Comments by Robert Leighton (1611-84) on 1 Peter 3.8.
Finally be ye all of one mind having compassion one of another; love as brethren be pitiful be courteous.
BE YE ALL OF ONE MIND
Comments by Robert Leighton (1611-84) on 1 Peter 3.8.
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another; love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.
Of one mind. This does not only mean union in judgment, but it extends likewise to affection and action; especially in so far as they relate to, and depend upon the other. It comprehends, a harmony and agreement of minds, and affections, and carriage in Christians, as making up one body, and a serious study of preserving and increasing that agreement in all things, but especially in spritual things, in which their communion does primarily consist. And because in this, the consent of their judgments in matters of religion is a prime point, we will consider that a little more particularly. And First, What it is not.
1. It is not a careless indifference concerning those things. Not to be troubled about them at all, nor to make any judgment concerning them, is not a loving agreement, arising from oneness of spirit, but a dead stupidity. As the agreement of a number of dead bodies together, which indeed do not strive and contest, because they live not; so that concord in things of religion, which is a not considering them, nor acting of the mind about them, is the fruit and sign either of gross ignorance, or of irreligion. They who are wholly ignorant of spiritual things allow you to impose upon them what you will; as in the dark, there is no difference nor choice of colours, they are all one.
But, 2, which is worse, in some this peaceableness about religion arises from a universal unbelief and disaffection; and that sometimes comes of the much search and knowledge of debates and controversies in religion. Men having so many disputes about religion in their heads, and no life of religion in their hearts, fall into a conceit that all is but juggling, and that the easiest way is, to ‘ believe nothing; and these agree with any, or rather with none. Sometimes it is from a profane supercilious disdain of all these things; and many there be among these of Gallio’s temper, who care for none of these things, and who account all questions in religion, as he did, but matter of words and names. By this all religions may agree together. But that were not a natural union produced by the active heat of the spirit, but a confusion arising from the want of it;
not a knitting together, but a freezing together, as cold congregates all bodies, how heterogeneous soever, sticks, stones, and water; but heat makes first a separation of different things, and then unites those that are of the same nature.
To one or other of these two is reducible much of the common quietness of people’s minds about religion. All that implicit Romish agreement which they boast of, what is it, but a brutish ignorance of
spiritual things, authorised and recommended for that very purpose? Amongst the learned of them, there are as many idle differences and disputes as amongst any. It is an easy way, indeed, to agree, if all will put out their eyes, and follow the blind guiding of their judge of controversies. This is their great device for peace, to let the Pope determine all. If all will resolve to be cheated by him, he will unite them all. As if the consciences of men should only find peace by being led by the nose at one man’s pleasure! A way the Apostle Paul clearly renounces, “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy; for by faith ye
stand. “2 Cor. 1.24.
And though we have escaped this, yet much of our common union of minds, proceeds from no other than the afore-mentioned causes, want of knowledge, and want of affection to religion. You that boast you live conformably to the appointments of the Church, and that no one hears of your noise, we may thank the ignorance of your minds for that kind of quietness. But the unanimity here required, is another thing; and before I unfold it, I shall premise this, – that although it be very difficult, and it may be impossible, to determine what things are alone fundamental in religion, under the notion of difference, intended by that word, yet it is undoubted, that there be some truths more absolutely necessary, and therefore accordingly more clearly revealed than some others; there are great things of the Law, and so of the Gospel. And though no part of Divine truth once fully cleared, ought to be slighted, yet there are things that may be true, and still are but of less importance, and of less evidence than others; and this difference is wisely to be considered by Christians, for the interest of this agreement of
minds, here recommended. And concerning it we may safely conclude,
1. That Christians ought to have a clear and unanimous belief of the mysteries and principles of faith; to agree in those without controversy. 2. They ought to be diligent in the research of truth in all things that concern faith and religion; and to use all due means for the fullest consent and agreement in them all, that possibly can be attained. 3. Perfect and universal consent in all, after all industry bestowed on it, for any thing we know, is not here attainable, neither betwixt all churches, nor all persons in one and the same church. Therefore, though church-meetings and synods, as the fittest and most effectual way to this unity, should endeavour to bring the church to the fullest agreement that may be, yet they should beware lest the straining it too high in all things, rather break it, and an over diligence in appointing uniformities, remove them further from it. Leaving a latitude and indifference in things capable of it, is often a stronger preserver of peace and unity. But this by the way. We will rather give some few rules that may be of use to every
particular Christian, toward this common Christian good of Unity of Mind.
1. Beware of two extremes, which often cause divisions, captivity to custom, on the one hand, and affectation of novelty on the other.
