SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT. BY REGINALD HEBER, M.A.

Romans, xv. 7, Receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God,

The meaning, which is borne by the word " receive" in the present passage, — in what manner, and in what respects we are commanded to " receive one another," — will be made more plain by looking back to the first verse of the fourteenth chapter, and to the general chain of reasoning, in which, through all the following verses, the Apostle is engaged. He there instructs us "to receive him that is weak in the faith, but not to doubtful disputations :" and he then goes on to reckon up the various unimportant points of doctrine and practice, on which ignorant or superstitious Christians were, even in those early times, divided. Those differences, almost all, arose from questions about the law of Moses, which one very numerous party believed to be still in force ; and which the other side, as well as the Apostles them-

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selves, were taught by the Holy Ghost to believe, had been done away by the sacrifice and death of the Messiah.

Thus, the former, or Jewish party, accounted it sinful to eat pork, or rabbits, or water-fowl, or anything dressed with blood, or anything which had not been killed by a Jew, or in any other manner than that which the Jewish customs appointed : and as in a heathen country it was difficult to find any flesh-meat free from some one or other of these objections ; these men chose rather to live on herbs and roots only, than to transgress the ordinances of Moses and the ancient rabbins. The latter, on the other hand, knew that God, as he had declared by vision to St. Peter, had made all things clean by the blood of his Son ; and that whatever food was wholesome, was also lawful to be eaten in moderattion and thankfulness. Again, the former were accustomed
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to keep holy, not only the first day of the week, or our Sunday, which from the begining of the Church had been always observed as a day of public prayer and solemn assemblage ; but they, moreover, observed the feasts of the new moon, and of the tabernacles, and the passover, as appointed by Moses or the Jewish elders ; and above all they were resolute to abstain from all work on the Jewish Sabbath, that is, from Friday evening to Saturday evening. The opposite party, far better instructed in the nature of Christs,

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religion, well knew that these observances were no longer binding on the conscience : that the law of ceremonies of times and days had been cancelled by Christ, and nailed, as useless, to his cross : that one day was not by nature more holy than another ; and that the church of Christ might fix on any day, which they thought fitting for the necessary work of worship and in3

struction.

To make peace between these parties is St. Paul's endeavour, in his thirteenth and the beginning of his fourteenth chapter ; and this purpose he pursues by urging on them both the consideration of the common object, which both professed to have in view, — the glory, that is, of God, and the advance of Christ's religion. The Jewish Christian, who abstained from flesh-meat and from work on the Saturday, did both, as he believed, in compliance with God's will ; and with the hope that by thus favouring the prejudices of his countrymen, he should remove in part, their objections to the Gospel. The Gentile Christian, for his part, was moved by a more enlightened notion of God's glory and of the power of the Gospel : he would not do away with the liberty wherewith Christ had made him free, by a return to the elementary forms of the elder covenant ; and he feared with reason, that the heathen would never be converted to the faith of Christ, if that faith were clogged with a burthen

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of ceremonies and restrictions, which the Jews themselves had been scarcely able to bear.

That one of these opposite parties was right, and the other, wrong ; St. Paul does not deny : and that the latter was right, he had proved at large in all the former chapters of this epistle. But that they both meant well, and both, though by different methods, pursued the same great object, he urges on both, and more particularly on his own, or the better instructed party, as a reason for patience and forbearance, and, to use his own expression, for "receiving one another." He reminds those, who were of the same opinion with himself, that the superstition of their antagonists, though it might be weak, and might be wrong, was of infinitely little importance, when compared with the righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, which should be the objects of a Christian's care. He does more ; he entreats
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them to comply, where compliance was innocent, with the prejudices of their weaker brethren ; preferring, rather, to abate some little of their own Christian liberty, than to run the risk, either of leading by their example, those brethren into practices against their private conscience, or, of shocking their settled habits, and of driving them from the Catholic Church, or, it might be, from the profession of Christianity. " We then," he continues, " that are strong, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please our-

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selves : let every one of us please his neighbour, for his good to edification."

