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SER MON 1.
JOHN xvii. 20, 21.
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also · which shall believe on me through their word;
that they all may be one ; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one
No single precept could have recommended the duty of Unity so forcibly to the hearts and consciences of Christians, as this petition of their Saviour. The thoughts of the blessed Jesus, now ready to offer himself upon the cross, as a sacri
. fice of atonement for mankind, were wholly occupied in providing for the welfare of those, whom he was about to leave. The last legacy he bequeathed to them, was a “ peace;" the last commandment he issued, that they should b « love one an
a John xiv. 27.
b John xv. 12.
“other;" the last prayer he uttered on their behalf, that they might be s one." That this prayer should have been unavailing; and that mani, for whose benefit it was preferred, should have opposed obstacles, as yet insurmountable to its accomplishment; are facts, to which experience alone could have extorted our assent.", Such however is the truth; Christian unity has been hitherto unattainable, because Christians would not be united'; and the state of the world, from the Apostolic age to the present time, has constantly verified the melancholy prediction of our Lord, that he “ came not to give peace on earth, but ra66 ther division."
It would be waste of time to prove, that this is no necessary result of Christianity; for the very supposition would involve absurdity, if not blasphemy: it would infer, in direct opposition to the testimony of Scripture, and the dictates of reason, that God is the author of confusion; it would represent the divine Founder of our holy
c Luke xii. 51.
religion, praying for the peace and harmony of those, among whom he had himself sown the seeds of unavoidable discord and hostility. . As well might it be maintained that God loveth not righteousness, because Christianity does not make all its professors holy; or that he hath doo pleasure “ in the death of him that dietb, because
shall seek to enter” into the gate that leadeth unto life, and shall not be
able.”+ We know that it was the will of Jesus Christ, that his Disciples should dwell together in i unity; his exhortations, his commandments, and above all the earnest prayer of which the text forms a part, all
this. But Omnipotence itself is limited by its own enactments; and when God created man a free agent, and an accountable being, he resigned all control over his conduct subversive of that freedom, and inconsistent with that responsibility. Where therefore his own eternal interests are concerned, man has it in his
e Luke xiii. 24.
d Ezek, xviii. 32.
power to defeat the purposes of God; and such is the fatal perverseness of his nature, that this power is too ofteri exerted to the ruin of his own soul and those of his brethren. When then Christians are g con “tentious” and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness ; h " when they go in “the way of Cain,” and, instead of loving as brethren, i« bite and devour one an
other,” and cherish k“ bitter énvying and " strife in their hearts ;? it is not because Christianity has not taught them unity and mutual love, but because they refuse to listen to its precepts; because they are Christians in name only, and have not yet learned what our Saviour meant, when he prayed that all who believed on him, through the word of his Apostles, might“ be one, “ even as he is one with his Father." S DI
Much indeed has been written to little practical advantage on the subject of Christian unity; and some have been most len. thusiastic: in its praises, whose conduct
& Rom. ii. 8.
h Jude 11.
has been in many respects hostile to that peace, which they have extolled. Charity forbids us to believe, that these persons, many of whom were famous in their
generation, conspicuous for ardent zeal, and unaffected piety, were insincere in their professions ; that they loved the strife which they promoted, or despised the unity which they were the unhappy instruments of destroying. But though it would ill become us to bring such a charge against them; yet the too frequent contradiction exhibited between their writings and their actions sufficiently proves, that the real nature of Christian unity has sometimes been grievously mistaken; since those, who have professed themselves to be its warmest advocates, and have been deficient neither in zeal nor ability to promote the cause they undertook to defend, appear in the result to have employed their talents, rather in weakening than in giving strength to the foundations, upon which it must be built. This fact, which an appeal to the ecclesiastical history of our own country will establish upon authority not to be