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'Tis highly remarkable, how in that prayer, which he poured out a little before his death, with Inch a mighty pathos, and servency of spirit, he insists upon nothing more than unity among bis people. He returns upon his Father again and again, for the obtaining of this one thing: Four times doth he beg for lnity among them, and every time he seems to rife higher and higher, beseeching his Father, (1.) That they may be one. (2.) That they may be one in us. (3.) That they maybe one, as thoa and I are one. And, lastly, that they may be made perfect in one. By all this shewing how intent his Spirit was upon this one thing.
Brethren, if you would study how to frustrate the design, and grieve the heart of your Lord Jesus Christ (to whom yon profess love and obedience) you cannot take a readier way to do it, than by breaking the bonds of unity among yourselves. I beseech you, therefore, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath so earnestly prayed for the unity of his people, Thai ye be perfetlly joined together in one heart, and in one mind, as the text speaks.
Motive 5 Consider how directly your divisions cross, and frustrate the design and end of church-fellowship, which is instituted for the improvement of each other's graces, and helping on the mortification of each other's corruptions.
God hath distributed variety of gifts and graces, in different degrees, amongst his people; the improvement of these gifts and graces to the glory of God, and our mutual edification, is the very scope and end of particular church-fellow (hip and communion: Everyman hath his proper gift of God, and (asa late f worthy notes) the gifts and graces of all, are this way made useful and beneficial. Job was exemplary for plainness and patience; Moses for faithfulness and meekness; Josiah for tenderness and a melting spirit; Athanasius was prudent and active; Basil heavenly, and of a sweet spirit; Chrysostom laborious, and without affectation; Ambrose resolved and grave: One hath quickness of parts, but not so solid a judgment; another is solid, but not ready and prescntial; one hath a good wit, another a better memory, a third excels them both in utterance; one is zealous, but ungrounded; another well principled, but timorous; one is wary and prudent; another open and plain hearted; one is trembling and melting; another chearful and full of comfort. Now the end and use of chnrchfellowship, is to make a rich improvement unto all, by a regular use and exercise of the gifts and graces found in every
f Torshell's Help to Christian Fellowship, p. 6, 7.
one. One must impart his light, and another his warmth; the eye (viz. the knowing man) cannot fay to the hand (viz. the active man) I have no need of thee: Unspeakable are the benefits resulting from spiritual, and orderly communion; but whatever the benefits be, they are all cut off by schisms, and dissensions; for as faith is the grace by which we receive all from God, so love is the grace by which we share and divide the comfort of all among ourselves. The excellent things of the spirit are lodged in earthen vessels, which death will shortly break, and then we can have no more benefit by them; but these jars, and divisions, render saints, as it were, dead one to another, whilst they are alive. Ah, how lovely, how sweet, and desirable it is, to live in the communion of such saints as are described, Mai. iii. 16. to hear them freely, and humbly to open their hearts and experiences to one another 1 After this manner, some fay, the art of medicine was found out; as any one met with an herb, and discovered the virtue of it by an accident, he was to post it up, and so the physician's skill was perfected, by a collection of those posted experiments. But woe to us! we are ready to post up each other's failings and infirmities»-,*o the shame and reproach of religion, and to furnish our common enemies with matter of contempt and scorn against us alii
Motive 6. In a word, These schisms and dissections, in the churches of Christ, are omnious presages, and foreboding signs of some sweeping judgment, and common calamity near approaching us. It is a common observation with shepherds, that when the sheep push one another, a storm speedily ensues. I am sure it is so here; if God turn not our hearts one towards another, he will come and smite the earth with acuise, Mal.iv. 6. I believe it, sirs, you will haVe other work to do shortly; there be those coming (if God prevent not) that will part the fray. U/e second, for direction. Use 2. In the last place, therefore, give me leave to lay before you some necessary, and proper directions and counsels, for the prevention and healing of schisms, and divisions amongst the churches of Christ: For it is not complaints and lamentations, but proper counsels and directions, and those not only prescribed, but obeyed that must do the work. When Joshua lay upon his face before the Lord, Josh. vii. 8, 9, 10. bewailing the fins and miseries of Israel; Up (faith God) fantlify the people: -wherefore Hest thou upon thy face? As if he should say, thy moans and lamentations are good and necessary, in their place; but speedy action, and vigorous endeavours, must be also used, or Israel will perish. So fay I, Up, up, fall speedily to your duties, as itkn io earned; and lor your guidance in the paths of doty, I
will lay before you the following plain and necessary directions.
Direction i. The orderly gathering, and filling particular churches, is of great influence to the peace aod tranquillity 9s those churches; and theresore it greatly concerns al) that are interested therein, elpecially such as are vested with office-power, to beware whom they receive into their communion.
The scriptures do plainly discover to us, that church-members ought to be visible saints, 1 Cor. i. 2. 2 Cor. i. 1, 2. Acts ii, 41. to the end; Eph. ii. 7. 1 Thef. i. 2, 3. Rom. i. 7. Col i.z. Hence particular Churches are called the churches of the faints,
1 Cor. xiv. 33. If admissions be lax, aud negligent, so much heterogenous matter fills the church, that it can never be quiet. Christians, and Christians, may live together harmoniously, and coalesce io one orderly, and comfortable society, as having one and the fame Head, one Spirit, the fame general design and end: But godly and ungodly, spiritual and carnal, are acted by contrary principles, pursue opposite designs, and can never heartily coalesce. There is a spirit of discerning, a judgment of discretion in the faints, and it is especially desirable in a more eminent degree, in those that have office-power in the church, to judge of men's fit qualifications for church communion. We all allow, that gross ignorance and prophaneness are just bars, to mens admission; and to deny this, were to take aU power from the church to preserve the purity of God's ordinances, or to cast out notorious offenders. None ought to be'admitted into church communion, but such as do appear to the judgment of clarity (comparing their professions and conversations) to be Christians indeed, that is, men tearing God, and working righteousness.
