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their consciences, and to tear asunder the unity of Christ's flock.
That this was the example which Christ, himself, under like circumstances, has set us, we may learn from every page of the Gospel. The church of Israel and Judah, was, in His days, we know, corrupted by many human inventions; and the morals and doctrine of the greater number of its regular teachers must have been, in many points, contemptible to the wisdom, and offensive to the purity, of one so wise and so holy as our Lord. Yet, because that church was established, it was wonderful to observe the Saviour's regularity in His attendance on its sacrifices and its ceremonies, in its synagogues and its temple; how anxious He, on many occasions, showed Himself to avoid giving offence, and, even in ceremonial matters, to fulfil that righteousness of which He needed no supply; and how strongly He enjoins His disciples to observe and obey the commandments of those very scribes and pharisees whose errors and whose evil lives He, elsewhere, reproves so sharply. The mischief of acquiescing in established error, is often far less, than the mischief which arises from attaching too great a value to our own opinions; and it follows that, even if the causes of complaint against our Church were well founded, which I do not think they are, yet, inasmuch as they are not even pretended to be of a kind which endangers the salvation of souls,
those, who separate from us on these accounts, are lamentably negligent of the caution here given by St. Paul. Very strange and terrible things are written in the New Testament against the sin of schism, or causeless separation from our fellow Christians. And it becomes those who thus separate, to have a better and more unavoidable cause of separation to plead, than I have ever heard advanced by those who separate from the Church of England.
But as the meaning of the word "receive," as we have seen already, is, in this place, to tolerate,— to put up with-nay, in lawful points, as St. Paul's example shows, to humour-the weakness of our brethren; so is this command of a still more extensive application than that which I have mentioned, and relates not only to the terms of communion with a Church, but to the behaviour which the members of different communions are required, in private life, and in the common intercourse of the world, to observe towards each other; and, more particularly still, to the respect which we are bound to pay to the religious opinions of all men, whether members of the same church with us or no; and whether those opinions be, in our judgement, well founded or no, so long as they are harmless in themselves, and sincerely professed ;and in every case where compliance on our part will not produce a greater evil than contradiction. But this, which is, perhaps, the most practical
part of my subject, would require a greater length, than the present opportunity will afford; and I shall, therefore, only urge on your attention a few aweful considerations, which cannot be too constantly present to our minds, and which naturally arise from the subjects on which I have been discoursing.
In the first place, since the most frequent source of religious disputes is a too great attention to trifles, (or to what are trifles in comparison to the great concerns of a Christian ;) it is plain that the likeliest way to prevent, or to cure them, is to possess our own minds and the minds of those over whom we have influence, with an overpowering and exclusive sense of the mighty things which Christ has done for us; of the extent of our hope, if we continue in His love, and of the greatness of our danger, if we fall away from it. He, who is, in good earnest, striving for a kingdom, will have little time to criticise the uniform of his fellow soldiers he, whose eyes and ears and thoughts and heart are bent incessantly on the goodness and glories of a Redeemer, will have neither inclination nor leisure to find fault with such frivolous differences as have given rise to the greater part of Christian schisms. It is remarkable, indeed, that few persecutors have, in their own persons, been men of real holiness. They have been, for the most part, such as strove to hide indulgence to their own faults, under a mask of
severity to those of other men; ambitious and carnal men, who have made religion a stepping stone to worldly wealth or power; and who have, themselves, neither believed nor cared for those doctrines which they punished others for refusing. So far from persecution being the fruit of too much zeal in God's cause, it is, for the most part, a sure mark of too little; and he, who has himself been really made to tremble and to burn with the Seraphim before the Eternal Throne, can hardly either hate, or tyrannise over, his brother.
But, secondly, since a false and frivolous zeal is so apt to insinuate itself into the place of true faith and love, let it be remembered always, that the only mark, by which we can judge or distinguish them, is that charity to man, for the sake of God, without which we may give our body to be burned and our goods to the poor, and remove mountains, and speak with the tongue of men and angels, and yet be offering up a tasteless sacrifice to God, and treasuring up for ourselves rejection and punishment in that day when Christ shall come to cast out the chaff from His threshing floor.
THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT.
1 COR. iv. 5.
Judge nothing before the time until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God.
THE original application of these words, as they are found in that part of St. Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians, which has been this morning read to you from the Communion-table, was to the unjust and uncharitable reflections which had been thrown out against the Apostle himself in the course of those disputes which had agitated the Corinthian Church; and to appease and settle which he sent them this first epistle. It is, therefore, that, while a few verses before, he allows the great necessity and obligation which was laid on the ministers of Christ, and upon himself among the number, to a faithful discharge of their duty, he goes on to tell them, that he, for one, will discharge that duty by the rule of God's will alone, without courting their