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in love, that single question, "Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?"
7. We may, secondly, observe, that here is no inquiry made concerning Jehonadab's mode of worship: although it is highly probable, there was in this respect also, a very wide difference between them. For we may well believe Jehonadab, as well as his posterity, worshipped God at Jerusalem: whereas Jehu did not; he had more regard to state-policy than religion. And, therefore, although he slew the worshippers of Baal, and destroyed Baal, out of Israel: yet from the convenient sin of Jeroboam, the worship of the golden calves, he departed not, 2 Kings x. 29.
8. But even among men of an upright heart, men who desire to "have a conscience void of offence," it must needs be, that as long as there are various opinions, there will be various ways of worshipping God seeing a variety of opinions necessarily implies a variety of practice. And as, in all ages, men have differed in nothing more than in their opinions concerning the Supreme Being, so in nothing have they more differed from each other, than in the manner of worshipping him. Had this been only in the heathen world, it would not have been at all surprising. For we know, these "by their wisdom knew not God:" nor, therefore, could they know, how to worship him. But is it not strange, that even in the Christian world, although they all agree in the general, "God is a Spirit; and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth;" yet the particular modes of worshipping God, are almost as various as among the heathens?
9. And how shall we choose among so much variety? No man can choose for, or prescribe to another. But every one must follow the dictates of his own conscience, in simplicity and godly sincerity. He must be fully persuaded in his own mind, and then act according to the best light he has. Nor has any creature power to constrain another to walk by his own rule. God has given no right to any of the children of men, thus to lord it over the consciences of his brethren. But every man must judge for himself, as every man must give an account of himself to God.
10. Although, therefore, every follower of Christ is obliged, by the very nature of the Christian institution, to be a member of some particular congregation or other, some church, as it is usually termed: (which implies a particular manner of worshiping God; for "two cannot walk together unless they be agreed;") yet none can be obliged by any power upon earth, but that of his own conscience, to prefer this or that congregation to another, this or that particular manner of worship. I know it is commonly supposed, that the place of our birth, fixes the church to which we ought to belong: that one, for instance, who is born in England ought to be a member of that which is styled, the Church of England, and consequently to worship God in the particular manner, which is prescribed by that church. I was once a zealous maintainer of this: but I find many reasons to abate of this zeal. I fear, it is attended with such difficulties, that no reasonable man can get over. Not the least
of which is, that if this rule had took place, there could have been no reformation from popery: seeing it entirely destroys the right of private judgment, on which that whole reformation stands.
11. I dare not, therefore, presume to impose my mode of worship on any other. I believe it is truly primitive and apostolical. But my belief is no rule for another. I ask not, therefore, of him with whom I would unite in love, "Are you of my church? Of my congregation? Do you receive the same form of church-government, and allow the same church-officers with me? Do you join in the same form of prayer, wherein I worship God?" I inquire not, "Do you receive the supper of the Lord in the same po-ture and manner that I do?" Nor, whether in the administration of baptism, you agree with me, in admitting sureties for the baptised? In the manner of administering it? Or the age of those to whom it should be administered? Nay, I ask not of you, (as clear as I am in my own mind,) whether you allow baptism and the Lord's-supper at all? Let all these things stand by; we will talk of them, if need be, at a more convenient season. My only question at present is this, “Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart!”
12. But what is properly implied in the question? I do not mean, what did Jehu imply therein? But what should a follower of Christ understand thereby, when he proposes it to any of his brethren?
The first thing implied is this: Is thy heart right with God? Dost thou believe his being, and his perfections? His eternity, immensity, wisdom, power: his justice, mercy, and truth? Dost thou believe, that he now "upholdeth all things by the word of his power?" And that he governs even the most minute, even the most noxious, to his own glory, and the good of them that love him? Hast thou a divine evidence, or supernatural conviction, of the things of God? Dost thou "walk by faith, not by sight?" "Looking not at temporal things, but things eternal ?"
13. Dost thou believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, "God over all, blessed for ever?" Is he revealed in thy soul? Dost thou "know Jesus Christ and him crucified?" Does he "dwell in thee, and thou in him?" Is he "formed in thy heart by faith?" Having absolutely disclaimed all thy own works, thy own righteousness, hast thou "submitted thyself unto the righteousness of God, which is by faith in Christ Jesus?" Art thou "found in him, not having thy own righteousness, but the righteousness which is by faith?" And art thou, through him, "fighting the good fight of faith, and laying hold of eternal life?"
