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did not learn at an early period of his life the lesson which he was afterwards taught in a Spanish cloister. It had saved him much treasure, the world much bloodshed, and his soul much sin. After vainly attempting to quench the light of the Reformation, and make all men think alike, this great monarch, resigning his crown, retired to a monastery. Wearied, perhaps, with the dull round of mechanical devotions, he betook himself, in the mechanical arts, to something more congenial to his active mind. After long and repeated efforts, he found that he could not make two time-pieces go alike, two machines, that had neither mind nor will, move in perfect harmony. Whereupon, it is said, he uttered this memorable reflection, What a fool was I to attempt to make all men think alike! Unfortunately for the peace of the church and for the interests of Christian charity, Charles the king has had more followers than Charles the philosopher.
There is a broad line of distinction between the essentials and the circumstantials of the faith. Yet what violent, what unnatural attempts at uniformity have men made, as if uniformity were a law of God! It is on no such model that he has constructed our world. God, while he preserves unity, delights in variety. A dull, dreary, uninteresting uniformity, is quite foreign to nature. Look at the trees of the forest! all presenting the same grand features, what variety in their forms! Some, standing erect, wear a proud and lofty air; some, modest-like, grow lowly and seek the shade; some, like grief, hang the head and have weeping branches; some, like aspiring and unscrupulous ambition, climb up by means of others, killing what they climb by; while some, rising straight and tall, with branches all pointing upwards, present in their tapering forms emblems of the piety that spurns the ground and seeks the skies. Or look at the flowers, what variety of gay colours in a meadow ! Or look at mankind, what variety of expression in human faces, of tones in human voices ! There are no two faces alike, no two flowers alike, no two leaves alike, I believe no two grains of sand alike. In that variety God manifests his exhaustless resources, and Nature possesses one of her most attractive charms. And why insist on all men observing a uniform style of worship, or thinking alike on matters that are not essential to salvation? You might as well insist on all men wearing the same expression of face, or speaking in the same tone of voice; * for I believe that there are as great natural and constitutional differences in the minds as in the bodies of
How tolerant was Paul of differences ! Forgetting how he bore even with errors which would now-a-days call down prompt excommunication on their authors, men, insisting on uniformity in the mere circumstantials of religion, have rent the church and sown the seeds of discord far and wide. Praying all the while for the peace of Jerusalem, they have made the church of Christ present such a melancholy spectacle as Jerusalem itself exhibited when, the Roman without and famine within, different factions raged in the city, and the Jews, fired by ferocious passions, plunged their swords into each other's bosoms.
His church has not followed her Lord's example. They were thieves and murderers whom Christ cleared out of the temple. But, struck with frenzy, aiming at an impossible uniformity, his followers have driven their brethren out, while Religion has stood by, wringing her hands, like Rachel weeping for her children, because they were not. No man, says the Bible, hateth his own flesh. What sane man consents to part with an arm or limb unless it be dead or incurably diseased? But churches, possessed, if not of a devil, yet of the greatest folly, have cut off their living members for no other offence than some small differences, some petty trifling sore, which the progress of time or the balm of kindness would have healed.
I do not deny that there have been justifiable separations. There must needs be offences; and it does not follow that the woe pronounced on those by whom offences come falls on the party stigmatised as separatists. It is they who, creating wrongs or refusing redress, compel men of tender conscience to leave a church, that are guilty, if there be schism, of its sin.
Divisions are bad things. Do not fancy that I have any sympathy with those who, confounding charity with indifference, regard matters of religion as not worth disputing about. Such a state of death is still worse than war.
Give me the roaring storm rather than the peace of the grave. Division is better than such union as the frost produces, when with its cold and icy fingers
it binds up into one dead, congealed, heterogeneous mass, stones and straws, pearls and pebbles, gold and silver, iron and clay, substances that have nothing in
Yet divisions are bad things. They give birth to bad passions. They cause Ephraim to envy Judah, and Judah to vex Ephraim. Therefore, what we ought to aim at, is to heal them, and where we cancannot heal them, to soften their asperities. « Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." « Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called the children of God.” If for conscience's sake Christian men must part, oh, that they would part, saying with Abraham, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, for we are brethren. Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me : if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.
“ The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree.' But it may not be the will of God that his church, in its collective character, should ever present, in this world, the characteristic feature of that beautiful tree. The palm has a peculiar port. It rises tall and graceful in one straight stem without a single branch, up to the leafy plumes that wave above the desert sands and form its graceful crown. The church, throwing out many goodly and fruitful boughs, may ever present apparent variety in actual unity—like that giant oak which, with its roots in the rock and its head in the skies, throws out many a branch to catch the blessed gifts of heaven in dews, and showers, and sunbeams. We hear much about the unity of the church. And how often has it been made to serve the interests of falsehood, how often has it been used as a spell, wherewith cunning priests have bound simple men to systems of gross error ? Rightly understood, the unity of the church is by no means incompatible with the existence of different denominations. What are they but the branches of a tree which still is one; one in root, one in stem, one in sap, one in flower, and one in fruit. We have one faith, one spirit, and one baptism. We are united in Christ; we meet in that centre; and, like the radii of a circle, the nearer we approach our common centre, the nearer we draw to Christ, we shall be the nearer to each other. Let us gladly recognise a common brotherhood, and love one another, even as Christ loved us. Members of the same family, travellers to the same home, called with the same holy calling, let us ever remember the words of Joseph to his brethren, See that ye fall not out by the way.
But of all the forms of imagery under which Christ's church is set forth, I prefer that in my text. Bringing out as well as any other our relationship to Christ, and better than any other our relationship to each other, it teaches us the most blessed lessons of love, and charity, and tender sympathy. When bill-hook or pruning-knife lops a branch from the tree, the wounded stem bleeds, and seems for a while to drop some tears of sorrow, but they are soon dried up; the other boughs suffer no pain, show no sympathy, their leaves dance merrily in the wind over the poor