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22: Yea, suppose God has now thoroughly cleansed our heart, and scattered the last remains of sin; yet how can we be sensible enough of our own helplessness; our utter inability to all good, unless we are every hour, yea, every moment, endued with power from on high? Who is able to think one good thought, or to form one good desire, unless by that almighty power which worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure? We have need, even in this state of grace, to be thoroughly and continually penetrated with a sense of this, otherwise we shall be in perpetual danger of robbing God of his honour, by glorying in something we have received, as though we had not received it.
23. When our inmost soul is thoroughly tinctured therewith, it remains, that we "be clothed with humility." The word used by St. Peter seems to imply, that we be covered with it as with a surtout: that we be all humility, both within and without; tincturing all we think, speak, and do. Let all our actions spring from this fountain: let all our words breathe this spirit, that all men may know we have been with Jesus, and have learned of him to be lowly in heart.
24. And being taught of him who was meek as well as lowly in heart, we shall then be enabled to "walk with all meekness;" being taught of him who teacheth as never man taught, to be meek as well as lowly in heart. This implies, not only a power over anger, but over all violent and turbulent passions. It implies the having all our passions in due proportion; none of them either too strong or too weak; but all duly balanced with each other; all subordinate to reason; and reason directed by the Spirit of God. Let this equanimity govern your whole souls; that your thoughts may all flow in an even stream, and the uniform tenor of your words and actions be suitable thereto. In this "patience" you will then "possess your souls;" which are not our own, while we are tossed by unruly passions. And by this all men may know, that we are indeed followers of the meex and lowly Jesus.
25. Walk with all "long suffering." This is nearly related to meekness, but implies something more. It carries on the victory already gained over all your turbulent passions; notwithstanding all the powers of darkness; all the assaults of evil men or evil spirits. It is patiently triumphant over all opposition, and unmoved though all the waves and storms thereof go over you. Though provoked ever so often, it is still the same, quiet and unshaken; never being "overcome of evil," but overcoming evil with good.
26. The "forbearing one another in love," seems to mean, not only the not resenting any thing, and the not avenging yourselves; not only the not injuring, hurting, or grieving each other, either by word or deed; but also the bearing one another's burdens; yea, and lessening chem by every means in our power. It implies the sympathizing with them in their sorrows, afflictions, and infirmities; the bearing them up, when, without our help, they would be liable to sink under their burdens; the endeavouring to lift their sinking heads, and to strengthen their feeble knees.
27. Lastly: the true members of the church of Christ," endeavour," with all possible diligence, with all care and pains, with unwearied patience, (and all will be little enough,) to "keep the unity of the
Spirit in the bond of peace:" to preserve inviolate the same spirit of lowliness and meekness, of long suffering, mutual forbearance, and love; and all these cemented and knit together by that sacred tie,the peace of God filling the heart. Thus only can we be, and continue, living members of that church which is the body of Christ.
28. Does it not clearly appear from this whole account, why, in the ancient creed, commonly called the apostles', we term it the universal or catholic church? "The holy catholic church?" How many wonderful reasons have been found out for giving it this appellation? One learned man informs us, "The church is called holy, because Christ the head of it is holy." Another eminent author affirms, 'It is so called, because all its ordinances are designed to promote holiness." And yet another, "Because our Lord intended that all the members of the church should be holy." Nay, the shortest and the plainest reason that can be given, and the only true one, is :-The church is called holy, because it is holy because every member thereof is holy; though in different degrees; as he that called them is holv. How clear is this! If the church, as to the very essence of it, is a body of believers, no man, that is not a Christian believer, can be a member of it. If this whole body be animated by one Spirit, and endued with one faith, and one hope of their calling; then he who has not that Spirit, and faith, and hope, is no member of this body. It follows, that 'not only no common swearer, no sabbath breaker, no drunkard, no whoremonger, no thief, no liar, none that lives in any outward sin; but none that is under the power of anger, or pride; no lover of the world; in a word, none that is dead to God, can be a member of his church.
