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own members or the members of the church. He, finally, is not a sectarian, but a catholic Christian, who loves the whole word of God, and yields himself to be moulded by it; gives it free course over his soul, to order and govern it; and seeks conformity with the image of God in Christ Jesus, ever praying to be made like unto the Son of God, and to be under the sweet influence of his blessed Spirit.
If you have caught the idea which I have given of a Christian who is not sectarian, you will easily perceive how great an attainment it is, and how sweet an inclination it must give to the preacher's voice; what a readiness to receive his word of doctrine, reproof, correction, or instruction in righteousness; and, on the other hand, it must be manifest to you how apt we must be, under the address of Satan, to take on partial forms of Christian character and adopt partial views of Christian truth, and so to become prejudiced against whatever opposeth, differeth from, or passeth beyond, that which we have set our heart upon to call it perfect and right and wanting nothing. For, first, our natural spirits are different--some generous, others just, and others selfish; some heroical, others moderate, and others mean; some grave, others gay; some enthusiastic, others slow; some fiery, others mild; -and these varieties of man will be apt to feed upon that part of the holy word which is congenial to them: the generous seizing upon those parts which hold forth God's universal bounty, the just apprehending those which manifest his holiness, and the selfish delighting in those which set forth his special love unto his own peculiar people; the
heroical applying itself to the noble and exalted in character and sentiment, the sublime in action, the terrible in word, and the undaunted in suffering, which are to be found written of and by God's exalted servants; the mean-spirited, plodding even amongst the household duties, and daily offices, the proverbs and counsels, and prudent admonitions of the holy Seriptures; the grave turning self-denial into mortification, and duty into correction, substituting moroseness for seriousness and a downcast countenance for an humble heart; the gay catching at all the contentment and peace and joy which belong to the divine and renewed nature, in order to feed its own inclination therewith ;-and so on, through the various spirits of which men are found to be na țurally possessed, each will be apt to look into the word of God, and convert to its own colour all upon which it fastens; and for the rest, pass them slightingly by, and at length forget that they are there.
Now, brethren, this being a matter of which I have, meditated much, and am well assured ; I make bold to say, that Satan, having enamoured every man of that type and form of spirit which peculiarly belongs to himself, doth use the Scriptures to foster and increase the same, and vex it the more with every other form of our evil and corrupt nature. And when he hath succeeded, he hath made that man worse than before, having in a manner sanctified all the predilections of the flesh and the mind, and confirmed them by the belief of a Divine sanction; so that he thinketh God is of him and with him, of no one and with no one who differs from him. Whence cometh that violence between sects in all ages of the church, whereby Christ is blasphemed of the world, and Satan twice honoured of the professing church : to guard against which nothing availeth, but our necessity of being taught of the Holy Spirit in the Divine word, and not taught of our own natural spirit ; the former leading to community, the latter to distraction and difference. For though there be a unity and consent in the natural understandings, and also in the natural hearts of men-for God hath formed our hearts alike---yet our entire preference of self doth so warp us from that point of communion, and Satan doth so aggravate our se-, veral interests, that truly we never come into true union with one another by this natural : means. And, therefore, there is no such fertile source of sectarianism, as setting man to study by the light of his own understanding the word of God, and to compose out of it a system of truth for himself, and a system of character for himself; which is the rage of this day amongst us Protestants. Each man will read the Bible for himself, having a hearty contempt for creeds and confessions and orthodoxy. And fine work they make of it! And they call themselves Bible Christians! Which men I have found so self-opinioned, so prejudiced against the most venerable forms of the church, so mighty in their own conceit, and so fond of innovation, that I have got an instinct of abhorrence towards them, and would rather hope to have communion with a superstitious church-ridden Papist, than with one of these self-instructed, self-guided, Bible Chris tians, as they are wont to call themselves, in their high contempt for all who have any reverence for the authority of the Church. They are exactly in religion, what your weaver statesman and shoemaker political economist are in civil affairs. Whereof the cure is, not to submit with slavish deference to the church's authority, but with the guidance of the orthodox creed, as the common sense of the church, to search the Scriptures, praying continually the Holy Spirit to lead you out of the infinite mazes and perplexities of your own deceitful and deceivable heart, into the open and plain and enlightened and peaceful paths of catholic truth and perfect righteousness.
And if, from this one cause of difference, in the divers spirits we are of, so much sectarianism doth arise, what must it be, think you, when all the causes are taken into account--as, for example, the diversity of our birth-place in the climates of the world of mind, and the variety of the regions in the atmosphere of knowledge and feeling under which we were trained; some amongst the peasantry, others amongst the gentry, and others amongst the nobility; some in the city, and others in the country; some in refinement, others in vulgarity; some in loyalty, others in radicalism; some in bigotry, others in liberality; every one from his father and mother inheriting, and from his play-mates and fellows deriving, a different ground-work of knowledge and feeling ? Take further into account the different professions we are of; some contemplative, others active; some handycraft, others commercial, others political, others legal, and others divine; some looking always upon one form of men and things, others looking upon a constant variety. Take further into account our diverse education at school, and by after study and reading. Above
all, take into account the different divisions of the church into which we have been baptized, and in the bosom of which we have been reared up, with a thousand other things, which time would fail me even to enumerate; and you will perceive the infinitely varied means every where strewed around, which Satan hath to avail himself of for the evil purpose of begetting in us a sectarian disposition, which shall be fond of a particular part of the word of God, and utterly nauseate and reject all the other parts.
The last mentioned amongst these the fruitful causes of sectarianism is of too great importance, and in too frequent use with Satan, to be slightly passed over amongst the rest, of whose powerful influence it is the manifestation and continuance, in the midst of us: I mean, the numberof our sects, which is our shame; for the Christian church was intended to be one; and of which the evil is, that we are all so full of our own peculiarities, and so nourish them in secret, if for certain ostensible ends we be forced to hide them in public, that it is hardly possible for any one born in their bosom not to be reared up with a great pride and favour for this which is our shame. They have each their periodical publication; they have each their famed preachers; they have each their great society and their favourite schemes, upon which they talk until they have hampered within the pinfold of their sect, it may be of their conventicle, that spirit which ought to have been expanded into the full form of orthodox truth and ripened into the fulness of catholic love, which ought to find its kindred and communion every where in the Christian church. One is trained in the maxim,