Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. These various unities in Christianity are here specified by the apostle in order to enforce the importance and obligation of a loving concord amongst all true Christians. By noticing these unities with a little closer attention we shall see how they formed in the apostle's mind an argument for a loving union amongst all the disciples of Christ.
I. All Christians are members of ONE SPIRITUAL ORGANIZATION. "One body." Though they are very numerous and ever increasing, though they differ widely in many morally unfundamental points, and live in different lands and different worlds, still they are parts of one great whole. The tree, though it has a thousand branches all varying in size and shape and hue, is an organic whole. This unity, though not visible, really exists. To be a Christian is to be a branch of the one tree, a stone in the one building, a member of the one body. Now, this fact is certainly a strong reason for the cherishing amongst all of brotherly love and hearty fellowship. "That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it."
II. All Christians are animated by ONE GREAT SPIRIT. "One Spirit." What the body is to the human soul, this great organization, this universal Church, is to the Spirit of the living God.
1. Servant. As every member of the body is the servant of the soul, every genuine Christian is the servant of the Spirit, obeys his dictates in everything.
2. Symbol. As the body reveals and expresses the soul by its looks, words, and operations, so the true Church reveals the Divine Spirit; reveals its quickening, redeeming, elevating, sanctifying influence.
3. Residence. As the body is the residence of the soul, even so the Church is the temple for the Holy Ghost to dwell in. If there is this one Spirit running through all, guiding, animating, overruling all, should there not be through all a mutual, loving sympathy and interest?
III. All Christians have ONE GLORIOUS HEAVEN. "One hope." What is the object of a true Christian's hope? Not happiness. He whose grand object in life is his own happiness is under the influence of that selfishness which is the essence of sin and the devil of the soul. That spirit in Churches which cries, "Oh that I had the wings of a dove! then would I fly away and be at rest," is discontented selfishness, nothing more. Alas! that there should be churches, chapels, and pulpits in England ministering to an insatiable avarice that considers this beautiful world not good enough for its home! But if the object of a true Christian's hope is not happiness, what then? Moral goodness. Goodness as exemplified in the life of Jesus. To become like Christ, to be partakers of the Divine nature, to be holy even as God is holy, - this is the great object of a true Christian's hope. And herein is heaven and nowhere else. To be happy is to be good, to be good is to be like God, and this is the grand object of genuine Christian hope. "Then shall I be satisfied when I awake up in thine own image." Mural goodness is the only true Paradise of souls.
IV. All Christians have ONE SOVEREIGN MASTER. "One Lord." Who is this one Lord? By the general consent of acknowledged expositors, the one Lord Jesus Christ. "One is your Master, even Christ." There are men in Christendom who assume titles indicating authority over human souls. We have the Pope of Rome, the lord bishop, and the "Primate of all England." Terribly sad it is that in the name of him who had nowhere to lay his head, and who taught that the least should be greatest in his kingdom, there should be found men either so dull or daring as to assume such titles as these. Call no man "master," said this "one Lord." He is the Head of the Church which is his body, the only Head. Is not this also a potent reason for loving concord among Christians? They have to draw their doctrines from one Teacher, they have to learn their duty from one Master, they have to fashion their character after one Model, to depend for reconciliation to God upon one Mediator.
V. All Christians have ONE SUPREME CREED. "One faith." This means, as we have seen, one Object of faith. What is the one creed? Theological propositions put forth as articles of belief? If so, there are many faiths - faiths almost as numerous as there are Christian professors. No two men can perhaps believe the same thing in exactly the same way; the same proposition shapes itself differently to different souls. The New Testament teaches with unmistakable explicitness that the true creed of a Christian is not a propositional manifesto, but a personal life - the life of Christ. In more than thirty passages of one Gospel, the Gospel of St. John, we find with reference to Christ the expressions, "trusting to me," "trusting to him," or "trusting to the Son." Take two or three as specimens. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." Again, "He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." Again, "He that believeth on him shall not be damned." Again, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do," etc. "Do this in remembrance of me." Christ is the one Creed. He is, in truth, the Bible. See how this one creed argues the importance of loving union amongst Christians. If our creed is a series of propositions we shall be divided, but if our creed is the personal life of One all-holy, all-loving, all-good, we shall be united. If all the members of all the Churches believed with a living faith in the one personal Christ, there would be a loving concord of souls.
