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SERMON VII.

EPHESIANS iv. 3.

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond

of peace.

The unity which St. Paul here exhorts the Ephesians to keep, is the object of our Lord's last and most solemn prayer for all his disciples. “I pray,” he says, “ for all who believe on me, that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also

may

be one in us." And the Apostles, in the spirit of their Lord, are earnest on several occasions in recommending this same thing,—that we should be of one heart and one mind, forming all together one undivided Christian body. Now, it has happened with this as with others of our Lord's commands, that men have greatly corrupted it; and whilst scarcely obeying it at all in its most important part, they have applied it to other things which it has very little concern with, and have there strained it a great deal too much. I mean, that while the unity of spirit, which Christ and his Apostles prayed for, has been felt very imperfectly; an unity of form and outward ceremonies, about which they have displayed no earnestness, has been required and commended in over measure.

The consequence has been, that Christians have not felt that real sense of brotherhood and union with one another, which flow from a consciousness of being engaged in one and the same most difficult contest, with the same temptations and the same enemies, the same object of their hopes and labour,-the same guide and comforter, and Saviour and God. But they have laid great stress on their all being arranged in the same way, holding the same opinions on all points connected with the Gospel, wearing in a manner the same garb, and speaking in the same language. So they have perpetually mistaken their friends for their enemies, and their enemies for their friends : they have quarrelled with the true servants of Christ, on account of some trifling differences which ought to have weighed nothing at all in the balance; and they have made common cause with selfish and worldly men, because they have agreed with them on points of form, although their spirit has been totally different from the spirit of Christ.

Let us see, then, what is the unity for which Christ prayed, and which St. Paul bids us endeavour to keep. Our Lord often said that he was going to establish a kingdom, which was to be in opposition to the kingdom of Satan, the prince of this world. This kingdom he calls the kingdom of God, because they who belong to it do own God as their sovereign, not in word only but in deed, and try to promote his service. He bade us make it a part of our prayers to God, that this kingdom may come; adding, as a description of what effect it would produce if it did come; “ thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven.” He began it when he sent his Spirit on his Apostles, and told them to go and teach all nations; and they went out, and in a few years brought in thousands into the kingdom of God and of Christ. The laws of this kingdom were different from all others; its subjects were to act as though this world were not their home, but as if they had one great business in their passage through it, to fit themselves and others for the place of their everlasting rest. It followed, therefore, that they should look upon life with different eyes from those of other men; that many actions which other men justified on the ground of necessity, because they made that necessary which their worldly good required, were by Christians looked upon as unlawful, because they knew of no other necessity than that of pleasing God, and avoiding hell. Hence, they were under no temptation to resent affronts, because they cared not for worldly honour; they did not engage in disputes and fightings, because worldly objects were not to them so exceedingly desirable : one business they had, and one desire, to enlarge Christ's kingdom, by making themselves and others as like him as possible. Beginning, then, from childhood to act on a system so new and so peculiar, Christians would naturally require the support and countenance of each other. Obliged to offend so many, oftentimes their own nearest relations and friends ; for a man's foes were often those of his own household ; they would need the warm love and zealous sympathy of their fellowChristians, and the encouragement of seeing them tread the same path with themselves. Obliged to listen every day to the low principles of the world around them, they wanted those with whom they could take counsel in a kindred spirit, and walk in the house of God as friends. Acting in a way that necessarily made them singular, they would be drawn more closely to those whose principles and practice were the same as their own. The kingdom of God thus required its members to be closely united together, and to direct their joint efforts towards the overthrow of the power of Satan over mankind. They were to be the leaven put into the meal, the salt of the earth, the light of the world,—till the irresistible influence of their lives, full of purity, and affection, and zeal, and peace and happiness, should make all men gradually join their society; so that the earth should at last be full of the knowledge and of the love of the Lord, as the waters cover

the sea.

Such was the glorious design of that living temple of God, the Christian Church or society. It is plain from this, that no evil passion, that no worldly spirit, could possibly assist in furthering its objects ; for, it would be, indeed, calling upon Satan to cast out Satan. The Christian unity then was a unity of goodness, an affection of good men for one another, because they mutually loved God. But so soon as this was changed for another sort of unity in which bad men could also be partakers ; when Christians strove not to put down the principles of the world, but to employ

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