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that, ardent in the pursuit of one of the greatest blessings which Christianity was designed to produce, they considered not the proper means of securing their object; than that they delighted in the confusion and disorder, which their ill digested plans were but too well calculated to produce
From the evidence which the history of the Church, from the period of the Reformation, appears to furnish, what inferences then are to be drawn? We have seen that the efforts which have been made at different times, and by various individuals, to establish peace and unity among the professors of a religion which breathes nothing but harmony and love, have not only failed, but have increased the evil they were intended to remedy. Shall we then suppose, that he who earnestly prayed that his Church might be one, has rendered unity really unattainable? or that, while he has commanded us to study the things which make for peace, he has ordained that obedience to his will shall promote the cause of disunion? May we not rather conceive, that schemes so uniformly unsuc
cessful have also been radically defective; and that the cause of their disappointment is to be traced in the erroneous principles on which they were framed? Shall we not be induced to conclude, that their advocates, however sincere in their intentions, were mistaken in their conduct; and that the union which they sought was incompatible with the welfare of that religion, with whose institutions it was to be interwoven?
If the foundations of real Christian unity are only to be laid in Christian truth; then are those only to be accounted its promoters, who in the true spirit of the Apostle's admonition, "contend earnestly for "the faith once delivered to the saints:" if our blessed Lord, when he petitioned for the unity of his disciples, intended that they should be one, not as men only, but as Christians; as professors of one faith, members of one holy Catholic Church, and servants of one Master; no reconciliation founded upon hollow compromises and insincere concessions can be framed according
f Jude 3.
to his will. They who thus gather, seek not the pure and perfect peace of genuine Christianity; they have contented themselves with attempting to purchase a mere cessation of hostilities by the indulgence of error; and, instead of strengthening the bulwarks of that Church, which was intended to be the guardian of the truth, they have rather leagued with its adversaries to promote her overthrow.
Little consolation will it prove to her defenders to be convinced, that they desired not the ruin which they thus contributed to produce; and that they were unconscious of the mischievous tendency of their ill directed labours. It imports not, that they g" prayed for the peace of "Jerusalem," or that they toiled for its restoration. It is to the effect, and not the design of their labour which we are to look, if we would learn wisdom from the page of history. Let it not then be said, that we delight in recording the failings of those who have preceded us; or that we in
8 Psalm exxii. 6.
dulge in censure, where it can no longer be repelled. We judge them not, we condemn them not: with humble confidence in the justice and the mercy of him, before whose tribunal they are called, we hope that on that awful day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, no perversity of will, no voluntary blindness may be laid to their charge. But, though we h" judge "nothing before the time," it is our duty to inquire what was the fruit of their exertions. And if by this criterion we may ascertain, that they "laboured in vain, and "spent their strength for nought;" where will be our excuse, if we neglect to profit by the example which has perhaps been recorded for our admonition? what shall we plead in our defence, if, by seeking to gather as they did, we also be found to have scattered abroad?
But if we would learn the whole of that lesson which such an investigation may be capable of teaching, it will become us to consider the effects of these pacific efforts
h 1 Cor. iv. 5.
i Isaiah xlix. 4.
in all their bearings. We shall find, it is to be feared, that their evil consequences have not been limited to the disappointment which has been experienced by their authors, nor to the temporary increase of bitterness and contention which has generally attended their progress.
When the advocates of peace persuaded themselves, that some latitude of interpretation, even on important points, might fairly be allowed for the sake of reconciling conflicting opinions, that those who could not agree in discipline, might compromise their differences by uniformity in doctrine; or that, where the same form of ecclesiastical government was preserved, doctrinal points should not be too severely investigated; they raised their hands to remove the barriers of the faith, and exposed the sanctuary of Christianity to the inroad of its adversaries.
It may be granted, that the first concessions were, in themselves, comparatively unimportant; that Cassander would not have surrendered what he considered to
k See Note CXLVIII. Appendix.