QUARRELS AMONG CHRISTIANS
IT is not grace which genders strife, but corruption. If therefore any brother’s corruption be raised against me, shall I oppose my corruption to his, and so enter into wrath? or shall I not rather beg of God, that His grace in me may invite the grace that is in my brother, and so we may settle the whole in peace? If we are real Christians, we must both desire only what is just and right, or we do not live like Christians; and if we both agree in desiring this as the end, how is it that we differ violently about the means? If either have done, or desired the wrong; the other, who is more under the conduct of grace, should kindly and affectionately speak of it; and, if he cannot be heard, should leave the matter to God, without raising the unholy and unhappy tumult of heat and resentment in his own mind. He that can bear and forbear most, is certainly most the Christian. It is misery and deadness to a real believer to walk and to war after the base fury and discord of the flesh. When he deserves well of men, and patiently suffers evil from them, then he is like to his Master, and right in himself.
The Apostle directs for believers, not the vengeance of the law, but Christian arbitration. Law is the last refuge, and can only be lawful when right is not to be had by better means.
If Christians, who have a matter of difference, would graciously agree to meet with each other in prayer, and to pray together kindly for each other before the throne of grace; surely, if they meant the attainment of that right and truth which they prayed for, they might soon find it out and settle it accordingly. But it is the flesh which comes in and mars all. One cannot stoop; and the other will not. They are not so wise as Luther’s two goats, that met upon a narrow plank over a deep water. They could not go back, and they dared not to fight. At length, one of them lay down, while the other went over him; and so peace and safety attended both. Why should not believers try this method? But, alas! while grace remains idle or neuter, the world jeers and triumphs; the devil is busy and tempts;
good men mourn and lament; the weak are stumbled, and turned aside; and a long train of inquietudes and jealousies fill the breasts of those, who humbly hope to dwell with God and with each other throughout eternity. These things ought not so to be.
If my brother be in the wrong, how shall I show myself in the right? By wounding him more than he hath wounded himself? By doing wrong likewise, and rendering evil for evil? No; let me pray that God would open his eyes, and not shut my heart; that he would give him more grace, and me more patience to meet what is not
gracious in him; and, at the utmost, that I may not be a partaker with him of anger, or of those sins which may follow upon it.
Am I in the wrong? What then shall I do? Shall I persist in it, and make myself more in the wrong? This would not be gracious; this would be bringing misery by heaps upon myself. Rather let me go first to God, and then to my brother, acknowledging my fault, or my error, to both. There is no shame in confessing our sins to God, nor any meanness in owning them to men. It is the mark of a noble and generous spirit in common life; and it is the wisdom, as well as the duty and privilege, of a much better life in the Christian.
O thou love of the brethren, whither art thou fled! We profess to believe in the communion of saints; but where are the saints who have this communion? We talk of the unity of God’s church with respect to its members; but where are those members who live in this unity? O shame upon us, that we differ at all, that we differ on trifles, that we love to differ, that we urge and promote differences, and that the healing spirit is not more to be found amongst us! Lord, if Thou wouldst differ with us at any time, as we are ready at all times to differ with others, O how should we stand before Thee, or what could we answer for ourselves! Give, O give more of Thy grace, that we may be humble in our own hearts, true and just in our desires, mild to others, and deeply submissive to Thee!
*From The Christian Remembrancer.