« PoprzedniaDalej »
REGENERATION. ITS ATTENDANTS.-BROTHERLY LOVE.
Joan xiii. 34.A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.
IN the three preceding discourses, I have considered the Nature of Evangelical Benevolence; and the two principal Objections against the doctrine, which teaches the existence, and explains the nature of this attribute. At the present time, I propose to examine the Last of those characteristics, which were mentioned as Attendants on Regeneration : viz. Brotherly Love; or the Love, which is due to the disciples of Christ.
Commentators have, to a considerable extent at least, considered this command of Christ as merely enjoining benevolence. They observe, that it is called new, not because it had not been given before; for, they say, it had been published by Moses, and other writers of the Old Testament; but because of its peculiar excellence: remarking, at the same time, that the Hebrews customarily denoted the peculiar excellence of a thing by styling it new. With this view of the subject I cannot accord. The command, given to the Apostles, and by consequence to all the followers of Christ, to love one another, was not, in my view, published by Moses, nor by any of the succeeding Prophets. Certainly it was not published in form. There is not in the Old Testament, at least I have not been able to find in it, any command, requiring good men to love each other as good men. The general benevolence of the Gospel towards all men, whether friends or enemies, is, indeed, abundantly enjoined both by Moses and the prophets. But this benevolence regards men merely as Intelligent beings, capable of happiness; and is itself the love of happiness, as heretofore explained. The Love, required in the text, is the Love of good men, as such; as the followers of Christ; as wearing his image; as resembling him in their moral character. This Love, in modern language, is called Complacency, or the Love of virtue. Instead of being Benevolence, it is a delight in that benevolence; and is directed not towards the happiness of Intelligent beings, but towards the virtue of good beings.
A command, enjoining this Love, was, I think, never given in form, before Christ gave it in the text; and was, therefore, new in the proper sense at that time. That it is not called new on account of its superior excellence, will be reasonably believed, if we remember, that Christ in no other case applies the epithet in this parVol. U.
ner; that the first and great command of the law is still more excellent; as is also the second; which, while it may be considered as implying this affection, enjoins directly that universal good-will, which is the object of brotherly love, and the voluntary source of all happiness.
“ But,” it is said, “St. John expressly declares this commandment of Christ not to be new in the proper sense.” 1 John ii. 7, Brethren, I write unto you no new commandment; but an old Commandment, which ye had from the beginning. Without inquiring what St. John intends here by the phrase, from the beginning, it may be justly observed, that this passage has no reference to the subject in question. The command, of which he speaks, is in the preceding verse expressed in these words : He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. It will not be pretended, that this is the command in the text.
In the eighth, that is, the following verse, St. John declares the command in the text to be a new commandment. Again, a new commandment write I unto you. What the new command is, to which he here refers, is evident from the two following verses. He that saith, he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light ; and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. The Apostle does not, indeed, recite any command in form; but, in the phrases, he that hateth, and he that loveth, his brother, he shows decisively, that he refers to the command, enjoining this love, and forbidding this hatred; or, in other words, to the command in the text. But the command, to which he refers, he declares to be a new commandment.
There is, however, another passage in this writer, which, at first view, appears to be less easily reconcileable with my assertions. It is this : And now I beseech thee, Lady, not as though I wrote a nero commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. 2 John 5. That St. John here referred to the general benevolence, required in the second command of the moral law, is, I think, clearly evident from the following verse : And this is love, that we keep his commandments. This is the commandment, that, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. The love, of which he had spoken to the Elect lady, in the preceding verse, he himself explains in this. And this is love, that we keep his commandments. As if he had said, “ The love, which I have mentioned, is the disposition, with which we keep the commandments of God; or, in other words, the general benevolence, enjoined by the law." St. Paul, speaking of the same thing, has expressed the same sentiment more clearly, as well as more concisely; Rom. xiii. 10, Love is the fulfilling of the law.
Having, as I hope, removed all the objections, of any importance, against the interpretation of the text, adopted above; I shall now proceed to a more particular consideration of this attribute.
I. Brotherly Love is an affection, differing in many respects from Benevolence.
Thus, for example, Brotherly Love is confined to good men as its objects: whereas Benevolence extends to all mankind. Brotherly love respects only the moral character of its objects : Benevolence, their existence and capacity. Brotherly Love is the love of the virtue ; Benevolence, of the happiness; of those who are loved. Benevolence is virtue absolutely, or universally : Brotherly love is only a branch of that virtue. Benevolence exists, and operates, towards those who have no virtue; and was thus exercised by God towards beings, totally lost and depraved; viz. towards mankind, while wholly under the power of sin. In a similar man. ner, it is exercised by good men towards sinners; and towards such sinners, as, by being enemies to them on account of their goodness, prove, that there is no goodness in themselves. Brotherly love is exercised, and is capable of being exercised, only towards virtuous men; and towards them, on account of their virtue only. Benevolence, being virtue in the absolute sense, must exist, before it can be loved. Brotherly Love is the love of that Benevolence, or of virtue, after it is known to have existed.
