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venerate and love him in a way that the world does not. And being possessed of these holy feelings, they make it their great business to promote his interests, to maintain his honor, and to propagate, as far as possible, the same sentiments of legal obedience by which ihey themselves are actuated. For them no sacrifice is too great, no labor is too arduous, and no suffering is too severe; they cheerfully submit to it all, so that their God is glorified.
3. True Christians are also distinguished by peculiar traits of resemblance to God and their. Redeemer. They not only adore the Divine nature, but are in one sense and to some degree partakers of it. They not only “behold in a glass the glory of the Lord, but are changed into the same image from glory to glory.” When the Spirit regenerated them, it left the impress of the paternal image on their hearts. Through the grace of God they obtain a rectitude of character widely inferior in degree but the same in kind as that which adorns the character of God. They walk in the light as he is in the light, and in some good degree walk and do as Christ also walked and did.
Brotherly love, then, is a love which is founded entirely upon these distinguishing traits. It is excited only by these particulars. To love a Christian as such, is to love him on account of his high and peculiar relation to God, for his love and zeal for God, and his resemblance to God.
Hence it is easily discoverable how “love to the brethren" is an evidence, “that we have passed from death unto life.” If we have a real attachment for men on account of their intimate relation to God and Christ, it shows that we respect and honor God and Christ. As the carnal mind is enmity against God," it shows that, that enmity has been subdued. Just as we feel favorably towards the domestics of a family on account of their relation to their master is an evidence of affection to the master himself, so our love for Christians because they are the children of God is an evidence that we esteem and love God himself. And if we respect and love men for their love and zeal for God, it shows that we also love the cause of God. Just as subjects prove their loyal and affectionate disposition towards their prince by abetting his in opposition to the disaffected party, so we prove that we are reconciled to God, love him, and desire his glory. by our adherence to those whose great business it is to plead his cause against a wicked
world, and to promote the interests of his kingdom. And if we esteem and love men because they resemble God in holiness and goodness, it shows that we love holiness and goodness, and have a real Christian attachment to those great moral properties in which the beauty of the Divine character consists. We have here, then, a safe and easy test of Christian character. “Hereby we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." And “if a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar. For he that loveth not his brother, whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen?” this,” says the Lord, “shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”
Genuine brotherly love shows itself in various ways. It will lead to prayer for the brethren; it will dispose us to bear one another's burdens by assisting and relieving each other; it will make us forbearing and forgiving; it will urge us to mutual labors for the final perseverance and salvation of each other; and it will beget a tender solicitude for each others welfare in all things. It prompts us to defend our brethren when defamed, to admonish them when in fault, to deal tenderly with them when differences and controversies exist, to attempts to lessen grounds of dissension and widen those of agreement, to put the best construction upon doubtful conduct, and to rejoice in the least opening for peace.
Nor does brotherly love confine itself to the brethren of its own individual denomination. It extends to the whole brotherhood of believers parcelled out into the numerous Christian societies and congregations throughout the world. “ Brotherly love is not the giving up our conscientious convictions—this is cowardice; nor is it the denying their real importance—this is latitudinarianism; nor is it the mixing of all opinions together—this is in doctrine skepticism, and in discipline confusion. No: Love adheres firmly to its own fixed principles, sustained by faith and a good conscience, and yields not the least in what it views as essential truth, and yet regards with candor opposite errors, especially if they are not fundamental, and loves the persons of those who hold them, if they are, so far as they bear the image of Christ. Love abstains from controversy, when duty will allow; spares an adversary where it is possible; conducts its arguments with fairness and temper; and, if it be possible, stifles the rising irritation at once, and returns to
all the offices and occupations of peace.”! And though we may conscientiously differ in many points from other Christian societies, yet, if we are Christians, we are bound to love and respect them, so far as they exhibit the distinguishing traits of Christian character.
And how strong are the motives we have for the cultivation of brotherly love! 1st. Christ has commanded it. In the night in which he was betrayed he said to his disciples, “ Little children, a new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” If then we would obey our Savior, we must exercise brotherly love. 2nd. Christ has set us an example of love, and if we would be like him, we must also cultivate the feeling of love. “ Beloved, (says John) let us love one another: for love is of God.” “ In this was mani. fested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only. begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” 3d. And then it is a great blessing in itself. Of old it was sung, “Behold how good, and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard : that went down to the skirts of his garments, as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion!" It prevents a thousand evils, and secures to the soul unqualified delight.
