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malignity of this sin, that you take notice of the aggravations of it, especially as to us. 1. It is a sin against so many, and clear, and vehement words of the Holy Ghost, (which I have partly before recited) that it is therefore utterly without excuse : whoredoms, and treasons, and perjury are not oftener forbidden in the Gospel than this.
2. It is contrary to the very design of Christ in our redemption; which was to reconcile us all to God, and unite and centre us all in him: “To gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad 8.” “To gather together in one all things in Christ h.” “ To make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace i.” And shall we join with satan the divider and destroyer, against Christ the reconciler, in the very design of his redemption?
3. It is contrary to the design of the Spirit of grace, and contrary to the very nature of Christianity itself. “By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body-- and have all been made to drink into one Spirit k.” “As there is one body and one spirit, so it is our charge to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!” The new nature of Christians doth consist in love, and desireth the communion of saints as such ; and therefore the command of this special love is called the New Commandment, John xvii. 21. xiii. 34. xv. 12. 17. And they are said to be taught of God to love one another, 1 Thess. iv. 9. As self-preservation is the chief principle in the natural body, which causeth it to abhor the wounding, or amputation of its members, and to avoid division as destruction, except when a gangrened member must be cut off, for the saving of the body; so it is also with the mystical body of Christ. He is senseless and graceless that abhorreth not church-wounds.
4. These divisions are sins against the nearest bonds of our high relations to each other : “ We are brethren, and should there be any strife among us m?” “We are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus n.” We are the fellow-members of the body of Christ; and should we tear his body, and separate his members, and cut his flesh, and break his bones o ? “ For as the body is one, and hath many & John xi. 52. h Eph. i. 10.
i Eph. ii. 15. k 1 Cor. xii. 13.
Eph. iv. 3, 4.
m Gen. xiii. 8. n Gal. iii. 26.
u Eph. v, 23, 30.
members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ P.” “As we have many members in one body-- so we being many, are one body in Christ; and every one members one of another 9." He that woundeth or dismembereth your own bodies, shall scarce be taken for your friend; and are you Christ's friends, when you dismember or wound his body'? Is it lovely to see the children or servants in your family together by the ears? Are civil wars for the safety of a kingdom ? Or doth that tend to the honour of the children of God, which is the shame of common men? Or is that the safety of his kingdom, which is the ruin of all others ? We are all fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God 5.". We are God's building & “Know ye not that 'ye are the temple of God: and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy: for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are u.” Will he destroy the defilers, and will he love the dividers and destroyers ? If it be so great a sin to go to law unnecessarily with brethren, or to wrong them , what is it to disown them, and cast them off? And if they that salute and love only their brethren, and not also their enemies, are not the children of Gods; what are they that separate from, and condemn even their brethren?
5. Church-dividers either would divide Christ himself between them, or else would rob him of a great part of his inheritance : and neither of these is a little sin. If you make several bodies, you would have several heads : and is Christ divided ? saith the apostle, 1 Cor. i. 13. Will you make him a sect-master? He will be your common head as Christians; but he will be no head of your sects and parties ; (I will not name them). Or would you tear out of the hands of Christ, any part of his possessions? Will he cut them off, because you cut them off? Will he separate them from himself, because you separate from them, or separate P 1 Cor. xii. 12.
9 Rom. xü. 4, 5. r Quicquid ad multitudinem vergit, antipathiam continet ; et quanto magis multitudo augetur, tanto et antipathia ; quicquid verò ad unilatem tendit, sympathiam habet; et quanto magis ad unitatem accedit, tanto puriori sympathia augetur. Paul Scaliger, Epist. Cath. lib. iii. p. 176. . * Eph. ii. 19.
1 Cor. ii. 9.
« 1 Cor. iii, 16, 17, * 1 Cor, 6. 8.
y Matt, v. 47.
them from you? Will he give them a bill of divorce, whenever you are pleased to lay any odious accusation against them? Who shall condemn them, when it is he that justifieth them? Who shall separate them from the love of God ? Can your censure or separation do it, when neither life, nor death, nor any creature can do it?? Hath he not told you, that “he will give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his handa.” Will he lose his jewels, because you cast them away as dirt ? He suffered more for souls than you, and better knoweth the worth of souls! And do you think he will forget so dear a purchase? or take it well that you rob him of that which he hath bought so dearly? Will you give the members and inheritance of Christ to the devil, and say, • They are satan's, and none of Christ's. “Who art thou that judgest another man's servant." 16. Church-dividers are guilty of self-ignorance, and pride, and great unthankfulness against that God that beareth with so much in them, who so censoriously cast off their brethren. Wert thou ever humbled for thy sin ? Dost thou know who thou art, and what thou carriest about thee, and how much thou offendest God thyself? If thou do, surely thou wilt judge tenderly of thy brethren, as knowing what a tender hand thou needest, and what mercy thou hast found from God. Can he cruelly judge his brethren to hell upon his petty differences, who is sensible how the gracious hand of his Redeemer, did so lately snatch him from the brink of hell ? Can he be forward to condemn his brethren, that hath been so lately and mercifully saved himself?
