Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
What is it? It is the overweening zeal for a part to the prejudice of the whole, and it has four great spheres.
I. The sectarianism of THE INDIVIDUAL.
1. Our first association with religion is its bearing on our own salvation. All the world for us centres round the question, "What must I do to be saved?" And so far we must for the time look on our own things, and not on the things of others. And we want to see more of this personal conviction and individual dealing of the soul with Christ.
2. But twin monsters are begotten alongside of the genuine conviction, and begin at once to make a personal interest in religion a sectarian interest.
(1) The limitation of the idea of salvation to safety from misery. I do not underrate the part "the terror of the Lord" has played in conversion; but we are not forever to stand on the brink of the pit, but to use the vantage ground Christ has given us. Be no longer anxious about your own soul. Leave that to Christ, and be doing His work. The man who is ever thinking of personal safety will endanger that safety; but he that loses himself in Christ shall find Him.
(2) The continuance of mere personal considerations as the staple of religion. There are those who think that Christian separateness means being very unlike other men.
II. The sectarianism of THE CONGREGATION.
1. I would speak with the deepest sympathy of congregational life. Our most blessed hours are connected with it, and its records are a ground for thankfulness. And it is to be viewed in relation to its whole work, Sunday school, tract society, etc.
2. But it is subject to sectarianism, and that in a more virulent form, because of the strength of its organization. I find it in the pronouns which appropriate religion — "my," "our." These contain —
(1) The best of love. When we mean by them, This is my Church; These are our forms of doing good; May God grant success to our cause; we give expression to an appropriation of truth without which no Church can thrive.
(2) But they contain the worst of sect, and mean "ours" to the exclusion, and even prejudice, of others. "We express true churchmanship," i.e., others do not; "We are liberal, others are narrow," etc. And then wretched pecuniary interests intervene, and we are glad that some wealthy man has left one Church to join ours, or that we are successful where others fail.
3. The best means to counteract this is to take an interest in another Church's work, or at least to join it on a common platform.
III. The sectarianism of THE DENOMINATION. It is this we usually think of as sectarianism.
1. But for two causes, their historical greatness and the overweening claims of a portion of the clergy, there would be nothing to be feared; for the belief in the Divine sanction of the denominations has waned considerably in the last two centuries, and each contributes its quota to full Christian life; and again they have been very useful as checks and chasteners to each other.
2. But the advantages of amity among the denominations are obvious.
(1) While we maintain a separate and defiant attitude we waste our energies, weaken ourselves for all good purposes, and present a divided front towards sacerdotalism, infidelity, and indifference. The result of our divisions is the alienation of mankind; when we shall be at one, the world will believe in its Saviour.
(2) We lose the advantage of effective mutual admonition and encouragement, by not thoroughly understanding each other.
(3) It is preeminently in the interest of souls that we should cease from sectarianism. We are more anxious to make them members of our denomination than to make them members of Christ.
IV. The sectarianism of RELIGION.
1. We speak of that alone as religion which consists in prayer, Bible reading, public worship, etc.; but surely the administration of justice, the enactment of laws, education, etc., are religious. The Bible knows nothing of the distinction between secular and sacred, but only that between good and evil.
2. The man who marks out a particular sphere as religious, and bans the rest as worldly, makes religion a sectarian thing which grows narrower and pettier continually. The religion that has no message for the workman in his shop, the artist in his studio, the scientist in his laboratory, is in danger of alienating, not drawing mankind.
(The Hon. and Rev. W. H. Fremantle, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.