RPM, Volume 18, Number 19, May 1 to May 7, 2016

Sermons on John 17

Sermon XIX

By Thomas Manton

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. —John 17:11.

Fifthly, The last circumstance, 'That they may be one, as we are, is the aim of Christ's request, which is unity and consent among the apostles. It is illustrated by the pattern or exemplar of it, 'As we are one.' The explicatory questions are two:

1. What kind of unity this is that is prayed for.

2. Under what respect it is prayed for in this place.

First, What this unity is? How one? One in judgment, or one [Pg. 323] in heart, or one body knit together with the same spirit? I All these; for consider for whom Christ prayeth, for the disciples of that age, and principally for the college of the apostles; now tenth lie, 'Let them be one.' There is a double unity— mystical and moral.

1. Mystical union is the union of believers with Christ the head, and with one another; with Christ the head by faith, and with one another by love; \~ina\~ \~wsin\~ \~en\~, understand \~en\~ \~swma\~; so it agreeth with the letter of this place, nay, with the meaning. This union of believers in the same body is often compared with the mystery of the Trinity; and it is elsewhere expressed by one body, as Col. ii. 19, 'And not holding the head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God; 'a place full to this purpose, where all believers, in regard of their union with the head, and with one another, are set forth as one body, governed under one head, by one spirit, by which they increase and grow up, till they come to such a kind of unity as is among the divine persons. I cannot exclude this, because where Christ's prayers are indefinite, it is good to interpret them in their full latitude, and according to the extent of his purchase. And yet I think this is not principally intended, because, as I said, Christ chiefly prayeth for the apostles and disciples of that age, not for the church catholic or universal.

2. There is a moral union, and that is twofold — (1.) Consent in doctrine; (2.) Mutual agreement and concord of affection. As it is said of the church, Acts iv. 32, 'The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one mind.' One heart, that noteth agreement in affection; and one mind, agreement in judgment: for both these doth Christ pray.

[1.] Let them be one in doctrine and judgment Christ had intrusted them with the weightiest affair the sons of men are capable of, with the promulgation of the gospel; a doctrine which Christ brought oat of the bosom of the Father, and gave it to the apostles, and they to the church; and Christ obtained that which he prayed for. There is such an exact consent and harmony between the doctrine of the apostles, that is a sufficient foundation for the faith and unity of the church. For the faith of the church: 1 Cor. xv. 10, 11, 'I laboured more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me: therefore whether it were I, or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.' We have no cause to stumble and take offence at the doctrine delivered by the apostles; though God used several instruments, of different gifts and opportunities of service, yet all were conducted by an infallible Spirit: 'So we preached, all of us,' Ac. So for unity and concord in the church: Eph. iv. 3-5, 'Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism,' &c.

[2.] Let them be one in heart, and with joint consent carry on this great charge that is committed to them. So did the apostles, by unanimous consent, divide their labours for the edification of the world, and kept a fellowship among themselves: Gal. ii. 9, 'They gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go unto [Pg. 324] the heathen, and they to the circumcision;' with such concord and agreement was this great work managed between them; for all this did Christ pray. And this suiteth with the pattern in the text,' As we are one. As between the Father and the Son there was a mutual agreement in the carrying on the work of redemption, so between the apostles in carrying on the doctrine of redemption.

Secondly, In what manner doth Christ pray for it? Here some take this only as a new petition, different from the former; he had prayed for preservation, now for unity. But there is a causal particle \~ina\~, and therefore some connection: \~ina\~ may be taken specificative, keep them, by making them one; the safety of the church dependeth much upon the unity of it. Or terminative, keep them, that they may be one.

I had intended, because of the necessity of the matter, to have spoken of the union of the church with Christ, and then with one another. But because he chiefly prayeth for the apostles (though others are not excluded), and because the union of the church, as one body, animated with the same Spirit, will fall under discussion in ver. 21 and 23, I shall adjourn it to that place.