7. Church dividers are the most successful servants of the devil, being enemies to Christ in his family and livery. They gratify satan, and all the enemies of the church, and do the very work that he would have them do, more effectually than open enemies could do it. As mutineers in an army may do more to destroy it, than the power of the enemy.
8. It is a sin that contradicteth all God's ordinances and means of grace; which are purposely to procure and maintain the unity of his church. The Word and baptism are 2 Rom. viii. 33. &c.
a John x. 28.
to gather them into one body, and the Lord's-supper to signify and maintain their concord, as being one bread, and one body b. And all the communion of the church is to express and to maintain this concord. The use of the ministry is much to this end, to be the bonds and joints of the unity of believers C. All these are contemned and frustrated by dividers.
9. Church-division is a sin (especially to us) against as great and lamentable experiences as almost any sin can be. About sixteen hundred years the church hath smarted by it. In many countries where the Gospel prospered, and churches flourished, division hath turned all into desolation, and delivered them up to the curse of Mahometanism and infidelity. The contentions between Constantinople and Rome, the Eastern and the Western churches, have shaken the Christian interest upon earth, and delivered up much of the Christian world to tyranny and blindness, and given advantage to the Papacy to captivate and corrupt much of the rest, by pretending itself to be the centre of unity. O what glorious churches, where the learned writers of those ages once lived, are now extinct, and the places turned to the worship of the devil and a deceiver; through the ambition and contentions of the bishops, that should have been the bonds of their unity and peace! But doth England need to look back into history, or look abroad in foreign lands, for instances of the sad effects of discord? Is there any one,
good or bad in this age, that hath spent his days in such a mo sleep, as not to know what divisions have done, when they
have made such ruins in church and state, and kindled such consuming fires, and raised so many sects and parties, and filled so many hearts with uncharitable rancour, and so many mouths with slanders and revilings, and turned so many prayers into sin, by poisoning them with pride and factious oppositions, and hath let out streams of blood and fury over all the land ? He that maketh light of the divisions of Christians in these kingdoms, or loveth not those that
speak against them, doth shew himself to be so impenitent ' in them, as to be one of those terrible effects of them, that should be a pillar of salt to warn after ages totake heed. 10. Yea, this is a heinous aggravation of this sin, that b 1 Cor. x. 17..
c Ephes. iv. 13, 14. 16.
commonly it is justified, and not repented of by those that do commit it. When a drunkard or a whoremonger will confess his sin, a church-divider will stand to it and defend it; and woe to them that call evil good, and good evil. Impenitency is a terrible aggravation of sin.
11. And it is yet the more heinous, in that it is commonly fathered upon God. If a drunkard or whoremonger should say, 'God commandeth me to do it, and I serve God by it,' would you not think this a horrid aggravation ? When did you ever know a sector party, how contrary soever among themselves, but they all pretended God's authority, and entitled him to their sin, and called it his service, and censured others as ungodly, or less godly, that would not do as bad as they ? St. James is put to confute them that thought this wisdom was from above, and so did glory in their sin, and lie against the truth, when their wisdom was from beneath, and no better than earthly, sensual, and devilish. For the “ wisdom from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy, &c d.”
12. Church-divisions are unlike to our heavenly state, and in some regard worse than the kingdom of the devil, for he would not destroy it by dividing it against itselfe. O what a blessed harmony of united holy souls, will there be in the heavenly Jerusalem, where we hope to dwell for ever! There will be no discords, envyings, sidings or contendings, one being of this party, and another of that; but in the unity of perfect love, that world of spirits, with joyful praise will magnify their Creator. And is a snarling envy or jarring discord the likely way to such an end? Is the church of Christ a Babel of confusion? Should they be divided, party against party here, that must be one in perfect love for ever? Shall they here be condemning each other, as none of the children of the Most High, who there must live in sweetest concord ? If there be shame in heaven, you will be ashamed to meet those in the delights of glory, and see them entertained by the Lord of love, whom you reviled and cast out of the church or your communion, causelessly, on earth. Remember now that schism, and making parties and din d James iii, 17.
€ Matt. xii. 26.