14. Is thy faith Evegyœuevn di αγαπης "filled with the energy of love?" Dost thou love God? I do not say, "above all things ;" for it is both an unscriptural and an ambiguous expression: but "with all thy heart, and with all thy strength?" Dost thou seek all thy happiness in him alone? And dost thou find what thou seekest? Dost thy soul continually "magnify the Lord, and thy spirit rejoice in God thy Saviour?" Having learned "in every thing to give thanks," dost thou find, "it is a joyful and a pleasant thing to be thankful?" Is
God the centre of thy soul? The sum of all thy desires? Art thou accordingly laying up thy treasure in heaven, and "counting all things else dung and dross ?" Hath the love of God cast the love of the world out of thy soul? Then thou art crucified to the world. Thou art dead to all below, and thy life is hid with Christ in God
15. Art thou employed in doing "not thy own will, but the will of him that sent thee?" Of him that sent thee down to sojourn here awhile, to spend a few days in a strange land, till, having finished the work he hath given thee to do, thou return to thy father's house? Is it thy meat and drink "to do the will of thy Father which is in heaven?" Is thine eye single in all things? Always fixed on him? Always looking unto Jesus? Dost thou point at him in whatsoever thou dost? In all thy labour, thy business, thy conversation? Aiming only at the glory of God in all? "Whatsoever thou dost, either in word or deed, doing it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God, even the Father, through him ?"
16. Does the love of God constrain thee to "serve him with fear?" To "rejoice unto him with reverence?" Art thou more afraid of displeasing God, than either of death or hell? Is nothing so terrible to thee as the thought of offending the eyes of his glory? Upon this ground, dost thou "hate all evil ways;" every transgression of his holy and perfect law? And herein "exercise thyself, to have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward man?"
17. Is thy heart right toward thy neighbour? Dost thou "love as thyself," all mankind without exception? "If you love those only that love you, what thank have ye ?" Do you "love your enemies?" Is your soul full of good-will, of tender affection toward them? Do you love even the enemies of God? The unthankful and unholy? Do your bowels yearn over them? Could you wish yourself (temporally) accursed for their sake? And do you show this, by "blessing them that curse you, and praying for those that despitefully use you and persecute you?"
18. Do you show your love by your works? While you have time, as you have opportunity, do you in fact "do good to all men," neighbours or strangers, friends or enemies, good or bad? Do you do them all the good you can? Endeavouring to supply all their wants, assisting them both in body and soul, to the uttermost of your power? If thou art thus minded, may every Christian say, yea, if thou art but sincerely desirous of it, and following on till thou attain, then "thy heart is right, as my heart is with thy heart.'
II. 1. "If it be, give me thy hand." I do not mean, "Be of my opinion." You need not. I do not expect or desire it. Neither do I mean, "I will be of your opinion." I cannot. It does not depend on my choice: I can no more think, than I can see or hear as I will. Keep you your opinion: I mine: and that as steadily as ever. You need not endeavour to come over to me, or bring me over to you. I do not desire you to dispute those points, or to hear or speak one word concerning them. Let all opinions alone on one side and the other. Only "give me thine hand.”
2. I do not mean, "embrace my modes of worship: or, I will embrace yours." This also is a thing which does not depend either on your choice or mine. We must both act, as each is fully persuaded in his own mind. Hold you fast that which you believe is most acceptable to God, and I will do the same. I believe the Episcopal form of church-government to be scriptural and apostolical. If you think the Presbyterian or Independent is better, think so still, and act accordingly. I believe infants ought to be baptized, and that this may be done either by dipping or sprinkling. If you are otherwise persuaded, be so still, and follow your own persuasion. It appears to me, that forms of prayer are of excellent use, particularly in the great congregation. If you judge extemporary prayer to be of more use, act suitable to your own judgment. My sentiment is, that I ought not to forbid water, wherein persons may be baptized; and, that I ought to eat bread and drink wine, as a memorial of my dying Master. However, if you are not convinced of this, act according to the light you have. I have no desire to dispute with you one moment, upon any of the preceding heads. Let all these smaller points stand aside. Let them never come into sight. "If thine heart be as my heart," if thou love God and all mankind, I ask no more: "give me thine hand."
