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An Exhortation to Peace and Unity by Attributed (incorrectly) to John Bunyan

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This etext was produced by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk,
from the "Works of the Puritan Divines (Bunyan)", 1845 Thomas Nelson
edition.

AN EXHORTATION TO PEACE AND UNITY.

Attributed (incorrectly) to John Bunyan

[We deem it proper to state, that, though the following Treatise of
Christian Union appears in nearly all the collected editions of
BUNYAN'S WORKS, yet its genuineness has been called in question by
the Rev Mr Philip in his admirable work, "The Life and Times of
Bunyan." Without here entering into this question, we have
separately appended it to the works of Bunyan in this volume, and
trust that it will not prove unacceptable to our readers, especially
considering the efforts that are now being made to promote the
living union of all true Christians who hold the one Lord, the one
faith, and the one baptism.]

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.--
Ephesians iv. 3.

Beloved, religion is the great bond of human society; and it were
well if itself were kept within the bond of unity; and that it may
so be, let us, according to the text, use our utmost endeavours "to
keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

These words contain a counsel and a caution: the counsel is, That
we endeavour the unity of the Spirit; the caution is, That we do it
in the bond of peace; as if I should say, I would have you live in
unity, but yet I would have you to be careful that you do not
purchase unity with the breach of charity.

Let us therefore be cautious that we do not so press after unity in
practice and opinion as to break the bond of peace and affection.

In the handling of these words, I shall observe this method.

I. I shall open the sense of the text.

II. I shall shew wherein this unity and peace consist.

III. I shall shew you the fruits and benefits of it, together with
nine inconveniences and mischiefs that attend those churches where
unity and peace is wanting.

IV. And, lastly, I shall give you twelve directions and motives for
the obtaining of it.

1. As touching the sense of the text, when ye are counselled to
keep the unity of the Spirit, we are not to understand the Spirit of
God, as personally so considered; because the Spirit of God, in that
sense, is not capable of being divided, and so there would be no
need for us to endeavour to keep the unity of it.

By the unity of the spirit then, we are to understand that unity of
mind which the Spirit of God calls for, and requires Christians to
endeavour after; hence it is that we are exhorted, by one spirit,
with one mind, to strive together for the faith of the gospel; Phil.
i. 27.

But farther, the apostle in these words alludes to the state and
composition of a natural body, and doth thereby inform us, that the
mystical body of Christ holds an analogy with the natural body of
man: as, 1. In the natural body there must be a spirit to animate
it; for the body without the spirit is dead; James ii. 26. So it is
in the mystical body of Christ; the apostle no sooner tells of that
one body, but he minds us of that one Spirit; Eph. iv. 4.

2. The body hath joints and hands to unite all the parts; so hath
the mystical body of Christ; Col. ii. 19. This is that bond of
peace mentioned in the text, as also in the 16th verse of the same
chapter, where the whole body is said to be fitly joined together,
and compacted, by that which every joint supplieth.

3. The natural body receives counsel and nourishment from the head;
so doth the mystical body of Christ; he is their counsellor, and him
they must hear; he is their head, and him they must hold: hence it
is that the apostle complaineth, Col. ii. 19, of some that did not
hold the head from which the whole body by joints and hands hath
nourishment.

4. The natural body cannot well subsist, if either the spirit be
wounded or the joints broken or dislocated; the body cannot bear a
wounded or broken spirit--"A broken spirit drieth the bones;" Prov.
xvii. 22, and "A wounded spirit who can bear?" Prov. xviii. 14.
And, on the other hand, how often have the disjointing of the body,
and the breakings thereof, occasioned the expiration of the spirit?
In like manner it fares with the mystical body of Christ; how do
divided spirits break the bonds of peace, which are the joints of
this body? And how do the breakings of the body and church of
Christ wound the spirit of Christians, and oftentimes occasion the
spirit and life of Christianity to languish, if not to expire. How
needful is it then that we endeavour the unity of the spirit in the
bond of peace!

II. I now come to shew you wherein this unity and peace consists;
and this I shall demonstrate in five particulars.

1. This unity and peace may consist with the ignorance of many
truths, and in the holding of some errors; or else this duty of
peace and unity could not be practicable by any on this side
perfection: but we must now endeavour the unity of the spirit, till
we come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son
of God; Eph. iv. 13. Because now, as the apostle saith, "We know in
part, and we prophesy in part," and "Now we see through a glass
darkly;" 1 Cor. xiii. 9, 12. And as this is true in general, so we
may find it true if we descend to particular instances. The
disciples seem to be ignorant of that great truth which they had
often, and in much plainness, been taught by their Master once and
again, viz., that his kingdom was not of this world, and that in the
world they should suffer and be persecuted; yet in the 1st of the
Acts, ver. 6, we read, that they asked of him if he would at this
time restore the kingdom to Israel? thereby discovering that
Christ's kingdom (as they thought) should consist in his temporal
jurisdiction over Israel, which they expected should now commence
and take place amongst them. Again, our Lord tells them, that he
had many things to say (and these were many important truths) which
they could not now bear; John xvi. 12. And that these were
important truths, appear by the 10th and 11th verses, where he is
discoursing of righteousness and judgment, and then adds, that he
had yet many things to say which they could not bear; and thereupon
promises the Comforter to lead them into ALL TRUTH; which implies,
that they were yet ignorant of many truths, and consequently held
divers errors; and yet for all this, he prays for, and presses them
to, their great duty of peace and unity; John xiv. 27; xvii. 21. To
this may be added that of Heb. v. 11, where the author saith, he had
many things to say of the priestly office of Christ, which by reason
of their dulness they were not capable to receive; as also that in
the 10th of the Acts, where Peter seems to be ignorant of the truth,
viz., that the gospel was to be preached to all nations; and
contrary hereunto, he erred in thinking it unlawful to preach
amongst the Gentiles. I shall add two texts more, one in Acts xix.,
where we read that those disciples which had been discipled and
baptized by John were yet ignorant of the Holy Ghost, and knew not
(as the text tells us) whether there were any holy Ghost or no;
though John did teach constantly, that he that should come after him
should baptize with the Holy Ghost and fire. From hence we may
easily and plainly infer, that Christians may be ignorant of many
truths, by reason of weak and dull capacities, and other such like
impediments, even while those truths are with much plainness
delivered to them. Again, we read, Heb. v. 13, of some that were
unskilful in the word of righteousness, who nevertheless are called
babes in Christ, and with whom unity and peace is to be inviolably
kept and maintained.

