We were sitting outside our hut on the Mount of Olives in the brief Eastern twilight, and down below us, across the valley and up the other hill, lay the ancient city of Jerusalem.  Among us were two or three Indians, some Japanese and Chinese, an African chief, and a mixed group of Americans and Europeans. I said:- "Look down there and tell me where we all differ.  There's Bethlehem, near where I am pointing.  Every one of us here, be he Anglican, Baptist, Congregationalist, Methodist, Presbyterian or what not, can equally gather there and sing with a common soul and meaning, 'Oh, come let us adore Him.' And up there, over these rough hills, lies Galilee where our Lord taught, healed and ministered for His three brief years.  There isn't a single part of His message or an incident in His life that we boggle over, as one kirk against another.  Over there somewhere, lies the place of Calvary.  All of us can gather there, deploring our sins and praising God for His redeeming love. And on that hillside facing us, in such a tomb as Canon Guold showed us yesterday, lies the secret of the Resurrection, the Living Lord whose presence is now in His Church and in the lives of His people.* That is a quick picture of all the big things that really matter to us, the facts round which the faith of the centuries now gather.  And surely there are no lives there that can separate the Churches as Churches.  We may differ as individuals, but in all the massive things we are truly brethren and comrades."


[* It’s a common but mistaken belief amongst regenerate believers that the Holy Spirit, since His descent at Pentecost, will remain with each and every child of God.  But it is unwise to rest one’s belief on certain texts which, at first glance, would appear to teach this.  When we compare Scripture with Scripture, we discover that His indwelling in the lives of regenerate believers is conditional.  That is, His Presence and Power is conditional upon their obedience to Christ and good behaviour in the world toward all others. Acts 5: 29-32; Matt. 5: 44. cf. Rev. 3: 1.  If the Holy Spirit’s Presence was always assured, on the basis of regeneration alone, then there would be no need for real Christians to ask God for it! (Luke 11: 13). The teaching of the five wise and five foolish virgins, is to the same effect, Matt. 25.  The foolish, “when they took their lamps, took no oil with them”; and afterwards said to the wise: “Give us of your oil; because our lamps are going out”: (verse 8).  Since ‘Oil’ is typical of the Holy Spirit, how could their lamps ever have been lit in the first instance if they never had any oil?  To the same effect the lost son was “dead” while in a distant country squandering his wealth in wild living; but upon his repentance and return to his father’s service, his older son objected to the celebrations.  This proves to us that the lost son was a true family member before he left his father’s service.  His condition before he came to his senses is described as, “Dead”: but after his return, he is said to be “ALIVE AGAIN.”  He was spiritually “alive” before he left!  In what sense then was he “dead” before his return?  He was actively engaged in disobedience to his father will while in the far country; so the only other possible explanation is that, at that time, he was described as “deadthe Holy Spirit had left him to pursue his own will and evil desires..  And is this not precisely the truth which Jesus teaches us in another place when He says: “… many will come from the east and the west, and will take up their place at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  But the subjects of the kingdom” - (That is, regenerate believers who refuse to obey Christ and serve Him now.) - “will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where their will be weeping and gnashing of teeth:” (Matt. 8: 11, 12). cf. Gen. 27: 34, 37.]


As one after another spoke of these central things, I could not possibly have guessed to which particular communion he belonged.  This is perhaps the final fact, greater than all other facts - that we are solidly one in all the great affirmations of our faith.  Praise God, wherever we may separate, we can gather round the cradle and the cross, and sing our songs of adoration and praise.




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I have few greater happinesses than when I find myself in spiritual oneness with a Christian from whom, on grave subordinate points, I differ.  I am amply sure that full explanation may greatly reduce the area of real disagreements.




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The first thing we note is the Master's profound concern for truth.  He wants His disciples to be "sanctified in the truth" (John 17: 19).  The petition is more than once repeated, and leads straight on to the petition for unity.  It is most important to get this relation between truth and unity clear.  In the first instance, no doubt, it was mainly zeal for truth that led to the various separations of the Churches from one another, even though it was not always a zeal of the wisest and purest kind.  Certain errors had to be protested against, certain truths insisted upon at any cost.  But what was not always realized, and still is not always realized, is that whatever truth may be preserved by division, some truth is almost inevitably lost.  There is loss as well as gain.  The riches which are ours in Christ are in fact grander and fuller than any one section of His Church can possibly grasp.  We need to learn from one another, and we are not arbitrarily to decide for ourselves from whom we will learn.


Second, we note the Master's insistence on the supernatural nature and standard of the unity of His disciples.  It is a unity which comes from His indwelling in them, and its pattern is the unspeakably high one of His own relation to His Father.


That they may be one even as we are one."  Now whatever else this may mean, it certainly means a unity of the closest possible kind.  It is impossible to imagine one closer.  We may well think that such an ideal lies, and must lie, ever beyond us in this sinful world, but that does not make it irrelevant.  Far from it.  Just because it is beyond us, we must ever be seeking to attain it, we must ever be judging ourselves by it.




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If a man denies me the right to teach or practice something which I have learned in God's word, that becomes a test of fellowship; he has made it so.  I may extend to him my fellowship, despite some matters in his teaching in which I think he is at variance with the Scriptures, but if he demands silence on my part where I find the Scriptures speak, I cannot lend co-operation in such case.  A principle is involved on which depends progress in the Truth. That principle it is neither my right nor prerogative to compromise.  Some serious trouble has come at this very point.  It is well that we keep the real issue clear.




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We have no right to say that a man may be in the Church and yet not belong to the body of Christ, that he may belong to the Church's invisible soul but not to her visible body, to the Church in the broader sense but not to the Church in the narrower. Anglicans have sometimes said to me in argument such things as this:- "Oh yes, you are a genuine Christian all right, because (apart from anything else) you have been baptized; and in a certain broad sense you may be reckoned as within the Church: but you are not a member of the 'historic' Church (or the 'Apostolic Church,' or the 'Church Catholic') because you do not accept so-and-so."  All such distinctions are inadmissible.  If one is truly within the Church at all, then one is in the historic Apostolic, Catholic, Universal Church, in her body as well as in her soul.  Only one sense of the term “the Church” in the singular can be admitted as legitimate.


J. R. Seeley said of our Lord:- "Without excluding any, He suffered the unworthy to exclude themselves."  A like policy would seem to be best for His Church also.




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The basis of our union ought always to be as broad as the conditions of [eternal] salvation.  No man has any right to make his plea for union narrower than this.  It is wrong to make anything a condition of fellowship which is not essential to [one’s initial] salvation.  We draw the line here.  That which will damn a soul and separate us in the next world should divide us in this; nothing else should.