2. Labour for a staid mind, that will not be tossed with every wind of doctrine, or appearance of reason, as some who, like vanes, are
easily blown to any side with mistakes of the Scriptures, either arising in their own minds, or suggested by others.
3. In unclear and doubtful things, be not pertinacious, as the
weakest minds are readiest to be upon seeming reason, which, when tried, will possibly fall to nothing; yet they are most assured, and
cannot suffer a different thought in any from their own. There is naturally this Popery in every man’s mind, and most, in the shallowest; a kind of fancied infallibility in themselves, which makes then contentious, (contrary to the Apostle’s rule, Phil. 2.3, Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory,} and as earnest upon differing in the smallest punctilio, as in a high article of faith. stronger spirits are usually more patient of contradiction, and less violent, especially in doubtful things; and they who see furthest, are east peremptory in their determinations. The Apostle in his second epistle to Timothy, hath a word, the spirit of a sound mind: it is a good, sound constitution of mind, not to feel every blast, either of seeming reason to be taken with it, or of cross opinion to be
offended at it.
4. Join that which is there, the spirit of love, in this particular: not at all abating affection for every light difference. And this the most are a little to blame in; whereas the abundance of that should rather fill up the gap of these petty disagreements, that they do not appear. No more disaffection ought to follow this, than the difference of our faces and complexions, which cannot be found in any two alike in all
And these things would be of easier persuasion, if we considered, 1. How supple and flexible a thing human reason is, and therefore not lightly to be trusted to, especially in Divine things; for here, we know but in part. 1 Cor. 13.9. 2. The small importance of some things that have bred much noise and dissension in the world, as the Apostle speaks of the tongue, “How little a spark, how great a fire will it kindle;” James 3.5. And a great many of those debates which cost men so much pains and time, are as far from clear decision, as when they began, and are possibly of so little moment, that if they were ended, their profit would not quit the cost. 3. Consider the strength of Christian charity, which, if it dwelt much in our hearts, would preserve this union of mind amidst very many different thoughts, such as they may be, and would teach us that excellent lesson the Apostle gives to this purpose, Phil. 3.15: “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded; and if in anything ye be otherwise minded. God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by he same rule, let us mind the same thing”. Let us follow our Lord unanimously, in what He hath clearly manifested to us, and given us with one consent to embrace.
And this leads us to consider the further extent of this word, to agree in heart and in conversation, walking by the rule of those undoubted truths we have received. And in this I shall recommend these two things to you:Â—
1. In the defence of the Truth, as the Lord shall call us, let us be of one mind, and all as one man. Satan acts by that maxim, and all his followers have it. Divide and conquer; and therefore let us hold that counter-maxim. Union invincible.
2. In the practice of that Truth, agree as one. Let your conversation be uniform, by being squared to that one rule, and in all spiritual exercises join as one; be of one heart and mind. Would not our public worship, think you, prove much more both comfortable and profitable, if our hearts met in it as one, so that we would say of our hearing the word, as he, Acts 10.33, “We are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded of God?”Â—if our prayers ascended up as one pillar of incense to the throne of grace; if they besieged it, as an army, all surrounding it together to obtain favour for ourselves and the Church? This is much with God, the consent of hearts petitioning. It is believed that united prayers ascend with greater efficacy. So says our Saviour, Matt. 18.20: Where two or three are gatheredÂ—not their bodies within the same walls only, for so they are but so many carcasses tumbled together, and the promise of His being amongst us, is not made to that, for He is the God of the living and not of the dead, Matt. 22.32; it is the spirit of darkness that abides amongst the tombs and graves; butÂ—gathered in my Name, one in that one holy Name, written upon their hearts, and uniting them, and so thence expressed in their joint services and invocations. So He says there of them who agree upon anything they shall ask, if all their hearts present together, if they make one cry or song of it, that harmony of their hearts shall be sweet in the Lord’s ears, and shall draw a gracious answer out of His hand. If you agree, your joint petitions shall be as it were an arrest or decree that shall stand in Heaven: it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven. But alas! where is our agreement? The greater number of hearts say nothing, and others speak with such wavering and such a jarring harsh noise, being out of tune, earthly, too low set, that they spoil all, and disappoint the answers. Were the censer filled with those united prayers heaven-wards, it would be filled with fire earth-wards against the enemies of the Church.
And in your private society, seek unanimously your own and each other’s spiritual good; not only agreeing in your affairs and civil converse, but having one heart and mind as Christians.
The public ministry will profit little any where, where a people, or some part of them, are not thus one, and do not live together as one mind, and use diligently all due means of edifying one another in their holy faith. How much of the primitive Christian’s praise and profit is involved in the word. They were together with one accord, with one mind: and so they grew; the Lord added to the church. Acts 2.1,44,47.