2. As this unity and peace may consist with the ignorance of many
truths, and with the holding some errors, so it must consist with
(and it cannot consist without) the believing and practising those
things which are necessary to salvation and church-communion; and
they are, 1st, Believing that Christ the Son of God died for the
sins of men. 2d, That whoever believeth ought to be baptized. The
third thing essential to this communion, is a holy and a blameless
conversation.

(1.) That believing that the Son of God died for the sins of men is
necessary to salvation, I prove by these texts, which tell us, that
he that doth not believe shall be damned, Mark xvi. 16; John iii.
36; Rom. x. 9.

That it is also necessary to church-communion appears from Matt.
xvi. 16-18. Peter having confessed that Christ was the Son of the
living God, Christ thereupon assures Peter, that upon this rock,
viz., this profession of faith, or this Christ which Peter had
confessed, he would build his church, and the gates of hell should
not prevail against it. And, 1 Cor. iii. 11, the apostle having
told the Corinthians that they were God's building, presently adds,
that they could not be built upon any foundation but upon that which
was laid, which was Jesus Christ. All which proves, that Christian
society is founded upon the profession of Christ; and not only
scripture, but the laws of right reason, dictate this, that some
rules and orders must be observed for the founding all society,
which must be consented to by all that will be of it. Hence it
comes to pass, that to own Christ as the Lord and head of Christians
is essential to the founding of Christian society.

(2.) The Scriptures have declared, that this faith gives the
professors of it a right to baptism, as in the case of the eunuch,
Acts viii. When he demanded why he might not be baptized, Philip
answered, that if he believed with all his heart, he might. The
eunuch thereupon confessing Christ, was baptized.

Now, that baptism is essential to church-communion, I prove from 1
Cor. xii., where we shall find the apostle labouring to prevent an
evil use that might be made of spiritual gifts, as thereby to be
puffed up, and to think that such as wanted them were not of the
body, or to be esteemed members: he thereupon resolves, that
whoever did confess Christ, and own him for his head, did it by the
Spirit, ver. 3, though they might not have such a visible
manifestation of it as others had, and therefore they ought to be
owned as members, as appears, ver. 23. And not only because they
have called him Lord by the Spirit, but because they have, by the
guidance and direction of the same Spirit, been baptized, ver. 13,
"For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body," &c. I need
not go about to confute that notion that some of late have had of
this text., viz., that the baptism here spoken of is the baptism of
the Spirit, because you have not owned and declared that notion as
your judgment, but on the contrary, all of you that I have ever
conversed with, have declared it to be understood of baptism with
water, by the direction of the Spirit: If so, then it follows, that
men and women are declared members of Christ's body by baptism, and
cannot be by scripture reputed and esteemed so without it; which
farther appears from Rom. vi. 5, where men by baptism are said to be
"planted" into the likeness of his death and Col. ii. 12, we are
said to be "buried with him" by baptism. All which, together with
the consent of all Christians (some few in these later times
excepted), do prove that baptism is necessary to the initiating
persons into the Church of Christ.

(3.) Holiness of life is essential to church-communion, because it
seems to be the reason why Christ founded a church in the world,
viz., that men might thereby be watched over, and kept from falling;
and that if any be overtaken with a fault, he that is spiritual
might restore him, that by this means men and women might be
preserved without blame to the coming of Christ; and the grace of
God teacheth us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live
soberly and uprightly in this present evil world; Tit. ii. 11, 12.
"And let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from
iniquity;" 2 Tim. ii. 19. And James tells us (speaking of the
Christian religion), that "pure religion, and undefiled before God,
is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and
to keep ourselves unspotted from the world;" James i. 27. From all
which (together with many more texts that might be produced) it
appears, that an unholy and profane life is inconsistent with
Christian religion and society; and that holiness is essential to
salvation and church-communion. So that these three things, faith,
baptism, and a holy life, as I said before, all churches must agree
and unite in, as those things which, when wanting, will destroy
their being. And let not any think, that when I say, believing the
Son of God died for the sins of men is essential to salvation and
church-communion, that I hereby would exclude all other articles of
the Christian creed as not necessary; as the belief of the
resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment, &c., which, for want
of time, I omit to speak particularly to, and the rather, because I
understand this great article of believing the Son of God died for
the sins of men is comprehensive of all others, and is that from
whence all other articles may easily be inferred.

And here I would not be mistaken, as though I held there was nothing
else for Christians to practise, when I say this is all that is
requisite to church-communion; for I very well know, that Christ
requires many other things of us, after we are members of his body,
which, if we knowingly or maliciously refuse, may be the cause, not
only of excommunication, but damnation. But yet these are such
things as relate to the well-being and not to the being of churches;
as laying on of hands in the primitive times upon believers, by
which they did receive the gifts of the Spirit: This, I say, was
for the increase and edifying of the body, and not that thereby they
might become of the body of Christ, for that they were before. And
do not think that I believe laying on of hands was no apostolical
institution, because I say men are not thereby made members of
Christ's body, or because I say that it is not essential to church-
communion. Why should I be thought to be against a fire in the
chimney, because I say it must not be in the thatch of the house?
Consider, then, how pernicious a thing it is to make every doctrine
(though true) the bond of communion; this is that which destroys
unity, and by this rule all men must be perfect before they can be
in peace: for do we not see daily, that as soon as men come to a
clearer understanding of the mind of God (to say the best of what
they hold), that presently all men are excommunicable, if not
damnable, that do not agree with them. Do not some believe and see
that to be pride and covetousness, which others do not, because (it
may be) they have more narrowly and diligently searched into their
duty of these things than others have? What then? Must all men
that have not so large acquaintance of their duty herein be
excommunicated? Indeed it were to be wished that more moderation in
apparel and secular concernments were found among churches: but God
forbid, that if they should come short herein, that we should say,
as one lately said, that he could not communicate with such a
people, because they were proud and superfluous in their apparel.

Let me appeal to such, and demand of them, if there was not a time,
since they believed and were baptized, wherein they did not believe
laying on of hands a duty? and did they not then believe, and do
they not still believe, they were members of the body of Christ?
And was not there a time when you did not so well understand the
nature and extent of pride and covetousness as now you do? And did
you not then believe, and do you not still believe, that you were
true members of Christ, though less perfect? Why then should you
not judge of those that differ from you herein, as you judged of
yourselves when you were as they now are? How needful then is it
for Christians to distinguish (if ever they would be at peace and
unity) between those truths which are essential to church-communion,
and those that are not?

