Friday, June 05, 2009

Litigation among Christians

The subject of litigation among Christians, and even the relation which they stand in to one another as such, render the adjustment of their differences more delicate and embarrassing. It is always a work of difficulty to reconcile hostile parties, whatever the matter of strife may happen to be. Once involved in litigation about civil rights and property, men, not of the most contentious or obstinate tempers, have been known to persevere until they had ruined themselves and their families. When unhappily discord and contention arise between those who are allied by blood, or who were united by the bonds of close friendship, their variance is of all others the most inveterate and deadly. "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city; and their contentions are like the bars of a castle" (Prov. 18:19). If "love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave" (Song 8:6). Of all the ties which bind man to man, religion is the most powerful, and when once loosened or burst asunder, it is the hardest to restore. Religious differences engage and call into action the strongest powers of the human mind. Conscience comes to the aid of convictions of right, and zeal for the glory of God combines with that jealousy with which we watch over everything that is connected with our own reputation.

Feelings of personal offense and injury form no inconsiderable obstacle in the way of removing divisions in the Church. In one degree or another these are unavoidable, when religious differences arise and grow to a height. They are no proper ground of separation, and the recollection of them ought not to be allowed to stand in the way of a desirable reunion. If in any instance personal injury has been combined with injuries done to truth, those who have been the sufferers need to exert the utmost jealousy over their own spirits. Self-love will lead us insensibly to confound and identify the two; and what we flatter ourselves to be pure zeal for religion and hatred of sin, may, in the process of a rigid and impartial examination, be found to contain a large mixture of resentment for offenses which terminated on ourselves.

Victory, not truth, is too often the object of litigant parties, and provided they can gain this, though it should be achieved by over-reaching one another, and by practicing the low tricks of worldly policy, they will boast of a religious triumph.

Thomas McCrie(1772-1835).

McCrie well knew the sorrows of division. In 1806, with three other ministers, he was forced to separate from the Antiburgher side of the Secession Synod to form the Constitutional Associate Presbytery. In 1821 he published Two Discourses on the
Unity of the Church, Her Divisions, and Their Removal from which this excerpt is taken.