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religion, praying for the peace and harmony of those, among whom he had himself sown the seeds of unavoidable discord and hostility. As well might it be maintained that God loveth not righteousness, because Christianity does not make all its professors holy; or that he hath d “ pleasure "in the death of him that dieth," because many shall seek to enter" into the gate that leadeth unto life," and shall not be "able." We know that it was the will of Jesus Christ, that his Disciples should dwell together in unity; his exhortations, his commandments, and above all the earnest prayer of which the text forms a part, all prove this. But Omnipotence itself is limited by its own enactments; and 'when God created man a free agent, and an accountable being, he resigned all control over his conduct subversive of that freedom, and inconsistent with that responsibility. Where therefore his own eternal interests are concerned, man has it in his
d Ezek. xviii. 32.
e Luke xiii. 24.
power to defeat the purposes of God; and such is the fatal perverseness of his nature, that this power is too often exerted to the ruin of his own soul and those of his brethren. When then Christians are g" con"tentious" and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness; h" when they go in "the way of Cain," and, instead of loving as brethren, i "bite and devour one an"other," and cherish " bitter envying and “strife in their hearts;" it is not because Christianity has not taught them unity and mutual love, but because they refuse to listen to its precepts; because they are Christians in name only, and have not yet learned what our Saviour meant, when he prayed that all who believed on him, through the word of his Apostles, might "be one, 66 even as he is one with his Father."
Much indeed has been written to little practical advantage on the subject of Christian unity; and some have been most! enthusiastic in its praises, whose conduct
8 Rom. ii. 8.
i Gal. v. 15.
1 See Note II. Appendix.
h Jude 11.
k James iii. 14.
has been in many respects hostile to that peace, which they have extolled. Charity forbids us to believe, that these persons, many of whom were famous in their generation, conspicuous for ardent zeal, and unaffected piety, were insincere in their professions; that they loved the strife which they promoted, or despised the unity which they were the unhappy instruments of destroying. But though it would ill become us to bring such a charge against them; yet the too frequent contradiction exhibited between their writings and their actions sufficiently proves, that the real nature of Christian unity has sometimes been grievously mistaken; since those, who have professed themselves to be its warmest advocates, and have been deficient neither in zeal nor ability to promote the cause they undertook to defend, appear in the result to have employed their talents, rather in weakening than in giving strength to the foundations, upon which it must be built. This fact, which an appeal to the ecclesiastical history of our own country will establish upon authority not to be
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 such an 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 creatures.
But although the unity of Christians can→ not 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 no other 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 precepts 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