" Love is the grace that lives and sings,
When faith and hope shall cease.
In the sweet realms of bliss."
Need I exhort you, then, to cultivate brotherly love? Oh how much better it would be if we would only love one another. How much more of heaven might we have on earth! Brethren, do love one another. As you wish to do as Christ commanded his followers—as you desire to do as he did as it is your high aspiration to be happy-love one another. If any have offended against you, forgive them. While your Savior forgives you, so long and so often do you forgive them. Do you not have to ask God to forgive
1 Wilson's Lectures on Collossians, p. 28.
you every day? So then do you forgive those that trespass against you. For “if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Heed, then, the exhortation of the apostle, and “ let brotherly love continue.”
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some bave entertained angels unawares."
This exhortation was of particular importance in the early times of Christianity. Not only were houses of entertainment very scarce, but on account of the persecutions waged against the followers of Christ, multitudes were driven to and fro in the carth, and rendered entirely dependent upon the charities of their brethren for all the necessaries and comforts of life. It was important, therefore, that the early Christians should be incited to receive, lodge, and entertain these wanderers. “Let it not be imagined, however, that this is a duty confined to any one period, or called forth only by the extraordinary circumstances of the church during the first ages-a common expedient, this, for diluting the peculiar morality of the Gospel, or blunting the force and application of its most authoritative precepts. There is here an obligation laid on Christians of all times as indelible as the record which contains it.” It is a duty inseparably connected with that charity of feeling and conduct which enters essentially into the Christian character; and it is as binding upon us as upon any others. It is true that the circumstances of some will not admit of a liberal hospitality. There are some so poor, that it is not to be expected that their doors should be thrown open for the entertainment of strangers. But the temper from which this species of charity proceeds, that is, a humane, generous, and benevolent temper, may be and must be cultivated by all who lay claim to the Christian name. And even the humble cottage of the peasant may often exbibit noble specimens of hospitality. Every man who has a house to sleep in may be benevolent to strangers.
When I speak of hospitality, I mean something different from that “conviviality which opens one's house to festive parties made up of acquaintances from the immediate neighborhood”—something different from “that expenditure on the enjoyments of the social board which now forms nearly all that is known under the name of hospitable.” I mean kindness to strangers in the proper sense of
Chalmer's Lectures on Romans, p. 460.
the word. Kindness and humanity to such as have no claims upon us by virtue of intimate acquaintance or relationship.
The great motive which the apostle presents for the cultivation of this Christian virtue is, that “thereby some have entertained angels unawares." . Abraham and Lot thus took in strangers to share in their hospitality; and it so turned out that these guests were ministers from God sent to them on errands of love. And it may so occur with us, that “in entertaining strangers we may be honored with the presence of those whose society will be to us an honor and a blessing. It is not well for us to miss the opportunity of the presence, the conversation, and the prayers of the good. The influence of such guests in a family is worth more than it costs to entertain them. If there is danger that we may sometimes receive those that are of an opposite character, yet it is not wise on account of such possible danger, to lose the opportunity of entertaining those whose presence would be a blessing. Many a parent owes the conversion of a child to the influence of a pious stranger in his family; and the hope that this may occur, or that our own souls may be blessed, should make us ready, at all proper times, to welcome the feet of the stranger to our doors. Many a man, if he had been accosted as Abraham was at the door of his tent by strangers, would have turned them rudely away; many a one in the situation of Lot would have sent the unknown guests rudely from his door: but who can estimate what would have been the results of such a course on the destiny of those good men and their families ?
Make it a point, then, never to turn a stranger from your house when it is possible for you to entertain him. You know the fate of the rich man who left poor Lazarus to perish at his gate. You know, too, what the Judge will say to those on his left hand, in the last day, “ Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: . Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” Imitate the example of the patriarchs to whom reference was made, and like the primitive Christians,“ be not forgetful to entertain strangers.”
“Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and the which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.”
* Barnes' Notes in loc.