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multifarious vanity. It should possess thy mind with deep apprehensions of the excellency of holy unity in the soul, and in the church; and of the evil of division, and misery of distracting multiplicity. “ The Lord our God is one. God.” (1 Cor. viii. 6.) Perfection hath unity and simplicity. We fell into divisions and miserable distraction when we departed from God unto the creatures, for the creatures are many, and of contrary qualities, dispositions and affections ; and the heart that is set on such an object, must needs be a divided heart; and the heart that is divided among so many and contrary or discordant objects, must needs be a distracted heart. The confusions of the world confound the heart that is set upon the world. He that maketh the world his God, hath so many Gods; and so discordant, that he will never please them all; and all of them together will never fully content and please him. And who would have a God that can neither please us, nor be pleased ? He that maketh himself his God, hath a compounded God (and now corrupted) of multifarious, and now of contrary desires, as hard to please as any without us. There is no rest or happiness but in unity. And therefore none in ourselves or any other creature; but in God the only centre of the soul. The further from the centre, the further from unity. It is only in God that differing minds can well be united. Therefore is the world so divided, because it is departed so far from God. Therefore have we so many minds and ways, and such diversity of opinions, and contrariety of affectious, because men forsake the centre of unity. There is no uniting in any worldly, carnal, self-devised principles or practices. When holiness brings these distracted, scattered souls to God, in him they will be one. While they bark at holiness, and cry up unity, they shew themselves distracted men. For holiness is the only way to unity, because it is the closure of the soul with God. All countries, and persons, cannot meet in any one interest or.creature, but each hath a several interest of his own; but they might all meet in God. If the pope were God, and had his perfections, he would be fit for all the church to centre in; but being man, and yet pretending to this prerogative of God, he is the grand divider and distracter of the church. The proverb is too true, . So many men, so many minds ;' because that every man will be a god to himself, having a self-mind, and self-will, and all men will not yield to be one in God. God is the common interest of the saints; and thereof all that are truly saints, are truly united in him. And if all the visible church, and all the world, would heartily make him their common interest, we should quickly have a common unity and peace, and the temple of double-faced Janus would be shut up. They that sincerely have one God, have also one Lord (and Saviour), one faith, one spirit, one baptism (or holy covenant with God), even because they have a one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in them all.” And therefore they must."keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. iv. 3—6.). Though yet they have different degrees of gifts, (ver. 7.) and therefore differences of opinion about abundance of inferior things. The further we go from the trunk or stock, the more numerous and small we shall find the branches. They are one in God, that are divided in many doubtful controversies. The weakest therefore in the faith must be received into this union and communion of the church; but not to doubtful disputations. (Rom. xiv. 1.) As. the ancient baptism, contained no more but our engagement to God, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, so the ancient profession of saving faith, was of the same extent. God is sufficient for the church to unite in. An union in other articles of faith is so far necessary to the unity of the church, as it is necessary to prove our faith and unity in God, and the sincerity of this ancient, simple belief in God the Father, Son and Spirit.
The Unity of God is the attribute to be first handled, and imprinted on the mind, even next unto his essence ;
« The Lord our God is one Lord;" (Deut. vi. 4;) and the unity of the church is its excellency and attribute, that is first and most to be esteemed and preserved next unto its essence, If it be not a church, it cannot be one church; and if we be not saints, we cannot be united saints. If we be not members, we cannot make one body. But when once we have the essence of saints and of a church, we must next be solicitous for its unity; nothing below an essential point of faith will allow us to depart from the catholic unity, love, and peace that is due to saints; and because such essentials are never wanting in the catholic church, or any true member of it, therefore we are never allowed to divide from the catholic church, or any true and visible member. It is first necessary that the church be a church, that is, a people separated from the world to Christ; and that the Christian be a Christian in covenant with the Lord. But the next point of necessity is that the church be one, and Christians be
