MANY sermons have been written, and many more have been preached, on matters of difference. Many more are still being written, and spoken, of the same sort. It may have a good tendency to turn and look at the other side of the picture--the matters of agreement. Differences have been preached and written on so much that some may be led almost to conclude that there is but little in the form of religious teaching in the world but differences. The time has come to bring out the great matters of agreement, show how largely there is an agreement, and push these great matters of agreement through the world, and gain the attention of a thinking public to them, that the people may, for a time, lose sight of the matters of disagreement.
Are there, then, any considerable number of items of importance on which there is quite a general agreement, in what is usually styled Protestant Christendom, to which the attention of the people may be directed; matters in which they are already one, and in which there is no dispute of consequence? There certainly are, and the purpose of this discourse will be to bring some of the more prominent of them to view.
1. The prime article of the Jews' religion, that "the Lord thy God is one God," is true, and there is an almost universal assent to it. Or, to state it a little more fully, that there is one God, the Jehovah, the I AM, the Infinite One, the Self-existent and Unoriginated One, who inhabits eternity, the Creator and Upholder of all things, visible and invisible, may be declared almost anywhere, without scarcely a dissenting voice. Men have speculated about his nature and attributes, and may speculate again; may differ and dispute about things they can not understand; but that there is one God--the Jehovah--there is scarcely a dissenting voice. This one foundation truth of all revelation; this one great central idea, that pervades all faith, all piety, all worship, and all religious instruction, is almost universally received by all Protestants. In it they are nearly all one--all agreed. What a wonderful matter it is, in this age of confusion, that there is this almost universal agreement in this great and fundamental matter. Here we are on solid rock, undisputed and indisputable ground. In this general agreement there is great power to lead to oneness--to unity! Wherever we are, whoever we are, whatever we may be, or however we may have been misled, when we think of worship, the Lord our God comes up into our view. As the Athenian Pagan poets sang, without knowing the amount of it, "We are his offspring;" and by creation, if in no higher sense, we are his children. But if we are his children by adoption, we are heirs of God. Here, then, we start on the great article of agreement; not merely a matter in which we can, but one in which we do agree--that "there is one God and Father of all, who is above all, through all and in all."
2. There is one Lord Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God. The agreement treated in this discourse is that among those who believe the Bible, and not among men who do not believe the clear language of Scripture --not among skeptics of any grade. These believe that there is one Lord Jesus the Christ; that he was before all things; before Abraham was; that he is "the true God and eternal life;" that in him dwells all the fullness of the Deity substantially; that he is the only Mediator between God and men--the only Savior; that no man comes to the Father but by him; that God has lifted him up to draw all men to him, and commanded all men to "hear him," there is simply an almost unanimous agreement. This grand central idea of the new institution; this fundamental idea on which the whole institution rests, is generally received, and all are one in it throughout the world. They may have speculations about it on which they differ, but in the foundation truth, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, they are a unit. The plain matter to do is to receive this great truth and unite on it, and leave the vain, speculations of men about the truth, and be no more perplexed with them.
The belief of the truth, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, will save the sinner, if followed out in its legitimate requirements; but the belief of the speculations of men about that truth will never save anybody. Hero, then, we have an agreement in the great central idea of the kingdom of God, the Lord Jesus the Christ, the very foundation of all faith, piety and hope. What a power there is in the agreement in this one item, to bring believers to oneness--to "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!"
3. But the agreement extends. There is one Holy Spirit, the Comforter, "the eternal Spirit," who inspired all the prophets and the apostles--the Spirit of all truth and all revelation! No man talks of two Holy Spirits, or any other number but one. There is simply but one Holy Spirit. In this there is no difference. Men may disagree about the nature of the Spirit; his work, influence, or something of that kind; but about the existence of the one eternal Spirit, the Spirit of all truth and all revelation, there is a general agreement. Men may be under the influence of other spirits, and possibly not know it, but they certainly do not advocate the idea of other spirits. But the things taught in the Bible all agree are of the Holy Spirit--the Spirit of God. This is a great item of agreement, and, if properly considered, will have a great power in bringing about and maintaining unity.
