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Unity in the Church

Unity in the Church

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Published by glennpease





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Published by: glennpease on Apr 10, 2013
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BY SAMUEL WILBERFORCEEPHESIAS iv. 3."EDEAVOURIG TO KEEP THE UITY OF THE SPIRITI THE BOD OF PEACE."TT will not, I think, beloved brethren, be wander--* ing from the special purpose of such a gatheringas this, when we are met from various parishes tore-open, with prayer, and praise, and Holy Communion, this House of God, which has now for a season been closed, and has not resounded as heretoforewith God s praises, if I pray you to pause and meditate upon a subject which will bring before us whatis, perhaps one of our most common faults. Suchseems to me an especial use of such an occasion asthis: both because it gathers together those whocommonly worship apart, and also because such aservice as this marks a new starting-point in theChristian life of this town : because it marks thatwe are passing one of those reaches into which ourordinary life is broken ; and so that we are callednaturally, by the Providence of God, to look back and take an estimate of our past course, and to look on with new resolutions for the future.St. Mary s, Reading, Oct. 9, 1849.SEEM, xi.] Unity in the Church. 117Oh, brethren in Christ, may our Lord grant us,of His mercy, that at this time we may be morestirred up to serve Him; to break some bond of earthliness or coldness, and in the strength of Faithand Love to press nearer to Him, in whose Crossand Passion is all our hope and all our life.The special duty, to which I would wish thisday to pray your consideration, is, that which waspressed by St. Paul in his day upon these Ephe-
sian Christians, "Endeavouring to keep the unityof the Spirit in the bond of peace." The words areso plain as scarcely to admit of further explanation.Something however, of their force, translation loses,and our word endeavouring, expresses but feeblythe haste and earnestness of effort which are suggested by the original language, with which theApostle would have these Christians labour by mutualpeace to preserve that unity in which the gift of theHoly Ghost had bound together the mystical bodyof the Lord.ow few I think will deny that if we lookedmerely to the words of our blessed Lord Himself inHis last recorded intercession for His disciples, andsee how earnestly and repeatedly He prays that allwho believe in Him may be one, even as He isOne with the Father, we should not expect to findamongst those who profess to be His followers, thatwhich we actually find amongst them.How easy would it be to contrast with such anunity as that of which He speaks the present brokenand divided state of Christendom ! What can be118 Unity in the Church. [SEEM.less like the answer to such a prayer, than the strifeof sects who are absolutely ranged as under bannersof war, under the names of different men or differentopinions? But of these divisions, and of those external to our own communion, or of the sins whichhave led to these separations, I purpose now to saynothing. Doubtless, if ever God of His mercy givesus again to see the day when "the multitude of them that believe shall be of one heart and of onesoul b ," there will be on all sides many mutual confessions before Him of the sinfulness which gave andwhich took offence, of the deadness which relaxedthe bond of living unity till it was ready for dissolution, and of the self-will and manifold perverse-ness which tore it so unsparingly asunder.But all this, brethren, for the present I woulddismiss, in order to speak rather of that want of 
union amongst ourselves, of that division in theChurch, which is our more especial sin.ot, beloved brethren, that I mean to specify theparticulars, or allege the proofs of such disunion.To do so, would but grieve loving hearts amongstyou, and harden scoffers in their guilt by givingoccasion for their sneers. Rather would I assumethat we in this communion of the Church of England ;we who have common professions of Faith, who, thatis, have received not merely the pure Word of Godas the rule of our Faith, but also a certain interpretation of it fixed in Creeds, and enlarged in Catechisms and Articles ; we who have a common liturgy,b Acts iv. 32.xi.] Unity in the Church. 119who kneel together with common Eucharistic prayersaround the table, whence are ministered the brokenbread and wine poured out, in receiving which themysterious presence of the Lord is assured to everypenitent believer, rather, I say, would I assumethan prove that we, with all these means and instruments of unity, are still far from keeping " theunity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."Beloved brethren, do not your hearts admit thetruth of this charge ? Are there not amongst ussuspicions and divisions, hard words spoken, hardthoughts fostered, cold looks, cold hearts, widebreaches, and little communion? Are not congregations parted from congregations, pastors from pastors,souls from souls ?But I will not dwell on this, rather would I wish,beloved brethren, to lead you on to meditate withme upon the effects, the causes, and the remediesfor such a state of things.Its effects, I think, we cannot doubt, if we weighthose words of our Lord s intercession : " That theyall may be one ; as Thou, Father, art in Me, andI in Thee, that they also may be one in Us; thatthe world may believe that Thou hast sent Me c ." For

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