3. Unity and peace consists in all as with one shoulder practising
and putting in execution the things we do know; Phil. iii. 16.
"Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the
same rule, and mind the same thing." How sad is it to see our zeal
consume us and our precious time in things doubtful and disputable,
while we are not concerned nor affected with the practice of those
indisputable things we all agree in! We all know charity to be the
great command, and yet how few agree to practise it? We all know
they that labour in the word and doctrine are worthy of double
honour; and that God hath ordained, that they which preach the
gospel should live of the gospel. These duties, however others have
cavilled at them, I know you agree in them, and are persuaded of
your duty therein: but where is your zeal to practise? O how well
would it be with churches, if they were but half as zealous for the
great, and plain, and indisputable things, and the more chargeable
and costly things of religion, as they are for things doubtful or
less necessary, or for things that are no charge to them, and cost
them nothing but the breath of contention, though that may be too
great a price for the small things they purchase with it!

But further, Do we not all agree, that men that preach the gospel
should do it like workmen that need not be ashamed? and yet how
little is this considered by many preachers, who never consider
before they speak of what they say, or whereof they affirm! How few
give themselves to study that they may be approved! How few
meditate and give themselves to these things, that their profiting
may appear to all!

For the Lord's sake let us unite to practise those things we know;
and if we would have more talents, let us all agree to improve those
we have.

See the spirit that was among the primitive professors, that knowing
and believing how much it concerned them in the propagating of
Christianity, to shew forth love to one another (that so all might
know them to be Christ's disciples), rather than there should be any
complainings among them, they sold all they had. O how zealous were
these to practise, and as with one shoulder to do that that was upon
their hearts for God! I might further add, how often have we agreed
in our judgment? and hath it not been upon our hearts, that this and
the other thing is good to be done, to enlighten the dark world, and
to repair the breaches of churches, and to raise up those churches
that now lie gasping, and among whom the soul of religion is
expiring? But what do we more than talk of them? Do not most
decline these things, when they either call for their purses or
their persons to help in this and such like works as these? Let us
then, in what we know, unite, that we may put it in practice,
remembering, that if we know these things, we shall be happy if we
do them.

4. This unity and peace consists in our joining and agreeing to
pray for, and to press after, those truths we do not know. The
disciples in the primitive times were conscious of their
imperfections, and therefore they with one accord continued in
prayer and supplications. If we were more in the sense of our
ignorance and imperfections, we should carry it better towards those
that differ from us: then we should abound more in the spirit of
meekness and forbearance, that thereby we might bring others (or be
brought by others) to the knowledge of the truth: this would make
us go to God, and say with Elihu, Job xxxiv. 32, "That which we know
not, teach thou us." Brethren, did we but all agree that we were
erring in many things, we should soon agree to go to God, and pray
for more wisdom and revelation of his mind and will concerning us.

But here is our misery, that we no sooner receive any thing for
truth, but we presently ascend the chair of infallibility with it,
as though in this we could not err: hence it is we are impatient of
contradiction, and become uncharitable to those that are not of the
same mind; but now a consciousness that we may mistake, or that if
my brother err in one thing, I may err in another; this will unite
us in affection, and engage us to press after perfection, according
to that of the apostle; Phil. iii. 13-15, "Brethren, I count not
myself to have apprehended: But this one thing I do, forgetting
those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things
which are before, I press toward the mark, for the prize of the high
calling of God in Christ Jesus. And if in any thing ye be otherwise
minded, God shall reveal even this unto you." O then that we could
but unite and agree to go to God for one another, in confidence that
he will teach us; and that if any one of us want wisdom (as who of
us does not), we might agree to ask of God, who giveth to all men
liberally, and upbraideth no man! Let us, like those people spoken
of in the 2d of Isaiah, say to one another, "Come, let us go to the
Lord, for he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his
paths."

5. This unity and peace mainly consists in unity of love and
affection: this is the great and indispensable duty of all
Christians; by this they are declared Christ's disciples; And hence
it is that love is called "the great commandment," "the old
commandment," and "the new commandment;" that which was commanded in
the beginning, and will remain to the end, yea, and after the end. 1
Cor. xiii. 8, "Charity never faileth; but whether there be tongues,
they shall cease; or whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish
away." And ver. 13, "And now abideth faith, hope, charity; but the
greatest of these is charity." And Col. iii. 14, "Above all these
things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness;" because
charity is the end of the commandment, 1 Tim. i. 5. Charity is
therefore called "the royal law;" as though it had a superintendency
over other laws, and doubtless is a law to which other laws must
give place, when they come in competition with it; "above all
things, therefore, have fervent charity among yourselves; for
charity shall cover the multitude of sins;" 1 Pet. iv. 8. Let us
therefore live in unity and peace, and the God of love and peace
will be with us.

That you may so do, let me remind you (in the words of a learned
man), that the unity of the church is a unity of love and affection,
and not a bare uniformity of practice and opinion.

III. Having shewn you wherein this unity consists, I now come to
the third general thing propounded: and that is, to shew you the
fruits and benefits of unity and peace, together with the mischiefs
and inconveniences that attend those churches where unity and peace
are wanting.

1. Unity and peace is a duty well-pleasing to God, who is styled
the author of peace and not of confusion. In all the churches God's
Spirit rejoiceth in the unity of our spirits; but on the other hand,
where strife and divisions are, there the Spirit of God is grieved.
Hence it is that the apostle no sooner calls upon the Ephesians not
to grieve the Spirit of God, but he presently subjoins us a remedy
against that evil, that they put away bitterness and evil-speaking,
and be kind one to another, and tender-hearted, forgiving one
another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven them; Eph. iv.
30, 32.

2. As unity and peace is pleasing to God, and rejoiceth his Spirit,
so it rejoiceth the hearts and spirits of God's people. Unity and
peace brings heaven down upon earth among us: hence it is that the
apostle tells us, Rom. iv. 17, that "the kingdom of God is not meat
and drink, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost."
Where unity and peace is, there is heaven upon earth; by this we
taste the first fruits of that blessed estate we shall one day live
in the fruition of; when we shall come "to the general assembly and
church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven, and to
God the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect;"
Heb. xii. 23.

This outward peace of the church (as a learned man observes) distils
into peace of conscience, and turns writings and readings of
controversy into treatises of mortification and devotion.

And the Psalmist tells us, that it is not only good, but pleasant
for brethren to dwell together in unity, Psalm cxxxiii. But where
unity and peace is wanting, there are storms and troubles; "where
envy and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work;" James
iii. 16. It is the outward peace of the church that increaseth our
inward joy; and the peace of God's house gives us occasion to eat
our meat with gladness in our own houses, Acts ii. 46.

