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Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. iv. 3.)
And how adequate this Christian principle is to the preservation of peace, and the perfecting of the communion of saints, may be collected from the enumeration of its qualities which St. Paul has given us in his first epistle to the Corinthians.
This celebrated passage has been the subject of frequent comment: but it has not been sufficiently considered in the connection in which it really stands. It is introduced by the apostle as part of a solemn charge, in which he enforces the absolute ,necessity of union in the church of Christ. That church he represents, in the preceding chapter, as one individual body:-For as the body, saith he, is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ--so is Christ, as united with his undivided church. Therefore the apostle proceeds to enforce the charge-that there should be no schism in the body; but that all the members should have the same care one for another. And as he
continues-whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it ; or one member be
2 it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
Each of you is a member of that one undivided body, the whole of which is pervaded by one vital principle, and every part of which has a mutual feeling and affection with all its fellow-members. This can never be the case if schisms and separations prevail amongst you.
Therefore, the apostle adds, God hath set in the church-hath expressly appointed an ordinate gradation of ministers for the preservation of due harmony in this one bely.
Having described the several departments of the ministrý, and exhorted the members of this one church to covet earnestly the best gifts--to endeavour to excel each other in usefulness for the general edification-he proceeds, And yet shew I unto you a more excellent way-A way to what? A way, as the construction of language and the consequence of argument demonstrate, to the preservation of this perfect unity of the church, this communication of feeling and affection, and the avoiding of contena
tion and schism, which destroy the unity of the body.
And this way is charity. The way of charity is often spoken of in our days, as allowing free scope for divisions and separations of all kinds: but how has the apostle described it ?- Charity suffereth long, and is kind. Charity envyeth not. Charity vaunteth not itself ; is not puffed úp; doth not behave itself unseemly; seeketh-not her own'; is not easily provoked; thinket per rejoiceth not in iniquity ; but rejoiceth in the truth ; beareth all things ; believeth all
things ; hopeth all things ; endureth all thing's : Charity never faileth !
We see, then, that the charity which the apostle recommends is a most comprehensive principle; but within its ample limits there is no place for division. It lays an effectual restraint upon all those errors into which men are prone to be seduced by an excess of self-love, or a fondness for their own opinions. It humbles the proud spirit of insubordination. It checks every instance of rash judgment, puts upon every thing the best construction which it will fairly bear, and makes to others every conċession which is consistent with truth and integrity. Can they deserve the name of Christians whom this amiable principle will not unite?
Such is the nature of that charity which constitutes the perfect bond of union in the church of Christ. And it is so-essential to the character of his disciples, thạt from them it must flow, in its proper gradation, to all mankind.
For it is our Lord's command-Love your enemies : bless them that curse you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; and persecute you ; that ye may be the children of your Father, which is in heaven. · For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matt, v, 44, 4.5.)
But the love here enjoined is that of be. nevolence or good-will, not of esteem and approbation : for, comprehensive as the influence of this divine principle certainly is, we never find that it is the part of Christian charity to countenance error, dissension, and division. Its proper office is not to authorise, but to prevent them: and where this good end cannot be obtained, charity
still disposes us to preserve a friendly and benevolent disposition—not to cherish 'a spirit of rancour and hatred, or seek 'an opportunity for revenge to recommend the offender to the mercy, and not to the judga ment of God—to pray for his reformation, not for his punishment.
But in no instance whatsoever must true charity be directed to the extinction of a temperate zeal in a good cause, to the corruption of our principles, or 'the perversion of our judgment. We are not enjoined by charity to forbear with any thing that is expressly forbidden in the Gospel"; to regard essential truths, or the corruption of those truths, as things indifferent; or to connive, with affected liberalitý, at the manifest errors and irregularities of men.
Our Saviour, whose practice is the best comment upon his precepts, thought it no breach of charity to reprove the profané conceits and infidelity of the Sadducees; to pronounce a solemn woe upon the pride, ostentation, and hypocrisy, of the Pharisees ; or to testify in the face of the Samaritan separatists —Ye worship ye know not what,
It was no part of his benevolence to dis