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JAMES FOSTER, D. D.
To agree in opinion is entirely out of our power; to profefs alike, whilst we believe differently, is bafe and difhoneft, and deftructive of the most facred obligations, and upon that account ought never to be the matter of our choice. So that neither of these can be any part of that unity which we are bound to cultivate as a religious and moral duty; but the whole fum of it must be refolved into this, that condefcenfion, mutual forbearance, and an harmony of mild benevolent affections, fupply the place of that uniformity of faith and profeffion, which are morally speaking impoffible.
When the profeffors of our most holy and excellent religion are imperious and domineering, and foment cruel and unnatural divifions; when they break the one body of Christ, and multiply it into little cabals, reviling and difclaiming all relation to each other; when they are contentious, and, without thinking of charity and moderation, engage in violent difputes about the holiness of days, and geftures, and garments, and croffings, or the orthodoxy of founds that have no determinate meaning, or the feveral ways of explaining what is allowed to be inexplicable; and instead of humility and peace, gentleness, and fimplicity of manners; the real characters of corrupt
and degenerate Chriftians are haughtiness, impatience of contradiction, and an implacable ftubborn fpirit: the caufe of Christianity is more dangerously wounded by fuch excesses as these, than by all the art and arguments of its most ingenious and fubtle oppofers;— and notwithstanding its truth and divinity, infidels will load it with contempt; nor indeed can it be expected to flourish and gain profelytes, while it is thus difhonoured and betrayed by its pretended friends. Add to this, that divifions and animofities obftruct the increase of Chriftian knowledge, by infufing ftrong prejudices, by inflaming the paffions, and darkening the understanding, and by withdrawing the attention from the effential doctrines of the gofpel, and fixing it on those minute and trifling points, which are generally the fubjects of most furious and fcandalous debates. No lefs fatal are they to the Chriftian virtues of righteousness, long fuffering, meeknefs, fidelity, and goodness, which are all obliterated and effaced in proportion to the increafe of difcord and variance. Strife and faction are, therefore condemned in the New Teftament in the feverest terms, because of their manifeft contrariety to true religion, and the Chriftian character, and their dreadful and deftructive confequences. And, on the contrary, the strictest unity and most affectionate regard for each other are frequently and earnestly recommended. We are exhorted to follow after the
things which make for peace, to put away evil speaking, wrath, anger, clamour, and malice. And the Apoftle Paul, with the most beautiful and pathetic tenderness, intreated the Philippians, if there was any confolation in Chrift, any comfort of love, any fellowship of the spirit to be like minded, having the fame law (i. e. reciprocal and univerfal charity) being of one accord and of one mind; and the Coloffians to put on (as the elect of God, holy and beloved) bowels of mercies, kindness, humblenefs of mind, meekness, and long suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. He reproved the Corinthians for their contentious principles with great fharpness and severity, in the following paffage: Whereas there is among you envying and ftrife, and divifions, are ye not carnal and walk as men? For while one faith I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos, and I of Cephas or Peter, and I of Chrift; are ye not carnal? Is CHRIST divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul? And in another of his epiftles he enjoins it on the Chriftian brethren to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they were called, because there is one body and one fpirit even as they were called in one hope of their calling.
This is the glorious fpirit, this the divine temper of the Chriftian religion, ftrongly inculcated and brightly exemplified by the first preachers of it.
And if the time should ever come, when not only the members of particular churches, but whole Chriftian focieties, fhall live in this amiable and bleffed concord one with another; nay, when by a more extensive benevolence and harmony than this, all mankind fhall be united in the bonds of an undiffembled and generous friendship, not merely upon the confideration of their dwelling together in neighbourhoods and leffer focieties; but as parts of the univerfal community: this will be the strongest and most transporting resemblance of which we can at prefent form any idea of the fu- . ture life, in which focial affections will be exerted, and focial pleasures enjoyed, in their utmost purity and perfection.
Difcourfes on Social Virtue.
JOHN TAYLOR, D. D.
To 'O what purpofe is our boafted liberty, if we dare not ufe it? To what purpose do we enjoy the light, if we may not open our eyes to it? To what purpose is the word of God, if we muft not feek for its real and genuine fenfe, but must be tied to the dictates and fentiments of any divines that have been, or now are? How can we, without the groffeft inconfiftency, pray in our public
public affemblies, that the reformation may be carried on to ftill greater degrees of perfection, if in our practice we defeat the very bleffing we defire? What advantage hath the Diffenter, if not to reform without the formalities and delays of human laws and edicts, whatever fhall be difcovered to be at any time, or in any refpect, wrong in his fcheme? Why doth he reject human impofitions in one way, if he tamely fubmits to them in another? Our forefathers rejected what they thought was of human invention, and what we find to be fo, that escaped them, we, upon their principles, are to reject; otherwife we only exchange one kind of bondage for another, and while we refuse eftablishments by law, we fhall come under the no less grievous eftablishments of cuftom.And if this fpirit is let loofe among us, what ravages will it make in congregations? What fires will it kindle? What animofities, contentions, and divifions will it make? How will it lav wafte peace and love, and brotherly kindnefs, the grand virtues of the gospel; go on to fpread deism, and make Christianity, through the false principles and inhuman practices of Chriftians, the scorn and deteftation of the world? Thus the very men who profefs great zeal for reviving the power of religion, will be found the greatest obftructors of it. How different from this, how amiable, happy, and honourable, is the fpirit of the gofpel? peace, love, meeknefs, gentleness, good