Page images

might readily be suggested, -such, for example, as respect the providence of God, the precise limits of divine and human agency, the state of departed spirits after death, and a variety of others which very remotely affect, if they can be said to affect at all the cause of practical holiness—no man of sound mind will look for a cordial agreement throughout the Christian church. The distinction between doctrines essential to salvation and those which are not essential is founded alike upon reason and Scripture and the very nature of spiritual things; and narrow as is the way which leadeth unto life, it is probable that many are walking in it, with whom certain travellers on the same road will hold no communication, regarding them as aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise. * For we all know how great is the tendency of difference in opinion, upon religious subjects more especially, to make men view each other with suspicion and dislike; we naturally associate ourselves with those whose sentiments correspond with our own, and although love to all the followers of Christ, especially on the ground that they are Christians, is repeatedly

Eph. ii. 12.

[ocr errors]

inculcated in the New Testament, we are apt either to think slightly of their character because they concur not most exactly with our favourite notions; or we regard them with a very subordinate sort of affection, even while we believe them to be the children of God. Such is undoubtedly the case at the present day; and such was, in some instances, the case in the days of St. Paul: and the great object of the passage before us is to recall the members of the Christian church to a better mind, to fix their hearts on the same leading principles, and to persuade them to the exercise of unreserved affection and of mutual love.

It is reasonable to conclude, therefore, that the state of mind, thus recommended, may really be attained ; that for all useful purposes, and according to the full sense of the apostle's exhortation, there may be both unity of sentiment and unity of heart; but how then is this to be accomplished?

For this purpose two things are especially required : first, a just view of the great design of Christianity; and, secondly, the cultivation of a humble spirit.

(1.) The design of: Christianity was to make men holy in this life and happy in the next :

to repair the ruins of the fall ; to restore to us the image which was then defaced, and to make us heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. If this then its great and avowed end be answered in any instance; if we see those who were formerly under the servitude of sin now brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God; if we perceive that they possess the divine principle of love to Christ, and that they are endeavouring, in reliance upon His grace, to pursue that path of holiness which they were commanded to tread, wherefore should we not feel toward them as servants of the same Lord and fellow heirs of a common salvation ? Wherefore, in the intercourse which subsists between us, should we not dwell upon those great truths of faith and practice, which involve our highest hopes and kindle our best affections, rather than upon those less obvious and less important points, upon which wise and good men have generally differed? Why, in the highest of all concerns, are we to turn aside to matters comparatively foreign and extraneous, and forget that which forms the very essence of religion, and gives to it all its importance and its worth? The plain reason is because we do not justly appreciate the nature and end of the gospel of Christ: if we were right minded in this respect, we should have little comparative temptation to expatiate upon points of doubtful issue; and although, if catechised upon these subjects, we might differ in judgment, there would be, for all practical purposes, both in appearance and in reality, a correspondence of sentiment, which hitherto the world has rarely seen.

(2.) But then it is necessary further that we should possess the spirit of humility.

It will be found, I believe universally, that the more humble a man is, the less will he be disposed to contend for his own views on the subordinate points of religious disputation. He feels how unqualified he is to decide absolutely upon questions which have exercised to so little purpose the most enlarged and powerful minds, and he loves not argument for its own sake; he will enter into no dispute for the pleasure of victory; and whilst he probably is not without some settled opinion on those subjects, the chief view with which he ever regards them is to humble him still more in the sight of his Maker; to fill him with admiration of the wisdom and knowledge of God, and to lead him to the more devout and earnest cultifrom us all coldness and indifference on matters of such importance ! May the principles of true religion be grafted in our hearts! Then shall we indeed find it a good and pleasant thing to be thankful! Then shall we esteem the Sabbath a delight, holy of the Lord, honourable ; and thus employing it in the service of prayer and praise, shewing forth the loving-kindness of God in the morning, and His faithfulness every night, we shall pass with joy from these Sabbaths on earth, to that Sabbath above, in which the voice of praise is never silent; but through all the courts of heaven are heard the strains of unceasing adoration, the everlasting songs and hallelujahs of the blessed!

« PreviousContinue »