3. The unity and peace of the church makes communion of saints
desirable. What is it that embitters church-communion, and makes it
burdensome, but divisions? Have you not heard many complain, that
they are weary of church-communion, because of church-contention?
but now where unity and peace is, there Christians long for
communion.

David saith, that he was glad when they said unto him, "Let us go to
the house of God;" Psalm cxxii. 1. Why was this, but because (as
the third verse tells us) Jerusalem was a city compact together,
where the tribes went up, the tribes of the Lord, to give thanks to
his name? And David, speaking of the man that was once his friend,
doth thereby let us know the benefit of peace and unity; Psalm lv.
14. "We," saith he, "took sweet counsel together, and walked to the
house of God in company." Where unity is strongest, communion is
sweetest and most desirable. You see then that peace and union
fills the people of God with desires after communion: but, on the
other hand, hear how David complains, Psalm cxx., "Wo is me, that I
sojourn in Mesech, and that I dwell in the tents of Kedar." The
Psalmist here is thought to allude to a sort of men that dwelt in
the deserts of Arabia, that got their livings by contention; and
therefore he adds, ver. 6, that his soul had long dwelt with them
that hated peace. This was that which made him long for the courts
of God, and esteem one day in his house better than a thousand.
This made his soul even faint for the house of God, because of the
peace of it; "Blessed are they," saith he, "that dwell in thy house,
they will be still praising thee." There is a certain note of
concord, as appears, Acts ii., where we read of primitive
Christians, meeting with one accord, praising God.

4. Where unity and peace is, there many mischiefs and
inconveniences are prevented, which attend those people where peace
and unity are wanting: and of those many that might be mentioned, I
shall briefly insist upon these nine.

1. Where unity and peace is wanting, there is much precious time
spent to no purpose. How many days are spent, and how many
fruitless journeys made to no profit, where the people are not in
peace? how often have many redeemed time (even in seed-time and
harvest) when they could scarce afford it, to go to church, and, by
reason of their divisions, come home worse than they went, repenting
they have spent so much precious time to so little benefit? How sad
is it to see men spend their precious time, in which they should
work out their salvation, in labouring, as in the fire, to prove an
uncertain and doubtful proposition, and to trifle away their time,
in which they should make their calling and election sure, to make
sure of an opinion, which, when they have done all, they are not
infallibly sure whether it be true or no, because all things
necessary to salvation and church-communion are plainly laid down in
scripture, in which we may be infallibly sure of the truth of them;
but for other things that we have no plain texts for, but the truth
of them depends upon our interpretations, here we must be cautioned,
that we do not spend much time in imposing those upon others, or
venting those among others, unless we can assume infallibility,
otherwise we spend time upon uncertainty. And whoever casts their
eyes abroad, and do open their ears to intelligence, shall both see,
and to their sorrow hear, that many churches spend most of their
time in jangling and contending about those things which are neither
essential to salvation nor church-communion; and that which is
worse, about such doubtful questions which they are never able to
give an infallible solution of. But now where unity and peace is,
there our time is spent in praising God; and in those great
questions, What we should do to be saved? and, How we may be more
holy and more humble towards God, and more charitable and more
serviceable to one another?

2. Where unity and peace is wanting, there is evil surmising and
evil speaking, to the damage and disgrace, if not to the ruining, of
one another; Gal. v. 14, 15. The whole law is fulfilled in one
word, "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if you bite
and devour one another, take heed you be not consumed one of
another." No sooner the bond of charity is broken, which is as a
wall about Christians, but soon they begin to make havock and spoil
of one another; then there is raising evil reports, and taking up
evil reports, against each other. Hence it is that whispering and
backbiting proceeds, and going from house to house to blazon the
faults and infirmities of others: hence it is that we watch for the
haltings of one another, and do inwardly rejoice at the miscarriages
of others, saying in our hearts, "ha! ha! so we would have it:" but
now where unity and peace is, there is charity; and where charity
is, there we are willing to hide the faults, and cover the
nakedness, of our brethren. "Charity thinketh no evil;" 1 Cor.
xiii. 5; and therefore it cannot surmise, neither will it speak
evil.

3. Where unity and peace is wanting, there can be no great matters
enterprised--we cannot do much for God, nor much for one another;
when the devil would hinder the bringing to pass of good in nations
and churches, he divides their counsels (and as one well observes),
he divides their heads, that he may divide their hands; when Jacob
had prophesied of the cruelty of Simon and Levi, who were brethren,
he threatens them with the consequent of it; Gen. xlix. 7, "I will
divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel." The devil is not
to learn that maxim he hath taught the Machiavellians of the world,
Divide et impera; divide and rule. It is an united force that is
formidable. Hence the spouse in the Canticles is said to be but
one, and the only one of her mother; Cant. vi. 9. Here upon it is
said of her, ver. 10, "That she is terrible as an army with
banners." What can a divided army do, or a disordered army that
have lost their banners, or for fear or shame thrown them away? In
like manner, what can Christians do for Christ, and the enlarging of
his dominions in the world, in bringing men from darkness to light,
while themselves are divided and disordered? Peace is to Christians
as great rivers are to some cities, which (besides other benefits
and commodities) are natural fortifications by reason whereof those
places are made impregnable; but when, by the subtilty of an
adversary or the folly of the citizens, these waters come to be
divided into little petty rivulets, how soon are they assailed and
taken? Thus it fares with churches, when once the devil or their
own folly divides them, they will be so far from resisting of him,
that they will be soon subjected by him.

Peace is to churches as walls to a city; nay, unity hath defended
cities that had no walls. It was once demanded of Agesilaus, why
Lacedemon had no walls; he answers (pointing back to the city), That
the concord of the citizens was the strength of the city. In like
manner, Christians are strong when united; then they are more
capable to resist temptation, and to succour such as are tempted.
When unity and peace is among the churches, then are they like a
walled town; and when peace is the church's walls, salvation will be
her bulwarks.

Plutarch tells us of one Silurus that had eighty sons, whom he calls
to him as he lay upon his death-bed, and gave them a sheaf of
arrows, thereby to signify, that if they lived in unity, they might
do much, but if they divided, they would come to nothing. If
Christians were all of one piece, if they were all but one lump, or
but one sheaf or bundle, how great are the things they might do for
Christ and his people in the world, whereas otherwise they can do
little but dishonour him, and offend his!

It is reported of the leviathan, that his strength is in his scales;
Job xli. 15-17, "His scales are his pride, shut up together as with
a close seal; one is so near to another, that no air can come
between them: they are joined together, they stick together, they
cannot be sundered." If the church of God were united like the
scales of the leviathan, it would not be every brain-sick notion,
nor angry speculation, that would cause its separation.

