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supernatural character. Hence, at present, they do but partially influence mankind. Yet all who believe in the christian revelation, look forward to a period when these centres of moral life and power, no longer few, nor feeble in operation, shall have a mightier effect on the surrounding world, than has yet been known. 'Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come unto thee; thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side. Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations. The Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory; and thou shall be called by a new name. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God. Thou shalt no more be termed forsaken, neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate ; but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah.'

* Isa. lx. lxii.

53

CHAPTER VIII.

THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH.

SECTION I.

GENERAL REMARKS.

Unity, and Union, are frequently employed as synonymous terms; and it is not always, perhaps, of consequence to our present object nicely to distinguish them; though unity, in strictness, refers rather to the state of being one ; union to that actual visible concord and conjunction which is the manifestation of this oneness. The church of God is continually represented in Scripture by images which mark its unity, and the close union of its constituent parts. In Christ 'all are ONE.' There is

There is one body'~'one bread, or loaf— one new man'-one fold. The church is 'a vine'—' a vineyard—' a husbandry — a building'_' a house'—' a temple'_' a family' - a brotherhood'-' the household of faith'“the city of Jehovah'— the holy mountain’

the Zion of the holy one of Israel — the bride, the Lamb's wife, the holy Jerusalem.'

As Schism is opposed to Unity, in order to form an accurate estimate of the former, we must endeavour to ascertain the nature of the latter. Now, in the case of any secular society, unity of design, and union in pursuing it, do not of necessity imply uniformity in all the opinions and practices of the members, even with regard to the mode of attaining the desired ends. Variety, here, within certain limits, is of little consequence, provided such a degree of sameness in purpose and in action prevail, as is essential to the character and objects of the society. We have examples of this in many of the associations which have been formed to promote the temporal welfare of men. Does the church of Christ universal, lawfully admit of any such variety? Or, is external uniformity, either æcumenical or national, in organization and in rites, the appropriate-nay, the indispensable characteristic of its unity?

If the latter alternative be true, the papal system has hitherto presented the most faithful image of the unity of the mystical body of Christ; and the Protestant who goes back to Rome, is by no means destitute of an apology, in the plea, often urged by those who do so, that nowhere else can this unity—the sublime and perpetual idea of the New Testament—be so extensively realised.

At the same time—if external uniformity be thus essential as a mark of unity, and as a condition of visible fraternal union, all past experience, and all present appearances, point to anticipations which, for Protestant Christendom, without doubt, are truly forlorn. For, on this principle, how slight the probability that the church will ever return to charity! If we must wait till men of all varicties of education, prejudice, and party, think alike on all the points at issue,—what prospect, (humanly speaking,) but that the disunion of the professing church will be perpetuated; that it will never cease-no, not even before her Master's second coming!

But if the genuine expression of christian unity is to be sought elsewhere than in outward forms; if, respecting these, Scripture is either silent, or reserved and general; so that some latitude is left for human inference from divine principles : if christian faith, and uprightness, and singleness of purpose in the pursuit of truth, can consist with different opinions concerning the outer framework of the church ;-then in this there may be variety, while unity remains. Even though it be granted that our own particular platform may, in itself, approach nearer than any other, to the constitution of the apostolic church ; still, if we have no authority from revelation to insist on that form as among absolute essentials, and therefore binding

upon all; if we have no divine warrant for disowning those whom we should gladly hail as brethren, did they but on this point see with us ;then, surely, it is delightful, amidst all painful contemplations, to reflect-that, among Protestants, there have always been those who have been capable of extending their sympathies beyond one pale, (and that their own,) of the universal church ;men who have recognised no higher bond than the common Christianity; and whom no minor consideration has restrained from the exercise of charity, openly shown by union of intercourse and action with the followers of Christ, of every name.

St. Peter* speaks of Christians as “living stones, built up a spiritual house;' and there have never been wanting, since the Reformation, some good men, who may be said to have regarded the several denominational bodies of Christians in the light of so many edifices, formed of the same materials from one quarry, though differing in architecture. Provided the spiritual house' be always ' built up’ of the same living stones, they have been willing to believe that it may admit of some variety in its structure, without a sacrifice of the end for which it is erected. If this principle be just, there is scarcely more propriety in two evangelical christian communities refraining from all visible brotherly union, because they are

1 Pet. ii. 5.

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