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4. The principles and conduct, by which our own Church has been distinguished in times of trouble and discord, will next pass under consideration; with a view to shew, that, far from having caused, or perpetuated the offences, which have so long disturbed her tranquillity, their prevention or removal have been the objects of her. continual endeavour, her earnest solicitude.
5. The different attempts to heal the breaches of Christian unity, which have been made, either by individuals, or by associations formed for that purpose, will then be traced; that the injurious consequences, which have resulted from these ineffectual exertions, may be clearly perceived.
6. Lastly. The discouraging reflections, which such a review of former mistakes and disappointments is calculated to awaken, will be best allayed, by turning our thoughts to that great consummation, which the language of Scripture appears to justify us in expecting; when the crooked shall at last be made straight, and the rough places
plain; when the truth of Christianity shall prevail over every effort, made by the spirit of error and delusion; and the c peace of God shall rule in the hearts of his servants, and make them all one in Christ Jesus.
And as it becomes us, while we console ourselves by looking forward to this joyful period, to endeavour, by every means in our power, to hasten its arrival; some reflections upon the duty of Christians in these days of confusion and disorder; upon the remedies, which they have it in their own power to apply to them, the dispositions, which they should cherish, and the rule by which they should walk in such dangerous times, will form a proper conclusion to the whole inquiry. The subject, which it is thus proposed to discuss, has been undertaken, with a deep and anxious sense of its difficulties and importance; with no intention of widening breaches, which all must wish to close; or of irritating feelings, already much too sensitive; but with a sin
d Col. iii. 15.
cere desire of recalling, if possible, the heated and distracted minds of Christians to a sober consideration of their common interest and duty; and of laying before the younger part of this congregation such a view of that real unity, which our Lord intended to establish, as may guard them against the dangerous errors, by which some perhaps of its most conscientious advocates have been hitherto misled.
Many fallacious descriptions of this blessed state are indeed abroad in the world ; descriptions but too well calculated to blind the judgment, while they gain upon the affections; and to make the most benevolent feelings, and the most pious intentions, the instruments of disorganization and confusion. Many projects, plausible and attractive in their appearance, are continually recommended, and ardently supported, for the professed purpose of softening the acrimony of religious dissension, and uniting the affections of Christians. Experience however has fully proved, that while some of these are inefficient, others are more dangerous in their tendency
to the interests of pure religion, even than the discord, which it is their object to remove. But the devices, which the good providence of God has formerly brought to nothing, are still again resorted to, and in a more insinuating and seductive form. If those therefore, on whom the important charge of defending the vineyard of the Lord is hereafter to devolve, would be prepared to detect, expose, and defeat such attempts, they must learn wisdom from the experience of former times of trouble and conflict; that being fully instructed in the dangers, to which the Church has repeatedly been exposed, by the attacks of open enemies, or the insidious exertions of pretended friends, they may be enabled to "mark those "who cause divisions," whatever may be their pretext, and to "avoid them;" and that knowing what real unity is, they may seek it, as the greatest of temporal blessings; as the best preparation for that heavenly state, where charity, the leading
e Rom. xvi. 17.