Solomon saith, "Two are better than one," because, if one fall, the
other may raise him; then surely twenty are better than two, and an
hundred are better than twenty, for the same reason; because they
are more capable to help one another. If ever Christians would do
any thing to raise up the fallen tabernacles of Jacob, and to
strengthen the weak, and comfort the feeble, and to fetch back those
that have gone astray, it must be by unity.

We read of the men of Babel, Gen xi. 6, "The Lord said, Behold, the
people are one, &c., and now nothing will be restrained from them
that they have imagined to do."

We learn by reason, what great things may be done in worldly
achievements where unity is; and shall not reason (assisted with the
motives of religion) teach us, that unity among Christians may
enable them to enterprise greater things for Christ? Would not this
make Satan fall from heaven like lightning? For as unity built
literal Babel, it is unity that must pull down mystical Babel. And,
on the other hand, where divisions are, there is confusion; by this
means a Babel hath been built in every age. It hath been observed
by a learned man--and I wish I could not say truly observed--that
there is most of Babel and confusion among those that cry out most
against it.

Would we have a hand to destroy Babylon? let us have a heart to
unite one among another.

Our English histories tell us, that after Austin the monk had been
some time in England, he heard of some of the remains of the British
Christians, which he convened to a place which Cambden in his
Britannia calls "Austin's Oak." Here they met to consult about
matters of religion; but such was their division, by reason of
Austin's imposing spirit, that our stories tell us that synod was
only famous for this, that they only met and did nothing. This is
the mischief of divisions--they hinder the doing of much good; and
if Christians that are divided be ever famous for any thing, it will
be, that they have often met together, and talked of this and the
other thing, but they did nothing.

4. Where unity and peace is wanting, there the weak are wounded,
and the wicked are hardened. Unity may well be compared to precious
oil, Psalm cxxxiii. 2. It is the nature of oil to heal that which
is wounded, and to soften that which is hard. Those men that have
hardened themselves against God, and his people, when they shall
behold unity and peace among them, will say, God is in them indeed:
and on the other hand, are they not ready to say, when they see you
divided, That the devil is in you that you cannot agree!

5. Divisions and want of peace keep those out of the church that
would come in; and cause many to go out that are in.

"The divisions of Christians (as a learned man observes) are a
scandal to the Jews, an opprobrium to the Gentiles, and an inlet to
atheism and infidelity:" insomuch that our controversies about
religion (especially as they have been of late managed) have made
religion itself become a controversy. O then, how good and pleasant
a thing is it for brethren to dwell together in unity! The peace
and unity that was among the primitive Christians drew others to
them. What hinders the conversion of the Jews, but the divisions of
Christians? Must I be a Christian? says the Jew. What Christian
must I be? what sect must I be of? The Jews (as one observes),
glossing upon that text in Isa. xi. 6, where it is prophesied, That
the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and that there shall
be none left to hurt nor destroy in all God's holy mountain: they
interpreting these sayings to signify the concord and peace that
shall be among the people that shall own the Messiah, do from hence
conclude, that the Messiah is not yet come, because of the
contentions and divisions that are among those that profess him.
And the apostle saith, 1 Cor. xiv. 23, that if an unbeliever should
see their disorders, he would say they were mad; but where unity and
peace is, there the churches are multiplied. We read, Acts ix.,
that when the churches had rest, they multiplied; and Acts ii. 46,
47, when the church was serving God with one accord, "the Lord added
to them daily such as should be saved."

It is unity brings men into the church, and divisions keep them out.
It is reported of an Indian, passing by the house of a Christian,
and hearing them contending, being desired to turn in, he refused,
saying, "Habamach dwells there," meaning that the devil dwelt there:
but where unity and peace is, there God is; and he that dwells in
love, dwells in God. The apostle tells the Corinthians, that if
they walked orderly, even the unbelievers would hereby be enforced
to come and worship, and say, God was in them indeed. And we read,
Zech. viii. 23, of a time when ten men shall take hold of a Jew, and
say, "We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."

And hence it is that Christ prays, John xvii. 21, that his disciples
might be one, as the Father and he were one, that the world might
believe the Father sent him: as if he should say, you may preach me
as long as you will, and to little purpose, if you are not at peace
and unity among yourselves. Such was the unity of Christians in
former days, that the intelligent heathen would say of them, that
though they had many bodies, yet they had but one soul. And we read
the same of them, Acts iv. 32, that "the multitude of them that
believed were of one heart and one soul."

And as the learned Stillingfleet observes in his Irenicum: "The
unity and peace that was then among Christians made religion amiable
in the judgment of impartial heathens: Christians were then known
by the benignity and sweetness of their dispositions, by the candour
and ingenuity of their spirits, by their mutual love, forbearance,
and condescension to one another. But either this is not the
practice of Christianity (viz., a duty that Christians are now bound
to observe), or else it is not calculated for our meridian, where
the spirits of men are of too high an elevation for it; for if pride
and uncharitableness, if divisions and strifes, if wrath and envy,
if animosities and contentions, were but the marks of true
Christians, Diogenes need never light his lamp at noon to find out
such among us; but if a spirit of meekness, gentleness, and
condescension, if a stooping to the weaknesses and infirmities of
one another, if pursuit after peace, when it flies from us, be the
indispensable duties, and characteristical notes of Christians, it
may possibly prove a difficult inquest to find out such among the
crowds of those that shelter themselves under that glorious name."

It is the unity and peace of churches that brings others to them,
and makes Christianity amiable. What is prophesied of the church of
the Jews may in this case be applied to the Gentile church, Isa.
lxvi. 12, that when once God extends peace to her like a river, the
Gentiles shall come in like a flowing stream; then (and not till
then) the glory of the Lord shall arise upon his churches, and his
glory shall be seen among them; then shall their hearts fear and be
enlarged, because the abundance of the nations shall be converted to
them.

6. As want of unity and peace keeps those out of the church that
would come in, so it hinders the growth of those that are in. Jars
and divisions, wranglings and prejudices, eat out the growth, if not
the life of religion. These are those waters of Marah, that
embitter our spirits, and quench the Spirit of God. Unity and peace
is said to be like the dew of Hermon, and as a dew that descended
upon Sion, where the Lord commanded his blessing; Psalm cxxxiii. 3.

