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SERMON XX.

WHO ARE PARTAKERS IN OUR HOPE.

1 Cor. i. 13.

Is Christ divided?

In my two last Sermons I have attempted to show, first, the grounds for our hope in God's existence and goodness generally; and next, the grounds for our hope in him as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; that we are become, through Christ, restored to the state of children of God, and if children of an eternal Father, then heirs of his eternal blessing. And here it might be thought we might stop; for what more can we need than an assured hope of eternal life? than a restoration of our privileges as God's children? than a knowledge of God revealed at once to our minds and affections in the person of Jesus Christ? In other words, if we can give a reason for our Christian

hope, what further need have we of evidence, so far as religion is concerned? or how can religious truth, as it is called, with the exception of the one great truth of salvation through Christ, deserve to be distinguished from truth of all other kinds, which, indeed, is earnestly to be coveted as one of the best of God's gifts, but yet than which, so far as our salvation is concerned, there is still a way more excellent?

The question, then, to be considered, and for all those who are entering into life it is a grave one, is that of the text, "Is Christ divided?" It is the question of the text, considered apart from the context; the literal meaning of the words, dropping, for a moment, the sense in which the Apostle used them. It is a question of fact, whether, indeed, Christ be so divided, as that some who call themselves by his name are not really his; and if so, then it is a question practically still more important, By what signs may we judge of any man, or set of men, belonging to this number; and if we may conclude that any do belong to it, then how should we feel and act towards them?

There is yet another question arising out of the same words; "Is Christ divided" by any differences amongst his people, such as do not make either part cease to be really his? And if he be not divided, is it not a fatal mistake to suppose

that he is? to confound difference with division, and to break up the unity of the spirit for the sake of a variety in the form?

So, then, the words, "Is Christ divided" lead properly to these two great duties of all Christ's servants, not to reckon those as belonging to them who are not their Master's; nor, again, to count those as separated from them, whom their Master does not cease to acknowledge as his people.

First, then, is Christ so divided as that some who call themselves by his name are not really his? Undoubtedly we must fear that this is so; for Christ himself compares his church to a net which was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; and that of those so gathered, some, when the net was drawn to the shore, were thrown away. And Paul speaks of some who had a form of godliness or of Christianity, but denied the power of it. From the very earliest, and what are called the purest, times of Christianity, down to this present hour, Christ has been always so divided, as that some of those who are called by his name will be disowned by him at the last judgment.

But, secondly, what are the signs by which we may in a manner anticipate Christ's judgment, and pronounce that any do not belong to him? Here, too, the Scripture is very express; for St. Paul says, "Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards,

nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." And in another place he says the same of those who are guilty of "hatred, variance, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, emulations, revellings, and such like." It is clear, therefore, that all persons living in any such sins, unrepented of, will be disowned by Christ at his coming; that therefore they are not truly his; and that therefore as they do call themselves by his name, Christ is divided, inasmuch as there are amongst his nominal people the servants really of another master.

Now this is a great breach of Christian union, a tearing it indeed asunder. And such a view of the division in Christ's body which is made by evil men, and of that unity which Christ established amongst all his true members, that they should join in loving God, and Christ, and all goodness, and in loving one another, because Christ loved them all, and they all had such sympathy with each other in loving Christ in return, is a most wholesome guide for us in our way through life; teaching us whom to cling to and whom to shun; with whom our sympathies should be cultivated, and with whom any sympathy, which may exist in smaller matters of taste or opinion, should be as carefully watched and restrained. This is the true communion of saints, far more effectual than the love of abstract good; it sanctifies the strongest,

and, at the same time, some of the most dangerous feelings of our nature, those of party zeal: it creates the only good, and wise, and holy party which exists upon earth, the party of all good men under Christ their head; and for this party, and for its interests, it calls for all the zeal, and affection, and intense self-devotion which, exerted in the cause of any party of man's making, are for ever falling into sin, and are, in their very nature, idolatrous.

But now, bearing in our minds and hearts an entire devotion to Christ's true party, to the communion of the saints, may we not still walk through life with too fierce and harsh a spirit, if we are ready to exclude from our communion all who are sinners; if we make no allowance for evil in others, compassed as we are ourselves with so many infirmities? Here seems to be one great use of that bond which unites all Christ's nominal servants, however little some of them may really deserve the name. He whom they call their Master and their Saviour, is as yet willing and ready to be so; it is as yet true that he has died for them; they are within his covenant; he still calls to them, with much long-suffering, if by any means they may obey the call. And if he bears with their evil, how much more may and ought we to bear with it. Are they living in sin, careless of their privileges, doing dishonour to the holy name which they bear?

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