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shaken, will of itself justify the inquiry intended to be pursued in the present Lecture; in which, as introductory to a more enlarged discussion of the important subject of Christian unity, as it affects the character, the conduct, and the interests of our own Church, I shall endeavour to explain generally the nature of that union, by which our blessed Lord prayed that his Disciples might be distinguished; and to shew, that its production and security formed one great purpose of the religion, which he came to establish. m The language of the text carries our ideas' upon this subject as high as the human intellect can reach.
“ 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 " in us : that the world may believe that « thou hast sent me.” The model, then, by which the unity of Christians is to be fashioned, is perfect; they are to be one
m See Note III. Appendix.
with each other, even as Christ is one with the Father. The copy of this model must of necessity bear the character of the material, of which it is composed; and when
imperfect being as man is taught, in any particular, to imitate his Maker, the precept must be interpreted, with due allowances for the infinite disproportion between God and his
his creatures. But although the unity of Christians cannot be equal in degree, still it should be similar in kind, to that which it is intended to resemble. And the duty of establishing and preserving it, is to be confined within jnoj ather limits, than those which the nature of man necessarily imposes on his exertions. !! If every Christian would sincerely and constantly regulate his heart and his affections, his opinions and his practice, by the pręcepts of the Gospel; doubtless a perfection of unity, hitherto existing only in the imaginations of the benevolent and pious, might obtain among us.
But while men continue to be actuated by prejudice and passion, rather than by motives of rea
son and duty; while religion itself is but partially obeyed by the best, and wholly disregarded by many, who profess their belief of its truth and obligation ; such a state of things must rather be the object of our prayers and wishes, than of our expectations : it may be desired upon the earth, but it can be enjoyed only in heaven. Our Lord himself nr knew what was in “ man :” he did not therefore trust to individual feelings, for the preservation of that bond, by which he intended his disciples to be connected: and if the object of his prayer is ever accomplished, it must be done, not by the mere impulse of benevolent sentiments; but by the association of Christians, upon the plan marked out for them by the Apostles, under his direction.
But since many have taken very erroneous views of this important subject, by confounding Christian unity with the dispositions of mind, which every Christian ought to cultivate; it may necessary
to examine one or two mistaken notions of it,
n John ii, 25.
before we proceed to inquire what are really its essentials.
olis I. First, then, Christian unity is not merely astie of mutual affection. o That we should love our neighbour as our
selves,” is indeed one great distinguishing precept of revealed religion ; and where true unity is preserved, the obligations of this precept will doubtless be most strongly felt : but the law, which binds us generally to do good to all, even to our enemies, must not be mistaken for that special bond of union, which connects us as Christian brethren. We may cherish sentiments of good-will towards persons, whose opinions and conduct we are bound in conscience to oppose: but they who would be one with each other, as Christ Jesus is one with his Father, must'p“ be perfectly joined to
gether, in the same mind, and in the
same judgment;” nay, more than this, they must 9" walk by the same rule," and 56 speak the same thing." Christian unity
P 1 Cor. i. 10.
o Mark xii. 31.
in the true scriptural sense of the term, is undoubtedly the best preservative of Christian benevolence ; : for they who r“ have “ the same love,” who are “ of one ac“ cord, and of one mind” upon religion; a subject so deeply involving all that can interest the passions and affections; will be much more likely to so live in peace,” than they who differ on a point of such importance. But though its evident tendency is to foster Christian benevolence, yet is the one by no means to be identified with the other; and they who make that tie, by which Christians should be united, to consist wholly in mutual kindness, forbearance, and good-will, are as defective, in their conception of the true principles of Church membership, as they are in their view of the nature of civil society, who resolve all the duties of men, as citizens, and subjects, into a vague indefinite Philanthropy.
.. II. As Christian unity is not merely a union of hearts and affections, so neither
Phil. ii. 2.
s 2 Cor. xiii. 11.