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was, that the Israelites should worship the Lord their God, and that to Him only their service should be dedicated. But, alas! this was the commandment which they were most disposed to break; idolatry being that prevailing sin of the Jewish people, to reclaim them from which, all the methods of Divine Providence proved for a long time ineffectual.
Charity, or a disposition to peace and unity, is the second great commandment of the Gospel, and a principal characteristic of the Christian religion. "By this shall all men know," says Christ, "that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."* But of all the commandments obligatory upon the Christian professor, this, perhaps, is the one to which least attention has been paid. Indeed, through the numberless divisions which have unhappily taken place among Christians, and that alienation of mind from each other consequent thereupon, it is a commandment which seems almost entirely to have lost its force. Hence it has happened, that Christians, so called, have too frequently borne no resemblance to that amiable character, by which, in conformity with the Gospel standard of perfection, they ought to be distinguished.
The first and great design of Christianity was to reconcile man to God; the second, to reconcile men to each other.
If, then, we are right in our principle, that one object which the Friend of fallen man had in view in the establishment of his Church upon earth, was
* John xiii. 35.
to promote peace and good-will, by engaging the members, of it in the uniform and social pursuit of the same interesting concern; we shall not be wrong in our conclusion, that the cause which has produced an effect so contrary to this benevolent object, must proceed from the very opposite quarter; and that the grand enemy of man, consequently, is the parent of division. "The greatness of God," as a sound writer* of our Church has well expressed himself, " is measured by His goodness; His power is exercised in communicating light and comfort. He openeth His hand, and the whole creation partakes of His bounty. Being perfect in love and beneficence, He is therefore perfect in greatness. But look on the other hand, and you will find that mischief distinguishes the power of Satan his greatness consists wholly in crossing the merciful plan of redemption, and counteracting the Divine benevolence; the propagation of discord and disorder is necessary to the keeping up of his grandeur, and to the increase of his kingdom." This consideration accounts for the frequent and urgent exhortations to peace and unity, to be met with in the sacred writings, as constituting a grand hinge, upon which the success of the Christian scheme must, in a great measure, be expected to turn. Upon this idea the God of Christians is represented as a God of peace and love, and his example set forth as a pattern for man's imitation. "Beloved," says the Apostle, "if God so loved us, in sending his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him, we ought also to
* W. Jones.
love one another. And hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us;" in other words, that we are Christians, "because He hath given us of His spirit."*
Upon the same idea, the kingdom of Christ, which is His Church, is described to be " 'righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the Holy Ghost."+
To qualify men for a state of membership in this spiritual kingdom, they are required to "follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another."‡ "As much as lieth in them to live peaceably with all men." "To be of one mind, to live in peace, and the God of peace shall be with them." And the Apostle says, in prosecution of the same Divine idea, "if there be any consolation in Christ, any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the spirit, if any bowels of mercy, fulfil ye my joy; that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves."** And as "there is one body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling, walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”++
From hence it appears, that the religion of Christ is a religion of sensibilities, no less than of
motives. It teaches us, after the example of that blessed Person who felt for all men,' to take a lively interest in the concerns of our fellow-creatures; to rejoice with them in prosperity, and sympathize with them in distress; and, treading in the steps of Him who went about continually doing good, to abound in the labours of Christian benevolence; in the words of the Apostle, "to be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; to be tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven us."* The foregoing picture of Christianity, though but partially drawn, furnishes a powerful argument in favour of that plan, which places man in a condition best calculated to promote this great object of his Christian profession.
Upon the supposition, then, that there was no Divine institution in this case, which claimed obedience on the part of man; and the mode of religious worship, as a matter of perfect indifference, was left to the arbitrary discretion of every individual engaged in it; the plan which God has graciously marked out for men, by incorporating them into one body or society under regular government, in consequence of which they became necessarily joined together by that similarity of condition and interest, and that use of the same appointed means for the promotion of their general concern, which must, from the constitution of human nature, be productive of mutual regard and mutual assistance; would be the plan, which, if proposed to him by his fellow-creatures, every thinking Christian, it might be supposed, would readily adopt.
* Rom. xii. 10, and Eph. iv. 32.
Let not, then, this plan of social religion be neglected, or thought lightly of, because it has been projected by that all-wise Being, who, from knowing what was in man, not only knew how best to provide for the circumstances of the party for whose service it was established, but who, from the relation in which man stands to Him, has a right to exact his obedience to it. Rather let us with gratitude avail ourselves of that assistance, which the establishment of the Church upon earth ministers to our condition; and not sacrifice that good, which it is so well calculated to produce, to vain dreams of more spiritual perfection, in ways of our own devising.
"The first blessing that I daily beg of God my for his Church (said that pious and affectionate bishop, whose character the Christian is only at a loss whether most to love or admire) is, our Saviour's legacy, peace; that sweet peace, which, in the very name of it comprehends all happiness both of estate and disposition. Other graces are for the beauty of the Church; this for the health and life of it. No marvel then, if the Church, labouring here below, make it her daily suit to her glorious bridegroom in heaven: Give peace in our time, O Lord.' And would to God, that the united voice of Christians, of every denomination, might be heard joining in the charitable petition, Give peace in our time, O Lord; that peace which passeth all understanding.'
But division, we all know, cannot lead to unity and peace. Division, therefore, must in its nature be hostile to one great object of the Christian reli* Bishop Hall.