And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
How great is the evil of dissensions and divisions.
This is a lesson which is strongly brought out in the beginning of our Lord’s reply to the scribes. He shows the absurdity of supposing that Satan would ‘cast out Satan’, and so help to destroy his own power. He appeals to the notorious fact, which even His enemies must allow, that there can be no strength where there is division. ‘And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.’
This truth is one which does not receive sufficient consideration. On no point has the abuse of the right of private judgment produced so much evil. The divisions of Christians are one great cause of the weakness of the visible Church. They often absorb energy, time and power, which might have been well bestowed on better things. They furnish the infidel with a prime argument against the truth of Christianity. They help the devil. Satan, indeed, is the chief promoter of religious divisions. If he cannot extinguish Christianity, he labours to make Christians quarrel with one another, and to set every man’s hand against his neighbour. None knows better than the devil, that to divide is to conquer.
Let us resolve, so far as in us lies, to avoid all differences, dissensions and disputes in religion. Let us loathe and abhor them as the plague of the Churches. We cannot be too jealous about all saving truths. But it is easy to mistake morbid scrupulosity for conscientiousness, and zeal about mere trifles for zeal about the truth. Nothing justifies separation from a Church but the separation of that Church from the gospel. Let us be ready to concede much, and make many sacrifices for the sake of unity and peace.
*Excerpted from Day By Day With J.C. Ryle: A New Daily Devotional of Ryle’s Writings by J.C. Ryle (Christian Heritage, 2011).
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