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The Unity of the Church Essential to the Conversion of the World

The Unity of the Church Essential to the Conversion of the World
Title: The Unity of the Church Essential to the Conversion of the World
Release Date: 2018-10-10
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Unity of the Church Essential to theConversion of the World, by James Henry Alexander GwytherThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and mostother parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms ofthe Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org.  If you are not located in the United States, you'll haveto check the laws of the country where you are located before using this ebook.Title: The Unity of the Church Essential to the Conversion of the WorldAuthor: James Henry Alexander GwytherRelease Date: October 10, 2018  [eBook #58072]Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH ESSENTIALTO THE CONVERSION OF THE WORLD***

Transcribed from the 1846 John Snow edition by David Price,email [email protected]

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THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH ESSENTIAL TO THE
CONVERSION OF THE WORLD.

A SERMON,
PREACHED BEFORE
THE DIRECTORS AND FRIENDS OF THE LONDON
MISSIONARY SOCIETY,
DURING
Their Anniversary
IN MAY, 1846,
IN THE CHURCH OF ST.  MARY, SPITAL SQUARE,
LONDON,

BY
J. H. GWYTHER, M.A.
VICAR OF MADELEY, SALOP.

 

LONDON:
JOHN SNOW, PATERNOSTER-ROW; THE SOCIETY’S OFFICES,
BLOOMSBURY HOUSE, FINSBURY SQUARE.  GEO. M. SMITH,
IRONBRIDGE, SALOP.

1846.

Price Sixpence.

p.3SERMON.

Neither pray I for these alone,but for all who shall believe in me through their Word:that they all may be one: that the World may believethat thou hast sent me.”—John xvii. 20, 21.

The last earthly act of one we love and honour, is oftenreferred to with deepest interest, and revolved with the mostthoughtful attention.  It is then that the dying Parentdelivers his solemn counsels, and unbosoms his most sacredlycherished feelings.  If ever the tenderest and earnestworkings of the heart are laid open, it is as the scene drawsnear and yet nearer to its close.

And as our beloved Saviourapproached the termination of His earthly history, the strongcommanding feelings of his soul were displayed, and thenespecially he taught his disciples what sentiments he would havethem cultivate, and what objects he would have them propose;whilst by his example, he taught them in what spirit, andby what means to seek those high and holy ends.

It was then, assembled with his disciples in the Garden ofGethsemane, that He as the Great High Priest of Our Profession,breathed forth in earnest prayer, the words before us:—

“The last acts of theGreat Mediator, were acts of prayer.”

He prayed! that he might impresshis people with the importance of prayer.  He made themwitnesses of his prayer, that when they hereafter mightfollow him their divine intercessor, by faith, within theveil, they might know for what ends, and in what spirit, hisintercession is carried on.  His lastacts were prayer.  It was in prayerthat he closed his last interview with his Apostles.  It wasin this exercise that he passed his hour of agony in the Garden;and when on the Cross, His dying breath was spent in repeated andsolemn application.

p. 4Oh!beloved brethren! ’twas a solemn scene;—the adorableMediator with the shadows of death deepening around him, employedin earnest addresses to his Father.  The Garden—the JudgmentSeat—the Scourge—the Cross, were full beforehim.  On what now is His spirit bent?  On what subjectsdoes he meditate?  His prayer will tell, and tell how fullyhis heart was occupied with the work of mercy—thewell-being of his church—the honour of his Father—thesalvation of the world.  It was then he uttered the prayerin which he sought for his people, that they all may be one, thatthe world may be converted to him.  He had chargedthem “to love one another.”  He had shown themthat they were virtually “all one:”  Bythe sacred supper, he had sought to cherish their love and union,and now by his example he taught them to make it the burden oftheir prayer.  And even still his heart longs forthis!  He looks down from his exalted throne, upon thatchurch which he so much regards, and which he “haspurchased with his own blood;” that church to which he hasentrusted such a high and glorious work; big with the richestblessings for a ruined and wretched world.  He sees thatchurch divided, torn, distracted, alienations and strifesprevailing, whilst the world’s millions are waiting,uninstructed, unenlightened, unblest; andthen, having connected the conversion of the world with the unityof the church, he again pours forth the intercession,“Father, may they all be one, that the world may believethat thou hast sent me.”

In the endeavour to fulfil that duty, which the Directors ofthe London Missionary Society have assigned me, I feel I needyour sympathy, and your prayers.  I stand before you“in weakness, and in fear, and in muchtrembling.”  From a sense of my own insufficiency toperform this duty aright, as well as from the conviction that Imay be standing in the room of some more qualified and acceptableadvocate of the cause, I was naturally reluctant to leave thequietude of a country village and place myself in this publicsituation: on the other hand, believing that this was a call fromGod, to bear my humble testimony toHis truth in this great Metropolis, and that in endeavouring todo his will, we shall not fail of his grace; I have come belovedbrethren, and would seek to offer a few remarks upon theinteresting subject now introduced to your notice.  Thesubject I am fully aware, is now one of those to which so muchattention has been given of late years, that I cannot hope topresent it more clearly or forcibly than it has already beenplaced in your view: all I can attempt is to bring these thingsagain to your remembrance, and again to urge them upon theattentive consideration of the Christian Church.

p. 5In doingso, I propose to consider three things—

I.  The object, which in this Petition,the Saviour seeks.

II.  The means by which it is to bepromoted.

III.  The reasons why it should be mostearnestly desired.

We must proceed to notice:—

I.—The object, which in this petition theSaviour seeks.

