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Unity and Peace Preferv'd by Communion with our CHURCH.
Ephef. IV. Ver. 2, 3. With all Lowlinefs and Meeknefs, with Long-fuffering, forbearing one another in Love.
Endeavouring to keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace.
HEN I haften'd laft day to a Conclufion of my former Subject, I did it with Design to Treat of the Great Mystery of our Religion, Chrift made manifest in the Flefb, in this time of Advent; but contrary to my purpose, I am forc'd to turn the point of my Difcourfe another way, being by the prefent Transactions of Affairs Neceffarily and Unavoidably engag'd on a Subject very unpleasant to me, and to all Sober and well-affected Men, our prefent Divifions. You are
Vol. I. not ignorant, I fuppofe, what Presentment the Church-wardens have been Oblig'd to make, and you know as well as I, what the Method of the Law is towards those who shall continue in their Separation from this Church. This, I know will raise a great Cry against the Government, but efpecially, the greatest fhare of Popular Odium and Invidious Reflection will light upon the Clergy. What are we to do in this Cafe? Shall we disobey the Lawful Commands of our Lawful Governours, to Humour a Discontented Party of the People? And to Humour them in that which we in our Consciences are perfwaded is both hurtful to themselves, and Destructive to the Peace and Profperity of the Government: This cannot be expected from us, because we cannot do it with a good Confcience towards God, or towards Man. All that I can poffibly imagine to be in our Power, is both by Private and Publick Admonition to inform fuch of the error and danger of their ways, to exhort them to return to their Duty, and as much as lies in us, to perfwade them to keep the Unity of the Spirit in the bond of Peace: This I am willing to do as far as I am able in Private, and am now about to do in publick, though
it is highly probable, that those whofe Serm. 1. good I chiefly design in it, may by their absenting themselves, make themselves incapable of this part of my Charity.
By the Unity of the Spirit here is meant that which we are wont to call the Unity of Charity and Affection; By the Bond of Peace, is meant Unity and Agreement in our external Societies, whether more publick, or more private, whether Ecclefiaftical or Civil, but especially Ecclefiaftical, as appears by the Context t; for by this Peace, Preferved by Meeknefs and Long-fuffering, God is Glorified in the Church; which is that St. Paul paffionately defires, Chap. 3. ver. ult. And the enforcements of this Duty, ver. 4, 5, (a) Clari6. of this Chapter, (a) For there is one us expriBody, &c. do immediately relate to Ec- mit quàm clefiaftical Union. You Obferve here, effe debeat perfecta 1. That the Unity of the Spirit cannot Unitas be preserved but in the bond of Peace; norum, that all Divifions in Externals, do Natu- nempe que rally tend to diffolve the Unity of Cha- omni ex rity and Affection: and I think, were valeat ut there no other Proof for Uniformity of in unum a National Church in the New Tefta- Corpus & ment, this were enough.
2. You may obferve that it is the in- coalefcadifpenfible Duty of all the Members of vin in hunc the Church of Chrift, to endeavour to locum.
Vol. I. keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of
How great the Importance of this Duty, how neceffary and indifpenfible its obligation, no Man (I think) can be ignorant; unless he be a perfect Stranger to Christianity. Both may fufficiently appear from the verfes following my Text. There is one Body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling, One Lord, one Faith, one Baptifm; One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. In which words St. Paul does neceffarily infinuate, that whoever, does not endeavour to keep the Unity of the Spirit, in the Bond of Peace, does Act repugnant to the very nature of Chriftianity, and cuts himself off from that glorious and neceffary Unity which he here explicates. This fhould make us amazed to think, that Men fhould fet fo light a Value upon our Peace and Unity; and upon fuch flight, trifling, dark and difputable pretences, throw off all obligations to this Duty; tho fo clear, fo important, fo indifpenfible. I am Aftonished to think that any Man profeffing Christianity, fhould be tender and fcrupulous in things of an indifferent Nature, and yet Confident and Careless in
the Violation of a Duty neceffary and Serm. 1. effential to the life and being of Chriftianity, and a Chriftian Church.
But it is not my Defign at prefent to infift upon either of these two Obfervations, though of fo great moment in themfelves, and fo fairly and naturally deducible from the Text, I have only brought you on thus far, that from hence, as from a rifing ground, you may with more cafe and advantage furvey each part of my following Difcourfe, and I may more fecurely make my entrance into it, the main Design of which is this: To confider the Method by which we ought to preferve the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace, and to apply it to' the present State of things.
The Method is laid down, ver. 2. With all Lowliness and Meekness, with Long-fuffering, forbearing one another in Love. Our prefent ftate is this: There are many and great Divifions amongst us; the Government, as the best way to their Cure, or at leaft-wife, to give a ftop and check to their growth, doth think fit that they fhould by Summons, by Inftructions, and by feveral forts of Admonition, be put in mind of their Error, invited, and required to amend it; and probably fuch as perfift willfully in