« PreviousContinue »
mated by one Spirit, call’d therefore the Unity of the Spirit. And this is to be kept in the Bond of Peace; that is, by one Fellowship, Discipline, and Communion, which serves to join all the Parts and Members of Christ's Body, as a Bond is wont to tye and fastest things together. So that the Sense of the Exhortation is, that all Christians thould labour to live peaceably together in the Unity of the Church, without Diffension and Separation, and to preferve the Bond of Charity arid Christian Communion, with which the Holy Spirit hath join'd all Christians together: This is here and in fundry other places of Scripture strictly charg’d and press'd upon us, as a good means to walk wor ihy of the Vocation wherewith we are callid : for Unity and Peace will recommend our Profession to its greatest Ene mies, whereas Discord and Diffension mightily expose and disparage it ; and therefore the former are to be kept intire and inviolate, and the latter to be shiun'd and avoided by all good Chriftians.
For this reason, our Saviour's last Prayer in the behalf of his Disciples, was, That they all might be one, as he and his Father were one, that the World might believe that God had sent him : which they will sooner do; by seeing his Followers live in Love and Unity together, thani by oba serving them to clash and separate from one another: And therefore St. Paul earnestly press’d the Philippians, to stand faft in one Spirit, with one Mind striving together for the Faitb of the Gospel; Phil. 1. 27. And here he gives the same Charge to the Ephesians; to keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace.
But the better to enforcë this Unity upon them and us; the Apostle here adds many weighty Arguments to engage us to the Love atid Practice of it; and these take up the re. maining part of this Day's Epiftle. As,
Ift, He tells us in the next Verse, thåt there is bit one Body: niearing, that there is but one Christian Catholick Church, which is in Scripture frequently call’d the Body of Chrift; For as we håve many Members in one Body (faith the Apoftle) and all the Members have not the samie Office, so we being many are one Body in Chrift; Rom. 12. 495. Tho there be many Congregations meeting in several places for the Convenience of Worship and Discipline; yet the Church of Christ is but one all the World over. It was at firft confin'd to Judea, the Jews having a Partition-Wall to feparate and distinguish them from all other Nations B B 2
who were excluded from the Privileges of the Temple; but 'tis since enlarg’d to all the World, the Gospel being order'd to be preach'd to all Nations, who may now see the Salvation of God.
Now this Addition hath made the Body bigger, but not multiply'd it into more; for 'tis still one and the same Body, tho grown and extended into larger Dimensions: as a Perfon is the same when arriv'd to the Stature of a Man, as he was under the leffer Dimensions of Childhood or Youth. So that the Members of the Church' being join'd by the fame Worship, Discipline, and Communion, which are as it were the Nerves and Sinews to hold them together, make up but one mystical Body of Christ, as the several Parts and Members join'd together make up but one natural Body.
Neither do the distant Places of meeting break the Unity of the Church, whilst they all join in one Communion, no more than the different Situation and Offices of the several Members do destroy the Unity of the natural Body. Indeed, all the Members of Christ's Church should, if it might be, meet in one place, that with one Mind and one Mouth they might all glorify God together : but that being impoflīble, by reason of the distance of Habitations and Countries, care is to be taken, that they join in what they may, viz. in the Doctrine, Discipline, and Communion of the Church; and that will unite them into one mystical Body, and make them what the Apostle here and elsewhere affirms, to be all one in Christ Jesus.
zly, 'Tis farther said, that as there is but one Body, so there is one Spirit to animate and enliven it. Tho the evil Spirits are many, and wicked Men are haunted by Legions of them, yet the good Spirit of God, by which good Men are acted, is but one. This is to the Church as the Soul is to the Body, the Life, Vigour, and Activity of it: and as one Body can have but one Soul to quicken it, so the mystical Body of Christ hath but one Spirit to animate and actuate it. This is the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace, which we are bid to keep to and preserve, by loving and living peaceably in one Fellowship and Communion with one another; that as one Soul actuates all the Members of the Body, and thereby keeps a Harmony and Sympathy with every Part, fo this one Spirit influences all the Members of the Church to preserve the Bond of mutual Love and Peace with each other ; which is a good Argu
nient to persuade Christians to unite in their Desires and Devotion. To which end we are here minded,
zly, That'we are all call'd into one Hope of our Calling i meaning, that tho there are different Callings as to the Affairs of this World, futable to the different Wants and Neceflities of human Life, yet the Calling or Profession of Christianity is but one, luted to the Nature and Neceflities of the Soul. And tho Men may have different Desires and Designs in relation to this Life, yet they are all call'd into one Hope of their Christian Calling, to witz, a future and eternal Life. And this is another good Motive to preserve Unity, and prevent Divisions ; for all Christians having the same Work to do, and expecting the same Wages when done, having all the fame fpiritual Wants here, and hoping for the fame Reward hereafter, 'tis absurd to differ and fall out in the way to it, and highly reasonable that we should join hand in hand together for the mutual Aid and Asiftance of one another : especially considering, that there is nothing but perfect Unity, and Harmony in Heaven, to which we are all making there is no Discord or Diffen. fion there; and if ever we hope to arrive thither, we mult be fitted for it by Peace and Love with each other. For the Happiness of that Place consists much in these things, and if we are not dispos'd to them here, we are not qualify'd to be receiv'd into them hereafter; and therefore we must Seditions, Hatred, Variance, Emulations, Wrath, Strife, of Hell ; and follow Peace, Love, Amity, Humility, and Concord, which are the Qualifications that can alone prepare us for Heaven.
