UNITY OF FAITH
The following words were penned by Bro Robert Roberts, describing a particular situation of his day. His remarks seem to be so applicable to our day, and the warfare of faith in which we are engaged, that we reproduce them for the benefit of our readers:
“They lament division and lack of brotherly love throughout the professed brotherhood of Christ, but do nothing to supply the defects they deplore, beyond verbal entreaties to a contrary condition which is the most profitless kind of exhortation that can be given. It is like telling a man to be happy without alleviating the cause of his misery. Moral conditions spring from moral causes, and to educe the one, you must affect the other. Peace and brotherly love come from unity of doctrine as the basis of faith.
We do not say men cannot be at peace with each other without doctrinal accord. Men may fellowship each other in many things besides the Truth; but this general principle may be laid down: —men cannot be at peace without agreement. There must be concord in reference to that which forms the basis of their union, whatever that may be. If it be business, they cannot hold together without identical interests and identical schemes. If it be plunder, there must be concert of plans before there is co-operation and peace in the gang. Pleasure shows the same principle; there must be identity in the modes of enjoyment before there can be mutual relish. Men can always “get on” when they are at one in that which acts as the link of their connection.
These may seem low comparisons for the illustration of our subject, but they are to the point, in so far as they bring out the principle which suggests the Scriptural question, “How can two walk together unless they be agreed?”—Amos 3: 3. The principle holds good perhaps more strongly in matters of faith than anything else. The very essence of fellowship in such matters is unity. Peace comes from unity, and peace permits and fosters growth of love; but neither peace nor brotherly love can exist apart from unity. Hence it was that Jesus could say, “I came not to send peace on earth, but a sword”— Matthew 10: 34. His mission in its ultimate results is a mission of peace, and in his essential character, he is ‘the Prince of Peace’; but all this peace is to come through the unity which he will establish between God and man, and in the establishing of this unity, there will be much that is the very opposite of peace. He will tread the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God and in doing so, ‘destroy them that destroy the earth.’
Jesus foresaw that the world would not receive the Truth, and that there would necessarily be established an antagonism between the world and those who did receive the Truth. “Henceforth a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” In its perfect form, this antagonism results in death to those who are Christ’s. While the flesh is supreme and has the power, it kills all who are of the Spirit. But, circumstances, providentially arranged, may prevent the flesh having its own way. On the other hand, the flesh may become a little modified in its manifestations by moral influences which may be remotely traced to the Word. In that case, the antagonism is not so hot; the World and ‘the Church’ get on better, though not in union. Sometimes, the World puts on the name of the Church, and there is external fellowship, but because perfect unity (unity of faith, of doctrine, of taste and affection), does not exist, there is not perfect ‘peace and brotherly love’, that is to say, if there are any true sons of God in the alliance. If there are none such, of course, there may be peace, because agreement even in apostasy will produce peace, even if it be the peace of a stagnant pool. But if there be true men in the rotten compact, there cannot be long peace or brotherly love. Incompatibilities will soon be manifest. The manifestations and doctrines of the flesh will offend the taste of those who are of the Spirit, and there will be ‘division’; and father will be separated from son, and mother from daughter.
And it is right that division under such circumstances should take place. Why should an unholy fellowship continue? What concord hath Christ with Belial? Why exhort to peace and brotherly love where the foundation of such conditions is awanting. The Apostolic exhortation is, “Be ye ALL OF ONE MIND, and live at peace”. There can be no living in peace without oneness of mind. The “unity of the Spirit” ought to be kept in “the bond of peace”, but peace need not be expected where this “unity of Spirit” is a wanting.
“The unhappy features of the present crisis are owing to the admixture of error with truth, of worldliness with spiritual mindedness, and while these two elements co-exist—and they have always done so from the Apostolic age down to the present—there must be fermentation as of two opposite chemical principles. “It must needs be that there be heresy among you.” “It must needs be that offences come.” We need not look for anything else than division so long as there is no infallible hand to prevent the admixture of error with the Truth, and of the worldly-minded with those who truly consecrate themselves to God. Our duty is to “contend earnestly for the Faith once delivered to the Saints.”
This is the best way to bring about peace and brotherly love. It may cause division in the first instance, but among those who receive the Truth in the love thereof, it will lay a foundation for the wisdom which is “first pure, THEN peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of good fruits.” Apart from this, exhortations to peace are not worthy of being listened to. The peace-at-any-price policy is as dangerous in matters of faith as in matters of politics. Peace ought not to exist where the One Faith is not upheld in its purity: and therefore we decline circulating an appeal to peace at a time when the Word of God is being corrupted and made of none effect through tradition. The appeal will no doubt receive currency elsewhere, as we perceive it has been sent to certain publications in this country and America which are by no means famed for their scrupulosity in such matters, but we decline to occupy space with it. It might not do much harm, but not being on the true foundation, it could do no good, and would therefore cumber the pages of a periodical which we strive to make ‘a faithful Ambassador’”
(The Ambassador of the Coming Age, 1865, p. 283).