It is the unity of all believers upon Earth.  Notindeed that Christ is indifferent tothe peace and love which ought to bind together allmankind as one great family.  He purposes to securethis; but he seeks to bless His Church, that thro’it he may bless the world.  Yes! beloved brethren,—Menought to “be one” in the bonds of love andkindness.  We are Brethren, all “one man’ssons,” and where there is a man, there is one who has aclaim upon the thoughtfulness, the care, the kindness of hisfellow man; and in order to promote the general well-being of ourspecies, we should be as one.  To us there cry thepoor in their destitution—the ignorant in theirdarkness—the oppressed in their wrongs—the victims ofwar, murderous and impious war—the slaves in the chains,which tyranny has thrown around their persons, or set on theirintellect and conscience; these, and sufferers in everyother form of woe, appeal to man, the family, thefraternity of man, for sympathy, pity, and relief. They are Men; they are Brethren; and these are outrages againstour common claims, which should rouse all that hear the cry, tosuccour the suppliants.  We have all one Father, and happy will be the time, when Hisdivided and distracted household, shall again “love asbrethren;” when the oppressor shall cease; when“violence shall not be heard in our borders;” whenthe clangor of war shall give place to the melting sounds andcelestial song of “Peace on earth, and good will towardsmen;” when truth shall fill all intellects, and love reignin every heart.  Bright!  Glorious Day!—And shallthis happy consummation ever bless this afflicted, burdened,groaning world?  It shall!  The Gospel purposesit, and to secure its accomplishment, the Gospel is dailyputting forth its heavenly energy, and ere long, earth in loveshall be the very emblem of the heaven of heavens.  Thefierce passions of the human spirit shall be subdued. “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopardshall lie down with the kid”; “the cow and bear shallfeed”: “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all myholy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge ofthe Lord, as the waters cover thesea.”—Isaiah xi,6–9.

But another work must precede this.  The Church mustfirst be made one itself.  The universal harmonypredicted, and eventually to be realized in the world, must firstpervade the elements of Christ’sVisible Church, and therefore as a means to that great end, eventhat p. 6theworld may believe in, fully recognize, and submit to theauthority of Him, whom God has sent,the Redeemer here prays, that His disciples may “beone;” implying thereby that the unity of the Church, is thegreat pre-requisite for the conversion of the world.

1.—And who are His Church, His People,the subjects of this prayer?

None but those who rest upon His atonement, and rely upon Hisgrace, as the one foundation of their hope for eternity.  Itis not the bearing of a Christian name; it is not an enrolment inany society, however scriptural in doctrine and apostolic indiscipline that constitutes men Christians.  There may beloud profession—an orthodox creed—ceaselessactivity—large sacrifices, without faith in Jesus or love to his name.  Butthese are indispensible; without them there is nointerest or fellowship with Christ,and no part, or lot in His Church.  Without faith,there is no salvation; and “if any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ he must beaccursed.”  The possessors of these alone, are thetrue “living stones built up a spiritual house.”

But the Church includes all who believe on the Son ofGod, among whatever community they may be found.  Eachchristian may have, and ought to hold dear, hisconvictions, as to the truths the bible teaches, and the churchprinciples which are there developed.

The Bible is ever to be his standard, and his conscience bindshim to receive all that it teaches.  We plead for nolatitudinarian indifference.  We have ourconvictions, nor dare we yield them, unless God should, by His Spirit, afford us anotherview of truth; nor will any candid christian, who differs fromus, call for such a sacrifice.  We ask not for suchunwarranted concessions from any.  Nor dare we judge theLord’s servants; to their ownMaster they stand or fall.  To Him they are amenable, and itcheers the spirit to think that our minor errors andimperfections hinder not Him from receiving any who rest on Himfor mercy, and yield to Him their hearts.

All these are His people—they are parts of Hisuniversal Church; though severed from each other, they are onewith Him; members of His mystical body; branches in Him theLiving Vine!

And where shall we seek them?  They are found adorningfellowships of varied names, and each possessing features ofpeculiar beauty, and sacred excellence.  We dare not saythat a connexion with any system of itself can make menChristians; nor of Episcopacy, Presbyterianism,Congregationalism, nor Methodism, that it is exclusively The Church of God, so as to monopolize allsacred relations and existing piety.  But we believe thatgenuine disciples of Christ are to befound amongst them all.

The churches which have numbered among them a Fletcher, aHenry Martyn, a Cary, a Williams, a Wesley; will furnish their p. 7portion towardsthe one great assembly, “the church of the first bornwritten in heaven.”

The genuine disciples of the Saviour, are to be found in various ranks,and among different denominations of Christians; from these manyhave been gathered already, and swell the throng around thethrone of God above.  Even nowthe multitude collected from among them, is greater than any mancan number; they have lost their party badges and sectariantitles.  This is their only distinction, “They havewashed their robes, and made them white in the blood of theLamb,”—and they need no other—this is theirgreat title—this secures them a happy, blissfulplace before the throne of God and theLamb; and they desire no more.

And many yet are found below.  True our minds aredistracted by the differing names and varied distinctions whichexist among us.  But be of good cheer, beloved brethren,upon a goodly company, though widely scattered, Christ looks down with joy, seeing in eachof the throng, a trophy of his

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