F. G. Patterson.
Question: "How am I to endeavour to keep 'the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace?' What does it mean?"
Answer: "The Holy Ghost came down from heaven personally on the day of Pentecost, and dwells in each member of Christ individually (1 Cor. 6:19; Eph. 1:13, 14, etc.); and the saints thus indwelt upon the earth, form God's habitation through the Spirit. He dwells corporately in the whole Church (Eph. 2:22, etc.). He unites each member to Christ (1 Cor. 6:17). Each member to the other members (1 Cor. 12:13), and all the members to the Head. This is the Church of God — the body of Christ.
"This unity has remained untouched by all the failures of the Church. It is a unity which cannot be destroyed, because maintained by the Holy Ghost Himself. He constitutes the unity of the body of Christ.
"The Church of God was responsible to have maintained this unity of the Spirit, in practical outward and visible oneness. In this she has failed. This unity has not. It remains because the Spirit of God remains. It abides even when oneness of action is well nigh gone. The unity of a human body remains, when a limb is paralyzed; but where is its oneness? The paralyzed limb has not ceased to be of the body, but it has lost the healthy articulation of the body.
"Still, no matter what the ruin may be — no matter how terrible is the confused and unhealthy state in which things are — Scripture never allows that it is impracticable for the saints to walk in the fellowship of God's Spirit, and maintenance of the truth; such is always practicable. The Spirit of God pre-supposes evil and perilous days; still God enjoins us to endeavour 'to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;' and He enjoins nothing impracticable. We never can restore anything to its former state; but we can walk in obedience to the word, and in the company of the Spirit of God, who enables us to hold the Head. He will never sacrifice Christ and His honour and glory, for His members. Hence we are exhorted to endeavour to keep the 'unity of the Spirit' (not the 'unity of the body; which would prevent us from separating from any member of the body of Christ, no matter what his practice). The Holy Ghost glorifies Christ — and walking in fellowship with Him, we are kept specially identified with Christ.
"In this endeavour, I must begin with myself. My first duty is to separate myself to Christ, from everything that is contrary to Him: — 'Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity' (2 Tim. 2:19). This evil may be moral, practical, or doctrinal; no matter what it is I must get away from it; and when I have done so, I find myself practically in the fellowship of the Holy Ghost; and on a divine basis where all those who are true-hearted can be likewise. If I can find those who have done the same, I am to follow righteousness, faith, peace, charity, with them (2 Tim. 2:22). If I can find none where I am, I must stand alone with the Holy Ghost for my Lord. There are, however, the Lord be praised, many who have done likewise, and are on the line of action of the Spirit of God in the Church. They have the blessed promise as a resource, 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them' (Matt, 18:20). They are practically one, as led by the same Spirit, with every member of Christ in the world who has done likewise. I do not now refer to their absolute union with the whole body of Christ — but of the practice.
"The basis on which they are gathered (i.e., the Spirit of God, in the body of Christ) is wide enough in its principle to embrace the whole Church of God; it is the only divinely wide platform on earth. Narrow enough to exclude from its midst everything that is not of the Spirit of God: to admit such would put them practically out of the fellowship of the Holy Ghost.
"This endeavour does not confine itself to those who are thus together — one with the other. It has in view every member of Christ upon earth. The walk of those thus gathered, in separation to Christ, and practical fellowship of the Spirit and maintenance of the truth, is the truest love they can show toward their brethren who are not practically with them. Walking in truth and unity — they desire that their brethren may be won into the truth and fellowship of the Holy Ghost. They may be but a feeble remnant; but true remnants were ever distinguished by personal devotedness to the Lord, who ever specially watched over them with the most tender solicitude, and associated Himself specially with them!"