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courteous,” 1 Pet. iii. 8. And that ardent adjur. ing of the apostle of the Gentiles, “ If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind,” Phil. ii. 1, 2.
This is that which gives beauty, strength, glory, to the church of God upon earth, and brings it nearest to the resemblance of that triumphant part above, where there is all perfection of love and concord ; in imitation whereof the psalmist sweetly says, “ Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Psa. cxxxiii. 1. Sect. XXII. A complaint of divisions : and
notwithstanding them, an assertion of unity.
So much the more justly lamentable it is, to see the manifold and grievous distractions of the church of Christ, both in judgment and affection. Woe is me! into how many thousand pieces is the seamless coat of our Saviour rent! Yea, into what numberless atoms is the precious body of Christ torn and minced! There are more religions than nations upon earth; and in each religion, as many different conceits as men. If St. Paul, when his Corinthians did but say, I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, could ask, "Is Christ divided ?" 1 Cor. i. 12, 13; when there was only an emulatory magnifying of their own teachers, (though agreeing and orthodox,) what (think we) would he now say, if he saw a hundred of sectmasters and heresiarchs (some of them opposite to other, all to the truth) applauded by their credulous and divided followers; all of them claiming Christ for theirs, and denying him to their gainsayers ? Would he not ask, Is Christ multiplied ? Is Christ subdivided ? Is Christ shred into infinites? O God! what is become of Christianity? How do evil spirits and men labour to destroy that creed which we have always constantly professed ! For, if we set up more Christs, where is that one? And if we give way to these infinite distractions, where is the communion of saints ? But be not too much dismayed, my son, notwithstanding all these cold disheartenings; take courage to thyself. He that is truth itself hath said, “ The gates of hell shall not prevail against " his church, Matt. xvi. 18. In spite of all devils, there shall be saints, and those are, and shall be, as the scales of the leviathan, whose “ strong pieces of shields are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal. One is so near to another, that no air can come beteen them. They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered," Job xli. 15–17. In all the principles of religion, there is a universal and unanimous consent of all Christians; and these are they that constitute a church.—Those who agree in these, Christ is pleased to admit (for matter of doctrine) as members of that body whereof he is the Head; and if they admit not of each other as such, the fault is in the uncharitableness of the refusers, no less than in the error of the refused. And if any vain and loose stragglers will needs sever themselves, and wilfully choose to go ways of their own, let them know that the union of Christ's church shall consist entire without them. This great ocean will be one collection of waters, when these drops are lost in the dust. In the mean time, it highly concerns all that wish well to the sacred name of Christ, to labour “ to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” Eph. iv. 3, and to renew, and continue the prayer of the apostle for all the professors of Christianity; “ Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one towards another, according to Christ Jesus : that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Rom. xv. 5, 6. SECT. XXIII. The necessary effects and fruits
of this union of Christian hearts. Far be it from us to think this union of the hearts of God's saints upon earth can be idle and ineffectual; but wherever it is, it puts forth itself in a like affectedness of disposition, into an improvement of gifts, into a communication of outward blessings, to the benefit of that happy consociation.
We cannot be single in our affections, if we be limbs of a Christian community. What member of the body can complain, so as the rest shall not feel it? Even the head and heart are in pain, when a joint of the least toe suffers. No Christian can be afflicted alone. It is not St. Paul's case only, “Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not ?" 2 Cor. xi. 29. Our shoulders are not our own, we must bear one another's burdens, Gal. vi. 2. There is a better kind of spiritual good-fellowship in all the saints of God. They hate a propriety of passions ; “Rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep,” Rom. xii. 15. Their affections are
more communicative than their gifts and graces; those, as they are bestowed with an intuition of the common good, so they are provided. Wherefore hath this man quickness of wit; that man, depth of judgment ? this, heat of zeal; that, power of elocution ? this, skill; that, experience ? this, authority; that, strength but that all should be laid together for the raising of the common stock. How rich, therefore, is every Christian soul, that is not only furnished with its own graces, but hath a special interest in all the excellent gifts of all the most eminent servants of God through the whole world! Surely he cannot be poor, whilst there is any spiritual wealth in the church of God
earth. Neither are, or can, these gifts be in danger of concealment; they are still put forth for the public advantage. As, therefore, no true Christian is his own man, so he freely lays out himself by example, by admonition, by exhortation, by consolation, by prayer, for the universal benefit of all his fellow members. - By example; which is not a little winning and prevalent: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,” saith our Saviour, in his sermon upon the mount, Matt. v. 16. And his great apostle seconds his charge to his Philippians; “ That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life,” Phil. ii. 15, 16. Lo, the world sits in darkness, and either stirs not, or moves with danger. Good example is a light to their feet, which directs them to walk in the ways of God,
without erring, without stumbling; so that the good man's actions are so many copies for novices to take out, no less instructive than the wisest men's precepts.—By admonition: the sinner is in danger of drowning; seasonable admonition is a hand reached out, that lays hold on him now sinking, and draws him up to the shore. The sinner is already in the fire; seasonable admonition snatches him out from the everlasting burnings, Jude 23. The charitable Christian may not forbear this, ofttimes thankless, but always necessary and profitable duty: “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart; thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him," Lev. xix. 17.-By exhortation : the fire of God's Spirit within us is subject to many damps, and dangers of quenching; seasonable exhortation blows it up, and quickens those sparks of good motions to a perfect flame. Even the best of us lies open to a certain deadness and hardness of heart; seasonable exhortation shakes off this peril, and keeps the heart in a holy tenderness, and whether awful or cheerful disposition, “Exhort one another daily, whilst it is called to-day, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” Heb. iii. 13.—By consolation: we are all naturally subject to droop under the pressure of afflictions; seasonable comforts lift and stay us up. It is a sad complaint that the church makes in the Lamentations, “ They have heard that I sigh ; there is none to comfort me,” Lam. i. 21: and David, Psa. Ixix. 20, sets the same mournful ditty upon his Shoshannim; Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, and there was none; and for comforters,