The Unity of the Spirit

Eph. 4:3.---'Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit.'

What is to be kept is 'the unity of the Spirit.' This phrase may admit of different interpretations, but let us understand it in its most strictly literal sense, as indicating the unity of which the Holy Spirit is the author, that oneness of believing men in Christ which is the Spirit's new creation. Of course, in that view, it must be a unity corresponding in its nature and character to the nature and character of Him who is its author and Creator. It cannot therefore be merely outward and formal. It may be that; but it must be something more than that. It must be inward and spiritual. And the outward and the inward, the formal and the spiritual, must meet in this unity, and harmonize and be at one.

Thus the unity may be regarded as twofold. It may be viewed in two lights---as outwardly manifested, and as inwardly wrought. But in either view, it is the unity of the Spirit. It is unity of which the Spirit is the immediate author. It is unity of the Spirit's making.

The outward Unity.---It is a unity that may be seen, and known, and read of all men. Now, holiness and love, godliness and charity, if they exist at all, must make themselves visible. A holy and loving man, or woman, or child, is not an inward ideal, but an outward, palpable reality. The Spirit makes holy and loving men, and women, and children. And that is His unity in its outward manifestation, as well as its inward birth. Thus He manifests His unity, inwardly and outwardly. That is the visible unity which He produces, which alone is worthily and truly His.

No doubt the unity of a common badge, or of a common dress, a shaven crown, a red cross, a peculiar gown or hat, scarlet stockings, and the like, may be more discernible, and discernable with less trouble. It may be deceptive, nevertheless; specious, yet hollow; a seeming oneness, covering all but infinite diversities. But true holiness and true love are everywhere and always the same. And there is nothing under them. They cover nothing. Where holiness and love prevail, there can be no diversities. All holy and loving persons speak and act alike, because they think and feel alike. Is not that the true ideal of the holy catholic church?---holy and loving persons associated together?

There is a pleasing story of the conduct of a Roman Catholic priest in Ireland who, when the saintly Protestant Bishop of Kilmore, William Bedell, was buried in 1642, attended the funeral, and exclaimed, "O that my spirit might be with his!" Even the fierce conflicts of that cruel age, and the immediate inflammations which then made life in Ireland almost unendurable, could not destroy the witness of his spirit to the essential Christianity.

The inward Unity.---But the real seat of this unity is within, in the heart. There, of course, it is invisible, save only to God the Father, who is indeed Himself its living center. For the unity which the Spirit effects among all the redeemed is primarily and essentially unity in God the Father; unity, in a high sense, with God the Father. It is the unity of which Christ speaks when He prays: 'That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me' [Jn. 17:21-23].

That oneness which Christ thus seeks is the unity of the Spirit. The Spirit is Himself one with the Father and the Son, in the Divine unity or oneness with which, in some sense, the human is here so wonderfully identified. It is as being Himself one with the Father and the Son, in their mutual indwelling in one another in love, that He makes us one; through the Son's dwelling in us as the Father dwelleth in Him; and the indwelling in us consequently of the very love with which the Father loves the Son. That is 'the unity of the Spirit,' the only unity that can be worthily ascribed to Him. It is, as the Lord intimates, a unity which, in its fruit or issue, may be and must be visible; for by it the world is to 'know that the Father hath sent him.' But in its deep source the seat is invisible. It is the secret of the Lord which is with them that fear Him. It is a communication made by the Spirit of God to and within the deepest spirit in man. It is His causing us to know and believe the love with which God has loved us---loving us as He loves His own Son---that constitutes our unity or oneness, first with God the Father, and then, in Him, with one another as brethren. It is no narrow, earthly, selfish unity, but a unity wide and high and heavenly.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha