lord, and should be by us, than he who is perfectly correct in theory while heterodox in practice. God tolerates such a man, then why should not we? Now, I am a Congregationalist, conscientiously adhering to the church of my fathers, and would fain do what in me lies for its upbuilding and enlargement.
Still let this right hand forget its cunning, this arm be palsied, and this tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I cease to cherish an abiding affection, not only for Congregationalists, but for Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, and indeed for every real child of God. To all who sincerely love the common cause, and who are ready to live and die for Christ, I would say, Maintain your distinctive views, obey the voice of conscience as the voice of God, but while doing this, be willing to unite, heart and hand, with any man, or set of men, who bear the image and superscription of the Master you serve. What we want is a union of affection, an all-embracing love, which "linking heart to heart, shall leave the judgment free, and out of the varying tones of many minds form one harmonious whole."
The far-famed Evangelical Alliance, the world's Convention, of which we heard so much a few years ago, settled this one great fact, even if it accomplished no other good, that Christians, of all nations and denominations, may affectionately associate on a common platform, feeling like a band of brothers in the faith and pa
tience of Jesus; that, so far as doctrinal differences are concerned, irrespective of other vexed questions, they create no insuperable obstacles to Christian union.
5. Union is Strength. It is one of the chief constituents of power in the physical and the moral world. When it was once demanded of an ancient why the city wherein he dwelt had no walls, he replied, "The concord of the citizens is its strength."
The preparation-step to that powerful revival on the day of Pentecost was union, for we read of the disciples that "they were all of one accord in one place." The same union marked their subsequent efforts and success; for it is recorded of the multitude who believed that they were of one heart and one soul. And a similar union has distinguished modern revivals. If such have been the consequences of union in a few isolated cases, on a small scale, what must be the stupendous and far-reaching moral results of one universal, holy alliance of the churches on the broad basis of my text, and the New Commandment of Christ? What must be its aggressive effects upon the kingdom of Satan, and its reflex influences on the piety of the church?
While the enemies of truth are conspiring against the cause, doing all in their power to overthrow the church and the ministry; while they would fain see our houses of worship demolished; the Sabbath, with all its hallowed associations, annihilated; and the last vestige of religion banished from our world; it certainly becomes the "sacramental hosts of God's elect," to unite their numerous forces. How can the church expect to prevail against the marshalled battalions of the evil one, while distracted by internal divisions, and rent, torn and mangled by her own suicidal hand? How can we look for the removal of intemperance, vice, and the whole family of abominations, while the church, which is the appointed instrumentality for the regeneration of mankind, is enfeebled by dissensions, many within her ranks warring with one another, instead of the common enemy? And how can we anticipate a succession of revivals, to usher in that glorious Revival of a thousand years, till the professed people of God are more united together?
Christians who adopt the motto: "Liberty and Fraternity;" foremost in whose creeds and uppermost in whose hearts is the apostolic sentiment," Now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity," are the moral giants of the present age; they are "the picked and mighty men of heaven's own anointing, to stand in the front of the battles of the Lord Almighty, and achieve his victories in the earth;" not because they understand more of the mysteries of philosophy and theology than others; nor because they have more intelligence, or learning, or talent, or wealth, or popularity than other men, but more of that genuine love which binds the soul to God and avails