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"Teach me good judgement and knowledge ;" and with the apostle, beg of God" the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him ";" that in any thing wherein we are otherwise minded, he will reveal even that unto us.
2. To agree in the fundamentals, in the mystery of godliness, the unity of the faith, the principles of doctrine, the rule by which we are all to walk, in the saving knowledge of God and Christ', unto which eternal life is annexed, and without which it cannot be had; in the spiritual worship of God, calling upon him, and coming unto him, in and by Christ; and in those primary grounds of Christian obedience, repentance, sincerity, love of Christ, self-denial; and where there is an unfeigned and unanimous agreement in these, there is a ground laid for discovery of the truth in matters of smaller difference. Agreement in principles is a fair preparation unto agreement in all those conclusions, which are naturally deducible from those principles: and the more clearly we understand the comprehension of principles, the more exactly we shall discern the genuine connexion of true conclusions, and the inconsistency of those which are false and fallacious.
3. In the things whereunto we have attained, “to walk by the same rule, to hold the truth in love, to keep faith and a good conscience. For Christian doctrine is a mystery of godliness; and saving knowledge, a knowledge which is according unto godliness: and therefore the best way to find out that wherein we differ, is, to obey that wherein we agree: the Lord having promised, that they who do his will, shall know his doctrine : that he will teach the meek his way, and reveal his secret to them that fear him ; that unto him who ordereth his conversation aright, he will show the salvation of God.h
4. To be spiritual and heavenly minded: for as heavenly bodies, so heavenly minds, are the proper subjects of serenity and tranquillity; storms and tempests
are the effects of earthly exhalations; heavenly orbs are steady and regular, have no combustions nor disagreements in them; schisms and divisions are from the flesh, and come from us as men, not as Christians. As the reasonable soul doth bind the parts of the body together in unity, and when that is gone, they are in a near disposition to dissolve, and fall asunder; so the spirit of Christ is the bond of his body': the apostle calleth it "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." The more we have the mind of Christ, the less we shall do things through strife, vainglory, revenge, or any other inordinate passion for the wisdom which is from above, is pure and peaceable"; but that which tendeth unto envying and strife, descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, and devilish.
5. To study and cast about for peace; to do all that is possible, and whatsoever lieth in our power, to produce it; to follow after it, and all the requisite expedients which conduce unto it; if it fly, pursue it; if it hide, search for it; find out, as Joash and Josiah did P, masons, and carpenters, and spiritual workmen to repair the breaches of the house: to have our private opinions and problems to ourselves before God, rather than by our unseasonable venting of them, to scandalize and offend our brethren, and to endanger the quiet of the church.
6. To be of a meek, humble, and calm spirit. Love is not easily provoked', is long-suffering, kind, self-denying; beareth, believeth, hopeth, endureth all things. A hammer makes no noise upon wool:-so a soft spirit turneth away wrath. Some men are so hot, so opinionative, so contentious, so wedded to their own conceits, so impatient of dissent. that none can have peace with them, who will not mancipate and render up their reason and judgement into their hands. But though it be our duty to try all things, and hold fast truth, when we have found it; yet we must hold it with a spirit of meekness. Meekness is the fittest disposition to receive truth. 66 Receive," saith the apostle, "with
i Inferiora fulminant. Sen. Pacem summa tenent. Lucan. iii. 3.
11 Cor. xii. 13. Eph. iv. 3.
n James iii. 14, 17.
k 1 Cor.
m Phil. ii. 2, 3, 4, 5.
p 2 Chron.
• Rom. xii. 18. xiv. 19. Heb. xii. 14.
meekness the ingrafted word." And meekness is the fittest disposition to teach truth; " In meekness," saith St. Paul, "instructing those that oppose themselves." "-Long-suffering and doctrine must be joined together. Self-willedness and hastiness of passion, are obstructions unto the progress of truth: else the apostle would not have entered a caveat against them in a bishop: for, saith he, "a bishop must be blameless as the steward of God, not self-willed, not soon angry "," &c.
