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Richard Baxter on unity and peace in the Church
Jesus prayed for unity in his Church before it was even truly born, asking God “that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22). But it didn’t take long for petty differences to slink in and begin tearing the Church apart. Writing in the 17th century, Richard Baxter offers some tips that are still relevant today for mending the rifts in the Church. The below are from his collected writings, The Practical Works of Richard Baxter, and pastoral guide, The Reformed Pastor.
1. Tolerate minor differences
He who is not a son of peace is not a son of God. All other sins destroy the church consequentially, but division and separation demolish it directly. Building the church is but an orderly joining of the materials; and what then is disjoining, but pulling down? Many doctrinal differences must be tolerated in a church. And why, but for unity and peace? Therefore, disunion and separation are utterly intolerable.
2. Embrace the similarities
I would recommend to all my brethren, as the most necessary thing to the Church’s peace, that you unite in necessary truths, and tolerate tolerable failings; and bear with one another in things that may be borne with; and do not make a larger creed and more necessaries than God has done.
3. Respect other members of the body
For one sect to say, “Ours is the true church,” and another to say, “No, but ours is the true church,” is as mad as to dispute whether your hall, or kitchen, or parlor, or coal-house is your house; and for one to say, “This is the house,” and another, “No, but it is that,” when a child can tell them that the best is but a part and the house contains them all.
4. Love the Church
How rare is it to meet with a man who smarts or bleeds with the Church’s wounds, or sensibly takes them to heart as his own; or that ever had eager thoughts of a cure! No, but almost every party thinks that the happiness of the rest consists only in turning to them; and because they are not of their mind, they cry, “Down with them,” and are glad to hear of their fall, thinking that is the way to the Church’s rising—that is, their own. How few are there that understand the true state of controversies between the several parties; or that ever well discerned how many of them are but verbal, and how many are real!”
This adapted excerpt, courtesy of Logos Bible Software, is from 300 Quotations for Preachers, with Slides. 300 Quotations contains quotes from more than 70 authors and works, including Anselm of Canterbury, Augustine of Hippo, Richard Baxter, Bernard of Clairvaux, John Calvin, G. K. Chesterton, John Chrysostom, Irenaeus of Lyons, Thomas à Kempis, Martin Luther, and more. Share the quotations with professionally designed slides—one to accompany each quotation. Purchase 300 Quotations for Preachers today.