Only now I shall observe

1. How much Christ's heart is set upon the unity and oneness of his members. Here he prayeth for the apostles; in ver. 21 he prayeth the same for all believers. Upon this occasion let us see how much it was in the aim of Christ

[1.] Therefore was he incarnate. He united the divine and human nature in his own person, that he might unite us to God by himself, and with one another. God and man had never been one in covenant if they had not first been one in person. The hypostatical union maketh way for the mystical. It was the main end of Christ's coming into the world, Eph. i. 10, 'That in the fulness of time he might gather together in one all things in Christ' The angels and blessed spirits, and the saints in all nations, have communion with us in Christ under the same head. He would gather the elect rational creatures into a body, one with God in Christ, saints and angels. As all the heads of a discourse are summed up in the conclusion, so Christ would draw all into one body. He took a natural body that he might have a mystical body. Christ would not only leave us the relation of friends and brethren, but fellow-members. He would gather together all into one; not only into one family, but into one body. Brothers that have issued from the same womb, that have been nursed with the same milk, have been divided in interests and affections, and defaced all feelings of nature; Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, are sad instances. But this mischief is not found in members of the same body; there is no contestation and disagreement. Who would use one hand to cut off another? or divide those parts, which preserve the mutual correspondence and welfare of all? Again, brothers, if they do not hurt one another, they do not care for one another; each liveth to himself a distinct life apart and studieth his own advantage. But it is not so in the body; each member liveth in the whole, and the whole in aU the members; and they all exercise their several functions for the common good: 1 Cor. xii. 25,' The members should Lave the [Pg. 325] same care one of another.' We are not friends and brethren, but members.

[2.] No one thine is so much inculcated in his sermons: John xv. 17, 'These things I command you, that ye love one another.' Will you take a charge from a dying man? This was the great charge that Christ left at his death; it was a legacy as well as a precept. Speeches of dying men are wont to be received with much veneration and reverence, especially the charge of dying friends. The brethren of Joseph, fearing lest he should remember the injuries done to him in seeking his life, selling him into Egypt, they use this pica, Gen. 1.16,17, 'Thy father commanded us before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did thee evil: and now we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father.' We count it a piece of natural honesty to fulfil the will of the dead. When Christ took his leave of the disciples, this was the charge that he left upon them. Therefore when thy heart beginneth to be exulcerated, consider, What love do I bear Christ, since I do not respect his last, commandment? Again, as it was Christ's last commandment, so it was his new commandment: John xiii. 34, 'A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.' It was his solemn charge; a new commandment I How new, since it was as old as the moral law or law of nature? New because excellent, 'as a new song;' or new because solemnly and expressly renewed by him and commended to their care; as new things and new laws are much esteemed and prized; Christ would have this commandment always new and fresh; or new because enforced by a new argument: 'As I have loved you, so should ye love one another.' When we see how much Christ hath loved us, even to the death of the cross, we may learn to love with a new kind of love: Experti amorem meum tam novum et inauditum. This was a new kind of love indeed, to enkindle love in our souls. Christ gave us such a new kind of love as was never seen nor heard of. Christ came from heaven to propound us a pattern of charity; as to repair and preserve the notions of the Godhead by the greatness of his sufferings, so to show us a pattern of charity, and to elevate duty between man and man: Eph. v. 2, 'Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savour.' In Christ's example we see the highest pattern of love: John xv. 9, 'As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you.' His Father loved him with an infinite love, yet parted with him for the salvation of men; and Christ parted with himself, and all to raise our love to God and men the higher. But I digress.

[3.] In his prayers, that which he reinforced again and again is unity and love. When he was about to die he foresaw the divisions of the church, and that Satan would by all means endeavour to sow strife; corrupt nature putteth us on discords. He left some apostles, others believers, but all men; wherefore he prays for the apostles, 'Let them be one;' for believers,' Let them be one.' Christ, that left unity as a charge in his last sermons, he would leave it as a legacy in his last prayers. But why was Christ so earnest in his prayers? [Pg. 326]

