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act of giving glory to the Highest. After the sealing of the tribes;
A great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb; clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, Salvation to our God, which sitleth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood about the throne, and about the elders, and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces ; and worshipped Gød, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto God for ever and ever; Rev. vii. 9—12.
Lo, those spirits, which here below were habited with several bodies, different in shapes, statures, ages, complexions, are now above as one spirit, rather distinguished than divided; all united in one perpetual adoration and fruition of the God of Spirits; and mutually happy in God, in themselves, in each other.
SECT. 2. The union of Christ's Members upon Earth :-(1.) In matter of
judgment :-(2.) In matter of affection :-(3.) A complaint of Divisions; and, notwithstanding them, an assertion of unity :(4.) The necessary effects and fruits of this union of Christian
hearts. Our copy is set us, above: we labour to take it out, here on EARTH. What do we, but daily pray, that the blessed union of souls, which is eniinent in that empyreal heaven, may be exemplified by us in this region of mortality ? For, having through Christ an access by one Spirit unto God the Father, being no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; Eph. ii. 18, 19: we cease not to pray, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven ; Matt. vi. 10. Yea, () Saviour, thou, wbo canst not but be heard, hast prayed to thy Father for the accomplishment of this union; That they may be one, even as we are one : I in them, and thou in me, that they may be perfect in one ; John xvii. 22. 23.
What, then, is this union of the members of Christ here om earth, but a spiritual Oneness, arising from a happy conspiration of their thoughts and affections? For, whereas there are two main principles of all human actions and dispositions, the brain and the heart, the conjuncture of these two cannot but produce a perfect union : from the one, our thoughts take their rise; our affections, from the other; in both, the soul puts itself forth upon all matter of accord or difference.
(1.) The union of Thoughts, is, when we mind the same things, when we agree in the same truths. This is the charge, which the Apostle of the Gentiles lays upon his Corinthians; and, in their persons, upon all Christians: Now I beseech you, brethren, by the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you ; but that ye be perfectly joined together, in the same mind and in the same judgment; i Cor. i. 10.
And this is no other, than that one faith, (Eph. iv. 5.) which makes up the one Church of Christ upon earth. One, both in respect of Times and Places.
Of Times : so as the Fathers of the first world, the Patriarchs of the next, and all God's people in their ages, that looked, together with them, for the redemption of Israel, (Luke ii. 38.) are united with us Christians of the last days, in the same belief; and make up one entire body of Christ's Catholic Church.
Of Places : so as all those, that truly profess the Name of Christ, though scattered into the farthest remote regions of the earth, even those, that walk with their feet opposite to ours, yet meet with us in the same centre of Christian faith, and make up one household of God.
Not that we can hope it possible, that all Christians should agree in all truths. While we are here, our minds cannot but be more unlike to each other, than our faces : yea, it is a rare thing, for a man to hold constant to his own apprehensions.
Lord God! what a world do we meet with of those, who miscal themselves several Religions ; indeed, several professions of one and the same Christianity! Melchites, Georgians, Maronites, Jacobites, Armenians, Abyssines, Cophti, Nestorians, Russians, Mengrellians; and the rest, that fill up the large Map of Christianography: all which, as while they hold the head Christ, they cannot be denied the privilege of his members; so, being such, they are or should be indissolubly joined together in the unity of spirit, and maintenance of the faith which was once delivered unto the Saints ; Jude 3. It is not the variety of by-opinions, that can exclude them from having their part in that one Catholic Church, and their just claim to the Communion of Saints. While they hold the solid and precious foundation, it is not the hay or stubble (1 Cor. iii. 12.), which they lay upon it, that can set them off from God or his Church. But, in the mean time, it must be granted, that they have much to answer for to the God of Peace and Unity, who are so much addicted to their own conceits, and so indulgent to their own interest, as to raise and maintain new doctrines, and to set up new sects in the Church of Christ, varying from the common and received truths; labouring to draw disciples after them, to the great distraction of souls, and scandal of Christianity. With which sort of disturbers I must needs say this age, into which we are fallen, hath been and is, above all that have gone before us, most miserably pestered : what good soul can be other than confounded, to hear of and see more than a hundred and fourscore new, and some of them dangerous and blasphemous, opinions, broached and defended in one, once famous and unanimous, Church of Christ? Who can say other, upon the view of these wild thoughts, than Gerson said long since, that the world, now growi old, is full of
doting fancies ; if not rather, that the world, now near his end, raves and talks nothing but fancies and frenzies? How arbitrary soever these self-willed fanatics may think it, to take to themselves this liberty of thinking what they list, and venting what they think, the blessed Apostle hath long since branded them with a heavy sentence: Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, und avoid them : for they, that are such, serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and, by good words and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the simple ; Rom. xvi. 17, 18.