4. There is one Bible, and but one. The word Bible means book. There is but one that is the Bible, or the book. We have one volume, styled the Bible, that is from God. It is the Bible, the volume, the book. It contains the whole will of God to man--the complete revelation from heaven. It is not simply a good book, or a book containing good things, that teaches good morals, or was a good book in its day, but it is the book of God. It is the only divine book; the only complete, final and absolute authority; the only book for all nations, kindreds, tribes, tongues and peoples of the earth. It is not a national book; not American, English, French, or German, but one book of God for all the world; and not merely one book, but the book, for all the world. It is the only book that was made perfect when it first came from the hand of its Author; the only one that can never be improved, amended, or corrected. It is a stereotyped book, made correct at the start, for all countries, all time and all people. It is the only orthodox book. It is in all the churches; all read from it, pronounce it divine, pray over it, preach from it, thank the Lord for it, eulogize it, sing of it, and style it "the book of God."
This wonderful book has nothing local about it. It is neither eastern nor western, northern nor southern. It knows nothing of State lines, nor national lines, but is for all countries. It is the book sent out by all the Bible Societies, the Tract Societies, and commended by all as divine. We have, then, one book on which we are all agreed; that we all receive and commend--the filial and the absolute authority. What an item this is for unity! What excuse can be offered for not taking this one book and uniting on it? Surely there can be none.
5. There is one religion from God, and but one. In this there is almost a unanimous agreement. No man says the religions of God, or the religions of Christ. There is precisely one religion in the world from God, intended for all peoples, all the world, and for all time after it was given. That one religion is from our Lord, the Anointed. No man says, the religions of our Lord, but the religion of our Lord. We have no doubt about which it is. It is not the Mormon, Papal, Shaker, Quaker, Mohammedan, nor any other not named in the Bible, but the one religion given by our Lord, the Christ. It comes with authority--the filial, the absolute authority. It is from God, for all countries and peoples on all the face of the earth. In this there is an almost universal agreement.
6. There is but one gospel. No man of any intelligence says, the gospels of Christ, or the gospels of the grace of God. It is simply the gospel, the gospel of Christ, or the gospel of the grace of God. We all speak of the gospel as a definite thing, and every man that preaches speaks of preaching the gospel, of its being his mission to preach the gospel. If a man preaches something else, he does it under a pretense of preaching the gospel. Galatians i. 6-12, Paul pronounces a curse on man or angel who preaches any other gospel, or even perverts this gospel. At the close of the holy volume, the malediction of Heaven is threatened against any man who shall add anything to it, or take anything from it. One begins to inquire how we can disagree, if we all admit that there is but one gospel, of God. We all admit this, whether we can see how we can admit it, and then differ or not. It is certainly a grand item toward unity, at all events.
7. There is but one body of Christ. No man, no matter how badly he is perverted, says bodies of Christ, or kingdoms of Christ. All say, the body, the kingdom. There is but one body of Christ, or one kingdom of God. The Lord is the King, and the children of God are the subjects. The Lord says, "There shall be one fold and one Shepherd." One fold, or one flock, is literally one body, one Church. This is clear, intelligible and definite matter, in which there is a general agreement. That kingdom, or body, is the Church, in its most extended sense--the one fold including all the saints--the true Israel of God.
8. There is one foundation, and but one. "According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."--1 Corinthians iii. 10, 11. This is clear enough. No man that knows what he is saying, and who has any regard for what he says, talks of foundations, but of "the foundation which is laid, which is Jesus the Christ." The Lord says, Matthew xvi. 18: "On this rock I will build my Church." This is a matter of very general agreement, and certainly one of much importance to unity. As the Lord intended but one building, he laid but one foundation, and declared that no man can lay any other. He also solemnly charged men to take heed how they build thereon.
