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THE BENEFIT OF CHRISTIAN UNITY.
Ps. cxxxii. 1—3. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
for Brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard : that went down to the skirts of his garments : as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.
IN this psalm we have a commendation of Christian love and unity. It seems to have been written some time after David's entire possession of the whole kingdom ; when the tribes being all united under one head, the horrors of civil war were exchanged for the blessings of peace; and all who were brethren according to the flesh, enjoyed the fullest exercise of brotherly love, in union with each other, and in communion with their God. He seems to have been contemplating the blessed change, till his soul, filled with holy joy and gratitude, exclaimed, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for Brethren to dwell together in unity!” He then pursues the same idea, illustrating both the goodness and pleasantness of it, each by an appropriate similitude; its pleasantness resembling the fragrance of the ointment poured on Aaron's head; and its goodness being justly compared to dews of Hermon or of Zion, by which a continued verdure and fertility are preserved, where without them vegetation would quickly fail. We shall follow the line he has traced out for us, and point out the excellence of Christian unity. 1. As conducing to our present comfort
There is no pleasure so refined, so exquisite, as that which results from the exercise of Christian love. It always cheers the bosom in which it dwells, and imparts the sublimest joy to those who meet it with corresponding emotions. It is beautifully compared with the ointment which was poured on Aaron's head at his consecration to the priestly office.
Let us briefly examine the similitude
[A full account of this ointment is given us in the book of Exodus". The ingredients of which it was composed were of the most odoriferous kind: the proportions of each were minutely specified by God himself: and its use, when properly compounded, was solely confined to the things or persons connected with the service of the sanctuary. It was strictly forbidden to the whole nation to form any other ointment like unto it, or to use any part of it for any other purpose than that which was ordained by God. It was itself most holy; and it made every thing holy that came in contact with it. At the consecration of Aaron, it was poured upon his head in rich profusion, so that it ran down upon his beard, even to the collar of his garment b; and it diffused on every side a fragrance that was inexpressibly sweet and refreshing.] Let us now consider the application of it
[With this is Christian love to be compared. Now love is altogether of divine original : every ingredient of it is formed by the hand of God himself, and the whole compounded by him in its due proportions: and every one on whom it is poured is from thenceforth sanctified to the Lord. It is in its own nature so flowing, that when poured upon the head, it will descend upon the whole man: and so fragrant is it, that not the person himself only, but all who come in contact with him, will be refreshed with its odours: and more especially when a whole society or church are partakers of this heavenly unction, such is the fragrance, as to resemble as nearly as possible the courts of heaven itself.
Say, ye who have ever received this heavenly gift, whether ye have not been brought, as it were, into a new world, and whether ye be not breathing from day to day a new atmosphere? Compare it with that which the world has framed in imitation of it, and which gives grace and ornament to the more polished circles of society : how poor, how vapid, how destitute of all refreshing odour, is that which is called politeness! the very persons who most cultivate it, are most sensible what an empty formality it is: it is a mere mimickry of what is good : and in all the diversified expressions of it there is a secret consciousness, that nothing real is designed ; that it is a mere artificial ceremony, invented and practised in order to keep out of sight those hateful passions, which would destroy all the comfort of social intercourse. Its
forms are burthensome to those who most abound in them: and it is a relief to a man to put them off, and to return to the unconstrained familiarities of domestic life. We mean not to disparage that which undoubtedly contributes much to the maintenance of public order
a Exod. xxx. 22–33.
• See the marginal version.
and decorum: but when compared with that love which grace inspires, it is a mere vanity; it is like a sun painted upon canvass, in comparison with the sun shining in the firmament of heaven. Who that lives under the influence of gracious affections, and moves in a circle where Christian love abounds, does not feel this? His spirits are not tumultuous indeed; but they are sweetly elevated towards high and heavenly things: he carries with him a divine savour, wherever he moves: when he enters into the society of the saints, or into the tabernacle of his God, the fragrance is drawn forth and greatly increased, so that “the whole house, as it were, is filled with the odour of the ointment.” O, Beloved, how pleasant is it for brethren to dwell together in unity! As none could form a just conception of the odours of Aaron's ointment, but those who came within the sphere of its influence, so none can form any adequate idea of the sweetness of love, but those on whom the Spirit of God has poured this divine unction. We may however see that this representation is just, even though we should not be able fully to comprehend it: for St. Paul, urging with all possible importunity the exercise of love, recommends it from the consideration of the comfort imparted by it: “ If there be any comfort of love, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind."]
