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JAMES FOSTER, D.D.
TO agree in opinion is entirely out of our power;
to profess alike, whilst we believe differently, is base and dishonest, and destructive of the most facred obligations, and upon that account ought never to be the matter of our choice. So that neither of these can be any part of that unity which we are bound to cultivate as a religious and moral duty; but the whole sum of it must be refolved into this, that condescenfion, mutual forbearance, and an harmony of mild benevolent affections, fupply the place of that uniformity of faith and profession, which are morally speaking impoffible.
When the professors of our most holy and excellent religion are imperious and domineering, and foment cruel and unnatural divisions ; when they break the one body of Christ, and multiply it into little cabals, reviling and disclaiming all relation to each other; when they are contentious, and, without thinking of charity and moderation, engage in violent disputes about the holiness of days, and gestures, and garments, and crossings, or the orthodoxy of sounds that have no determinate meaning, or the several ways of explaining what is allowed to be inexplicable ; and instead of humility and peace, gentleness, and fimplicity of manners; the real characters of corrupt and degenerate Christians are haughtiness, impatience of contradiction, and an implacable stubborn spirit: the cause of Christianity is more dangerously wounded by such excesses as these, than by all the art and arguments of its most ingenious and subtle opposers ;- and notwithstanding its truth and divinity, infidels will load it with contempt ; nor indeed can it be expected to flourish and gain profelytes, while it is thus difhonoured and betrayed by its pretended friends. Add to this, that divisions and animofities obstruct the increase of Christian knowledge, by infusing strong prejudices, by inflaming the passions, and darkening the understanding, and by withdrawing the attention from the effential doctrines of the gospel, and fixing it on those minute and trifling points, which are generally the subjects of most furious and scandalous debates. No less fatal are they to the Christian virtues of righteousness, long fuffering, meekness, fidelity, and goodness, which are all obliterated and effaced in proportion to the increase of difcord and variance. Strife and faction are, therefore condemned in the New Testament in the severest terms, because of their manifeft contrariety to true religion, and the Christian character, and their dreadful and destructive consequences. And, on the contrary, the strictest unity and most affectionate regard for each other are frequently and earnestly recommended. We are exhorted to follow after the
things which make for peace, to put away evil speaking, wrath, anger, clamour, and malice. And the Apostle Paul, with the most beautiful and pathetic tenderness, intreated the Philippians, if there was any confolation in Christ, any comfort of love, any fellowship of the spirit to be like minded, having the same law (i. e. reciprocal and universal charity) being of one accord and of one mind; and the Colossians to put on (as the elect of God, holy and beloved) bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, and long suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. He reproved the Corinthians for their contentious principles with great sharpness and severity, in the following passage: Whereas there is among you envying and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal and walk as men? For while one saith I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos, and I of Cephas or Peter, and I of Christ; are ye not carnal? Is CHRIST divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized into the name of Paul ? And in another of his epistles he enjoins it on. the Christian brethren to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they were called, because there is one body and one fpirit even as they were called in one hope of their calling
This is the glorious spirit, this the divine temper of the Christian religion, strongly inculcated and brightly exemplified by the first preachers of it. And if the time should ever come, when not only the members of particular churches, but whole Christian societies, shall live in this amiable and blessed concord one with another; nay, when by a more extensive benevolence and harınony than this, 'all mankind shall be united in the bonds of an undissembled and generous friendship, not merely upon the consideration of their dwelling together in neighbourhoods and lefser societies; but as parts of the universal community: this will be the strongest and most transporting resemblance of which we can at present form any idea of the future life, in which focial affections will be exerted, and social pleasures enjoyed, in their utmost purity and perfection.
Discourses on Social Virtue.
JOHN TAYLOR, D. D.
NORWICH.-DIED 1761. To what purpose is our boasted liberty, if we
dare not use it? To what purpose do we enjoy the light, if we may not open our eyes it? To what purpose is the word of God, if we must not seek for its real and genuine sense, but must be tied to the dictates and sentiments of any divines that have been, or now are? How can we, without the groffest inconsistency, pray in our
public assemblies, that the reformation may ried on ta still greater degrees of perfection, if in our practice we defeat the very blessing we desire? What advantage hath the Dissenter, if not to reform without the formalities and delays of human laws and edicts, whatever shall be discovered to be at any time, or in any respect, wrong in his fcheme? Why doth he reject human impofitions in one way, if he tamely submits to them in another? Our forefathers rejected what they thought was of human invention, and what we find to be fo, that escaped them, we, upon their principles, are to reject; otherwise we only exchange one kind of bondage for another, and while we refuse establishments by law, we shall come under the no less grievous establishinents of custom. And if this spirit is let loofe among us, what ravages will it make in congregations? What fires will it kindle ? What animofities, contentions, and divifions will it make? How will it lay wafte peace and love, and brotherly kindness, the grand virtues of the gospel ; go on to spread deism, and make Christianity, through the false principles and inhuman practices of Christians, the scorn and detestation of the world? Thus the very men who profess great zeal for reviving the power of religion, will be found the greatest obftructors of it. How different from this, how amiable, happy, and honourable, is the fpirit of the gospel ? peace, love, meekness, gentleness, good