These unities run through the holy teaching. 1 Corinthians iii. 9, the apostle says, "Ye are God's husbandry"--not husbandries, but husbandry. A little further on he says, "Ye are God's building." It is not buildings. Still further, "Ye are the temple of God." It is not temples of God. God dwells in this building, this temple, and the Holy Spirit dwells in it. This all points to what is almost universally agreed on and admitted.
9. There is but one holy city, New Jerusalem, in the new heaven and the new earth. There is but one hope of heaven, of immortality, and eternal life for all nations of men that dwell on all the face of the earth. To this there is almost a universal agreement.
10. There is but one "everlasting punishment" for those who die in their sins. See Matthew xxv. 46.
11. There is but one communion; one divinely appointed institution celebrating the Lord's death. In this there is an almost unanimous agreement. We could not expect more perfect oneness in this than there is, in view of the disordered and distracted state of the public mind on religion.
12. There is a church-membership about which there is no doubt or dispute--about a membership consisting of believers, who have given themselves to God according to the Scriptures, and who are carrying out their faith in practice, in the acts of obedience prescribed by greatest," that "are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."
13. There is a rule of faith in which all are agreed. It is alluded to in sundry forms. In the preface to "Wesley's Notes," he says, "Would to God that all sectarian names were forgotten, and that we, as humble, loving disciples, might sit down together at the Master's feet, read his holy word, imbibe his Holy Spirit, and transcribe his life in our own." Speaking of the General Rules in the Discipline, Mr. Wesley says, "All of which we are taught of God to observe even in his written word, which is the only rule, and the sufficient rule, both for our faith and practice." In the Prayer-Book of the Church of England, in the Presbyterian Confession of Faith, and in the Methodist Discipline, the following substantially is found: "The Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, or may not be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith, or thought requisite or necessary to salvation." The words of Chillingworth have been quoted in all Christendom for many years past: "The Bible, and the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants." In harmony with this, Paul says: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."--2 Timothy iii. 16, 17.
Here, then, is a rule of faith in which there is a general agreement; all-sufficient and capable to thoroughly furnish the man of God for all good works. This is the rule of faith for the one body, or for all the saints.
14. "The apostles' doctrine." Here is the doctrine of the one body. "They continued in the apostles' doctrine," or in the apostles' teaching. The word "doctrine," in the Scriptures, means teaching. When it is, "the doctrine of the Lord," or "the apostles' doctrine," it is always singular--doctrine--not doctrines; but when it is doctrines of men, or demons, it is always plural--doctrines--not doctrine. This is very significant. The doctrine, or teaching from God, is a unit, always one, and its tendency is unity--oneness. The doctrines of men, awl of demons, are always plural, always doctrines, and their tendency is to division. Touching the apostles' doctrine, all are agreed. Nobody objects to it. About it there is Do doubt. We have it all printed in our mother tongue, in a convenient volume, and all have it. Whether we have read it all, and understand it all; whether we practice it or not, we have the book that contains it, and know which book it is--know precisely where to find it. We are all agreed about the book that contains it, and the part of the book of which it consists. Here is agreement of the highest importance to the saints. There is no excuse for us if we take not this doctrine and walk not by it. Do you say, "We can not see it alike?" How, then, can you see alike when you listen to men who teach so differently? Nothing but endless confusion arises among all men who turn away from the apostles' doctrine, or teaching.