According to these observations we find these affections clearly, and abundantly, distinguished in the Scriptures. Thus Benevolence is called Ayann, throughout the New Testament; and, as exercised particularly towards Mankind, is termed bilavagwtia : Acts xxviii. 2. Titus iii. 4. Brotherly love is called binade pia: Rom. xii. 10. 1 Thess. iv. 9. Heb. xiji 1. 2 Peter i. 7. Love to the Brethren, or Brotherhood, Adem.porns, is enjoined in various places as a peculiar duty. Thus St. Peter, in his second Epistle i. 7, says, Add to your faith virtue, or resolution, &c.; to godliness Brotherly Love, Biradenplav; and to brotherly love charity, Ayawnu, benevolence. Were Brotherly Love the same with Benevolence, St. Peter would certainly not have directed Christians to add Benevolence to itself. Nor would he here have called the same thing by different names, and thus perplexed his readers, merely for the sake of rounding a period. Other directions
generally resembling this, are given us abundantly in the New Testament.
II. Brotherly Love is the love of Good men.
To prove this, I observe, that the Brethren, spoken of in the New Testament, are always disciples of Christ. This name Christ himself gave them in form. In Matt. xii. 46, we are told, that his mother and his brethren came, desiring to see him. Upon receiving notice of this fact from one of the company, he replied, Who is my, mother, and who are my brethren? Then he stretched forth his hand towards his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren: for whosoever shall do the will of my father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, my sister, and mother. In Luke viii. 21, where the same story is recorded, his words are, My mother and my breth
ren are they, who hear the word of God and do it. Again, Matt. xxj. 8, he says, Be ye not called Rabbi, for one is your Master, eden Christ; and all ye are brethren.
In these passages, Christ has declared, that his disciples are hir brethren; that these are composed of such as hear, and obey, the word of God; and that all such persons sustain this character.
From him the Apostles took this phraseology, and continued it through their writings.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed, to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born of many brethren. Rom. vii. 29.
To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ, who are at Colosse. Col. i. 2.
I charge you by the Lord, that this Epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. 1 Thess. v. 27.
These passages from St. Paul, selected out of a multitude of the same import, are ample proofs, that he used the language of Christ in the same sense. Peter, James, and John, use the same language. It is therefore completely evident, that the Brethren, spoken of appropriately in the New Testament, are Christ's disciples; are saints ; are faithful; are holy; are such, as have been sanctified by the Spirit of grace. In this character only are they constituted the objects of Brotherly Love: the character itself being the thing, which, in them, is required by Christ to be loved. It is indeed true, now, as, formerly, that all who are of Israel are not Israel. Some, who appear to be Christ's disciples, are not really his disciples. But since our limited minds are unable to distinguish appearance from reality, God has commanded us to govern both our views, and our conduct, by appearance. So long, then, as men appear to be the disciples of Christ, we are bound to regard, and particularly to love, them as his disciples.
III. Brotherly Love is, therefore, an affection, directed towards the Virtue of those, whom we love : in other words, it is Complacency in Virtue.
In the exercise of Benevolence, we love others, whenever we wish them to be happy; and in this manner we love our enemies, and wicked men universally, however destitute of moral goodness. Our benevolence will, indeed, be particularly exerted in desiring earnestly, that they may become virtuous, in order to their happiness; but we cannot approve, nor love, their moral character; because, by the supposition, it is wholly sinful, and therefore altogether odious.
In the exercise of Brotherly Love, on the contrary, we approve, and love, the moral character of all, whom we love: delighting in their holiness, as an excellent and desirable object. As we approve of the character of Christ himself; so we delight in them, as possessing a share of the same beauty and excellence; as hating the same mind, which was also in him.
IV. Brotherly Love is, in the Scriptures, constituted a peculiar proof of sanctification.
In the verse following the text, Christ says, Hereby shall all men know, that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. Here our Saviour declares this affection to be a peculiar proof to the world, that we are Christians; to be the touchstone, by which his disciples will be examined, and known, by mankind.
Accordingly, the Emperor Julian expressly warns the heathen under his dominion, that the Christians contributed not a little to spread Christianity by their singular love to each other, and by their mutual offices of exemplary kindness. At the same time he declares, that, unless the heathen will follow this powerful example, their religion will never prosper. So remarkable, even in that corrupted age, was the Brotherly Love of Christ's disciples, as entirely to distinguish them from the rest of mankind. In other periods of the Church, it has prevailed, as Religion has prevailed ; and decayed, as Religion has decayed: but in all ages it has existed, and been discernible, wherever genuine Christianity has been found.
As this attribute is peculiarly the proof of our Religion to others; so it is made equally the proof of it to ourselves. He that saith, he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light. 1 John ii. 9, 10. In This the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil. Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God; neither he that loveth not his brother. 1 John iii. 10.
Hereby we know, that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that hateth his brother abideth in death.
These passages teach in the clearest manner, that, if we love the brethren, we are children of God, or the subjects of Evangelical virtue, and that, if we love not the brethren, we are not the children of God. If, then, our love to the brethren be probable; if a good reason exist to believe, that we exercise brotherly love ; there exists an equal reason to believe, that we have passed from death unto life. If we discover with certainty, that we possess this love; we have arrived at full assurance of our sanctification, and of our title to eternal life.
y. Brotherly love is universally exercised by Benevolent Minds. In other words, every Mind, which is Evangelically benevolent, will of course exercise Brotherly love.
Benevolence is the love of happiness : Brotherly Love is the love of that Benevolence. We love an Intelligent being, as either capable of happiness, or actually the subject of it. When we perceive, that he is benevolent, we further love his benevolence, and him because he is benevolent.
Benevolence is virtue. Brotherly Love, in the abstract denominated Complacency, is the love of virtue. As virtue delights in happiness ; so it necessarily delights in the causes of happiness,