VI. All Christians have ONE SPIRITUAL CLEANSING. "One baptism." The primary meaning of" baptism" is cleansing. Βαπτισμός is rendered" washing "in several places (Mark 7:4, 8; Hebrews 9:10). There are two kinds of baptisms or cleansings mentioned in the New Testament - the material and the spiritual, that of water and that of fire. The latter, namely, the fiery baptism of the Spirit, is the great thing. This undoubtedly is the one baptism, the one cleansing.
1. This is the one essential cleansing. Without this, though we were baptized in all the rivers of the world, we are not members of that one body of which Christ is the Head. Millions have entered heaven without water baptism, but not one without the spiritual.
2. This is the one Divine cleansing. It is the Spirit's work. This is the "washing of regeneration" and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. Is not this one essential, Divine cleansing another good argument for unity of love in all Christians?
VII. All Christians have ONE ADORABLE GOD. "One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all."
1. There is but one God. This fact is supported by the structure and order of nature; stands in direct antagonism to atheism, fetichism, polytheism, and pantheism; and is accepted as a fundamental truth in all evangelical Churches throughout the world. The glorious fact reveals the greatness of the Creator, the definiteness of moral obligations, the fitness of religion for the constitution of man, and the universal brotherhood of souls.
2. This one God is universal Father. "Father of all." "Of all and through all." "All is not neuter: πάντων." It is true that God is the Author of all nature, is over all nature, and lives through all nature; but the apostle's reference here is undoubtedly to intelligent existences, and it may be that he intends only the members of the true Church. All the members of the true Church recognize him as "the Father of all, over all, through all, and in all."
CONCLUSION. Here, then, in the unities of Christianity are the bonds of true union amongst men. Notwithstanding all the discords and conflicts that rage and revel through the world, there lies deep down in the heart of humanity an ineradicable desire for unity. The greatest events that have marked and helped the progress of the human race are the outcomes of this desire. Mankind have tried for this unity in many different ways. They have tried by:
1. Political means. In ancient times kings and warriors endeavored to bring men together under one iron scepter. The Assyrian, the Persian, the Greek, the Roman, each in his turn made the desperate endeavor. In modern times Spain and France and Russia have tried and failed. Far enough are we from denouncing or even depreciating such a grand political purpose. For our own part, we should like to see what we think will one day appear on this earth - one great cosmopolitan government - a government embracing within its majestic arms of righteous and sanitary law all the children of men the world over. The fact that England now sways her scepter over India and Australia shows that neither diversities of race, language, color, religion, habit, nor remoteness of position from the central power are necessary obstructions to the establishment of such a rule. With such a government immense and manifold would be the advantages. The liberties of all would be secured. The spirit of nationality, the prolific parent of desolating wars, would find no place. All would be fellow-citizens of one state. All the tyrannies and rivalries of little despots would be played out. The age of standing armies would be over. The markets of the world be open alike to all. Such a government, I believe, will come. The gradual absorption of the smaller into the larger states, the ever-multiplying facilities of intercourse between the remotest parts of the globe and diversified races of mankind, and the ever-advancing intellectual, moral, numerical, and colonizing superiority of the Anglo-Saxon race charm my poor soul at times with the belief that such an empire is in the tenor of things inevitable. But let it come. The real unity for which the human soul craves will not be met. Law cannot create love.
2. Ecclesiastical means. Religion has made one great attempt to bind the human race into one grand confederation. The Church of Rome sets up one head to which all souls must bow, prescribes one ritual through which all souls must move, propounds one creed to which all souls must adhere. The object is a noble one; our hearts go with it. But the means, involving priestly assumptions and the infringement of the rights of conscience, are amongst the worst damnabilities of history. Hence it has failed in its object. Aiming at unity, it has led to endless divisions. Many a peace-loving soul, pained with the controversies of the sects, has sought refuge in Rome, but has found it a stormy as well as perilous port.
3. Commercial means. Merchandise in this age is preached as the uniting power. Self-interest is to be the golden chain to bind all men together. Nothing is more unphilosophic than this. Self-interest is not a uniting but an insulating power. The battles of the market, if not as bloody, are as base and as heartless as those of the field and the ocean. The true principles of union are in the text. For universal union there must be universal love, for universal love there must be universal excellence, and for universal excellence there must be the universal recognition of the one body, the one Spirit, the one heaven, the one Master, the one creed, the one cleansing, the one God and Father of all. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.