15. Justification by faith. That men are justified by faith is a matter in which there is all almost unanimous agreement. This has been almost unanimously declared. In this there is great unanimity. But when one word is added to this, making it justification by faith alone, up comes dissension. Unity is lost--oneness is gone--and that, too, by the addition of one word to the clear language of Scripture. This shows the importance of adhering to the precise teaching of the word of God. If the addition means nothing more, or adds nothing to the meaning of the clear statement of Scripture, it is useless. If it adds anything to it, or means anything more, it ought to be rejected. It is redundant if it adds nothing to it, and mischievous if it adds anything to it, and in either case ought to be rejected. There is an agreement almost or quite universal that we are justified by faith. But there are two things not embraced in that: 1. That we are not justified without faith. 2. That we are not justified by faith alone. "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life," says the Lord; and again, "He that believeth not shall be damned." "He that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." "Without faith it is impossible to please him." Here is ground for unity, but there must be nothing more nor less. There must be nothing added nor taken away. It is equally as true that "we are justified by his blood," as that we are "justified by faith;" and if the word alone is added to justified by faith, it excludes the blood of Christ, and all know that was not intended. It is equally true that we are justified by grace, but it is not grace alone, blood alone, nor faith alone, but by each, the grace, the faith, and the blood, in its place, doing its own part in the one justification. The agreement is not in justification by faith alone, nor grace alone, nor the blood of Christ alone, but that justification is by faith, the blood of Christ, and the grace of God.
Specially is this correct when it is kept in view that by faith means not by the law of Moses--that it is by belief on Christ, and not by the deeds of the law of Moses, which had no eternal life in it. The same is true of justification by grace. It is justification by the favor of God, in the New Institution, and not by the law of Moses, in the Old Institution. There is, then, a unanimous agreement in justification by faith. This is a grand item toward unity. The minds of the people do not have to be revolutionized on this. They are now one.
16. There is a general agreement that a penitent believer is a proper subject for baptism. Whatever men hold besides this, they very generally agree in this. This is clear. About it there is no controversy. It is settled. No one of any note denies that a penitent believer is a proper subject for baptism. If none but penitent believers had ever been introduced as proper subjects for baptism, there would never have been any controversy about the subjects for baptism, for on this there has never been any dispute. But when candidates for baptism were presented that had no faith, repentance, or change of heart, or even the knowledge of the existence of God, disputes arose, contentions and strife; not about believers, but those who were not believers. Those for the baptism of persons not only not believers, but known not to be believers, maintained that it was not forbidden; that those opposed to it must produce Scripture excluding them, or, in default to do this, they must hold their peace. No matter if the baptism of persons who have no faith is without precept or example in Scripture; no matter if there is not a mention of such a thing in the Bible, in any form or shape, it is not forbidden, and there is no Scripture excluding them! They appear to be ignorant of the fact that there can not exist a positive divine appointment, without positive divine authority--that where there is no positive divine authority there is no positive divine appointment, and where there is no positive divine appointment, there can be no divine obligation; or where there is no divine authority, there is no divine law.
Such a thing as baptizing a person known to have no faith, not only has no precedent, no precept or example, nor even a mention of any sort in the entire revelation from God to man, but is not mentioned in anything written in the first two centuries! There was never anything practiced in the name of religion more completely without divine authority, from the time of the introduction of the first corruption of the pure religion of Christ till the present time, than the practice of baptizing persons known to have no faith. This bone of contention was introduced in the third century, and has been followed by strife down to our time; and some men now, as if determined to demonstrate that they can bring something out of nothing, that they can prove something without testimony, or perform some other unaccountable feat, are peregrinating the country and defending the practice of baptizing human beings known to have no faith, repentance, or change of heart, or even knowledge of the existence of God! Their ground is the bone of contention; their work is the work of strife, and the fruit of the work is corruption--filling the Church with the unconverted, unregenerated. But the baptism of penitent believers has clear precept and example in Scripture, and the approval of all believers in divine revelation. In it there is agreement almost universal. On this there is unanimity, and about it there is no dissension.
