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Beloved, religion is the great bond of human society; and it were well if itself were kept within the bond of unity. And that it may so be, let us, according to the text, use our utmost endeavors to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
These words contain a counsel and a caution. The counsel is, that we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit; the caution is, that we do it in the bond of peace. As if I should say, I would have you live in unity, but yet I would have you to be careful, that you do not purchase Unity with the breach of Charity. Let us therefore be cautious that we do not so press after Unity in practice and opinion, as to break the bond of Peace and Affection.
In the handling of these words, I shall observe this method.
I. I shall open the sense of the text.
I. As touchingTHE SENSE OF THE TEXT. When we are counselled to keep the unity of the Spirit, we are not to understand the Spirit of God, as personally so considered; because the Spirit of God, in that sense, is not capable of being divided, and so there would be no need for us to endeavor to keep the unity of it.
By the unity of the Spirit then, we are to understand that unity of mind which the Spirit of God calls for, and requires Christians to endeavor after. hence it is that we are exhorted, in one spirit, with one mind, to strive together for the faith of the gospel. Philippians 1:27.
But farther, the apostle in these words alludes to the state and composition of a natural body, and doth thereby inform us, that the mystical body of Christ holds an analogy with the natural body of man. As, 1. In the natural body there must be a spirit to animate it; for the body without the spirit is dead. James 2:26.
So it is in the mystical body of Christ; the apostle no sooner tells us that one body, but he minds us of that one Spirit. Ephesians 4:4. 2. The body hath joints and bands to unite all the parts; so hath the mystical body of Christ. Colossians 2:19. This is that bond of peace mentioned in the text, as also in the 16th verse of the same chapter, where the whole body is said to be fitly joined together, and compacted, by that which every joint supplieth. 3. The natural body receives counsel and nourishment from the head; so doth the mystical body of Christ; he is their counsellor, and him they must hear; he is their head, and him they must hold: hence it is that the apostle complaineth ( Colossians 2:19) of some that did not hold the head, from which the whole body by joints and bands hath nourishment. 4. The natural body cannot well subsist, if either the spirit be wounded, or the joints broken or dislocated. The body cannot bear a wounded or broken spirit. A broken spirit drieth the bones; ( Proverbs 17:22), and A wounded spirit who can bear? Proverbs 18:14. And, on the other hand, how often have the disjointing of the body, and the breakings thereof, occasioned the expiration of the spirit? In like manner it fares with the mystical body of Christ; how do divided spirits break the bonds of peace, which are the joints of the body? And how do the breakings of the body and church of Christ wound the spirit of Christians, and oftentimes occasion the spirit and life of Christianity to languish, if not to expire? How needful is it then that we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!