Divisions run religion into briars and thorns, contentions and
parties. Divisions are to churches like wars in countries: where
wars are, the ground lieth waste and untilled, none takes care of
it. It is love that edifieth, but division pulleth down. Divisions
are as the north-east wind to the fruits, which causeth them to
dwindle away to nothing; but when the storms are over, every thing
begins to grow. When men are divided, they seldom speak the truth
in love; and then no marvel they grow not up to him in all things,
who is the head.

It is a sad presage of an approaching famine (as one well observes),
not of bread nor water, but of hearing the word of God, when the
thin ears of corn devour the plump full ones; when the lean kine
devour the fat ones; when our controversies about doubtful things,
and things of less moment, eat up our zeal for the more indisputable
and practical things in religion which may give us cause to fear,
that this will be the character by which our age will be known to
posterity--that it was the age that talked of religion most, and
loved it least.

Look upon those churches where peace is, and there you shall find
prosperity. When the churches had rest, they were not only
multiplied, but, walking in the fear of the Lord and the comforts of
the Holy Ghost, they were edified; it is when the whole body is knit
together, as with joints and hands, that they increase with the
increase of God.

We are at a stand sometimes, why there is so little growth among
churches, why men have been so long in learning; and are yet so far
from attaining the knowledge of the truth; some have given one
reason, and some another; some say pride is the cause, and others
say covetousness is the cause. I wish I could say these were no
causes; but I observe, that when God entered his controversy with
his people of old, he mainly insisted upon some one sin, as
idolatry, and shedding innocent blood, &c., as comprehensive of the
rest; not but that they were guilty of other sins, but those that
were the most capital are particularly insisted on: in like manner,
whoever would but take a review of churches that live in contentions
and divisions, may easily find that breach of unity and charity is
their capital sin, and the occasion of all other sins. No marvel
then, that the Scripture saith, the whole law is fulfilled in love:
and if so, then where love is wanting, it needs must follow the
whole law is broken. It is where love grows cold that sin abounds;
and therefore the want of unity and peace is the cause of that
leanness and barrenness that is among us; it is true in spirituals
as well as temporals, that peace brings plenty.

7. Where unity and peace is wanting, our prayers are hindered; the
promise is, that what we shall agree to ask shall be given us of our
heavenly Father: no marvel we pray and pray, and yet are not
answered; it is because we are not agreed what to have.

It is reported that the people in Lacedemonia, coming to make
supplication to their idol god, some of them asked for rain, and
others of them asked for fair weather: the oracle returns them this
answer, That they should go first and agree among themselves. Would
a heathen god refuse to answer such prayers in which the supplicants
were not agreed, and shall we think the true God will answer them?

We see then that divisions hinder our prayers, and lay a prohibition
on our sacrifice: "If thou bring thy gift to the altar," saith
Christ, "and there remember that thy brother hath aught against
thee, leave thy gift, and go, and first be reconciled to thy
brother, and then come and offer it." So that want of unity and
charity hinders even our particular prayers and devotions.

This hindered the prayers and fastings of the people of old from
finding acceptance; Isa. lviii. 3. The people ask the reason
wherefore they fasted, and God did not see nor take notice of them.
He gives this reason, Because they fasted for strife and debate, and
hid their face from their own flesh. Again, Isa. lix., the Lord
saith, his hand was not shortened, that he could not save; nor his
ear heavy, that he could not hear: but their sins had separated
between their God and them. And among those many sins they stood
chargeable with, this was none of the least, viz., that the way of
peace they had not known. You see where peace was wanting, prayers
were hindered, both under the Old and New Testaments.

The sacrifice of the people, in the 65th of Isaiah, that said,
"Stand by thyself, I am holier than thou," was a smoke in the
nostrils of the Lord. On the other hand, we read how acceptable
those prayers were that were made with one accord, Acts iv. 24,
compared with verse 31. They prayed with one accord, and they were
all of one heart, and of one soul: And see the benefit of it, "They
were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and spoke the word with all
boldness;" which was the very thing they prayed for, as appears
verse 29. And the apostle exhorts the husband to dwell with his
wife, that their prayers might not be hindered; 1 Pet. iii. 7. We
see then want of unity and peace, either in families or churches, is
a hinderance of prayers.

8. It is a dishonour and disparagement to Christ that his family
should be divided. When an army falls into mutiny and division, it
reflects disparagement on him that hath the conduct of it. In like
manner, the divisions of families are a dishonour to the heads, and
those that govern them. And if so, then how greatly do we dishonour
our Lord and governor, who gave his body to be broken to keep his
church from breaking, who prayed for their peace and unity, and left
peace at his departing from them for a legacy, even a peace which
the world could not bestow upon them.

9. Where there is peace and unity, there is a sympathy with each
other; that which is the want of one will be the want of all. "Who
is afflicted," saith the apostle, "and I burn not?" We should then
"remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which
suffer adversity, as being ourselves also of the body;" Heb. xiii.
3. But where the body is broken, or men are not reckoned or
esteemed of the body, no marvel we are so little affected with such
as are afflicted. Where divisions are, that which is the joy of the
one is the grief of another; but where unity and peace and charity
abound, there we shall find Christians in mourning with them that
mourn, and rejoicing with them that rejoice; then they will not envy
the prosperity of others, nor secretly rejoice at the miseries or
miscarriages of any.

IV. Last of all, I now come to give you twelve directions and
motives for the obtaining peace and unity.

1. If ever we would live in peace and unity, we must pray for it.
We are required to seek peace: of whom then can we seek it with
expectation to find it, but of him who is a God of peace, and hath
promised to bless his people with peace? It is God that hath
promised to give his people one heart, and one way; yet for all
these things he will be sought unto: O then let us seek peace, and
pray for peace, because God shall prosper them that love it.

The peace of churches is that which the apostle prays for in all his
epistles; in which his desire is, that grace and peace may be
multiplied and increased among them.

2. They that would endeavour the peace of the churches, must be
careful who they commit the care and oversight of the churches to;
as (1.)--Over and besides those qualifications that should be in all
Christians, they that rule the church of God should be men of
counsel and understanding. Where there is an ignorant ministry,
there is commonly an ignorant people, according as it was of old--
Like priest like people.

How sad is it to see the church of God committed to the care of such
that pretend to be teachers of others, that understand not what they
say, or whereof they affirm. No marvel the peace of churches is
broken, when their watchmen want skill to preserve their unity,
which of all other things is as the church's walls; when they are
divided, no wonder they crumble to atoms, if there is no skilful
physician to heal them. It is sad when there is no balm in Gilead,
and when there is no physician there. Hence it is, that the wounds
of churches become incurable, like the wounds of God's people of
old, either not healed at all, or else slightly healed, and to no
purpose. May it not be said of many churches this day, as God said
of the church of Israel, That he sought for a man among them that
should stand in the gap, and make up the breach; but he found none?

