« PredošláPokračovať »
vested in the preacher of the gospel is derived immediately from the message which he publishes under the warrant of Christ; that the credentials of this authority are to be sought for in the correspondence of his ministerial labours to the dictates of inspired truth. Truth, by whomsoever it is promulgated, cannot but profess the same intrinsic authority.” ($ 8.)
These last passages are from the pen of the Hooker of Nonconformists; a man whose work the eminent Mr. James of Birmingham, in his “Dissent and the Church of England,” thus eulogizes: “I also strongly and above all recommend the cool, the philosophical, the scriptural, the masterly work of Conder on Nonconformity."
Nothing then can be much more secure from dispute than the importance of the truth being both preached by the minister, and learnt by the people. It is specially provided for by the word of God; is admitted as the great object of preaching by the dissenter; and is the doctrine of reason. The result of reasoning on the subject has indeed been understated. Reason teaches, that to learn the truth with exactness is one of the very highest of all duties. It is most unquestionably the consummation of duty to perform the will of God perfectly. Perfect obedience is proposed several times in Scripture as the aim of christian endeavour. But we cannot possibly obey God to perfection without a perfect knowledge of his will. Therefore we are under the same obligation to learn that will perfectly as to perform it perfectly; and to perform it without imperfection, is, however difficult and however unnecessary for salvation, at least a duty solemnly enjoined on the disciple of Jesus.
II. We are next to investigate the duty of professing Christians being united in a spirit of love. And on this point Scripture is so express that it needs no argument. It is only necessary to show that it is made a duty of the very first importance.
It is very much this kindly consent and agreement which the Apostle particularly enjoins, when he com-mands and exhorts the Corinthians to speak all the same thing, “that there be no divisions among them, but that they be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Cor. i. 10.) He urged this unity, upon them because, he says, it had been declared to him that there were contentions among them, which contentions he calls in another place, envying, strife, and divisions. It is this concord and communion which he partly intends when he entreats them “to be perfect, to be of one mind, and to live in peace.” (2 Cor. xiii. 11.) But it is not only on the Corinthians that it is inculcated : it is the common doctrine to the churches. St. Paul, in writing to the Philippians, (ii. 1,2,) says: “If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels of mercies, fulfil ye my joy that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” Then again we read in the book of the Acts, (iv. 32,) of the multitudes of them that believed, “being of one heart and of one soul.” It is besides a commandment of St. Peter to his disciples, “to be all of one mind, having compassion one of another, and to love as brethren,” (1 Pet. iii. 8.) A similar lesson was received by the Ephesians : “ I beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. iv. 1, 3.)
But this virtue is enforced upon us in Seripture under the name of charity. Charity, in the language of Scripture, it need not perhaps be observed, does not bear the exclusive sense of alms-giving which is frequently assigned to it in common discourse; it is rather the spirit of love towards our fellow-creatures, with all its active fruitsma catholic affection which extends to the whole human family, but when restricted to the narrow household of faith, subsisting in its purest and sublimest essence and character. St. Paul has well guarded even the English reader against mistaking its signification. Charity, says he, suffereth long and is kind, bears evil treatment with patience, and is kind even to the injurious.
Charity envieth not, charity vaunteth not itself; is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own interest only, but also that of others; is not easily provoked ; thinketh no evil of men without just occasion; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth'; concealeth all which is bad of others that it can consistently with its duty_believeth all the good of them that is credible; hopeth all things for the best concerning them, if there is room for hope; and endureth all injuries of which private and public benefit does not imperiously demánd the repression. These are works of charity alone towards each other, either as men or as Christians. They whose disposition is to perform the acts of charity or love, are possessed with a charitable spirit.' Those who are disposed to evil, in judgment or in action, are strangers to its divine influence. And to charity we are exhorted, in Scripture, in a tone the most solemn and imperative. “Put on,” writes St. Paul to the Colossians, “as the elect of God, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another : and above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness." In a long catalogue of christian virtues, which St. Peter commands the Christian to acquire, he crowns the whole with brotherly kindness and charity. The same Apostle echoes the very sentiment of St. Paul just cited : “ Above all these things have fervent charity among yourselves.” Our blessed Saviour has taught us, that on the love of God, and the love of our neighbour, hang all the law and the prophets. And in unison with that declaration, St. Paul has pronounced, that love is the fulfilling of the law. These injunctions and doctrines from the word of God are amply sufficient to establish the duty of such love, and, I will add, its necessity. Shall God command Christians, in such expressions, universally to experience this affection, and shall we feel ourselves at liberty to disobey? But Scripture does not leave us to make this matter of inference. If this spirit of love breathes not in us, we are deceiving ourselves, and are not Christians at all. So essential an ingredient is it in true Christianity, that it is indispensable to its existence. Can any words be much stronger to this effect, than those of our Saviour, “ By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another :” or those of St. John, “Let us love one another : for every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not,
knoweth not God, for God is love. If God so loved us, (as to send his Son to be a propitiation for our sins,) we ought also to love one another. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. Whosoever doeth not righteousness, is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother."
The necessity of mutual love among Christians can scarcely be expressed in stronger terms. If any words can increase our obligation to acquire and cultivate so heavenly a temper, it is the sentence of St. Paul. He instructs us, that if we have not the spirit of charity, and its moral creations, that we are void of true religion ; that it matters not what is the -fulness of our faith, or the profundity of our knowledge, that we may even perform miracles, or utter prophecies, but if we are not animated by this divine principle, we are as nothing, or worse than nothing in the eye of heaven. Though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Cor. xiii.)
It is vain to attempt within narrow. limits to describe that love which must necessarily subsist between true disciples and followers of Christ, as children of the same Father by nature and by grace; partakers of the same redemption, and heirs of the