And this rule of conduct he confirms by the example of Christ, whose zeal for the glory of God, and the good of men's souls, caused him patiently to endure the contradiction of sinners ; and of whom it was, for our instruction, long
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before, foretold by David that he should do so. For " whatsoever things were written aforetime," he continues, " were written for our learning ; that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope." And " the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like minded one towards another, according to Christ Jesus ; that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God." 2

As if he had said, the main truth, which Scripture teaches us, is the necessity of mutual forbearance ; nor can we have hope or comfort from the word of God, unless we also learn patience from it. And may God, whose Holy Ghost gives both patience and consolation, grant, that ye may in perfect charity join each other in His common service and glory. " Wherefore," for to this point whatever has been said conducts us, " wherefore," he continues in the words of the text, " receive ye one another, even as Christ also received us to the glory of God."

1 Romans, xv. 1, 2. 2 Romans, xv. 4 — 6.
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This, then, is the rule with which St. Paul winds up his argument ; and this, it is plain, must be understood as a command to tolerate, or put up with, as far as possible, our neighbour's religious errors : and, as an assurance, that not every difference in doctrine, or in ceremony, is sufficient to authorise Christians in separating from each other ; and that, where an opinion is harmless, he, who follows it, is, whether right or wrong, to be regarded as a brother in Christ ; and, inasmuch as he is weaker in the faith than ourselves, should, in consideration of that very weakness, be treated more tenderly.

The usefulness and timeliness of this advice, when first delivered by St. Paul, you will have already seen from the short account, which I have given, of the disputes which prevailed among the early Christians. And indeed, no
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time can be named in the history of the Christian church, during which such a caution, as is here given, would not have been extremely useful and seasonable ; since by far the greater number of the quarrels, which have arisen among the household of faith, have arisen from differences of opinion as to subjects as comparatively unimportant, in themselves, as the question whether a man were to dine on pork or on herbs. It is lamentable to tell, that many lives were formerly lost in a quarrel whether Easter should be kept in the same week with the Jewish Passover \ or whether its yearly

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return should be fixed by another rule : and that among the principal causes which brought on the great rebellion in this country, and the death of King Charles the First on the scaffold, was the offence taken by some serious and melancholy, but narrow-minded persons, at the surplice which, by ancient custom, is worn by our clergy during
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Divine service. And, though I do not think that religious bitterness of this kind, or to this extent, is a prevailing fault of the present day ; yet are there so many who, for reasons full as trifling, or for no reason at all, desert the communion of the national Church for other and smaller congregations ; and the advice of St. Paul is applicable to so many points of behaviour, which, if not uncharitable in themselves, yet tend to the breach of Christian charity, that our time will not be ill employed in explaining the several cases in which it becomes us to remember this inspired counsel of the Apostle.

In the first place, since the unity of love and faith and worship among Christians was, in the opinion of St. Paul, of so great and exceeding value, that he esteems, as of less consequence even then, that Christian liberty from the Jewish law, which it is the leading object of all his epistles to enforce; it is certain that those Christian churches are greatly blameable, which impose, or needlessly retain, such terms of communion as are found by experience to drive away men of tender con10

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science from their worship ; and that those private Christians are still more so, who, under the pretence of a tender conscience, or without so good an apology, withdraw themselves without just cause, from the established church and the majority of their fellow Christians to follow new teachers and attend irregular places of worship. For that the excuses, which are commonly urged for this conduct are by no means sufficient to justify it, will be apparent, if we recollect that the far greater differences of St. Paul's time were not, by him, accounted sufficient to justify separation. The question then disputed was the continuance, or the destruction, of the whole law of Moses. The reasons, which are most frequently brought, in the present day, for deserting the church in favour of some smaller meeting house, are that the regular clergy, for the most part, write down their sermons, that the prayers of the Church are
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too long, or that better and more moving preachers are to be found with the dissenters than with us. Now the answer to all these objections, and to every other objection which I have ever heard against the establishment, is that, which the words of St. Paul supply, namely, that, whichever side is right in questions so frivolous, it is better tp bear with a small error, than run the danger of a grievous sin; better to tolerate the harmless superstition of those with whom we worship God, than, by separating from them, to offend vol. i. c

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their consciences, and to tear asunder the unity of Christ's flock.