29. Can any thing then be more absurd than for men to cry out, The church! The church! And to pretend to be very zealous for it, and violent defenders of it; while they themselves have neither part nor lot therein; nor indeed know what the church is! And yet the hand of God is in this very thing! Even in this his wonderful wisdom appears, directing their mistake to his own glory, and causing "the earth to help the woman." Imagining that they are members of it themselves, the men of the world frequently defend the church: otherwise the wolves that surround the little flock on every side, would in a short time tear them in pieces. And for this very reason, it is not wise to provoke them more than is unavoidable. Even on this ground, let us, if it be possible, as much as lieth in us, "live peaceably with all men." Especially as we know not how soon God may call them too out of the kingdom of Satan, into the kingdom of his dear Son.
30. In the mean time let all those who are real members of the church, see that they walk holy and unblamable in all things. "Ye are the light of the world!" Ye are "a city set upon a hill," and "cannot be hid." Oh "let your light shine before men!" Show them your faith by your works. Let them see by the whole tenor of your conversation, that your hope is all laid up above! Let all your words and actions evidence the Spirit whereby you are animated! Above all things, let your love abound. Let it extend to every child of man : let it overflow to every child of God. By this let all men know whose disciples ye are, because you "love one another." ·
SERMON LXXX.-On Schism.
"That there might be no schism in the body," 1 Cor. xii, 25.
1. If there be any word in the English tongue as ambiguous and indeterminate in its meaning as the word church, it is one that is nearly allied to it; the word schism. It has been the subject of innumerable disputes, for several hundred years; and almost innumerable books have been written concerning it in every part of the Christian world. A very large share of these have been published in our country; particularly during the last century, and the beginning of the present. And persons of the strongest understanding, and the most consummate learning, have exhausted all their strength upon the question, both in conversation and writing. This has appeared to be more necessary than ever, since the grand separation of the reformed from the Romish church. This is a charge which the members of that church never fail to bring against all that separate from her; and which, consequently, has employed the thoughts and pens of the most able disputants on both sides. And those of each side have generally, when they entered into the field, been secure of victory; supposing the strength of their arguments was so great, that it was impossible for reasonable men to resist them.
2. But it is observable, that exceeding little good has been done by all these controversies. Very few of the warmest and ablest disputants have been able to convince their opponents. After all that could be said, the Papists are Papists, and the Protestants are Protestants still. And the same success has attended those who have so vehemently disputed about separation from the church of England. Those who separated from her were eagerly charged with schism; they as eagerly denied the charge; and scarcely any were able to convince their opponents, either on one side or the other.
3. One great reason why this controversy has been so unprofitable; why so few of either side have been convinced; is this: they seldom agreed as to the meaning of the word, concerning which they disputed: and if they did not fix the meaning of this, if they did not define the term, before they began disputing about it, they might continue the dispute to their lives' end, without getting one step forward; without coming a jot nearer to each other than when they first set out.
4. Yet it must be a point of considerable importance, or St. Paul would not have spoken so seriously of it. It is, therefore, highly needful, that we should consider,
Í. The nature, and,
II. The evil of it.
I. 1. It is the more needful to do this, because among the numberless books that have been written upon the subject, both by the Romanists and Protestants, it is difficult to find any that define it in a scriptural manner. The whole body of Roman Catholics define schism, a separation from the church of Rome; and almost all our own writers define it, a separation from the church of England. Thus both the one and the other set out wrong, and stumble at the very threshold. This will easily appear to any that calmly consider the several texts wherein
the word schism occurs. From the whole tenor of which it is manifest, that it is not a separation from any church; (whether general or particular, whether the Catholic, or any national church ;) but a separation in a church.
2. Let us begin with the first verse, wherein St. Paul makes use of the word. It is the tenth verse of the first chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians. The words are; "I beseech you, brethren, by the name of the Lord Jesus, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms [the original word is oxiruara] among you." Can any thing be more plain than that the schisms here spoken of, were not separations from, but divisions in the church of Corintn? Accord ingly it follows; "But that ye be perfectly united together, in the same mind and in the same judgment." You see here, that a union in mind and judgment was the direct opposite to the Corinthian schism. This, consequently, was not a separation from the church or Christian society at Corinth; but a separation in the church: a disunion in mind and judgment, (perhaps also in affection,) among those who, notwithstanding this, continued outwardly united as before.