But, notwithstanding all this hideous variety of vain and heterodoxal conceptions, he, who is the Truth of God, and the Bridegroom of his Spouse the Church, hath said, My dove, my undefiled is one ; Cant. vi. 9: one, in the main, essential, fundamental verities necessary to salvation; though differing in divers mis-raised corollaries, inconsequent inferences, unnecessary additions, feigned traditions, unwarrantable practices. The body is one, though the garments differ : yea, rather, for most of these, the garment is one, but differs in the dressing; handsomely and comely set out by one, disguised by another. Neither is it, nor ever shall be, in the power of all the fiends of hell, the professed make-baits of the world, to make God's Church other than one: which were indeed utterly to extinguish and reduce it to nothing; for the unity and entity of the Church can no more be divided, than itself. It were no less than blasphemy, to fasten upon the chaste and most holy Husband of the Church any other, than one Spouse. In the institution of marriage, did he not make one ? yet hud he the residue of the Spirit: and wherefore one ? that he might seek a godly seed; Mal. ii. 15. That, which he ordained for us, shall not the holy God much more observe in his own heavenly match with bis Church? Here is then one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism: one Baptism, by which we enter into the Church; one Faith, which we profess in the Church ; and one Lord, whom we serve, and who is the Head and Husband of the Church.
(2.) How much, therefore, doth it concern us, that we, who are united in one common belief, should be much more united in Affection ! that where there is one way, there should be much more one heart! Jer. xxxii. 39. This is so justly supposed, that the Prophet questions, Can 'two walk together, except they be agreed ? Amos iji. 3. If we walk together in our judgments, we cannot but accord in our wills.
This was the praise of the primitive Christians, and the pattern of their successors: The multitude of them that believed, were of one heart and of one soul ; Acts iv. 32.
Yea, this is the livery, which our Lord and Saviour made choice of, whereby his menial servants should be known and distinguished : By this, shall all men know that ye be my disciples, if ye have love to one another ; Jobn xiii. 35. In vain shall any man pretend to a discipleship, if he do not make it good by his love to all the family of Christ.
The whole Church is the spiritual temple of God. Every believer is a living stone, laid in those sacred walls: what is our Christian love, but the mortar or cement, whereby these stones are fast joined together, to make up this heavenly building without which, that precious fabric could not hold long together; but would be subject to disjointing, by those violent tempests of opposition, wherewith it is commonly beaten upon. There is no place for any loose stone in God's edifice: the whole Church is one entire body: all the limbs must be held together by the ligaments of Christian love; if any one will be severed, and affect to subsist of itself, it hath lost his place in the body. Thus the Apostle : that we, being sincere in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: From whom the whole body, filly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love ; Eph. iv. 15, 16. .
