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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 my God 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.
gion. As such, it must be scrupulously avoided by every man, who would co-operate with God in the restoration of his fallen nature.
It is the employment of the Christian's life to be gradually changed into the image of his Divine Master; that the same mind, so far as human infirmity will permit, may be in him, which was in Christ Jesus :* and the hope which he enter tains, will be always proportionate to the degree of resemblance, which is to be traced between him and his Divine pattern.
When Christians, therefore, regard the Church as their common mother, and themselves as brethren, travelling in fellowship through the wilderness of this world to their promised land; they will not, by petty disputes on the road, expose themselves to the attacks of their surrounding enemies: but, the grand object in view swallowing up every other consideration, all differences of opinion will give way to the cultivation of that temper, necessary to qualify them for the enjoyment of the blessed country towards which their course is directed.
In such case, the golden age of the primitive Church would return upon us; and the proverb, descriptive of the amiable character of its early members, "see how these Christians love one another," would again be realized. Such an event, rather to be wished for in these days than expected, would bring in the accomplishment of the glorious promises, which in the spirit of prophecy have been made to the Church, when "the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with
* Phil. ii. 5.
the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them:" when "Ephraim shall not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim;"* and there shall be no more consuming or devouring in all God's holy mountain.
O thou Prince of Peace, and Friend of fallen man! who purchased the Church with thine own blood; heal the breaches of it, we beseech thee, by the communication of thy grace to all its members; prepare them for that more perfect state of thy kingdom, to which they are taught to look forward; by giving them a heart capable of receiving all those impressions, which thy religion was designed to make upon it, that those who hold fast the faith of thy Gospel, may also possess the spirit of it: to this end, fix in the mind of every Christian professor this important truth; that charity, or a disposition to peace and unity, is that bond of perfectness, without which no man, be his other pretensions what they may, can be qualified for admission into that holy place, from whence discord and division will be for ever excluded, and where nothing will be heard, but the grateful sounds of harmony and love. Even so, blessed Jesus, for thy Church's sake. Amen.
* Is. xi. 6, 13.
To those Members of the CHURCH, who occasionally
frequent other Places of Public Worship.
OCCASIONAL, Separation from the Church stands, in point of argument, on the same ground with occasional conformity to it. If conformity
to the Church be a sin against the conscience of the party, which was the plea originally set up by those who separated from it in this country, every act of occasional conformity, being a commission of that sin, must be subject to condemnation.
If schism, or a wilful separation from the Church be in itself a sin, as from the authority of scripture and the primitive writers of the Church it is adjudged to be, every occasional separation from it must be seen in a similar point of view. It is a commission of an acknowledged sin; and the only difference between the constant separatist and the occasional one appears to be, that the one continues in the habitual practice of that sin, which the other occasionally commits.
Now the sin of schism consists, as we have already observed, in a wilful and needless separation from the communion of the Church.