7. To be of a candid judgement; not to widen, but, as much as may be, to narrow differences, and to reduce controversies to as near an agreement as is possible; and in the managing of them, to retain suavity and ingenuity: not to infer, without undeniable evidence, odious and invidious consequences from those doctrines of our brethren which we ourselves dislike; but to believe other men as perspicacious to discern, and as tender to decline, such desperate rocks, as we ourselves. It argues great want of charity towards others, and of humility in ourselves, when, by our perverse disputings, we go about to charge such opinions upon others, as from their own mouths we are assured, and therefore should in charity believe, that they do detest. Pride in ourselves, and prejudice against others, are two great impediments to the healing of divisions.
I shall shut up all with one observation out of the text more, which is this, that what Christ, in the beginning of the verse, did undertake, "I will feed the flock of slaughter," in the latter end thereof he makes it good, "I fed the flock." Christ never undertook more in a way of office, than what he finished; nor more in a way of promise, than what he performed. He undertook a difficult service, to feed his church not only with his doctrine but with his blood; he had a command and commission to do it; and his commission he accepted," Lo! I come to do thy will, O God." And though it were so hard a duty, that his human nature did shrink, and, as it were, draw back from it, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me ";" yet he submitted his will to the will of his Father; and was obedient even to
that servile, ignominious, and cursed death, which his human nature so earnestly declined. And, in like manner, what he undertakes to work in us, he will finish, as well as what he undertook to work for us; he is as the author, so the finisher of our faith when he hath begun a good work in us, he will perform it unto the day of Christ.
He promised to send his Spirit upon his disciples; and he did send him. He promised unto them power to cast out devils ; and they did so. His name is Amen, the faithful and true witness; and all the promises of God in him are Yea and Amen. If he promise peace, or grace, or salvation, he will give it his fidelity, power, honour, love, mercy, oath, and covenant, are so many assurances unto his people, that whatever he hath undertaken to do for, in, or unto them, shall undoubtedly be done. He will do every work of salvation to the uttermost for those that come unto God by him. If he begin faith, he will finish it m: if he begin holiness, he will complete it": if he heal, he heals perfectly if he love, he loves to the end P: every work of his is perfect.
There are works of his yet to do, to gather the people of God that are scattered abroad, to destroy the idols utterly, to tread down Satan and death under our feet; and he will do all, before he give up his kingdom to his father.
There are promises of his yet to be fulfilled, to come again. and to receive us unto himself', to raise us up at the last days, to bring forth judgement unto victory. And the experience which the church hath had of his love, power, and fidelity in former works and promises, should raise up their hearts to trust in him assuredly, for the accomplishment of those which are yet behind: for "he is yesterday, and today, and the same, for ever."" This we may plead in our prayers," Do as thou hast said." This we may apply in our endeavours towards holiness; he hath said he will sub
• John xvi. 7. Luke b Luke x. 17. ma Heb. xii. 1. 4 John
g Luke ix. 1.
1 Heb. vii. 25.
P John xiii. 2.
xi. 52. Deut. xxxii. 4. Isai. ii. 18. Rom. xvi. 20. 1 Cor. xv. 25.
xiv. 2, 3.
John vi. 40.
2 Sam. vii. 25.
t Matth. xii. 20.
u Heb. xiii. 8.
due our iniquities; he will take away a heart of stone, and give a heart of flesh: for this end he was manifested, to destroy the works of the devil; and upon this word I will hope. This we may support our drooping and desponding hearts under, in any time of diffidence and discomfort. When I begin to fear that my sins are greater than can be pardoned, stronger than can be mortified, deeper than can be eradicated; his power is ever accompanying his mercy. What he begins, he will finish. He hath said He will abundantly pardon therefore we may say, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great according as thou hast spoken. He will perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham; his word is an invincible bar to all our fears.