(1.) Because it is such an excellent blessing. Christ would not have been so earnest for it if it had not been so excellent. I would not digress into a commendation of concord and love: pax ab omnibus laudatur, a paucis servatur; all commend it, though few observe it; yet a little will not be unnecessary. This is the strength and safety of the church: Col. iii. 14,' And above all things put on charity, which is \~sundesmov\~ \~thv\~ \~teleiothtov\~, the bond of perfectness,' or a perfect bond, the cement of the church. The church is but one temple, where stones squared by grace are cemented with love, and inhabited by the same Spirit; this keepeth them fast in the building. This is the beauty and safety of the church, the joining that runneth through all the squared stones. As the health of the outward body dependeth on the symmetry and proportion of the members, and the harmony and disposition of all the parts, so doth the welfare of the church upon the bond of love. Next to troth, there is not a greater blessing; and Christ prayeth for the apostles, that they might be kept in the truth for this end, that they might be one in love. And as nothing is more profitable to the church, so nothing is more acceptable to God; it pleaseth God exceedingly to see all that call him Father to love as brethren. Certainly there is not a greater grief to his spirit than to see us divided in opinion and affection, in our prayers and supplications. Certainly there is much in concord in praying, when all God's children do besiege heaven with uniform and joint supplications. Things stick in the birth, because we are not agreed what to ask. As reformation sticketh towards men, because we are not agreed what to hold forth to the world, so it sticketh as to God, because we are not agreed what to ask. When the Israelites would have God's help, it is said they came all as one man to ask his counsel: Judges xx. 1, 'Then all the children of Israel went oat, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the Lord in Mizpeh.' Oh! when shall it be so amongst us? There is not only altar set up against altar, but prayer against prayer. We are first divided in practices and opinions, and then in prayers; God's dear children and servants are divided in language; we cannot in charity but judge them to be acted with the same spirit» inspired with the same breath, yet they yield a different sound. It is said of the primitive believers that' they continued, \~omoyumadon\~, with one accord, in prayer and supplication, Acts i. 14; and' they were with one accord in one place' when the Holy Spirit descended on them, Acts it 1. And yet how seldom doth any public congregation meet with one mind in the fame place I as in an organ, when some pipes do make a sound, others keep silence: Mat. xviii. 19, 'If two of you shall agree on earth, as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. God looks for an agreement and harmony in our requests, if we would speed with him.

(2.) Because Christ foresaw how much the church would need this blessing. Divisions will arise, an evil most unsuitable to Christianity, and yet the evil genius that hath attended it; partly through Satan's malice; he cannot else hold the empire and title to the world; he is not only prince of the power of the air, but the God of this world. God permitteth him in his righteous judgment not only to have a great [Pg. 327] power over the elements, but to rule in the hearts of men. Now he could not keep his own, nor prevail against the church, were it not for divisions. As Cyrus in Herodotus, going to fight against Scythia, coming to a broad river, and not being able to pass over it, cut and divided it into divers arms and sluices, and so made it passable for all his army; this is the devil's policy, he laboureth to divide us, and separate us into divers sects and factions, and so easily overcometh us. Christ knew that the envious man would sow tares. Partly through weakness and imperfection of knowledge, divers men may agree in one aim, and yet not in one way. The apostle saith (which indeed is the great canon and rule of charity, when it is rightly understood and applied), Phil. iii. 15,16, 'Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded; and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you: nevertheless whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thine.' I observe there, that among the godly, because of difference of light, especially in tunes of reformation, there will be difference of judgment, though they agree in the same aim. As when divers physicians are sent for to a sick person, some think that the best way to cure the sick person is to take away all the corrupt blood at once, others think it best to take it away by little and little; here is a difference in judgment, but yet the aim is the same, all intend the good of the sick party: so it is in curing a sick church; some are for taking away all, and beginning upon a new foundation, others for a regular reformation, to try all ways and all means of recovery; this is a difference. Or rather thus: when a house is on fire, some are for pulling it down, other· are for quenching it, and letting the building stand; it requireth a present remedy, and in this hurlyburly the master's voice is not Always heard. So it is in reformation of inveterate errors and customs that have crept into the church; there is a difference of judgment about the cure, and God's voice in the confusion is not always heard. Partly through vile affections; man's nature is very prone to discords, out of pride, worldly interests, desire of precedency, envy of one another's reputes, irregular zeal; all these make us touchy. Some are of a salt and fiery humour, like flax and gunpowder, the least spark Catcheth, and setteth them into a flame. Much experience hereof we have in these dogdays of the church, wherein every one is barking and biting at one another, whereby Christ is exceedingly dishonoured, and the cause of religion much disadvantaged. Therefore that there might be some sparks of love kept alive in the church, is Christ so earnest with the Father, 'Let them be one.'

(3.) That we might know that unity among believers is a possible blessing. It seemeth many tunes past hope, and that it were as good to speak to the winds to be still as to men's prejudices and boisterous affections. Ay t but there is hope; Christ hath prayed for it, and his prayers are as good as so many promises: John xi. 42, 'I know that thou nearest me always.' This is a fountain of comfort and hope.