And be that for the sake of lower points, how true soever, will break this holy bond of unity, shall find at last, to his shame and sorrow, that he understood not the excellency or necessity of unity. The prayer of Christ for the perfection of his saints is, " That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me: and the glory which thou gavest me I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me.” Here it appeareth that the unity of the church or saints is necessary, to convince the world of the truth of Christianity, and of the love of God to his people, and necessary to the glory and perfection of the saints. The nearer any churches, or members, are to the divine perfections, and the more strictly conformable to the mind of God, the more they are one, and replenished with catholic love to all saints, and desirous of unity and communion with them. It is a most lamentable delusion of some Christians that think their ascending to higher degrees of holiness doth partly consist in their withdrawing from the catholic church, or from the communion of most of the saints on earth, upon the account of some smaller differing opinions, and they think that they should become more loose and leave their strictness, if they should hold a catholic communion, and leave their state of separation and division! Is there any strictness amiable or desirable, except a strict conformity to God? Surely a strict way of sin and wickedness is not desirable to a saint. And is not God one, and his church one, and hath he not commanded all his servants to be one, 'and is not love the new and great commandment, by which they must be known to all men to be his disciples. Which then is the stricter servant of the Lord; he that loveth much, or he that loveth little; he that loveth all Christians, or he that loveth but a few, with the special love; he that loveth a Christian as a Christian, or he that loveth him but as one of his party or opinion; he
that is one in the catholic body, or he that disowneth communion with the far greatest part of the body? Will you say that Christ was loose, and Pharisees strict, because Christ eat and drank with publicans and sinners, and the Pharisees condemned him for it? It was Christ that was more strict in holiness than they; for he abounded more in love and good works : but they were stricter than he in a proud, self-conceited morosity and separation. Certainly he that is highest in love, is highest in grace, and not he that confineth his love to few. Was it not in the weak Christian that was most strict in point of meats, and drinks, and days? (Rom. xiv. xv.) But the stronger that were censured by them, did more strictly keep the commandment of God.
Christian reader, let the unity of God have this effect upon thy soul: 1. To draw thee from the distracting multitude of creatures, and make thee long to be all in God; that thy soul may be still working toward him, till thou find nothing but God alone within thee. In the multitude of thy thoughts within thee, let his comforts delight thy soul. (Psal. xciv. 19.) The multitude distracteth thee; retire into unity, that thy soul may be composed, quieted and delighted.
2. And let it make thee long for the unity of saints, and endeavour it to the utmost of thy power, that the church in unity may be more like the Head.
3. And let it cause thee to admire the happiness of the saints, that are freed from the bondage of the distracting creature, and have but one to love, and fear, and trust, and serve, and seek, and know; one thing is needful, which should be chosen, but it is many that we are troubled about. (Luke xi. 42.)
CHAP. IV. 3. The Immensity of God (which is the next attribute to be considered) must have this effect upon thy soul: 1. The infinite God that is every where, comprehending all places and things, and comprehended by none, must raise admiring, reverent thoughts in the soul of the believer. We wonder at the magnitude of the sun, and the heavens, and the whole creation ; but when we begin to think what is beyond the heavens, and all created being, we are at a kind of loss. Why it is God that is in all, and above all, and beyond all, and beneath all; and where there is no place, because no creature, there is God : and if thy thoughts should imagine millions of millions of miles beyond all place and measure, all is but God; and go as far as thou canst in thy thoughts and thou canst not go beyond him. Reverently admire the immensity of God. The world and all the creatures in it, are not to God so much as a sand or atom is to all the world. The point of a needle is more to all the world, than the world to God. For between that which is finite, and that which is infinite, there is no comparison. “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand; and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure; and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance ? Behold the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold he taketh up the isles as a very little thing, --All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” (Isa. xl. 12. 15. 17.)
2. From this greatness and immensity of God also thy soul must reverently stay all its busy, bold inquiries, and know that God is to us, and to every creature, incomprehensible. If thou couldst fathom or measure him, and know his greatness by a comprehensive knowledge, he were not God. A creature can comprehend nothing but a creature. You may know God, but not comprehend him; as your foot treadeth on the earth, but doth not cover all the earth. The sea is not the sea, if you can hold it in a spoon. Thou canst not comprehend the sun which thou seest, and by which thou seest all things else, nor the sea, or earth, no nor a worm, or pile of gráss : thy understanding knoweth not all that God hath put into any the least of these ; thou art a stranger to thyself, and to somewhat in every part of thyself, both body and soul. And thinkest thou to comprehend God, that perfectly comprehendest nothing ! Stop then thy over bold inquiries, and remember that thou art a shallow, finite worm, and God is infinite. First reach to comprehend the heaven and earth and whole creation, before thou think of comprehending Him, to whom the world is nothing, or vanity; or so small a dust, or drop, or point. Saith Elihu, “ At this my heart trembleth, and is moved out of its place : hear attentively the noise of his voice,--God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doth he which we