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sought to bring about a change in it by an earnest appeal to mutual forbearance on both sides. They were not, he said, to condemn one another for things indifferent. They were not to despise one another, or judge one another. They were to respect the consciences of their brethren. They were to give up something of their liberty rather than by using it to the full, be a stumbling-block, or occasion to fall in their brother's way. Many things were lawful which were not expedient. What in itself was innocent and allowable, ceased to be so when done with offence. It was wrong to make a stand, at the risk of division, for matters of minor moment. There were great objects for all to pursue together. Let them look at these and they would be more tolerant. The kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. He that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men.
So did St. Paul seek to heal the religious animosities that had appeared among his brethren at Rome. And do we not, as we read his words, find them wonderfully applicable to ourselves at the present day? Do they not seem to have been written, as it were, expressly for our learning? For what is this state of the Church nowthe state of the Church, not at Rome, but among ourselves here in England ? Surely we are far enough removed from Godly union and concord. Surely there are too many divisions among us; too much calling of hard names; too much judging, too much despising of one another; too much intolerance; too little consideration; too great readiness to give and take offence! Instead of receiving one another, as Christ received us to the glory of God, we too often exclude shut our hearts against one another. Instead of battling together against sin and wickedness, we are found—and what a spectacle is it for our real enemies to witness—drawn up in hostile ranks, party against party, watching for an opportunity of attack, spying out some weak point in the opposite side against which to shoot an arrow; provoking one another; misrepresenting one another, thinking and speaking evil of one another!
I do not say this with any reference to religious divisions on this immediate spot. Happily there are none: happily on such points we are at peace amongst ourselves. But I speak of the aspect of the Church at large. We cannot now take up a newspaper and not read of strifes among Christians; strife for the most part about little things; about things which in no wise affect our salvation—the which, if we do them, we are not the better, if we leave them alone, we are not the worse—which done or left undone, cannot advance or retard a man a single step in the path of true religion and virtue.
Grievous indeed is it that such divisions should exist. But a remedy for them is at hand; if we would but apply it—and that lies in an honest study and carrying out of the wise counsel which is given us by St. Paul, in these last chapters of his Epistle to the Romans.
For there we are shown a more excellent way. There we are taught to bear, and to forbear. There we are shown that not the carrying out of our own views—when no principle is involved—but rather laying them down at the wish of others, is the true way to serve Christ and advance His kingdom. There we read such noble words as these, None of us liveth to himself ; Why dost thou set at nought thy brother ; if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of. Let us follow things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself. . . . Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ received us to the glory of God.
Surely, with such wisdom to guide us, there might, there ought to be, peace in the Church! Surely we greatly err when we put zeal before love. Much more do we err when we spend our zeal upon that which profiteth not: when we strive about the lesser things; waste our strength in a vain attempt to bring all men to think as we do about the mint, and anise, and cummin, while the greater matters are laid aside as things that may wait-judgment, mercy, and faith!
But, to bring the subject more duly home to ourselves, toleration, mutual forbearance, and courteous conciliatory bearing towards opponents, the pleasing every one his neighbour for his good, these are things needed under all circumstances, and not only in matters of religion. For it is not only in religion that men differ. We are divided by natural temper, from different bringing up, from difference in occupation and condition. There is too great a gulf between class and class; not enough common interest, not enough kindly intercourse; we do
not care for one another, and feel as kindly towards one another, as ought to be the case between fellow Christians and fellow countrymen. Here then comes in for our guidance the Apostle's rule, Receive ye one another. Be on good terms with all about you. Count your neighbour as a friend, and deal with him as a friend. See how you may be of service to him. Prove to him your relationship in Jesus Christ. Shew that however separated by rank or position, you acknowledge him as a brother in the Lord. Yes, Receive ye one another ; and as the Apostle goes on to say — receive ye one another as Christ received us.
These last words add force to the obligation of receiving one another, and also make it clearer.
For how did Christ receive the men with whom he lived ? Did He not bear long with them ? did He not endure contradiction from them ? did He not shew Himself ever quick to pardon when they had done Him wrong? did He not take back to His heart one who had three times denied Him? Was he not in all His dealings with His disciples, very pitiful and of tender mercy ? Was He not courteous, gentle, patient, merciful, delighting to serve others more than to be served Himself?
And in all this He is our example. We are to receive one another as Christ received the men of His generation. We are to copy and reproduce in our intercourse with one another, the same mind which we have seen to be in Him. We are to be gentle as He was gentle, courteous, as He was courteous ; patient as He was patient; never rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing ; seeking ever each other's good; by love serving one another.
Oh, were such marks as these to be indeed stamped upon our common daily intercourse, what great results would follow! And this the chiefest of all—the spreading wider and wider the kingdom of Christ among men !
And so the last words of my text, which speak of God's glory, would find their accomplishment. For who can doubt of this, that the receiving one another as Christ received the men of Judea of old, the carrying out into practice, visibly and before all, those principles of forbearance and consideration, care for others, selfforgetfulness — which He so conspicuously exhibited, would more than anything serve to promote the Gospel; and if the Gospel, then the glory of its Author, the glory of God, and of Jesus Christ whom He hath sent?