(4.) To encourage us to pray for it. Endeavours with men are without fruit and success; but let us ply the throne of grace more, and learn of Christ to go to our heavenly Father, and wrestle with him in supplications. In one place it is said, Rom. xii. 18, 'If it be [Pg. 328] possible, as much as in you lies, live peaceably with all men.' Fac quod tuum est. We mast do whatever is possible; but we are not in the place of God: 2 Thes. iii. 16, 'The God of peace give you peace always by all means.' It seems as if a small matter would set all right, but we have it not in our power; a little light, a little love; a little light to make the prejudices vanish, a little love to conquer animosities. But God alone must do the work; he can bow men's ragged and crooked spirits: Isa. xi. 6, 7,' The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the suckling together, and a little child shall lead them; and the cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.' It is an allusion to the beasts in the ark, where all enmity was taken away; they were all tame. So the gospel can meeken the heart. Not that so disagreeing tempers shall remain in the Christian church, which (though the ravenous disposition of some did cease) would make a motley company, and (as the prophet speaks) like a speckled bird; but besides the extinction of noxious qualities, all shall be governed by the same Spirit of truth and holiness.

[4.] Christ died for this end: Eph. ii. 14-16, 'He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.' He died, not only to reconcile us to God; but to one another, to make of twain one body, and destroy the enmity in his flesh. Other sacrifices are a sign of separation, therefore he would be a sacrifice of union. The flesh of bulls and goats were a wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles; but he would destroy the enmity in his flesh, to make of twain one. So Caiaphas prophesied, John xi. 52, that Christ should die to 'gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.' Christ died to enlarge the pale, that all nations, though of different rites, customs, and interests, might become one.

[5.] This he aimed at in his ascension, and the pouring out of the Spirit We read of the unity of the Spirit: 'Keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, Eph. iv. 3. It is called the unity of the Spirit, not because the union is spiritual and mystical, but because the Spirit is the author of it Therefore it is said, 1 Cor. xii. 4, 'There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit' Christ would have but one spirit to run through all his members, that as they are united to one head, so they may be animated by one spirit. Christ is the head of the church, and the Spirit is the soul of the church. There is a spirit of communion. Look, as it is said, Ezek. i. 21, 'When the beasts-went, the wheels went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them;' the reason is, because 'the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels.' So because the same spirit is in one Christian that is in another, therefore they have the like affections, to procure the good of one another as much as may be. Christ giveth us the Spirit to make us one. But of this spirit of communion more hereafter. [Pg. 329]

[6.] This is the end of his gracious dispensations, he giveth us grace assurance of glory to this end: John xvii 22, 'And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one, even a§ we are one.' Understand it of the privilege of filiation; we are made eons that we may live as brethren; or of the gift of grace, the glorious image of God is impressed on all the saints, that likeness may Beget love; or of an interest in glory, that those that expect to live in the same heaven may not fall out by the way, and disagree on earth.

[7.] It is the end of his ordinances and appointments in the church. Baptism and the Lord's supper are to keep the saints together. It is sad indeed that the world maketh them apples of strife, when Christ made them bonds of love: 'We are all baptized by one Spirit into one body, and have been all made to drink into one spirit,' 1 Cor. xii. 13. It notes our union with Christ and one with another. And 1 Cor. x. 17,' We being many, are one bread and one body; for we arc all partakers of that one bread.' The sacraments are banners, under which we do encamp, and profess our union and brotherhood in the army of Christ

Use 1. How contrary are they to Christ that love strife and sow discord among brethren; they are the devil's factors, agents for the kingdom of darkness; they wholly frustrate the design and undertaking of Jesus Christ. He was incarnate, preached, prayed, died, &c., that his people may be one. Yea, they do not only what in them lieth to frustrate Christ, and make void his aim, but do also disparage him before the world; he holdeth out to all the world that his people are one body, one family, one house, and yet they are crumbled into factions. Divisions in the church beget atheism in the world. Oh! let it not seem a small thing to rend the unity of the church. But where shall this be charged? Every one will excuse himself from the guilt of the present breaches. Certainly we have all cause to reflect upon our own hearts, and not make application for others. It is usual with us to do as Judas; when Christ told his disciples somewhat that concerned him, he looked round about upon the disciples. So we look about upon others, when we should smite upon our own thigh. One of the bellows of strife is crimination and recrimination; therefore let us see a little who is guilty. The unity is twofold—one in mind, one in heart; one in judgment one in affection. Now what hast thou done contrary to either of these unions?

