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But the most direct and effectual method they can possibly take, to become united in sentiment, is practically to acknowledge the word of God to be the only infallible standard of truth and error. It is one thing to acknowledge the infallibility of scripture in theory, and another to acknowledge it in practice. If we practically acknowledge this sacred guide, it will restrain us from paying a blind and partial deference to any human authority in matters of faith. There is no man, perhaps, who is not liable, in some cases, to swerve from the scriptures of truth, through fear of offending, or through desire of pleasing those, whom he esteems wiser and better than himself. This danger our Savior foresaw, and forewarned his followers to guard against it. "Call no man your father upon the earth." They must strictly regard this caution, if they would become united in their religious opinions. And if they do regard it, they will naturally meet upon the same ground, and adopt the same sentiments. The Bible is a magnet, which will necessarily draw all men to the same point, if they will only yield to its attractive influence. Let them only think, and speak, and walk, by the same rule, and they will become perfectly united in sentiment and practice, without the least condescension to each other.
There are various considerations, which urge Christians to pursue these plain and easy methods of culti vating such a sentimental union among themselves. It will directly tend to unite them in affection. We find that those, who agree in their speculations upon any art, or science, commonly feel a mutual at. tachment, arising from their concurrence in opinion. And a unity of faith never fails to produce a mutual esteem and affection among Christians. Though some profess an unlimited catholicism, yet they, as well as Occa.
others, appear to be the most intimately and affectionately united with those, with whom they are best united in sentiment. Universal observation and experience, in this case, speak louder than words, and compel us to believe, that mutual affection will naturally flow from mutual agreement in opinion. Let Christians be of one mind, and they will be of one heart. Let them think alike and speak alike, and they will lay aside their prejudice, their discord, their alienation of affection, and become in reality a band of brothers. This is confirmed by the sure word of prophecy, which prediets the future peace and harmony of the church, as resulting from the knowledge of the truth. "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the Lord bindeth up the breach of his people, and healeth the stroke of their wound. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good; that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, thy God reigneth. Thy watchman shall lift up the voice, with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion."
In the mean time, by uniting in sentiment, Christians will not only prepare themselves for the latter day glory of the church, but remove one of the strongest prejudices of unbelievers against the Bible. They make a very ill use of that diversity of opinions, which they discover among the professed friends of divine reyelation. They pretend to reject the Bible, because they cannot understand it. They say, if it had any plain and consistent meaning, those who believe it to be divine, would explain it in the same manner, and
derive from it the same doctrines. And since the professors of the gospel themselves, make it mean any thing, every thing, or nothing, they say, they choose to reject it, and adhere to the plain and intelligible book of nature, which speaks the same language to all, and which cannot be corrupted, or misinterpreted, by ignorant or designing men. But, however unjust this mode of thinking and speaking is, Christians are under peculiar obligation to remove the occasion of it, by uniting in the belief and profession of the first principles of the oracles of God.
And by doing this, they will not only stop the mouths of cavillers, but at the same time, strengt en and animate one another, in promoting the cause of Christ. When they are united in the belief of the same truths, and in the pursuit of the same objects, they will appear formidable to the unbelieving world, and convince them of their folly as well as guilt, in opposing a cause, which will certainly prevail, and triumph over all opposition. Many are ready to imagine, that the cause of religion will fail, just like the cause of particular denominations of Christians. They know, that one sect has flourished and triumphed for a while, and then gradually decayed and become extinct: and they expect, that all denominations will share the same fate, and Christianity itself be erased from the earth. But if Christians were united in the truth, they would destroy these vain hopes and expectations of the ungodly, and feel a peculiar courage and resolution, to use every effort to bring mankind to the obedience of faith. They are entreated, therefore, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to become of one mind, that they may, with one heart and one hand, promote his cause and interest in the world.
Now, my Brethren, may we who are stewards of the mysteries of God, apply this interesting subject to ourselves. Let us remember, that we must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, who will expose and condemn every one of our errors, before the assembled universe; for he has told us that "every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." The apostle Paul also assures us, that men's principles will be brought into view, and either approved or condemned, in the great day of decision. "I have laid the foundation, but let every man take heed how he buildeth thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man's work shall be made manifest. For the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." It is our interest as well as duty, to come to the light, and renounce every false sentiment, which we have ever embraced. If we believe the truth, if we love the truth, if we preach the truth, it will afford us peculiar consolation in the close of life; and enable each of us to say, in the nearest view of eternity, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." Amen.
Preached at the Installation of the Reverend Caleb Alexander, to the Pastoral Care of the Church in Mendon, April 12, 1786.
JOHN vii, 46.
The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.
LONG before the Messiah made his appearance in our nature, it was foretold by the spirit of prophecy, that he should sustain the office of a preacher. Isaiah speaks of him as announcing his divine mission, to preach the joyful news of the gospel to all penitent, broken-hearted sinners. "The spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God." On the ground of this and other prophecies, the Jews generally expected that the Messiah would appear in the character of a superior preacher. This we learn from what the woman of Samaria said to Christ: "I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ; when he is come, he will tell us all things." This general expect ation of the Jews, Christ did by no means disappoint; for having lived about thirty years in the obscurity of private life, he submitted to the rite of baptism, by which he was inaugurated into his office, and duly prepared to preach the gospel.
As soon as he appeared in the character of a preacher, he drew the attention of the admiring multitudes, who hung upon his lips, and sensibly felt the heavy truths, which, with surprising power and pungency, he