But the Psalmist speaks of unity as being good,” as well as pleasant : and in his illustration of it in this view, he leads us to contemplate it, II. As administering to our everlasting welfare
The effect of dew in hot countries is exceedingly beneficial
[In this country, where rains are frequent, we have comparatively little dew: but in hot countries, where the rains are periodical, the dew, as in Paradise, almost supplies the place of raina. On Hermon, and on Zion, it came down in rich abundance. In its descent it was gentle; but in its operation powerfully influential, reviving and invigorating every plant, and fertilizing the earth on every side.]
And such also is the influence of love on the souls of men
On Zion, "God commanded his blessing" in the days of old ; and on our Zion also he still commands it,“even life for evermore.” But what is the principle whereby he operates this glorious change? It is love, or "faith working by love :” “Love is of God; and every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God: he that loveth not, knoweth not God : for God c Phil, ü. 1, 2.
d Gen. Ü. 4, 5.
is love." “ God is love ; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him." “ If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in use." It is by the exercise of this divine principle that “we know we have passed from death unto life;" and "by it we are recognized by all men as Christ's disciples ." The proper operations of this principle are distinctly and fully marked in the First Epistle to the Corinthians; and they are most beautifully exemplified in the conduct of the primitive Christians h. Such will every church be, where love reigns: the graces of the whole collective body will flourish with ever increasing beauty and fruitfulness '; and that will be verified which God promised previously to every sabbatic year, “I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years k."
Say then, Whether Christian love and unity be not "good?" Say whether any thing in the universe can tend so much to the perfection of our nature as this; or whether there be any thing that will so advance us in a meetness for our heavenly inheritance ? --] APPLICATION
(Cultivate then this heavenly principle. If you seek only your own personal happiness, there is nothing that will contribute to it like this — Nor will any thing so advance the welfare of the Church. Christians are one body in Christ: and when every member and every joint supplies its proper portion of this divine unction, “ the whole body will grow unto the edifying of itself in love," and will in due time " attain the full measure of the stature of Christ?" --- And need I say, how God will be glorified, when his enemies are constrained to exclaim, “ Behold, how these Christians love one another!” Guard then against every disposition contrary to love And " if there be any among you who would cause divisions and offences, avoid them"
In mutual forbearance and forgiveness, follow the example of Christ himselfm -- Thus shall you be fitted for those realms of love and joy, where all the countless multitudes of the redeemed unite in one harmonious song of praise to God and to the Lamb for ever and ever.] e 1 John iv. 7, 8, 12, 16.
f 1 John iii. 14. and John xüï. 35. 8 1 Cor. xiii. 4—7.
h Acts iv. 32. i Hos. xiv. 4—7.
k Lev. xxv. 21.
A CALL TO ADORE GOD FOR HIS MERCY.
Ps. cxxxvi. 26. O give thanks unto the God of heaven : for PRAISE is the employment of heaven : and praise should be the employment of earth also. “Rejoice evermore,” is a special command of God: and to express our joy in praises and thanksgivings is equally commanded : “In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” The calls which are given us in the Psalms to the performance of this duty are very numerous : but in none more urgent than in the psalm before us. The particular object here proposed as the subject of our thanksgivings, is the mercy of God, which we are here called upon to contemplate and adore.
endureth for ever.
Let us then, in compliance with the Psalmist's exhortation, endeavour, I. To contemplate it
Two things in particular respecting it we would propose to your consideration : 1. Its unbounded extent
[The Psalmist, after speaking of mercy as constituting one of the most glorious perfections of the Deity, notices the manifestations of it which we behold in all the wonders of creation, and providence, and redemption. Whilst we acknowledge the hand of God in these things, we are but too apt to overlook his mercy as displayed in them. But on this we should principally fix our attention, as being most calculated to inflame our love and gratitude towards our heavenly Benefactor. Contemplate then the benefits which you receive from the sun, and moon, and stars, and from the infinitely diversified productions of this terraqueous globe -- Then behold all the interpositions of God in behalf of his people Israel, and see in them what he is yet daily performing both for the bodies and souls of all who trust in him --- Then, in the temporal redemptions vouchsafed to Israel under their most desperate and degraded states, behold the redemption of our souls from sin and Satan, death and hell, through the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ Here are subjects of contemplation which might well occupy the mind of the highest archangel, and which therefore deserve our most serious attention.
But we would more particularly recommend to every one to consider the mercies which he himself has received: we would have every one trace them from his earliest infancy to the present moment: and, in reference to those interpositions of