3. I mean, first, love me. And that not only as thou lovest all mankind; not only as thou lovest thine enemies, or the enemies of God, those that hate thee, that "despitefully use thee and persecute thee:" not only as a stranger, as one of whom thou knowest neither good nor evil. I am not satisfied with this. No; "If thine heart be right, as mine with thy heart," then love me with a very tender affection, as a friend that is closer than a brother: as a brother in Christ, a fellow-citizen of the New Jerusalem, a fellow-soldier engaged in the same warfare, under the same captain of our salvation. Love me as a companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus, and a joint heir of his glory.
4. Love me (but in a higher degree, than thou dost the bulk of mankind) with the love that is long-suffering and kind; that is patient; if I am ignorant or out of the way, bearing and not increasing my burden; and is tender, soft, and compassionate still; that envieth not, if at any time it please God, to prosper me in this work even more than thee. Love me with the love that is not provoked, either at my follies or infirmities; or even at my acting (if it should sometimes so appear to thee) not according to the will of God. Love me so as to think no evil of me, to put away all jealousy and evil surmising. Love me with the love that covereth all things; that never reveals either my faults or infirmities: that believeth all things; is always willing to think the best, to put the fairest construction on all my words and actions: that hopeth all things; either that the thing related was never done; or not done with such circumstances as are related: or at least, that it was done with a good intention or in a sudden stress of temptation. And hope to the end, that whatever is amiss, will, by the grace of God, be corrected.
and, whatever is wanting, supplied, through the riches of his mercy in Christ Jesus.
5. I mean, Secondly, Commend me to God in all thy prayers, wrestle with him in my behalf, that he would speedily correct what he sees amiss, and supply what is wanting in me. In thy nearest access to the throne of grace, beg of him, who is then very present with thee, that my heart may be more as thy heart, more right both toward God and toward man: that I may have a fuller conviction of things not seen, and a stronger view of the love of God in Christ Jesus: may more steadily walk by faith, not by sight; and more earnestly grasp eternal life. Pray, that the love of God and of all mankind, may be more largely poured into my heart that I may be more fervent and active in doing the will of my Father which is in heaven; more zealous of good works, and more careful to abstain from all appearance of evil.
6. I mean, Thirdly, Provoke me to love and to good works. Second thy prayer as thou hast opportunity, by speaking to me in love, whatsoever thou believest to be for my soul's health. Quicken me in the work which God has given me to do, and instruct me how to do it more perfectly. Yea, "smite me friendly, and reprove me," wherein soever I appear to thee to be doing rather my own will, than the will of him that sent me. O speak and spare not, whatever thou believest may conduce, either to the amending my faults, the strengthening my weakness, the building me up in love, or the making me more fit, in any kind, for the Master's use.
7. I mean, Lastly, Love me not in word only, but in deed and in truth. So far as in conscience thou canst, (retaining still thy own opinions, and thy own manner of worshipping God,) join with me in the work of God, and let us go on hand in hand. And thus far, it is certain, thou mayest go. Speak honourably wherever thou art, of the work of God, by whomsoever he works, and kindly of his messengers. And if it be in thy power, not only sympathize with them when they are in any difficulty or distress, but give them a cheerful and effectual assistance, that they may glorify God on thy behalf.
6. Two things should be observed, with regard to what has been spoken under this last head. The one, that whatsoever love, whatsoever offices of love, whatsoever spiritual or temporal assistance, I claim from him whose heart is right, as my heart is with his: the same I am ready, by the grace of God, according to my measure, to give him. The other, that I have not made this claim, in behalf of myself only, but of all whose heart is right toward God and man, that we may all love one another, as Christ hath loved us.
III. 1. One inference we may make from what has been said. We may learn from hence, What is a Catholic Spirit.
There is scarce any expression which has been more grossly misunderstood, and more dangerously misapplied than this. But it will be easy for any who calmly consider the preceding observations, to correct any such misapprehensions of it, and to prevent any such misapplication.