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PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL PULPIT.

VOL. III.]

SERMON BY JOHN C. RUDD, D. D.

SEPTEMBER, 1833.

[NO. IX.

ON THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH:

A Sermon,

BY JOHN C. RUDD, D. D.

RECTOR OF ST. PETER'S CHURCH, AUBURN, CAYUGA COUNTY, N. Y.

Ephes. iv. 13.-" Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of GOD, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of CHRIST."

THE great and fundamental design of the Gospel is to bring men into a holy concord and unity, both of principle and of action. The object of the Saviour's mission to the earth was to unite men to himself, to bring them together upon those perfect and exalted terms which should secure to themselves the purest and most delightful enjoyments of this life, and at the same time qualify them, through divine grace, for the unutterable felicities of the world to come. For this purpose did the Son of GOD assume our nature, and submit to the sorrows of life - for this he bled and died for this he sent down the HOLY GHOST, and organized his visible Church. The ministry, the sacraments and the worship of this Church were appointed for this end-that he might gather into one fold, of all nations, and tongues and people. When the apostles went forth to their hallowed work, they expressed their solicitude on this point, and all their efforts were given to the completion of the desirable object. Among them St. Paul became pre-eminent, as well for the ardor with which he pressed the consideration of unity, as for the masterly argument and the unrivalled eloquence with which he sustained his positions. In these particulars his epistle to the Ephesians claims the most solemn attention.

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The great apostle of the Gentiles, while his soul was full of gladness that his Ephesian converts adhered with firmness to the faith, and were in a happy union among themselves, was evidently impressed by the consideration, that he was vindicating the name and honor of his divine Master in the presence of the gayest, the most licentious, the most learned and most idolatrous city of Asia. Ephesus was at that time the scene of great splendor. There the priests of Diana spared no labor or art to decorate the worship of the image reputed to have fallen from Jupiter. All the interest and fascination that could possibly be given to the corrupting mysteries of a profligate devotion, were employed to allure and engage the servile homage of the people. While the pagan philosopher might be expected to exert his powers against the influence of Christian faith and manners while his artifices were so well calculated to ensnare the everexposed heart of man St. Paul had other fears from those Judaizing teachers, who he knew would urge with all possible power the superior claims of the law of Moses. Roused by these considerations to more than ordinary effort, he put forth the transcendent power of his learning, and the splendor of his inspired genius. Did the servants of Diana's temple talk of the mysteries in which they dealt, St. Paul called his brethren to contemplate that most sublime of all mysteries — the mystery of the grace of God, the offer of salvation “ by the blood of CHRIST." Was the Jewish teacher busy in extolling the magnificence of the Mosaic worship, and the indispensable importance of the ritual of Jerusalem, the great apostle would assure his Ephesian brethren that they need not trouble themselves on this subject. They were now, with all the Gentiles, freely admitted to equal privileges with the Jews. Sumptuous and engaging as had been the worship of the temple at Jerusalem, it was now superseded by the spiritual employments of that more perfect temple “ built upon the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone." Here they were “ to be builded together for a habitation of God, through the Spirit.” “The dispensation of the grace of God” was now fully declared -- the Christian Church was now completely organ

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ized, and furnished with all the requisites for perpetuating her authority and her blessings to the end of time. There was no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile as to the terms of their admission into that family which derived its name from the Son of God.

These considerations, arrayed in all the force and beauty of St. Paul's eloquence, occupy the first three chapters of the epistle ; the three remaining are employed in urging the most important moral duties; one half of the epistle is devoted to the most sublime doctrines, the other to the practical duties resulting from them.

The first of these duties is enforced in the chapter of which the text is a part. It is the duty, not only of promoting the - kindest feelings of which our nature is capable, but of consulting and preserving the unity of the Church. While he exhorts us to “walk worthy of our holy vocation, with all lowliness and meekness, forbearing one another in love,” we are to "endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”

In this portion of Scripture we are called to consider,
1. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH?
II. THE REASONS FOR MAINTAINING IT.
III. THE OBJECTS TO BE ANSWERED BY IT.
IV. THE METHODS OF DISCHARGING THE DUTY.

