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which strike at its foundations. It is time that every error, whether of opinion or practice, may have a tendency more or less direct or remote to weaken the church, and if countenanced, may in the end subvert it. Yet there is a wide difference between one error and another, as is evident from the Scriptures, and the dictates of reason. Every error is not alike injurious. There is none that may be countenanced; there are many that must be tolerated, or the principles of forbearance must be abandoned. There are errors which are in their character fundamental, or essential, and there are those of minor importance. The dividing line between them may, in some instances, not be very easy to trace with accuracy; yet such a line of distinction actually does exist, and was doubtless more clearly seen in the primitive ages, when the church remained entire, than it now is; and will again be as clearly discerned when the spirit of unity shall have taken up his abode in the church, and Christians shall have returned to the practice of love and forbearance. Even now, under the dominion of sect, there are many who are so far deliverd from its power, as that they would have little difficulty in practice, to draw the line between errors that are essential, and those which are not essential; and the facility of discovering in the Scriptures, the mind of the spirit on this subject, will increase, as the spirit of division shall die
Although this chapter is here brought to a close, much remains to be said upon the proposition therein maintained, namely, that division into sects is a breach
of the constitutional union of the church. The argument is resumed under several of the subsequent heads, or rather, it is continued throughout the greater part of the work.
THE EVILS OF SECT.
1. It banishes love and peace. 2. Cherishes pride. 3. Multiplies false professors of religion. 4. It keeps men from the proper reading of the Bible. 5. It perpetuates errors in doctrine, and prevents reformation in practice. 6. It encourages and strengthens opposers of religion. 7. Retards the latter day of glory. 8. Weakens and destroys the church, wasting its resources of money and men. A house divided against itself cannot stand.— Reference to political parties, and to an army. - Testimony of ecclesiastical history. Satan, in warring against the church, acts on the maxim "divide and conquer."
It was to be expected that the violation of a principle which God has inculcated with so much anxiety, and guarded with so much pains as the unity of the church, would be followed with lamentable consequences, either as a punishment upon his part for the breach of his law and constitution, or as a necessary result of a departure from the order which he had established to preserve her peace, comfort, and prosperity. God knew the value of union among his followers in this wicked world, and the evils which would surely follow, if they should ever
be seduced into the snare of sectarian divisions. We will not attempt to make a perfect enumeration of the evils of sect, nor can we adequately expose their injurious and ruinous character; but will endeavour to make such an exhibition as to vindicate the wisdom of God in ordaining that his church should be one and indivisible.
Let it be understood that when we make use of the word sect, it is not designed as a name of reproach, nor as applicable to one denomination of Christians more than to another. We intend to apply the name indiscriminately to every division of the church into distinct denominations.
We now proceed to consider the evils which have resulted from sectarian divisions.
1. It banishes peace and love, while it cherishes hatred and contention among Christians.
Contention is the parent of division, and happy would it be for the Christian world, had the birth of the progeny been followed by the death of the progenitor, or even mitigated his fury, or weakened his arm. If, after a division had taken place, the disputants and their adherents would be content with the victory always claimed on both sides, and enjoy the fruits of it in peace, without further disturbing the other party and the rest of the Christian world, we might hope to see an end to the contention. But such is not the result. Each party has its zeal inflamed instead of diminished by the schism that has rent the body asunder; and each is fully persuaded of the absolute necessity of vindicating the justice of its own side of the question. And thus is continued between them a war of words and feeling, in the conducting of which the parties are not very conscientious in the choice of weapons, often preferring such.
as inflict the most incurable wounds upon the opponent. This increases the fury of the contest, and perpetuates it from generation to generation. How often has persecution to imprisonment, confiscation of property, banishment, and even death, been the lot of one of the contending parties, while the other has exultingly raised the shout of triumph! At this day indeed, at least in this land of freedom, the arm of civil power is no longer put forth to crush religious opponents; but most of the evils of contention are continued to the present time. The gentleness inculcated in the Scriptures is superseded by the spirit of arrogance and rude rebuke; candour by disingenuousness, and love by the indulgence of hatred.
The animosities produced by divisions in the church are not healed by time. The same disputes which arose three centuries ago, between Luther and Calvin, with respect to the eucharist, are kept alive between their respective followers to the present time. The controversy between the Arminians and the adherents to the synod of Dort, is now carried on with the same zeal, if not with the same bitterness, as when the original combatants were living; and each party is as positive as they were then, of being in the right. The Baptist controversy is quite as stubborn at this day, as it was at the commencement; and the questions on church government so long controverted between the kirk of Scotland and the Seceders, and between the church of England and the dissenters, are as far from being settled as they were when the disputes first arose. Not only are the ancient divisions maintained, and the contests between them continued, but new schisms are occurring. Most, if not all the great denominations, are