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magnitude and directly opposed to that blessing. This BLESSING is, that the Divine clemency irradiates our part of the world by the illustrious light of his sacred truth, and enlightens it with the knowledge of true religion, or Christianity. The Evil opposed to it is, that either human ignorance or human perversity deteriorates and corrupts the clear light of this Divine truth, by aspersing and beclouding it with the blackest errors ; creates separation and division among those who have devoted themselves exclusively to the service of religion; and severs them into parties, and even into shreds of parties, in direct contradiction to the nature and genius of Christianity, whose Author is called the “ Prince of peace," its doctrine “ the Gospel of peace,” and its professors “ the Sons of peace.”. The very foundation of it is an act of pacification concluded between God and men, and ratified by the blood of the Prince of peace. The precepts inculcated in each of its pages, are concerning peace and concord; its fruits are “ righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost ;” and its end is peace and eternal tranquillity. But although the light from this torch of truth, which is diffused through the Christian world, affords no small refreshment to my mind; and although a view of that clearer light which shines among the Churches that profess to have been REFORMED FROM POPERY, is most exhilarating; yet I cannot dissemble the intense grief which I feel at my heart on account of that religious discord which has been festering like a gangrene, and pervading the whole of Christianity: Unhappily, its devastations have not terminated. In this unfeigned feeling of deep regret, I think, all those who love Christ and his Church, will partake with me; unless they possess hearts of greater hardness than Parian marble, and bowels secured from compassionate attacks by a rigidity stronger than that of the oak, and by defences more impregnable than those of triple brass
This is the cause which has incited me to offer a few remarks on religious dissension in the Christian world; for, according to that common proverb, “ Whenever a man feels any pain, his hand is almost spontaneously moved to the part affected.” This therefore is the subject which I propose to introduce to the notice of the present celebrated assembly, in which the province has been awarded to me, of delivering an oration at this Academic Festival, according to an established and laudable custom. I shall confine myself to three particulars: In the first place, I will give a dissertation on THIS DISCORD ITSELF and THE EVILS WHICH SPRING FROM IT. I will then shew ITS CAUSES; and, lastly, ITS REMEDIES.
The first particular includes within itself the NECESSITY of removing such a great evil; and the last prescribes the MANNER in which it may be removed, to which the middle particular materially contributes. The union of the whole together explains and justifies the nature of the design which I have now undertaken.”
I humbly pray and entreat the God of peace, that he will, by his Spirit of truth and peace, be present with me while engaged in speaking; and that he will govern my mind and direct my tongue, that I may utter such things as may be pleasing to him and salutary to the Church of Christ, for the glory of his name and our mutual instruction.
I likewise prefer a request to you, my very famous and accomplished hearers, that you will deign to grant me your favourable attention, while I glance at each of these particulars with much brevity, and discharge the office of a director to you rather than that of an orator, lest I trespass on your patience.
I. Union is a great good: it is indeed the chief good and therefore the only one,-whether we separately consider each thing of which it is composed, or more of them contained together by a certain social tie or relation between themselves. For all things together, and each thing separately, are what they are by that very thing by which they are one; and, by this union, they are preserved in what they really are. And, if they have need and are capable of further perfection, they are, by the same union, still more strengthened, increased, and perfected, until they attain to the utmost boundary prescribed to them by nature or by grace, or by God the Author of both grace and nature. Of such certainty is this truth, that even the blessedness of God consists in that union by which He is One and always present with himself, and having all things belonging to him present together with him. Nothing, therefore, can be more agreeable or desirable than Union, whether viewed in reference to single things or to the whole together; nothing can be more noxious and detestable than DISSENSION, by which all things begin at first to decline from their own condition, are afterwards diminished by degrees, and, at length, perish.-But as there are differences of GOOD, so are
there likewise of union. More excellent than another is that good which in its own nature obtains the pre-eminence above the other, on account of its being more general and durable, and on account of its approaching more nearly to the CHIEF Goop. In like manner that union is also more excellent which consists of a thing of greater excellence, belongs to many, is more durable, and unites itself most intimately with the Deity.
The union of true religion is, therefore, one of the greatest excellence.
But as those evil things which are opposed to the good things of greatest excellence, are the very worst of their kind,—so no discord is more shocking and hideous than that about religion. The truth of this remark is confirmed by the inward nature of this discord ; and it is further manifested most clearly by the effects which proceed from it.
1. We shall see its NATURE (1) in the object of discord, (2) in the ready inclination for this object, which is evinced by the discordant partizans, (3) in its extensive range, and (4) its long continuance.