But, in case there happen to be differences in opinion, concerning points not essential, not necessary to salvation; this diversity may not breed an alienation of atfection. That charity, which can cover a multitude of sins, may much more cover many small dissensions of judgment. We cannot hope to be all, and at all times, equally enlightened. At how many and great weaknesses of judgment, did it please our merciful Saviour to connive, in his domestic disciples ! they, that had so long sat at the sacred feet of him that spake as never man spake, were yet to seek of those Scriptures, which had so clearly foretold his resurrection ; John xx. 9 : and, after that, were at a fault for the manner of his kingdom; Acts i. 6: yet he, that breaks not the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking fax, falls not harshly upon them for so foul an error and ignorance; but entertains them with all loving respect, not as followers only, but as friends ; John xv. 15. And his great Apostle, after he had spent himself in his unweariable endeavours upon God's Church, and had sown the seeds of wholesome and saving doctrine every where, what rank and noisome weeds of erroneous opinions rose up under his hand in the Churches of Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Colosse, Philippi, and Thessalonica! these he labours to root out, with much zeal, with no bitterness : so opposing the errors, as not alienating bis affection from the Churches. These, these must be our precedents; pursuing that charge of the prime Apostle; Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another ; love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous; 1 Pet. iii. 8: and that passionate and adjuring obstetation of the Apostle of the Gentiles; If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of ihe Spirit, if any bowels and mercies ; fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; Phil. ij. 1, 2.
This is it, that gives beauty, strength, glory to the Church of God, upon earth; and brings it nearest to the resemblance of that triumphant part above, where there is all perfection of love and concord. In imitation whereof, the Psalmist, sweetly; Behold,
divided fixing of the could be now enten opposicided follow their gain
how good and jouful a thing it is, brethren, to dwell together in unity! Ps. cxxxiii. 1.
(3.) So much the more justly lamentable it is, to see the manifold and grievous Distractions of the Church of Christ, both in judgment and affection.
Woe is me, into how many thousand pieces, is the seamless coat of our Saviour rent ! Yea, into what numberless atoms, is the precious body of Christ torn and minced! There are more religions, than nations upon earth; and in each religion, as many different conceits, as men. If St. Paul, when his Corinthians did but say, I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, could ask, Is Christ divided ? (1 Cor. i. 12, 13.) when there was only an emulatory magnifying of their own teachers, though agreeing and orthodox;
what, think we, would be now say, if he saw a hundred of sect-mas· ters and heresiarchs, some of them opposite to other, all to the
truth, applauded by their credulous and divided followers? all of them claiming Christ for theirs, and denying him to their gainsayers. Would he not ask, “ Is Christ multiplied ? Is Christ subdivided ? Is Christ shred into infinites ?” O God! what is become of Christianity? How do evil spirits and men labour to destroy that creed, which we have always constantly professed! For, if we set up more Christs, where is that one ? and if we give way to these infinite distractions, where is the Communion of Saints ?
But, be not too much dismayed, my Son. Notwithstanding all these cold disheartenings, take courage to thyself. He, that is truth itself, bath said, The gates of hell shall not prevail against his Church ; Matt. xvi. 18. In spite of all devils, there shall be Saints; and those are and shall be as the scales of the Leviathan, whose strong pieces of shields are his pride, shut up together, as with a close seal. One is so near to another, that no air can come betwixt them. They are joined one to another ; they stick together, that they cannot be sundered ; Job sli. 15, 16, 17. In all the main principles of religion, there is an universal and unanimous consent of all Christians : and these are they, that constitute a Church. Those, that agree in these, Christ is pleased to admit, for matter of doctrine, as members of that body, whereof he is the Head; and, if they admit not of each other as such, the fault is in the uncharitableness of the refusers, no less than in the error of the refused. And, if any vain and loose stragglers will needs sever themselves, and wilfully choose to go ways of their own; let them know, that the union of Christ's Church shall consist entire without them : this great ocean will be one collection of waters, when these drops are lost in the dust. In the mean time, it highly concerns all that wish well to the Sacred Name of Christ, to Tabour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; Eph. iv. 3 : and to renew and continue the prayer of the Apostle, for all the professors of Christianity; Now the God of Patience and Consolation grant you to be like-minded one towards another, according to Christ Jesus: that ye may, with one mind and one mouth, glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ; Rom. xv. 5, 6."
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