17. There is an almost unanimous agreement on immersion. There has never been any considerable doubt or controversy about immersion. There is a uniform agreement that the word baptize, in the time of the apostles, meant immerse; that the apostles did immerse, and there is not a trace of anything short of immersion in any work written in the first two centuries. The lexicons define the original word baptizo, immerse. This shows that the original practice was immersion. There is not a better attested fact than this in all history bearing on the subject. The distinguished Reformers, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley, agree on this. The critics, commentators and cyclopaedias agree on it. The translators agree on it. In one word, the learning of the world, from the apostles down, agree on this. That a believer, immersed on confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is baptized according to the Scriptures, has never been in dispute or doubt. On this there is a unanimous agreement. This has never been a bone of contention and strife. The whole Romish Church admits that immersion was the original practice. The Greek Church, with one consent, admits it; the Church of England admits it; the standard works and creeds nearly all, in one form or other, admit it; the histories, cyclopaedias, critics, translators, commentators, and reformers, agree to it. There is nothing but the lowest order of caviling sophistry and evasion against it.
You inquire, then, what the controversy has been about. It has not been about immersion at all, but about substitutes for it! Beginning about the middle of the third century, substitutes have been introduced and practiced. The Papacy now practices sprinkling, not as what was originally practiced, but a substitute, sanctioned by the Church, and she maintains that it will do as well as the original. The Church of England does the same thing. She practices what she admits to be a substitute and not the original. The disputing and doubts, the debates and strifes, have all been about substitutes, and not about the original--immersion. About that, among men of genuine learning, there have been no disputes nor doubts. They have been and are one. There is general agreement.
18. Baptized persons are in the Church; those not baptized are not in the Church. There is a unanimous agreement among all churches that baptized persons are to be received, all other matters being right; and that none, not baptized persons, can be members of any Church. Nothing is here said about what baptism is, but it is spoken of as a rite, and no Church, worth mentioning, receives persons without what it calls baptism. This is a matter in which all churches, of any note, agree. No matter how much they talk of baptism being a non-essential, there it stands at the entrance, and to it every one must submit, or not get in. No matter whether Baptist or Pedobaptist, nor whether he calls immersion or sprinkling baptism, there what he calls baptism stands, and you can not got into the Church without it. Essential, or non-essential, to please the Lord, in the estimation of the preacher and his brethren, or to being saved in heaven, it is essential to admittance into the Church! There is one holy place, whether "the true holy place" or not, into which you can not enter without baptism! Charitable, or uncharitable, there stand the shepherds at the entrance of the Church, refusing to admit you into the Church till you are baptized, in their meaning of it.
Do you say that they charitably admit that you can got into heaven without baptism? Who thanks them for that charity? They do not keep the entrance into heaven, and we do not have to consult them whether we may go in there or not. The Chief Shepherd will decide the question, without regard to their charity or grace. But where they can, they stand and bar you out unless you have been baptized! What, then, is all their talk of liberality worth? It amounts to nothing. Whether they require you to obey God or not, you must obey them; whether you submit to the law of God or not, you must submit to their law; whether it is essential to be baptized in order to enter into the kingdom of God or not, it is essential to be baptized in order to enter into their kingdom.
But the Lord has settled the matter--that "we are all baptized into one body." In this all agree. No baptism, no membership. What a farce, then, all this disputing about baptism being essential! It is essential to admittance into the one body. "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he can not enter into the kingdom of God." Here there is agreement, and where there is agreement let us agree, and have no more strife. No baptism, no membership, is the rule in all Christendom.
19. There is a universal agreement that there is a power or influence of the Spirit of God exercised on men to save them. There is a further agreement that is almost universal, and that is, that the Spirit of God spoke through the prophets and the apostles, and Jesus says that the apostles spoke not, but the Spirit spoke in them. The words which the apostles taught were not their words, but the words which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. There is a command from the Lord to "hear what the Spirit says to the churches." There is a unanimous agreement that the man who hears the language of the Spirit of God, as put forth through the prophets and apostles, as now found in Scripture, believes it with all his heart, and is led by it to do the will of God, is thus led, influenced, or moved, by the Holy 'Spirit. It is the power, or influence of the Spirit of God, that moves and leads him. From this there is no dissent. To this all agree. This influence of the Spirit is a reality, as certainly as the existence of the Spirit, or of the Lord Jesus. The concurrence in it is as broad as the concurrence in divine revelation.