1. If thou hast been a stickler in novel opinions, whereby division hath been caused in the church, thou hast die-served the aim of Christ. Christians are bound to be of one mind: 1 Peter iii. 8, 'Finally, be ye all of one mind,' &c.; Phil. ii. 2, 'Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind;' 1 Cor. xiii 2, 'Though I have all faith, so as I can remove mountains, and have no charity, I am nothing.' But you will reply, Will you enforce judgment or impose belief, and make me an hypocrite and yourself a usurper? And what are novel opinions? You condemn others, and they you; you preach against them, and they against you. Yea, but yet Christians should strive, as much as is possible, to be all of a mind; and it should trouble thee if forced to differ from the general judgment of the church. In doubtful matters, take not up an [Pg. 330] opinion which will offend: 'Beware of doubtful disputations.' He that dissents had need have plain evidence, and that the truth should be brought with much demonstration to the conscience, arguments had need be express and clear, and he had need pray much, and consult and confer with others. But when singularity and diversity of opinions is affected, homini congenitum est magis nova quam magna mirari, and without any fear and jealousy, men let loose their hearts to novelties, this is blameworthy. When we have the consent of the church, a less light will serve the turn than for a dissent.

2. Hast thou done anything to hinder the church from being of one heart?

[1.] By professing principles of separation; certainly it is a crime It is against love, as error is against faith; it cuts asunder the bands and sinews of Christ's mystical body. In these times, the charge of this sin is so frequent, that the sin is little regarded. Every modest dissent and unconformity is branded with the name of schism, that men think schism no such matter, or no such crime: Jude 19, 'These be they who separate themselves,' \~apodiorizontev\~. Now it is dangerous to separate, and hard to discern when it is lawful. The question of separation lieth in the dark, but the enforcements of love are plain and open. Divers allow but three grounds of separation—intolerable persecution, damnable heresy, and gross idolatry. We should hold communion as long as Christ will. Scandal is a ground of mourning, but not a ground of separation, and whenever it is done, it must be with grief.

[2.] They that prosecute controversies in such a way as will not stand with love, viz., with passion, bitterness of spirit, damning all opposites, suppressing them by the power of the sword. Wrath, exulceration, and bitterness of spirit, are opposite to love. Michael durst not bring a railing accusation. The worst adversaries are overcome with eon words and hard arguments. Bailing and reviling makes men deaf to the tenders of reconciliation: Ps.cxx.7, 'I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war.' So is damning all oppoeites, casting them oat of Christ, urging things beyond the weight and consequence of the opinion, censuring others as not spiritual, 1 Cor. xiv. 37. Interest makes men passionately and irregularly zealous: 1 Cor. i. 2, 'To all that in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours;' not as a party impropriating Christ, 'I am of Christ.' So is domineering over men's consciences, and obtruding opinions by force; these are said 'to go in the way of Cain.' Jude 11.

Use 2. Let us be as earnest for unity as Christ; let us think of charily more than we have done, how to preserve peace, as well as truth. Certainly we that have one Father, are born of one mother, acknowledge one elder brother, even Christ, by whom we are adopted, hope for one patrimony, we should be more careful' to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.' We have a great many contentions now for one holy contention: Heb. x. 24, 'Let ns consider one another, to provoke to love and to good works.' What arguments shall I use? The danger of the Papists on one hand, of sects on the other. Of Papists; if ever the beast were likely to recover of his wounds, now it is. Our divisions make us first a laughing-stock to the enemy, and then a [Pg. 331] prey; first we are had in contempt, then they use violence. And it may be just with God to suffer it; when piety decreaseth, charity is exiled; and bitterness, partialities, strife, suspicions are only left to reign and flourish. Certainly, if once a peace were settled in the Reformed churches, the prophecies concerning antichrist would soon be accomplished; those relicts of God's election, which do as yet remain in spiritual Babylon, would soon come out from amongst them, who are now scandalised at our divisions: as when a boat is to take in passengers, when all the passengers are in the boat, they launch out, and hoist up sail. They are weary of the idolatry and superstitions of the Romish church, and would soon break the cords wherewith they are now held; truth would have a greater power: Acts iv. 32, 33, 'And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul; neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and grace was upon them all.' As to sects on the other side, libertines daily increase, by means of the divisions amongst them that fear God, and grow formidable in the variety of their combinations and endeavours: Jude 11, 'Woe unto them, for they have gone in the way of Cain, and run greedily after the error of Baalam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.' There would be an end of this itch if all that fear God would join together as one man in the defence of the gospel. Alas! we have striven long enough, hindered the common salvation long enough; scandals enough have been given: it is high time to renounce all fruits of revenge and ambition, and think of peace and unity.