1. What is IMPLIED IN THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH!The great object of the Son of God, in assuming our nature, was evidently to establish upon earth a visible society, in which men might be united in a holy brotherhood for purposes of edit- . cation and comfort, and where they might offer to their LORD and Master an animated and pure devotion. It was for this society that he prayed to his eternal Father in the days of his flesh, after he had given his apostles the same authority that he had received himself. “As thou hast sent me into the world, so have I also sent them into the world, that they all may be one in us, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee; that they all may be one in us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” That there should be perfect union in the Church is plain from the language of St. Paul connected with the text, “There is one

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body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling.” This unity does not destroy the independence of distinct portions of the visible society. In the variety of civil governments, the separation of countries and other local concerns, there may be a diversity of practices: but while the ministry, the sacraments, and the faith given by Christ are preserved, the unity of the Church is not supposed to be infringed, though in mere matters of opinion and expediency there may be much variety of custom; but here we are to be careful never to confound matters of opinion and expediency with those of Scripture fact, of divine appointment and authority. The organization of the Christian Church was no matter of opinion. The utility of sacraments was no matter of opinion in the days of primitive devotion. Then they “continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread and in prayers." In the nature of things there could be no dispute as to the characteristic organization of the Church, when the fact stands undisputed on the record of history, that for fifteen hundred years there was no religious community claiming the name of a Church, which did not recognise the same unity of ministry. This is one grand feature of the primitive Church - a prima facie characteristic. It is not designed here to consider the claims of the multitudinous sects who have arisen since the Reformation. It is not questioned that there are good and pious thousands among them. They may be honestly and innocently attached to the theories under which they have grown up. All this does pot constitute truth. It does not oblige us to say that they all are right, while we never hesitate to give them the credit of great zeal, of purity of intention, and of innocency of life.

In the primitive days we hear of the sin of schism; which implied cutting off, or separating from the Church, as divinely appointed. The body, in apostolic language, meant the Church“ The Church, which is his body;" and the injunction, “Let there be no schism in the body," was a command not to disturb the unity of that body by separating from it, or by instituting a society in opposition to it. We, of this age, have become accustomed to a variety of sects and denominations of professed

believers, but if all have equal claims to confidence, it would be very difficult to say where the charge of schism could be laid; and yet, that there was such a sin, and consequently may be now, must be plain from Scripture. It was a grievous sin-the sin in which the company of Korah perished. It consisted in denying or invading that authority which CHRIST gave to his apostles, and through them to those three orders of the ministry which were appointed to perpetuate the visible Church; and with which CHRIST engaged to be, by his Spirit, to the end of the world. The disciples of CHRIST, in the early centuries, considered the duty of preserving this unity as one of their most sacred obligations. "We Christians," said Tertullian, "are a corporation or society of men, most strictly united by the same religion, by the same rites of worship, and animated with one and the same hope. When we come to the public service of God, we come in as formidable a body as if we were to storm heaven by force of prayer." This language of the apologist is in perfect accordance with the apostolic rule, "Be ye all of one mind - speak the same thing-be ye perfectly joined in the same mind and the same judgment."

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2. THE REASONS FOR STUDYING AND PRESERVING THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH are sufficiently intimated by St. Paul in the language which now invites our attention. Why does he press so strongly the maintenance of unity upon his Ephesian converts? It is because, as he tells them, there is "one LORD" -"one faith”—"one baptism". one GoD and Father of all." "There is one LORD," the head and founder of the Church. He left the enjoyment of heaven, became a sufferer on earth, and finally poured out his blood in an ignominious death, that he might purchase to himself a Church, in which his followers might prepare themselves, through his aid, for everlasting happiness. As he is the "Head of all things to his Church," and as the Head can have but one body, the Church can be but one. It owes obedience to but one Master, and as all the members of the natural body obey the head, so all the subjects of CHRIST'S visible kingdom here below owe submission to the same authority; and for a further VOL. III.-25

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