Remember what was said of old, Mal. ii. 7, The priest's lips
preserve knowledge: and the people should seek the law at his
mouth. But when this is wanting, the people will be stumbling, and
departing from God and one another; therefore God complains, Hos.
iv. 6, That his people were destroyed for want of knowledge; that
is, for want of knowing guides; for if the light that is in them
that teach be darkness, how great is that darkness! and if the blind
lead the blind, no marvel both fall into the ditch.

How many are there that take upon them to teach others, that had
need be taught in the beginning of religion; that instead of
multiplying knowledge, multiply words without knowledge; and instead
of making known God's counsel, darken counsel by words without
knowledge? The apostle speaks of some that did more than darken
counsel; for they wrested the counsel of God; 2 Pet. iii. 16. In
Paul's epistles, saith he, "are some things hard to be understood,
which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also
the other scriptures, to their own destruction." Some things in the
Scriptures are hard to be known, and they are made harder by such
unlearned teachers as utter their own notions by words without
knowledge.

None are more bold and adventurous to take upon them to expound the
dark mysteries and sayings of the prophets and Revelations, and the
9th of the Romans, which I believe contains some of those many
things which, in Paul's epistles, Peter saith, were "hard to be
understood;" I say none are more forward to dig in these mines than
those that can hardly give a sound reason for the first principles
of religion; and such as are ignorant of many more weighty things
that are easily to be seen in the face and superficies of the
Scripture; nothing will serve these but swimming in the deeps, when
they have not yet learned to wade through the shallows of the
Scriptures: like the Gnosticks of old, who thought they knew all
things, though they knew nothing as they ought to know. And as
those Gnosticks did of old, so do such teachers of late break the
unity and peace of churches.

How needful then is it, that if we desire the peace of churches,
that we choose out men of knowledge, who may be able to keep them
from being shattered and scattered with every wind of doctrine: and
who may be able to convince and stop the mouths of gainsayers.

(2.) You must not only choose men of counsel, but if you would
design the unity and peace of the churches, you must choose men of
courage to govern them; for as there must be wisdom to hear with
some, so there must be courage to correct others: as some must be
instructed meekly, so others must be rebuked sharply, that they may
be sound in the faith; there must be wisdom to rebuke some within
long-suffering, and there must be courage to suppress and stop the
mouths of others. The apostle tells Titus of some whose mouths must
be stopped, or else they would subvert whole houses, Titus i. 11.
Where this courage hath been wanting, not only whole houses, but
whole churches have been subverted. And Paul tells the Galatians,
that when he saw some endeavour to bring the churches into bondage,
that he did not give place to them, no not for an hour, &c, Gal. ii.
5. If this course had been taken by the rulers of churches, their
peace had not been so often invaded by unruly and vain talkers.

3. In choosing men to rule (if you would endeavour to keep the
unity of the Spirit, and the bond of peace thereby), be careful you
choose men of peaceable dispositions. That which hath much annoyed
the peace of churches hath been the froward and perverse spirits of
the rulers thereof. Solomon therefore adviseth, That with a furious
man we should not go, lest we learn his ways, and get a snare to our
souls, Prov. xxii. 24, 25, and with the froward we learn
frowardness. How do some men's words eat like a canker; who instead
of lifting up their voices like a trumpet to sound a parley for
peace, have rather sounded an alarm to war and contention. If ever
we would live in peace, let us reverence the feet of them that bring
the glad tidings of it.

O how have some men made it their business to preach contentions,
and upon their entertainment of every novel opinion to preach
separation! How hath God's word been stretched and torn to furnish
these men with arguments to tear churches! Have not our ears heard
those texts that say, "Come out from among them, and be separate,"
&c., and "Withdraw from every brother that walks disorderly?" I
say, have we not heard these texts that were written to prevent
disorder brought to countenance the greatest disorder that ever was
in the church of God, even schism and division? whereas one of these
exhortations was written to the church of Corinth to separate
themselves from the idol's temple, and the idol's table, in which
many of them lived in the participation of, notwithstanding their
profession of the true God; as appears, 2 Cor. vi. 1.6, 17, compared
with 1 Cor. viii. 7, and as 1 Cor. x. 14, 20, 22, recites; and not
for some few or more members, who shall make themselves both judges
and parties to make separation, when and as often as they please,
from the whole congregation and church of God, where they stood
related; for by the same rule, and upon the same ground, may others
start some new question among these new separatists, and become
their own judges of the communicableness of them, and thereupon make
another separation from these, till at last two be not left to walk
together. And for that other text mentioned, 2 Thess. iii. 6, where
Paul exhorts the church of Thessalonica to withdraw themselves from
every brother that walks disorderly; I cannot but wonder that any
should bring this to justify their separation or withdrawal from the
communion of a true (though a disorderly) church. For,

(1.) Consider, that this was not writ for a few members to withdraw
from the church, but for the church to withdraw from disorderly
members.

(2.) Consider, that if any offended members, upon pretence of
error, either in doctrine or practice, should by this text become
judges (as well as parties) of the grounds and lawfulness of their
separation; then it will follow, that half a score notorious
heretics, or scandalous livers (when they have walked so as they
forsee the church are ready to deal with them, and withdraw from
them), shall anticipate the church, and pretend somewhat against
them, of which themselves must be judges, and so withdraw from the
church, pretending either heresy or disorder; and so condemn the
church, to prevent the disgrace of being condemned by the church.
How needful then is it, that men of peaceable dispositions, and not
of froward and fractious and dividing spirits, be chosen to rule the
church of God, for fear lest the whole church be leavened and soured
by them!

4. As there must be care used in choosing men to rule the church of
God, so there must be a consideration had, that there are many
things darkly laid down in scripture; this will temper our spirits,
and make us live in peace and unity the more firmly in things in
which we agree; this will help us to bear one another's burdens, and
so fulfil the law of Christ, inasmuch as all things necessary to
salvation and church communion are plainly laid down in scripture.
And where things are more darkly laid down, we should consider that
God intended hereby to stir up our diligence, that thereby we might
increase our knowledge, and not our divisions, for it may be said of
all discoveries of truth we have made in the Scriptures, as it is
said of the globe of the earth, that though men have made great
searches, and thereupon great discoveries, yet there is still a
terra incognita, an unknown land; so there is in the Scriptures:
for after men have travelled over them, one age after another, yet
still there is, as it were, a terra incognita, an unknown track to
put us upon farther search and inquiry, and to keep us from
censuring and falling out with those who have not yet made the same
discoveries; that so we may say with the Psalmist, when we reflect
upon our short apprehensions of the mind of God, that we have seen
an end of all perfection, but God's commands are exceeding broad;
and as one observes, speaking of the Scriptures, that there is a
path in them leading to the mind of God, which lieth a great
distance from the thoughts and apprehensions of men. And on the
other hand, in many other places, God sits, as it were, on the
superficies, and the face of the letter, where he that runs may
discern him speaking plainly, and no parable at all. How should the
consideration of this induce us to a peaceable deportment towards
those that differ!