But you will say, What would you have us to do?

I answer—Something with God, something as to men. Something with God; pray and mourn, lay to heart the divisions that are among God's people. I speak for Sion's sake; we should be very earnest with God for Sion: Isa. lxii. 1, 'For Sion's sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.' A great house is smitten with breaches, and a little house with clefts; not only kingdoms, but particular families are destroyed, when the members of them are divided in opinions and affections: Ps. cxxil. 6, 'Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they shall prosper that love thee.' Let this be your constant request to God; be not acted with a private factious spirit

Something is to be done with men. I do not speak now how to keep peace; it is past that; but how to restore it now it is lost. What shall we do? The apostle telleth you, Phil. iii. 15, 16, 'Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless whereto ye have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.' There is no remedy now left but brotherly forbearance towards those that hold the foundation. It were to be wished that we could agree, not only in fundamentals, but in all other the accessaries of Christian doctrine. But this cannot be hoped for. What then? Shall the rent go further and further without any [Pg. 332] remedy? No; let therefore all parties that, in the judgment of a regular charity, may be presumed to have owned Christ, walk together as far as they have attained. And how is that? I can only propound my wishes and desires·; let them, reserving their private differences to themselves, come under some common rule, or solemn acknowledgment of the foundations of religion. What if there were a form drawn up-to that purpose, to which both should stand? I think to state fundamentals is a matter of great difficulty. God would make us cautious of every truth; therefore the canon of the scripture is very large. But there are some things propounded in the scriptures as absolutely necessary, without which salvation cannot be had. If we were mutually engaged to the profession of these, patiently bearing with one another in other things undecided, mutually abstaining from magisterial decisions and enforcements, and obtruding opinions upon one another by violence, and all rash condemnations, castings out of Christ, limiting religion to our own party, saying, Here is Christ, and there is Christ; as if Christ were divided; commending one another's prosperity to God by mutual prayers, this were a healing course. Let us perform all mutual offices of love and spiritual counsel to one another, strengthening one another in solid piety, holding forth light in the lesser differences, with all modesty and candour; and in civil matters standing as one man against the common enemy, and using endeavours to promote the kingdom of Christ, without any reflections on our private honour, profit, and interests. If this were once done, I doubt not but the fog would vanish, and we should find ourselves nearer to one another than we do imagine. I am not altogether out of hope that this will be done, because of the promises. It is done already in the kingdom of Poland, between the Lutherans and the Calvinists.

Use 3. To persuade the ministers of the gospel to a greater concord and amity in the joint discharge of their work. Christ prayeth here for the apostles,' that they may be one.' How should we agree together in pressing duty, reprehending sin I This would be an effectual and potent means, not only to the peace of the church, but success of the gospel. Schism in the church of Corinth arose from the emulation of ministers among themselves, one striving to excel the other in eloquence and favour among the people, and contemning Paul and others, that followed the simplicity of the gospel So the apostle noteth it elsewhere: Phil. i. 15,' Some preach Christ out of envy and strife, and some also of good-will.' It is usual that one carpeth at another's gifts, one standing in the way of another's honour and profit; like men in a boat, jostling at one another till the boat itself be sunk. One faileth, and yieldeth to the promises and threatenings of the world, another standeth stoutly; and from their different practices there proceed different interests and opinions. We should with a combined strength promote the gospel.

2. Observe the pattern; he doth not only pray,' Let them be one,' but shows what kind of oneness he meaneth, 'as we are one.' Some think that by we is meant the Father and Christ as mediator, between whom there was an agreement in the work of redemption; this is true: but unity of essence, I suppose, is here intended, there being a plain intimation in the context of the \~pericwrhsiv\~, peculiar to the Trinity [Pg. 333] (viz., ver. 21). But what then shall we say to the Arians? I answer—In this \~kaywv\~ is implied, not \~isothv\~, but \~omoiothv\~; not an exact equality, but some resemblance; not the same unity, but a like.

