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The Rev. P. S. Moxom, D.D., of Springfield, Mass., preached last night in Appleton Chapel on "Christian Unity." He said in part: The unity which Jesus contemplated and for which he prayed is the unity of the whole Christian world. The primitive Christians were closely united and St. Paul spoke repeatedly of the universality of divine love and righteousness. The church, it is true, has not always been true to this, and in a grim despair has made its doctrines narrow, but some of the early belief can always be traced in them.
Unity was almost from the beginning confounded with uniformity, and hence arose most of the religious persecutios. This dominant conviction assumed three different forms,- dogmatic, ritual, or ecclesiastical. It is a well-known fact, however, that none of the three have ever been fully successful. The dogmatical uniformity failed first of all. Even the famous council of Nicea, the first oecumenical council, ended in a strife that effectually split the church.
The reason for the failure of these doctrines of unity is that men will think as individuals. Thought may be regulated or suppressed, but can not be coerced. Changes in the world necessitate changes in formulae. In a word, advance means diversity.
There never can be one creed wide enough to cause dogmatic unity. Ritual unity demands universal assent to certain rites, but different men demand different rites. The same reason applies to ecclesiastical unity and its impossibility. The various divisions of the church express and satisfy the religious differences of men. The different sects are, however, slowly changing and approaching each other. All denominations are in a sense transient, reflecting as they do the necessities of the social mind and life, and they change with time. The extreme peculiarities are first modified, and thus it is that the sects are drawing closer. There is, however, no type now existing of the universal church of the future. Some things will be taken from every church, but not the whole of any one. The church that is to endure must have the unity of obedience to the law of love.
The result of this will be a recognition of similarity beneath diversity, and thus an immense power, spiritual and moral, will be obtained over men. The church's influence is great now, but small compared to what it might be.
The strong efforts towards unity now being made show that spirit of Jesus Christ is striving to a fuller expression in the hearts of men. These are welcome for they point to a new day in the world, when, having gotten free from dogmas, the church will live in the spirit of the Lord as personified in Jesus Christ.
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