But how about the influence of the Spirit aside from this? Where is the concurrence there? Is it the influence of the Spirit that leads Friends, or Quakers, to hold silent meetings, sit with their hats on, and dismiss by shaking, hands; that leads Shakers to dance, forbids them to marry, requires them to form themselves into communities, and become curiosities to the rest of mankind; that leads Mormons into polygamy, and into continued antagonism with the civil authorities? Does the Spirit lead people to shout, clap their hands, scream, jump and fall, in some churches, to be quiet and serene in others? etc. This is where the doubts arise. You question this being the work of the Spirit at all. There is, at least, nothing unanimously agreed to be the work of the Spirit, only that which proceeds from hearing the language of the Spirit, as put forth through prophets and apostles, believing that language, and being led by it to do the will of God as set forth in Scripture. About those who hear what the Holy Spirit says, solemnly believe it, and are influenced by it, or moved by it, to do the will of God, there is no doubt. Nor is there any doubt about the work performed in them being the work of the Spirit. It is the Spirit that leads them as certainly as if he stood before them and commanded them to do the same things with an audible voice. Turning the attention away from this, about which there is a unanimous agreement, to anything else, we only come to where there is no agreement.
But this is not all. The impartation of the Spirit, in any form that it may be given and enjoyed, is from God. Man can not, no matter what view he may have of it, impart the Holy Spirit to himself or any one else. If, then, he believes the truth honestly, with all the heart, obeys it with the best of his ability, with a view to obtaining all the benefits God intends to bestow on the pure in heart; or if he does this without even claiming to know all about what the Lord will do for him, but with the full assurance that all will be done for him that he needs; that God will do abundantly above all that he asks or thinks, but without claiming to know how he will do it, will not the Lord do all things well for him? For instance, he has the clear statement to the Corinthians, that "ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you;" but he may not know how the Spirit dwells in him. Then he reads that God dwells in this temple, but he can not see precisely how God dwells in men, or how Christ dwells in them. Will God, Christ, or the Spirit, refuse to dwell in a man who believes all these statements, but does not understand how God, Christ, or the Spirit, dwells in him? If the man receives the truth, understands it, believes it, and does what it requires, with a full and sincere purpose of heart, will not the Lord accept him and do for him all that he needs--as Paul, says, "Exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think?" If the Lord will not do this, what more can man do? How can man make his calling and election sure?
The adversary is very shrewd in turning man's attention away from what the Lord requires man to do, or how he requires it to be done, and declaring it not essential; by puzzling his brain over the question how the Lord does certain things, and trying to make it appear that he does it in this way or that, and that you must believe this theory or that, or the Lord will not do what he has promised at all! But the Lord does not promise the Holy Spirit to those who believe this theory or that, of direct or immediate influence, or power of the Holy Spirit, but to "those that obey him." Peter says, "We are his witnesses of these things"--that God has exalted Jesus to his right hand, a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins--"and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him.--Acts v. 31, 32. Christ is "the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him."--Hebrews v. 9.