Doct. The union of believers with Christ the head, and with one another, hath some resemblance to the unity that is between the divine persons themselves.

1. It is a spiritual union, not natural or civil, but divine and spiritual.

2. It is a close union. Between the Father and the Son there is not only consent, but unity of essence; there cannot be a greater unity. So there is a close unity between the members of the mystical body, by love, and peace, and concord, and delighting in one another. It is unitas pluralis, et pluralitas unita, saith Bernard.

3. It is a constant and inseparable union. The divine essence may be distinguished, but not divided. They that are united to Christ cannot be separated from him, and-should not from one another. Take heed of straggling. What becomes of the member that is cut off from the body, the branch from the root? It is dangerous to run from the shepherds' tents.

4. It is a holy union. There is no unity but what standeth with purity: Mark ix. 56, 'Have salt in yourselves, and peace one with another.' The heart must be kept pure and holy. Loose zeal, it is not unity, but compliance. Peace with men is bought upon hard terms when we must go to war with God; it is better still to be a man of contention. An agreement in evil is like that of Herod and Pilate, who shook hands against Christ: Heb. xii. 14, 'Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God.' A man may see God without peace, but he cannot see God without holiness.

5. It is a unity which consisteth with order and distinction. There is in the church a subordination of callings, by which its beauty and strength is maintained; and if we would keep this unity, we must yield honour to one another's gifts and places. In the body natural, the eye meddleth not with hearing, nor the ear with seeing; the foot talketh not; the office of the hand is to dress the body, that of the foot to support the body. The soul giveth life to all the parts, there is ground of unity; but the parts have several offices, and there is ground of order and comeliness. The soul enlivens the feet, as well as the hands and breast It is comfortable to see all conscionably in their way joining together for the common good.

Use. Let us study to imitate the Trinity; as in the case now before us, there is a little resemblance of the mystery of the Trinity. Men cry for a union, and yet make no conscience of separation. They would have an unholy mixture, a carnal compliance and consent, for carnal ends, out of worldly policy; as ice amasseth into a body iron, water, wood, sticks, and stones. We have one unity, but observe not due distinction therein. Is there not a horrible invasion of callings, and thence comes confusion and disorders? Ministers turn soldiers, and soldiers turn ministers? Oh t but remember, Christ commendeth this pattern to us, Walk as those that are one, as Christ and the Father are one, seeking one another's welfare, rejoicing in one another's graces, as if they were our own; contributing counsel, sympathy, [Pg. 334] spiritual assistance, and prayers for the common good. When the finger is hurt, there is pain through the whole body. We should live as if we had but one essence and interest. It is almost in vain to hope for the public at present, bat in your particular societies, faithfully yet regularly use your gifts for the common good, so as that you may neither dishonour the head nor dissolve the union between the members.

3. I observe that Christ seeketh it of God; he beggeth perseverance, 'that they may be one.'

Doct. It is God that keepeth the saints together. Nature is prone to discord; if God should leave us, we should soon discover what is in our hearts. God doth it sometimes by his providence, letting loose the common enemy, as a dog let loose makes the sheep ran together; or by inflicting great distress, as two ends of wax are joined together in the fire; or he can take off contention, as a judge. Sometimes by his Spirit, and the constant influences of his grace, of light and love. God made Esau a friend to Jacob. Let spirit· be never so rough, he can meeken them.

Use. Acknowledge God in this matter. He will be known as the Lord of hosts, and as the God of peace. Acknowledge him in this matter, in prayer and praise. In prayer, before division is broken out; if God did but leave men to their own sway, they would never be at peace. After divisions are broken out, prayer is the beet means to settle the church. It is God's prerogative to speak peace; when men have wearied themselves in the pursuit of it, it is God must give it. Acknowledge him in praise in days of peace and tranquillity; when there is a happy union among the people of God, give thanks to his name for it, for it is God alone, who is the 'God of the spirits of all flesh.' that unites the spirits of men to one another.

Subscribe to RPM
RPM subscribers receive an email notification each time a new issue is published. Notifications include the title, author, and description of each article in the issue, as well as links directly to the articles. Like RPM itself, subscriptions are free. Click here to subscribe.