4lyTo persuade to this Unity, the Apostle farther tells as, that there is but one God; meaning, that there is but one supreme Head and Governour of the Christian Church, even Christ, the sole Author and Founder of it. He hath not subjected it to many Masters to lord it over God's Heri. tage, nor made his Church a Monster of many Heads, to expose it to Disorder and Divisions ; but to us there is but one Lord, who hath subjected it to himself, and united it into a spiritual Society under fubordinate Rulers and Teachers of his own appointing : for be gave first Apoftles, lecondarily Prophets, then Paftors and Teachers) for the perfecting of the Saints for the work of the Ministry, and edifying the Body of Christ. After which he commissionid the ApoAtles to send others, as he had sent them, to teach and go
yern his Church, willing them to watch over their particu: lar Flocks, of which the Holy Ghost had made them Overseers; and likewise laying a Charge on all Christians, to obey them that had the Rule over them in the Lord, because they watch" for their Souls. So that the Apostle's affirming there is but one Lord, signifies, that as the Church is one, so there is but one Discipline or Government erected in it under Christ the Head, and the Bishops and Pastors as his subordinate Officers. And to live in Obedience to them, is to preserve the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace; but to cast off or depart from this Discipline, is to create Schisms in the Church, and to raise Rebellion against the Authority of Christ. In short, the Argument taken from one Lord is very strong for the Union and good Agreement of all that are subjected to hini, to live by his Laws as so many menial Seryants in one Family, and not to fall out about any Rule or Government among themselves.
sly, To keep this Unity of the Spirit in the 'Bond of Peace, the Apostle farther adds, that there is but one Faith meaning, that all the great and neceffary Points of Religion are summ'd up for us in one Creed, which we all profefs to believe, and are requir’d to hold fast : And this Unity of Faith is a fufficient Foundation for a Unity of Heart and Mind; for fince we agree in the main, why should we differ about small matters? and whilft we hold the Head, which is Christ, and the Foundation, which is the Chris tian Faith, no needless Questions or nice Disputes should break the Peace and Unity of the Church. To preserve which, he tells us
6ly, That there' is but one Baptism; that is, there is but one Door of Entrance into the Christian Church, by which We are aļl admitted to the Benefits and Privileges of it; and 'tis by this Door too that we must enter into the King dom of Heaven for our Saviour hath told us more than once, that except a Man be born again of Water and the Ho ly Ghoft, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; John 3. 3,5. And as there is but one Baptism to receive us ali into the Church, so there is but one Communion to confirm us in it, and to convey to us the Mercies and Benefits of it: for we being many (faith the Apostle) are one Bread, and are al Partakers of that one Bread Cór. 10. 17. And elsewhere the fame Apostle puts both these together, fay ing, By one Spirit are we all bapriz’d into one Body, and are all made to drink into one Spirit ; ; Cor. 12: 13. Seeing
then we all enter into the Church by the fame Gate, and walk to Heaven the same way, let us not scatter or divide, but keep together for the mutual Aid and Comfort of each other; and being join'd together by the Holy Sacraments, the Seals of the Holy Spirit, let us endeavour to keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace. To which end,
Lastly, We are here told, that there is but one God and Father of all, who is above all, by his Power, and thro all, by his Providence, and in all, by his Presence and having but one Object of Divine Worship, viz. the Omnipotent Máker and Master of us all, we are to unite and agree in his Service, and adore him with one Heart and one Consent. This is the highest Motive and Example of Unity, taken from the Unity of the Godhead, which our Saviour's Prayer sets as a Pattern of Union aniong Believers, That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, so they also may be one in us ; John 17. 20, 21. The Heathens indeed had Lords many and Gods many, and it could be no wonder if they were divided in serving of them; but to us there is but one Lord and one God, to whom therefore we should all pay our joint and unanimous Devotions.
Thus I have briefly consider'd the Portion of Scripture appointed for the Epistle for this Day, which contains many weighty and cogent Argaments for Unity of Heart and Mind among Christians : yea, it shews all our Religion to be founded upon Unity, and is only promoted by it; for we are all united in one mystical Body of Christ's Church. And this Body is acted and animated by one Holy Spirit; there is one Door of Entrance into it, i.e. by one Baptism ; there is but one Faith profess’d in it; and in a word, there is but one Object of all Divine Worship, viz. the one God and Father of all, who is above all, and thro all, and in us all. From all which we learn,
1. The Nature and Sinfulness of Schism, which is the dividing of the Body of Christ, and making it not one Body, but many. Is Christ divided ? faith the Apostle to the Corinthians, upon their breaking into Schisms and Factions; implying, that these things not only divide Christians, but Christ himself, by tearing in pieces his Body the Church : and therefore the fame Apostle advises, that there be no Schism in the Body, nor any Divisions among Chriftians; 1 Cor. I. 10. We being many (faith he) are one Bread and gnę Body, and are all Partakers of one Bread: signifying,