That this was the example which Christ himself, under like circumstances, has set us, we may learn from every page of the Gospel. The church of Israel and Judah was in His days, we know,
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corrupted by many human inventions ; and the morals and doctrine of the greater number of its regular teachers must have been, in many points, contemptible to the wisdom, and offensive to the purity, of one so wise and so holy as our Lord. Yet, because that church was established, it was wonderful to observe the Saviour's regularity in His attendance on its sacrifices and its ceremonies, in its synagogues and its temple ; how anxious He, on many occasions, showed Himself to avoid giving offence, and, even in ceremonial matters, to fulfil that righteousness of which He needed no supply; and how strongly He enjoins His disciples to observe and obey the commandments of those very scribes and pharisees whose errors and whose evil lives He, elsewhere, reproves so sharply. The mischief of acquiescing in established error, is often far less, than the mischief which arises from attaching too great a value to our own opinions ; and it follows that, even if the causes of complaint against our Church were well founded, which I do not think they are, yet, inasmuch as they are not even pretended to be of a kind which endangers the salvation of souls,
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those, who separate from us on these accounts, are lamentably negligent of the caution here given by St. Paul. Very strange and terrible things are written in the New Testament against the sin of schism, or causeless separation from our fellow Christians. And it becomes those who thus separate, to have a better and more unavoidable cause of separation to plead, than I have ever heard advanced by those who separate from the Church of England.

But as the meaning of the word " receive," as we have seen already, is, in this place, to tolerate, — to put up with — nay, in lawful points, as St. Paul's example shows, to humour — the weakness of our brethren ; so is this command of a still more extensive application than that which I have mentioned, and relates not only to the terms of communion with a Church, but to the behaviour which
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the members of different communions are required, in private life, and in the common intercourse of the world, to observe towards each other ; and, more particularly still, to the respect which we are bound to pay to the religious opinions of all men, whether members of the same church with us or no ; and whether those opinions be, in our judgement, well founded or no, so long as they are harmless in themselves, and sincerely professed; — and in every case where compliance on our part will not produce a greater evil than contradiction. But this, which is, perhaps, the most practical

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their consciences, and to tear asunder the unity of Christ's flock.

That this was the example which Christ himself, under like circumstances, has set us, we may
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learn from every page of the Gospel. The church of Israel and Judah was in His days, we know, corrupted by many human inventions ; and the morals and doctrine of the greater number of its regular teachers must have been, in many points, contemptible to the wisdom, and offensive to the purity, of one so wise and so holy as our Lord. Yet, because that church was established, it was wonderful to observe the Saviour's regularity in His attendance on its sacrifices and its ceremonies, in its synagogues and its temple ; how anxious He, on many occasions, showed Himself to avoid giving offence, and, even in ceremonial matters, to fulfil that righteousness of which He needed no supply ; and how strongly He enjoins His disciples to observe and obey the commandments of those very scribes and pharisees whose errors and whose evil lives He, elsewhere, reproves so sharply. The mischief of acquiescing in established error, is often far less, than the mischief which arises from attaching too great a value to our own opinions ; and it follows that, even if the causes of complaint against our Church were well founded, which I do not think they are, yet,
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inasmuch as they are not even pretended to be of a kind which endangers the salvation of souls,

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those, who separate from us on these accounts, are lamentably negligent of the caution here given by St. Paul. Very strange and terrible things are written in the New Testament against the sin of schism, or causeless separation from our fellow Christians. And it becomes those who thus separate, to have a better and more unavoidable cause of separation to plead, than I have ever heard advanced by those who separate from the Church of England.

But as the meaning of the word " receive," as we have seen already, is, in this place, to tolerate, — to put up with — nay, m lawful points, as St. Paul's example shows, to humour — the weakness of our brethren ; so is this command of a still more extensive application than that which I have men17

tioned, and relates not only to the terms of communion with a Church, but to the behaviour which the members of different communions are required, in private life, and in the common intercourse of the world, to observe towards each other ; and, more particularly still, to the respect which we are bound to pay to the religious opinions of all men, whether members of the same church with us or no ; and whether those opinions be, in our judgement, well founded or no, so long as they are harmless in themselves, and sincerely professed; — and in every case where compliance on our part will not produce a greater evil than contradiction. But this, which is, perhaps, the most practical

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