Peace and Love Will Reconcile Differences
In the midst of all differences of judgment, and weaknesses of the saints, it is not impossible that we may live in peace and love together.
If there may be peace and love between God and his saints, then surely, notwithstanding these things, the saints may be at love and peace among themselves. Let this groundwork be laid, and let our hearts be very possessed by it. Banish the vain conceit that has disturbed greatly churches in all ages. If people differ in their judgment and practice in matters of religion—though it is in things that are but the weaknesses of godly people, and if there still needs to be flaming hearts and division—let all peaceable people deny this consequence. Let’s not say, “it will be so”; and that our words may be made good, afterward, to indeed make it so.
We labored to get our opinions into one, but they won’t come together. Perhaps in our endeavors toward agreement we began at the wrong end. Let’s try what we can do at the other end; perhaps we will have better success there. Let’s labor to join our hearts, to engage our affections one to another. If we can’t be of one mind that we may agree, let’s agree that we may be of one mind.
Strife Won’t Gain What Love Can
Strife will never gain what may be had by love and peace. We are all inclined to have our own way. The first thing many people do, if their wills are crossed, is presently to strive and contend. But this should be the last thing, after all other means are tried, and should never be made use of but in case of pure necessity. We should first think, Is there any way in the world whereby it is possible we may have our desires satisfied with peace? Let’s try this, and another way, a third, a fourth, indeed, a hundred ways, if they lie between us and the way of strife, before we come to meddle with that.
The way of love, of engaging hearts one to another, is the only way to bring persons into unity of judgment; indeed, the only way when all is done for people to have their wills. I may give you this or the other rule to bring you to think and do the same thing. But the most excellent way, with hyperbole, is the way of love. If you could get your minds to agree by other ways, certainly you could not enjoy it with that sweetness and comfort as you may if you get it this way. Certainly there is no person living who does not repent that he or she ever got their way by strife and contention when it might have been obtained by love and peace.
Tell me, is it a sign of valor in a man to draw a sword at every insect that comes near? Indeed, at every fly that lights upon him? Wouldn’t that be folly and madness? A soft, gentle breath will do it better. God prizes most what he has from us by love. . .
Another Person’s Good Is Ours as Well as Theirs
We are all of one body. Whatever good others have, it is the good of the body. It makes them in some way able to do that good that we should have done or at least that we should desire to have done.
If you are godly, you have an interest in all the eminently godly people in the world: in all their gifts, in all their graces, and in all they have or do. . . .
To Yield Is More Honorable Than to Overcome
Many people in their anger will say, I will get even with him. I will tell you a way how you may rise above him: forgive him. By yielding, pardoning, putting up with the wrong, you show you have power over yourself, and this is a greater thing than to have power over another. If someone offends me merely through weakness, this is their affliction.
In this they are neither an enemy to self nor to me. They mourn for it, and I will pity them in their mourning. They are more troubled for what they have done than I have cause to be for what I have suffered. If they offend willingly and purposely, they are their own enemy more than mine.
If, when others wrong you, you don’t care what it takes to be right, this is your folly and madness. If someone pricks me with a pin, will I therefore in anger run my knife into my side? If someone is your enemy, will you from one enemy make two? Will you also be an enemy to yourself? Indeed, a greater enemy than any person living can be to you? All the people in the world can’t make you sin, except you will it for yourself.
Objection: But how will this join us one to another?
Answer: Very much: both as it holds together the goodness of peace with all people and as it strengthens the heart to make and keep peace with God and one’s own conscience. A person who has satisfaction enough within can easily bear affliction and troubles that come from without. This is the cause of the ornery attitude of many men and women in their families and with their neighbors: there are secret gaps between God and their own consciences.
An excerpt from The Causes, Evils, and Cures of Heart and Church Divisions
Copyright © 2015 by Abingdon Press