Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

does it consist in, or require an entire union of opinion. We are indeed enjoined to be "all of one mind;" and it was one distinguishing glory of the infant Church, for the short time that it presented a per

t

fect model of union, that the " multitude "of them that believed were of one heart "and one soul." But still, these words must be understood in a sober and qualified sense, or we shall destroy the possibility of unity, by making that essential to it, which never can be obtained.

It is certainly essential to unity, that the fundamentals of Christianity be preserved inviolate. Reason itself seems to prove, that he who holds not the Christian Faith, " cannot with propriety be called a Christian for as the name was first invented to denote those, who believed that Jseus was the Christ; he who believes not the record which God gave of his Son, but doubts, or denies any of those characteristic doctrines, by which this record is to be discerned from all other systems of religion;

t Acts iv. 32.

u See Note IV. Appendix.

can neither justly claim to be reckoned of their company, nor properly assume that title, which especially distinguishes them from the rest of mankind, hoggo śincz silt

stand

The Scriptures also, as might be expect. ed, speak strongly and decidedly upon this subject. They teachous to hold fast "the form of sound words;" and to "fast in one Spirit, with one mind striving "together for the faith of the Gospel!" and lest we should be seduced from these saving truths, they warn us to withdraw from all who consent not to wholesome words, " even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, " and the doctrine, which is according to "godliness; and assure us, that even “if "an angel from heaven should preach any "other Gospel unto us," than that which the Apostles preached, he must be ac "cursed." There are however many less important points of Christian doctrine, on which some variety of opinion may safely be allowed. For though the word of God *a ce fug ob er ledi, 1 buc 200

* 2 Tim. i. 13.

z 1 Tim. vi. 3, 5.

y Phil. i. 27.

a Gal. i. 8.

is truth, and can admit of but one right interpretation; still, as the minds of men are differently constituted; as all have not the same opportunities of information, or the same abilities; in matters of inferior moment, on subjects which are obscurely delivered, and therefore hard to be understood, the ignorant may err, and the learned differ, without a breach of unity. Nay, though such difficult questions should give rise to protracted controversy, the study and investigation thus promoted will tend to serve the cause of truth; and provided the bounds of Christian› modera-' tion be not overpassed, neither the peace nor the unity of the Church can sustain a serious injury from the discussion. 21. (16**

In our inquiries, then into the nature of Christian unity, these cautions are to be observed first, that we do not confound it with that, which is generally, and should be always, its effect;s as they seem to do, who resolve it into a mere union of affection: secondly, that we do not so mis

interpret the unanimity recommended by the Apostles, as to exclude even a shade of difference, upon the most trivial question; and then imagine that unity cannot exist, where this unattainable harmony of opinions is not to be found. We may love our neighbours, and do them good, without living in religious unity with them; for such was the feeling and the conduct of the benevolent Samaritan towards the wounded Jew: and we know that the unity of the Church is not violated by every disagreement in sentiment, respecting things indifferent, which may arise among its members; for St. Paul himself, as we learn from his directions to the dRomans concerning meats, and the observance of particular days, left such matters as these to the private conscience of each individual; restricting him only to such a maintenance of his opinion, as might be consistent with the peace of the Church, and the spiritual welfare of his brethren.

c Luke x. 33.

d Rom. xiv.

If we would form any correct idea of real Christian unity, we must go back to the first preaching of Christianity itself: we shall then discover, in what manner the disciples of Christ were originally one; and this will shew us, how we may preserve a similarbunion, not only with each other, but with the Catholic Church, of all ages, and in all countries.

[ocr errors]

Through whatever channel our inqui, ries may be pursued, they will end in the same point at last; and the history of every Church, which existed for the first fifteen hundred years of Christianity, will conduct us to Jerusalem; and to that congregation of one hundred and twenty persons, who met together, after our Lord's ascension. JbY

This society, to which, three thousand souls were shortly after added, by the fpreaching of St. Peter on the day of Pentecost, constituted the first Christian Church: and our Saviour himself bore testimony to its connection with him, as its head, by

« AnteriorContinuar »