3. Of what nature this schism at Corinth was, is still more clearly determined, (if any thing can be more clear,) by the words that immediately follow: "Now this I say,"-this is the schism of which I speak; you are divided into separate parties; some of you speaking in favour of one, some of another preacher ;-" every one of you saith," verse 12, "I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas," [or Peter.] Who then does not see, that the schism for which the apostle here reproves the Corinthians is neither more nor less, than the splitting into several parties, as they gave the preference to one or another preacher? And this species of schism there will be occasion to guard against in every religious community.
4. The second place where the apostle uses this word, is in the "When ye eighteenth verse of the eleventh chapter of this epistle. come together in the church," the Christian congregation, "I hear that there are divisions [the original word here also is uasa, schisms] among you." But what were these schisms? The apostle immediately tells you, verse 20, "When you come together," professing your design is to eat of the Lord's supper, every one of you taketh before another his own supper;" as if it were a common meal. What then was the schism? It seems, in doing this, they divided into little parties, which cherished anger and resentment, one against another, even at that solemn season.
5. May it not be observed, (to make a little digression here, for the sake of those who are troubled with needless scruples on this head,) that the sin which the apostle charges on the communicants at Corinth in this chapter, is usually quite misunderstood? It was precisely this, and nothing else; "The taking one before another his own supper;" and in such a shocking manner, that while "one was hungry, another was drunken." By doing this, he says, "ye eat and drink" (not damnation; a vile mistranslation of the word, but) judgment, temporal judgment, "to yourselves :" which sometimes shortened their lives. For this cause" for sinning in this vile manner-" many are sick and weak among you." Observe here two things: first, what was the sin of the Corinthians? Mark it well, and remember it. It was taking one before
another his own supper; so that while one was hungry, another was drunken. Secondly, what was the punishment? It was bodily weakness and sickness; which, without repentance, might end in death But what is this to you? You cannot commit their sin: therefore you cannot incur their punishment.
6. But to return. It deserves to be seriously remarked, that in this chapter, the apostle uses the word heresies, as exactly equivalent with the word schisms. "I hear," says he, verse 18, "that there are schisms among you, and I partly believe it:" he then adds, verse 19, " for there must be heresies" [another word for the same thing] "among you, that they which are approved among you may be made manifest." As if he had said; "The wisdom of God permits it so to be, for this end,-for the clear manifestation of those whose heart is right with him." This word, therefore, (heresy,) which has been so strangely distorted for many centuries, as if it meant erroneous opinions, opinions contrary to the faith delivered to the saints ;-which has been made a pretence for destroying cities, depopulating countries, and shedding seas of innocent blood;-has not the least reference to opinions, whether right or wrong. It simply means, wherever it occurs in Scripture, divisions, or parties, in a religious community.
7. The third, and the only remaining place in this epistle, wherein the apostle uses this word, is the twenty-fifth verse of the twelfth chapter; where, speaking of the church, (he seems to mean the church universal, the whole body of Christ,) he observes; "God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked, that there might be no schism in the body," verse 66 But 24, 25: he immediately fixes the meaning of his own words: that the members might have the same care one for another: and whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it." We may easily observe, that the word schism here, means the want of this tender care for each other. It undoubtedly means an alienation of affection in any of them towards their brethren; a division of heart, and parties springing therefrom, though they were still outwardly united together; though they still continued members of the same external society.
8. But there seems to be one considerable objection against the supposing heresy and schism to mean the same thing. It is said, St. Peter, in the second chapter of his second epistle, takes the word heresies in a quite different sense. His words are, verse 1, "There shall be among you false teachers, who will bring in damnable [or destructive] heresies; denying the Lord that bought them." It does by no means appear, that St. Peter here takes the word heresies in any other sense than St. Paul does. Even in this passage it does not appear to have any reference to opinions, good or bad. Rather it means, they will "bring in," or occasion, destructive parties or sects, (so it is rendered in the common French translation,) who "deny the Lord that bought them :" such sects now swarm throughout the Christian world.
9. I shall be thankful to any one who will point to me any other place in the inspired writings, where this word schism is to be found. I remember only these three. And it is apparent to every impartial reader, that it does not, in any of these, mean a separation from any