The main trouble, after all, is unbelief. Men are turning philosophers, and trying to tell how things are done, and their theories leave them as much in the dark as ever. They want to know how a sinner, dead in trespasses and sins, can be quickened without an immediate or a direct operation of the Spirit. But will they be so good as to tell us how sinners are quickened by an immediate or a direct operation of the Spirit? No, sir, they can not tell how. To say it is by an immediate operation of the Spirit explains nothing. It escapes from the truth in the Bible, and gets off into the dark, but explains nothing, and leaves you where you are compelled to say, "I do not see how." But if the gospel is preached, with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, and men believe it, we can see that they believe the Spirit and are moved by the Spirit; and if the gospel is the power of God to salvation to
20. There is ground of agreement on what the Church and the people of God shall be called. No matter how many names they may have, nor how highly they may think of them, at heart they esteem the designations found in Scripture above all. They are vital. You may tell a man that he is no Episcopalian, and though he claims to be one, he is not hurt; but tell him that he is not a Christian, and he is hurt at once. The sacred matter, after all, is Christian. Tell a man that he is no Baptist, and though he claims to be one, he is not hurt; but tell him that he is not a disciple of Christ, and he is hurt at once. It is not offensive to any of us to be called Christians, disciples of Christ, saints, holy brethren, children of God, etc. To be designated as the people of God are in Scripture is not offensive to any of us. Why not, then, in view of the person after whom we are named, be called Christians; or, in view of our being pupils, or learners, in the school of Christ, and of him being our Teacher, be willing to be called his students, scholars, learners, or disciples. This is no proper name, nor is student a proper name for the young man in college; but he is a student, and we so designate him. Disciple is no proper name, any more than student, but the designation is used in the same sense. All who follow Christ are students, or learners of Christ. They are pupils in his school. There is nothing offensive in this for any servant of God. If he has accepted Christ as his Teacher, he is his disciple, or scholar; if we have God in view as our Father, we are his children; if we have the kingdom of God in view, we are citizens; if Christ is in view as our Master, we are his servants. This is the way so much variety is found in Scripture in designation. We are all willing to be called the people of God, the servants of God, the followers of Christ, disciples of Christ, saints, holy brethren; and if we are what the first adherents to Christ were, and nothing else, these designations will be just as sufficient now as they were then--but if we are something less, something more, or something different from what they were then, we shall need some other designations to embrace that something less, something more, or something different. Let us, then, determine to be the same they were, and the same designations they had will be all we shall need. We can, then, all agree to be designated Christians, disciples of Christ, etc., as they were, and thus all be one.
21. We can agree on the designation of the general body. Nobody objects to styling it, "the body of Christ," "the kingdom of God," "the family of God," "the Church of God." These are phrases we all use, and there is nothing offensive in any of them. These are used here in the broad sense. They embrace the whole of the "true Israel of God"--all that properly belong to God. This entire body is one. It is the "one body."--Ephesians iv. 4. It is what Paul alludes to when he says, "We are all immersed into one body." Baptism is not the initiatory rite into any sectarian party, but into the body of Christ. It is the naturalization on coming into the kingdom of God. It is not the door into the Church--Christ is the door--but baptism is the act of coming in by the door, or by Christ. "By me," says the Lord, "if any man enter, he shall go in and out, and shall find pasture, and find it more abundantly." "I am the door of the sheep," says he; "all that came before me were thieves and robbers." All agree that we should belong to the "body of Christ," "the Church of God," "the family of God;" that we should be citizens of "the kingdom of God." We are all agreed about these designations, or the body thus described. That, then, is the body of which to be a member, and there is no propriety in stopping to look after any other. There can be no other except in rebellion against King Jesus. He is the absolute Monarch, and can admit no rival. He is to reign till he shall have put down all rule, and all authority and power; for he must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet.
The kingdom of God, the Church of God, or the body of Christ, are different designations for the same body. We all agree, then, what to call it, how to designate it, and we agree, after all, that the main matter is to be a member of the body of Christ; that if a man is not a member of that body; that if he is not a citizen of the kingdom of God; is not in the Church of God--he is without, an alien, a foreigner, stranger, without God and without hope in the world. Can a man consent to live in this condition; this state of despondency; without hope; can he thus meet death, and go into vast eternity, into the presence of his God and Judge; and can he stand before Him who loved him, and the Lord who died for him; who poured out his most precious blood to cleanse him from sin, and give an account of his ingratitude, in despising his grace, love and compassion, and refusing his gracious invitations to the last? "Turn, turn," says the prophet; "why will ye die?"