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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
the earth, but it can be enjoyed only in heaven. Our Lord himself n“ 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 doné, 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 be necessary to examine one or two mistaken notions of it,
n John ij. 25.
before we proceed to inquire -- what are really its essentials.
I. First, then, Christian, unity is not merely a tie 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
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 q“ walk by the same rule," and 56 speak the same thing." Christian unity
p I 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 so the same love,” who are “ of one acis 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 s« 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 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 perfect model of union, that the tor multitude " of them that believed were of one heart “ and one soul.” But still, these words must be understood in a sober and qualified sensé, or we shall destroy the possibility of unity, by making that essential to it, which never can be obtained.
r Phil. ii. 2.
ś 2 Cor. xiii. 11.
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, u 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
of his Son, but doubts, or denies
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.
The Scriptures also, as might be expected, speak strongly and decidedly upon this subject. They teach us to 36 hold fast " the form of sound words;" and to stand “ 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 z o 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 as 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
1 2 Tim. i. 13.
y Phil. i. 27.