And I make no doubt, but some opinions, as well as practices, render men unmeet for church communion, Titus iii. 10.
2 John 10. All opinions which overthrow doctrines necessary to be believed, which the apostle comprehends under the name of faith; and all such opinions as are inconsistent with an holy lise, and overthrow the power-of godliness, which the apostle comprehends under the name of a good conscience, 1 Tim, i. 10,20. whosoever shall hold or maintain any such opinions as these, He. is either to be kept out, if not admitted; or cast out, if he be in church-fellowship. In receiving such, you receive but spies, and incendiaries, among you. What a firebrand did Ariuspro«, not only in the church of Constantinople, but even to the whole world i Men of graceless hearts, and erroneous heads, will give a continual exercise to the patience of ibber ChiuliaMI deny not, but out of the purest Churches, men may drift, speaking perverse things, and yet the officers and members of those churches, be blameless in their admission; but if they can be discerned before they be admitted, a little preventive care would be of singular and seasonable use, to the tranquillity of church-iocieties.
Direction 2. Let all officers and members of the church, study their duties, and keep themselves within the bounds of their proper places; ordinate motions are quiet motions. 1 Thes. iv. it. "Study to be quiet and do your own business, '' and work with your own hands, as we commanded you." la which words he condemns two vices, which disturb, and distract: the church of Christ, viz. curiosity in matters which pertain not to us, and idleness in the duties of our particular callings. Two things I shall drop, by way of caution:
( 1.) Let it be for a caution to ministers, that they mind the'r proper work, study the peace of the church, impartially dispense their respects to the faints committed to their charge, not fiding with a party. There be few schisms in churches, in! which ministers have not some hand. Jerome upon those words, Hofea ix. 8. hath this memorable note; Veteres scrutans historias, invenire non poffum fcidiffe eccleJiam, prater eos qui /acerdotes a Deo poftti Juerunt. Searching the ancient histories (faith he) I can find none that hath more rent the church of God, than those that sustain the office of ministers. This is a fad charge, and it is too justly laid upon many of that order. Oh what a blessing is a prudent, patient, peaceable minister, to the flock over which he watches! *
(2.) Let the people keep their places, and study their proper duties. There be in roost congregations, some idle people, who having little to do at home, are employed upon Satan's errands, to run from house to house, carrying tales to exasperate one Christian against another. These the apostle particularly marks aud warns the churches of, 1 Tim. v. 13. " And ** withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to "house; and not only idle, bin tatlers also, and busy bodies, "speaking things which they ought not." If that one rule of Christ; Matth. xviii. 15, 16. were conscientiously, and strictly attended to, to tell a trespassing brother his fault privately, then with one or two more, it obstinacy make.it necessary, and not to expose him to the whole church, and much less to the whole world, without a plain necessity; how many thousand ruptures
* From vain-glorious doctors, contentious pastors,, and unprofi-, table questions, the good Lord deliver us.. Luther 4 prayer. ,
.- , -i would be prevented in Christian societies? But "instead of rt. gularly admonishing and reproving those irregular and idle tatlers, (as the apostle calls them) who make it their business to sow jealousies, to make and widen breaches amongst brethren.
Direction 3. Let all Christians govern their tongues, and keep them under the command of the law of kindness Id their mutual converses with one another. "A soft answer" (faith Solomon) Prov.xv. 1. " turneth away wrath; but grievous words ** stir up anger." Hard to hard will never do well. How easily did Abigail disarm angry David by a gentle apology? What more boisterous than the; wind? Yet a gentle rain will allay it. It may be strongly presumed, that a meek and gentle answer, will more easily allay the passions of a godly mao, than of one that is both ungodly, and full of enmity towards us; and yet sometimes it hath done the latter. A company of vain, wicked men, having inflamed their blood in a tavern at Best00 in NewEngland, and feeing that reverend, meek and holy minister of Christ, Mr. Cotton, coming along the street, one of them tells his companions, "I'll go (faith he) and put a trick upon the "old Cotton." Down he goes, and crossing his way, whispers these words into his ear, "Cotton (said he) thou art an old "fool." Mr. Cotton replied, "I confess lam so; the Lord "make both me and thee wiser than we are, even wile to sal"vation." He relates this passage to his wicked companions, which cast a great damp upon their spirits, in the midst of a frolic. What peaceful societies should we have, if our lips trailgressed not the laws of love and kindness.
Dirctlion 4. Respectful deportments to those that are beneath us in gifts, or estates, is an excellent conservative of churchpeace; lofty and contemptuous carriages towards those that are beneath us in either respect, is a frequent occasion of hitter jars and animosities. The apostle chargeth it upon the Corinthians, " That no one be puffed up for one against "another.; for who maketh thee to differ from another!" 1 Cor. vi. 7. What respectful language did holy Mr. Brewen give to his own godly iervants? Remember, Christians, that there is neither rich nor poor, bond nor free, but all are one in Christ Jesus. This, indeed, destroys not the civil difserences God hath made between one and another; grace will teaca the godly servant to give double honour to a religious master, or mistress, the private Christian to a godly magistrate, or minister. It will teach the people to know them which labour among them, and are over them in the Lord, and admonish thwn, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work