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Rule iv. Sedulous care and endeavouring for the preservation of unity, both in particular and in general.

Phil. ii. 1–3, “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”

Eph. iv. 3, 4, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit,” etc.

1 Cor. i. 10, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”

2 Cor. xiii. 11, “Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.”

Rom. xiv. 19, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.”

Rom. xv. 5, “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another,” etc.

1 Cor. vi. 5–7, “Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? but brother goeth to law with brother. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you.”

Acts iv. 32, “The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.”

Explication iv. Union is the main aim and most proper fruit of love; neither is there any thing or duty of the saints in the gospel pressed with more earnestness and vehemency of exhortation than 67this. Now, unity is threefold: First, Purely spiritual, by the participation of the same Spirit of grace; communication in the same Christ, — one head to all. This we have with all the saints in the world, in what condition soever they be; yea, with those that are departed, sitting down in the kingdom of heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Secondly, Ecclesiastical, or church communion in the participation of ordinances, according to the order of the gospel. This is a fruit and branch of the former; opposed to schism, divisions, rents, evil-surmisings, self-practices, causeless differences in judgment in spiritual things concerning the kingdom of Christ, with whatsoever else goeth off from closeness of affection, oneness of mind, consent in judgment to the form of wholesome words, conformity of practice to the rule. And this is that which in the churches, and among them, is so earnestly pressed, commanded, desired, as the glory of Christ, the honour of the gospel, the joy and crown of the saints. Thirdly, Civil unity, or an agreement in things of this life, not contending with [for?] them nor about them, every one seeking the welfare of each other. Striving is unseemly for brethren. Why should they contend about the world who shall jointly judge the world?

Motives to the preservation of both these are, —

1. The remarkable earnestness of Christ and his apostles in their prayers for, and precepts of, this duty.

2. The certain dishonour of the Lord Jesus, scandal to the gospel, ruin to the churches, shame and sorrow to the saints, that the neglect of it is accompanied withal, Gal. v. 15.

3. The gracious issues and sweet heavenly consolation which attendeth a right observance of them.

4. The many fearful aggravations wherewith the sin of rending the body of Christ is attended.

5. The sad contempt and profanation of ordinances which want of this hath brought upon many churches.

For a right performance of this duty, we must, —

1. Labour, by prayer and faith, to have our hearts and spirits throughly seasoned with that affectionate love which our first rule requireth.

2. Carefully observe, in ourselves or others, the first beginnings of strife; which are as the letting out of water, and, if not prevented, will make a breach like the sea.

3. Sedulously apply ourselves to the removal of the first appearance of divisions; and in case of not prevailing, to consult the church.

4. Daily to strike at the root of all dissension, by labouring for universal conformity to Jesus Christ.

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