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racteristic of his disciples “ to love one another,” John xiii. 35. It was wont to be said of the primitive Christians by heathens, see how they love one another! But alas, brotherly love doth not continue! It hath been declared, to the scandal of our noble profession, “ That there are contentions among us. Further, it hath been said, that where strictest professors fall out, they are most implacable; drunkards will sooner be friends than these puritans. God forbid it should be true; God forbid that there should be “ debates, envy. ings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, tumults, swellings.”+ Alas, that such unbecoming fruits of the flesh should be found among us! There hath been too much of this evil spirit; O let us take heed, “ lest if we bite and devour one another, we be consumed one by another,” Gal. v. 15. These are the devil's artillery, whereby he fights, and too often prevails to do abundance of mischief, and hinder much good; “For where envy and strife is, there is confusion, and every evil work.”How can you think of the day of meeting one another in heaven with such peevish spirits? Will
you perpetuate your quarrels into another world? Are you children of peace that thus quarrel ? For shame, lay aside your differences, or lay aside your profession of this gospel of peace,
2. If the saints be gathered at last, why do they not keep close together in this world? What unaccountable separations do men make from each other upon small occasions ? This duty of christian intercourse has been practised by all the saints in all ages; the primitive Christians continued stedfastly in the “ A postles' doctrine and fellowship,” Acts ii. 42. As soon as Paul was converted, he assayed “ to join himself to the disciples,” and others “consorted with Paul and
* 1 Cor. i. 11. + 2 Cor. xii. 20. # James üü. 16.
Silas.”—“ The Philippians were in the fellowship of the gospel from the first day of their conversion."* Like will adhere to like: it is natural for a child of God to hold close communion with his Father's children. How comes it to pass, then, that some that profess themselves Christians keep at a distance? Alas, have you the same name, nature, and divine image, and do you not care for their company? How will you like to live with them for ever in heaven, that love not their society on earth? How comes it to pass that you keep off ? It is possible some do it out of modesty, they may think they are not worthy to associate with them; these are but few. Others out of singularity, retiredness; they can find none good enough, to whom they think fit to vouchsafe intimate familiarity. Others have a pique against such and such Christians, or against the whole party, and most hold off from supine negligence, carelessness, and oscitancy; most men are unconcerned about their edification. How unwilling are some Christians to be drawn to the communion of saints? If it be an article in their creed, it is no part of their practice, as though they had never subscribed to it; yea, there are some, that were once forward for embracing opportunities of christian communion, that are now fallen off, like those Hebrews that believed, of whom the apostle saith, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is,” Heb. x. 25. The Donatists of old, and the sectaries of late, have made dreadful rents and schisms in the church; the more holy Christians are, the more catholic spirits they have. They are most likely to be sensual, that needlessly
separate themselves, not having the Spirit,” Jude, 19, however they may boast themselves to be more full of
* Acts ix. 26. xvii. 4. Phil. i. 5.
the Spirit than others they separate from. Well, sirs, consider what you do, how you injure yourselves, weaken your brethren's hands, sadden their hearts, yea, you weaken the interests of religion hereby. What, friends, shall one heaven hold you, and cannot one church hold you? Do you look for comfort at Christ's second coming among his saints, and will you not keep “ by the footsteps of the flock ?” The Lord awaken you.
3. Some Christians make nothing of offending the saints of God, whom they should not offend ; that is an awful expression, Matt, xviii. 6, “ Whoso shall offend one of these little ones, which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." I confess this is spoken of open and violent persecutors, whom our Lord will banish among the pushing goats. But even Christians are too apt to offend one another; sometimes by provoking words, sometimes by offensive behaviour, doing what in consequence of which, (however it seem indifferent to us,) a “ brother stumbleth, or is offended, or made weak,” Rom. xiv. 21. Unadvised walking may hinder much good, occasion much evil, at least may make sad the hearts of those whose hearts God would not have made sad. With what comfort or confidence will you look in the faces of those whom you have justly offended ? An eminent divine saith,* if it be my weakness, I have much ado to think but some shame with confusion will accompany me, when I first meet any there, that I have been unkind to, or wronged, or that will know my faults better than here they did, and that I shall ask them forgiveness, which will be soon granted, being
* Mr. Baxter in a Letter prefixed to Mr. Burgess's book on Christian Commemoration.
forgiven by Christ. However matters will go then, it becomes all the saints to be very cautious, lest they should encroach on the holiness and comfort of their fellow members on earth, and to say with Paul, 1 Cor. viii. 13, “Wherefore if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” Happy are they that neither give offence carelessly, nor take offence causelessly.
4. Yet still there is a great, if not greater fault, of good people, and that is, to be too familiar with wicked men, to comply too far with sinners, to the dishonour of God, scandal of religion, and wronging of their own consciences. Paul writes, and writes again,“ not to keep company with fornicators;"* the word is very emphatical, ovvavaulyvuo-fal, not to be mingled with them by intimate familiarity, as streams of water mix together, but Christians must be like oil, that will not mix with water; especially they must not be familiar with scandalous professors of the true religion, or such as be disorderly persons, idle, busy-bodies, disobedient to the word; sound, close-walking Christians must "note a man of this description, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed,” 2 Thess. iii. 11, 14. Brand such a one as infamous, discover a strangeness in your carriage to him, ένα έντραπή, that he may turn into himself, and consider what in him may be the cause of this your alienation from him. Such a recognition may become a means of his repentance; whereas if you still smile upon him, as if you saw nothing amiss in him, you do but harden him in sin. Yet there is something worse in your sinful compliance, you contract guilt to your own souls, and are in danger of being infected by others, and so partake of their sins,
* 1 Cor. v. 9, 11.
and of their plagues. How often doth God give this call, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord—what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? * Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but reprove them rather," Eph. V. 11. How often doth David bid wicked men depart from him ? and if they will not be gone, he will flee from them as from a pest house; Psal. xxvi. 4, 5, “I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers, and will not sit with the wicked.” And then he prays, ver. 9, “Gather not my soul with sinners.” O friends, tremble to be found among wicked men in the gathering day.
ON THE QUESTION, WHETHER WE SHALL BE
GATHERED WITH SAINTS ?
ANOTHER thing suggested, is to ascertain, whether we be the persons that shall be gathered to Christ with the rest of his saints in that solemn day of his appearing
1. You may know whether you be of that number or not; assurance is possible, and attainable ; God's children have obtained it, 2 Cor. v. 1, “We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." We can be well content to forego this tottering cottage, because we are
* Rev. xviii. 4. 2 Cor. vi. 14, 17.