(i.) The Christian Religion is the OBJECT of this discord or dissension. When viewed with respect to its form, this religion contains the true knowledge of the true God and of Christ; and the right mode in which both of them may be worshipped. And when viewed with regard to its end, it is the only medium by which we can be bound and united to God and Christ, and by which on the other band God and Christ can be bound and united to us. From this idea of connecting the parties together, (RELIGATI0] the name of religion is derived, in the opinion of Lactantius. In the term “ RELIGION," therefore, are contained true wisdom and true virtue, and the union of both with God as the Chief Good,—in all of which is comprehended the supreme and the only happiness of this world and of that which is to come. And not only in reality, but in the estimation also of every one on whose mind a notion of religion has been impressed, (that is, on the whole of mankind,) men are distinguished from other animals, not by reason, but by a genuine character much more appropriate and indeed peculiar to them, and that is RELIGION, according to the authority of the same Lactantius.
(2.) But if bounds be imposed on the desire towards any thing by such an opinion of its value as is preconceived in the mind, an inclination or propensity towards religion is deserv
to the once illind and
edly entitled to the highest consideration, and holds the preeminence in the mind of a religious person. Nay, more than this, if, according to St. Bernard and to truth itself, “ the measure to be observed in loving God, is to love him without measure,”—a propensity or inclination towards religion, (of which the chief and choicest part consists of love to God and Christ,) is itself without bounds: For it is at once illimitable and immeasurable. This is tantamount to the declaration of Christ, the Author of our religion, who said, “ If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke xiv, 26.) This strong affection for religion answers equally to that immeasurable love by which any one desires the union of himself with God, that is, desires the greatest happiness, because he knows that Religion is the strongest bond and the most adhesive cement of this union. Most serious therefore is religious discord when it is engaged in disputes about the altar itself.
(3.) Besides, it spreads and diffuses itself most extensively; for it involves within its vortex all the persons that have been initiated in the sacred rites of the Christian religion. No one is permitted to profess neutrality ; nay, it is impossible for any man to remain neutral in the midst of religious dissension. For he who makes no advances towards the opposite sentiments of each of the dissidents, is induced thus to act from one of these four causes : (i) He either cherishes a third opinion in the Christian Religion, far removed from both the others : (ii) He thinks some other religion better than Christianity. (ii) He places Christianity and other systems of religion on an equality: Or, (iv) He entertains an equal disregard for the Christian system and all other modes of religion. The first of these characters is not neutral, but becomes a third party among the disputants. The second and the third dissent entirely from the Christian Religion, the axioms of which are, 6 that it is true, and that it alone is true;" for it is not so accommodating as Paganism,-it admits of no other system to be its associate. Besides, the second of these characters is an Atheist according to the Christian Religion, one of the statutes of which, is, that “ whosoever denieth Christ the Son, the same hath not God the Father.” (1 John ii, 28.) Against the third party this sentence is pronounced : “ He that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad.” (Matt. xii, 30.) The fourth is considered an Atheist by all mankind, and is deemed a second and adverse party in that most general kind of dissension which exists between true religion and its adversaries.
(4.) Lastly. This discord is very long in its continuance and almost incapable of reconciliation. For these traits in it, two causes may, I think, be assigned,and both of them deducible from the very nature of religion.
The first is, that since religion is both in reality a matter that belongs to the Deity, and is so accounted by every one, being subject to his sole pleasure and management, and exempt from the jurisdiction of men ; and since it has been bestowed, that it may exercise authority as a rule for the direction of life, and for prescribing some limits to liberty, and not that it may be slavishly subservient to the wills of men, like a Lesbian rule, which may be accommodated to every condition ;-since these are some of the properties of religion, man is not permitted to stipulate concerning it, and scarcely any one has had the audacity to arrogate to himself such an assumption of authority.
The other cause is, that the parties individually think, if they concede even the smallest particle of the matter of discord, such a concession is nearly connected with the peril of their own salvation. But this is the genius of all separatists, not to enter into any treaties of concord with their adversaries, unless they be permitted to have life at least, and liberty, secured to them inviolate. But every one thinks, that his life, (that is, his spiritual life,) and the liberty which is proper for that life, are included in religion and its exercise.
To these a third cause may be added, which consists of the opinion, that each party supposes life and eternal salvation to be denied to them by their opponents, from this circumstance, -because those opponents disapprove of their religion, and when it is compared with their own, they treat it with the utmost contempt. This injury appears to be the most grierous and aggravating. But every act of pacification has its 'commencement in the oblivion of all injuries, and its foundation in the omission of those injuries which (to an eye that is jaundiced with such a prejudice as that which we have just stated,) seem to be continued and perpetual grievances.
When the nature and tendency of this species of discord have become quite apparent to worldly-minded Rulers, they bave often employed it, or at least the semblance of it, for the