Images de page

sions. We shall not affect to be called masters; but remember, that one is our master-even Christ, and that we are all brethren.

2. Walk in-meekness. This is a virtue nearly connected with humility. It principally consists in a prudent restraint and government of the passions. While we walk in the spirit of the gospel, we shall not be easily provoked; our resentments will not be sudden, without cause, or beyond bounds. We shall be disposed to interpret in a favorable sense the doubtful words and actions of our brethren, and when we see them surprised, or drawn into a fault, we shall admit in their case all reasonable excuses and extenuations.

If a variance happens, we shall stand ready to be reconciled. We shall on easy terms forgive the offence, considering that our own selfish feelings may probably have overrated it. We shall not suffer anger to rest in our bosoms, nor see the sun to go down on our wrath,

We shall be cautious not to give, as well as slow to take offence. We shall be no brawlers, shall speak evil of no man, but be gentle, shewing all meekness to all men. We shall not behave ourselves unseemly, but courteously adapt our language and manners to the tempers of those with whom we converse, having our speech always with grace, seasoned with salt, that we may know how we ought to answer every man.

In matters of religion our zeal will be tempered with charity. Though we shall be zealous of good works, and shall contend earnestly for the faith delivered to the saints, yet we shall be gentle and condescending in those things, which are only circumstantial, and which enter not into the essence of religion. We shall be candid and moderate in our treatment of different sects, not condemning them in the gross, nor imputing to them errors, which they disavow; but hoping, that there may be integrity of heart, even where we see a misguided judgment. We shall be ready, with meekness and fear, VOL. III.

2 M

to give an answer to every man, who asks us a reas son of the hope that is in us; and with the same Spirit shall we receive their answer, when they give us a reason of the hope that is in them.

Such as offend, we shall restore in the Spirit of meekness, considering ourselves, lest we also be tempted. Such as oppose themselves we shall in meekness instruct, praying that God would give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and we shall recom mend religion to all men by shewing out of a good conversation our works with meekness of wisdom.

3. To our meekness we must add long suffering and forbearance.

These terms express the patient and exalted exercises of meekness, rather than virtues really distinct from it. We are not only to be meek, but longsuffering in our meekness-not only to restrain anger under ordinary offences; but to repress malice and forbear revenge under the highest and most provoking injuries. Charity suffers long, thinks no evil, endures all things, and covers the multitude of sins. It recompenses to no man evil for evil, but overcomes evil with good. In the exercise of this forbearance and longsuffering, we shall highly approve and readily obey these precepts of our divine Lord. "If thy brother trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn to thee, saying, I repent, forgive him. And forgive, not only until seven times, but until seventy times seven. "Resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." But does our Sayiour require us to be unfeeling under injuries, and tamely submissive to every insolent brute? By no means. There are cases in which we ought to seek redress of of wrongs, and bring offenders to punishment. But smaller injuries in our reputation, property or liberty,

had better pass unnoticed, than be deeply laid to heart -had better be made the subject of private expostulation, than of public animadversion-had better be borne for the sake of peace, than prosecuted at its expense. And however great the injuries may seem, redress must be sought with the spirit of meekness and love; not with the temper of malice and revenge. Thus our Lord subjoins, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use and persecute you-be ye perfect, as your Father who is in heaven, is perfect.'

4. We must endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

It is not unity of opinion which the Apostle recommends; this is not possible to be obtained, nor reasonable to be expected in the present state of mankind. But it is unity of Spirit, of heart, and affection, disposing us to preserve the bond of peace, and to maintain all the duties of Christian fellowship, whatever differences of sentiment may take place. To the same purpose are his exhortations to all the churches; and especially to those, in which a diversity of opinion concerning ceremonial usages threatened their internal peace. "Bear the infirmities of the weak. Let every one please his neighbor for his good to edification.Be ye like minded one toward another, that ye may with one mind and one mouth, glorify God. Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be of one accord, of one mind-let there be no divisions among you, but live in peace." He teaches us to regard all as our fellow Christians, who call on the name of Jesus our Lord, both theirs and ours, who appear to be members of Christ's body, partakers of his Spirit, and subject to his government; and he cautions us, that we reject not those, whom God has received. To justify ourselves in excluding Christian professors from our communion, we must have evidence, that God has not received them,

There is nothing which the Apostle more earnestly inculcates on the churches, than unity and peacenothing against which he more solemnly warns them, than divisions and contentions-and of no sort of sinners does he speak with greater severity, and in terms of higher indignation, than of those, who, under pretence of promoting religion, make separations and schisms among Christians. He says, "They serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and with good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." He calls them "false apostles, evil and deceitful workers, liers in wait, dogs, grievous wolves, and ministers of Satan," On no subject does his zeal so kindle, as when he is warning the churches against these insidious disturbers of their peace, because no men were pursuing a line of conduct so opposite to the design of the gospel.

Let us particularly attend to the several arguments by which the Apostle urges us to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

1. There is one body. The church is a body, of which Christ is the head, and believers are the members. And this body is one. "We are all baptized into one body." Though for the convenience of worship, Christians are formed into distinct societies, yet they constitute but one body. They are all subject to one head-animated by one Spirit, and nourished by the same spiritual bread. They are united to their head by faith, and to their fellow members by love. "God hath tempered the parts of the body together, that there should be no schism in it, but that the members should have the same care one of another; that whether one member suffer, all should suffer with it, or one be honored, all should rejoice with it. Now we are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And from Christ the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, maketh increase to the edifying of itself in love." If we profess to be

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Christians, we call ourselves members of Christ, and fellow members with each other. Shall we then disturb the unity of the Spirit, and break the bond of peace? Shall the members of the same body separate from each other? Shall they rise against their common head? In the natural body this would be monstrous. In the spiritual body it is impious. When we thus sin against the brethren, we sin against Christ.

2. There is one Spirit.

As all the members of the natural body are animated by one soul, so all the members of Christ's body are sanctified, strengthened and led by the same Spirit. The body is one, for by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body. And we all have access through Christ by one Spirit unto the Father. Now if by the Spirit of Christ we become members of his body, then no error in judgment, or mistake in practice, which is not inconsistent with one's having the Spirit, can prove that he is not a real member of Christ, and justify us in excluding him from our fellowship. Since there is one Spirit, which dwells in all good Christians, all contention, bitterness and envy-all animosity, division and separation in the church, are offences against the Holy Spirit. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God," says the Apostle, "whereby ye are sealed to the day of redemption; and let all bitterness, wrath, clamor and evil speaking, be put away from you." The consideration that the Spirit of God dwells in our brethren, as well as in us, should make us careful to maintain the bond of peace. When we contend with them, we fight against the Spirit of peace. "If there be any fellowship of the Spirit-be ye like minded, having the same love, and let nothing be done through strife or vain glory."

3. Te are called in one hope of your calling.

We are called to obtain the same glorious salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are all called by

« PrécédentContinuer »