5. If we would endeavour peace and unity, we must consider how God
hath tempered the body, that so the comely parts should not separate
from the uncomely, as having no need of them; 1 Cor. xii. 23-25.
There is in Christ's body and house some members and vessels less
honourable; 2 Tim. ii. 20. And therefore we should not, as some
now-a-days do, pour the more abundant disgrace, instead of putting
the more abundant honour upon them. Did we but consider this, we
should be covering the weakness, and hiding the miscarriages of one
another, because we are all members one of another, and the most
useless member in his place is useful.

6. If we would live in peace, let us remember our relations to God,
as children to a father, and to each other as brethren. Will not
the thoughts that we have one Father, quiet us; and the thoughts
that we are brethren, unite us? It was this that made Abraham
propose terms of peace to Lot; Gen. xiii, "Let there be no strife,"
saith he, "between us, for we are brethren." And we read of Moses,
in Acts vii. 26, using this argument to reconcile those that strove
together, and to set them at one again: "Sirs," saith he, "you are
brethren, why do you wrong one another?" A deep sense of this
relation, that we are brethren, would keep us from dividing.

7. If we would preserve peace, let us mind the gifts and graces and
virtues that are in each other; let these be more in our eye than
their failings and imperfections. When the apostle exhorted the
Philippians to peace, as a means hereunto, that so the peace of God
might rule in their hearts, he tells them, iv. 8, "That if there
were any virtue, or any praise, they should think of these things."
While we are always talking and blazoning the faults of one another,
and spreading their infirmities, no marvel we are so little in peace
and charity; for as charity covereth a multitude of sins, so malice
covereth a multitude of virtues, and makes us deal by one another,
as the heathen persecutors dealt with Christians, viz., put them in
bears' skins, that they might the more readily become a prey to
those dogs that were designed to devour them.

8. If we would keep unity and peace, let us lay aside provoking and
dividing language, and forgive those that use it. Remember that old
saying, "Evil words corrupt good manners." When men think to carry
all before them, with speaking uncharitably and disgracefully of
their brethren or their opinions, may not such be answered as Job
answered his unfriendly visitants, Job vi. 25, "How forcible are
right words; but what doth your arguing reprove?" How healing are
words fitly spoken? A word in season, how good is it? If we would
seek peace, let us clothe all our treaties for peace with acceptable
words; and where one word may better accommodate than another, let
that be used to express persons or things by; and let us not, as
some do, call the different practices of our brethren, will-worship,
and their different opinions, doctrines of devils, and the doctrine
of Balaam, who taught fornication, &c., unless we can plainly, and
in expressness of terms, prove it so. Such language as this hath
strangely divided our spirits, and hardened our hearts one towards
another.

9. If we would live in peace, let us make the best constructions of
one another's words and actions. Charity judgeth the best, and it
thinks no evil; if words and actions may be construed to a good
sense, let us never put a bad construction upon them. How much hath
the peace of Christians been broken by an uncharitable
interpretation of words and actions? As some lay to the charge of
others that which they never said, so, by straining men's words,
others lay to their charge that they never thought.

10. Be willing to hear, and learn, and obey those that God by his
providence hath set over you; this is a great means to preserve the
unity and peace of churches: but when men (yea, and sometimes
women) shall usurp authority, and think themselves wiser than their
teachers, no wonder if these people run into contentions and
parties, when any shall say they are not free to hear those whom the
church thinks fit to speak to them. This is the first step to
schism, and is usually attended, if not timely prevented, with a
sinful separation.

11. If you would keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace,
be mindful, that the God whom you serve is a God of peace, and your
Saviour is a Prince of peace, and that "his ways are ways of
pleasantness, and all his paths are peace;" and that Christ was sent
into the world "to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in
the shadow of death, and to guide our feet in the way of peace."

12. Consider the oneness of spirit that is among the enemies of
religion; though they differ about other things, yet to persecute
religion, and extirpate religion out of the earth, here they will
agree; the devils in the air, and the devils in the earth, all the
devils in hell, and in the world, make one at this turn. Shall the
devil's kingdom be united; and shall Christ's be divided? Shall the
devils make one shoulder to drive on the design of damning men, and
shall not Christians unite to carry on the great design of saving of
them? Shall the papists agree and unite to carry on their interest,
notwithstanding the multitudes of orders, degrees, and differences,
that are among them; and shall not those that call themselves
reformed churches, unite to carry on the common interest of Christ
in the world, notwithstanding some petty and disputable differences
that are among them? Quarrels about religion (as one observes) were
sins not named among the Gentiles. What a shame is it then for
Christians to abound in them, especially considering the nature of
the Christian religion, and what large provisions the Author of it
hath made, to keep the profession's of it in peace! insomuch (as one
well observes), it is next to a miracle that ever any (especially
the professors of it) should fall out about it.

13. Consider and remember, that the Judge stands at the door. Let
this moderate your spirits, that the Lord is at hand. What a sad
account will they have to make when he comes, that shall be found to
smite their fellow-servants, and to make the way to his kingdom more
narrow than ever he made it! Let me close all in the words of that
great apostle, 2 Cor. xiii. 11, "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be
perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the
God of love and peace shall be with you."

Postscript.--Reader, I thought good to advertise thee, that I have
delivered this to thy hand in the same order and method in which it
was preached, and almost in the same words, without any diminishings
or considerable enlargings, unless it be in the thirteen last
particulars; upon some of which I have made some enlargements, which
I could not then do for want of time; but the substance of every one
of them was then laid down in the same particular order as here thou
hast them. And now I have done, I make no other account (to use the
words of a moderate man upon the like occasion) but it will fall out
with me, as doth commonly with him that parts a fray, both parties
may perhaps drive at me for wishing them no worse than peace. My
ambition of the public tranquillity of the church of God, I hope,
will carry me through these hazards; let both beat me, so their
quarrels may cease, I shall rejoice in those blows and scars I shall
take for the church's safety.

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