Importance of Love of the Subjects of God’s Kingdom
The Warwick Old School Baptist Association in session with the Warwick Church, Orange Co., N. Y., June 5, 6, and 7, 1861, to the Churches whose Messengers we are, send Christian salutation:
Beloved Brethren in Christ: – While wars and tumults agitate the world, and threaten the perpetuity of the long cherished institutions of our beloved country, while new and startling events are transpiring in rapid succession, while the sword, the pestilence and the famine are employed to humble the lofty imaginations of the sons of men, and the fearful earthquake also proclaims in thunder tones that God’s judgments are abroad in the earth, does it not become the saints of the Most High God to make a diligent inquiry whether we who profess to be the disciples of the Son of God, are standing in our lot and order of the Gospel, walking in the Truth and maintaining the order of that Gospel in all our walks and conversations? As God has not invested His church with authority to control the civil governments of this world, we are not responsible for the benefit or injury which may result from them. As Christians and as good citizens of the world, we are commanded to be loyal to whatever form of constitutional government we may be, in the Providence of God, placed under, or to which we owe allegiance in our individual or social capacities. “Render, therefore, to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” – Romans 13. 1. “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme, or unto governors, as unto them that are went by him for the punishment of evil doers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” – 1 Peter ii. 13-15. “These things speak and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey the magistrates, to be ready to do every good work. To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness to all men.” – Titus ii. 15; 3. 2.
In all our relations in life, and in our social relations with our fellow men we have need of wisdom from above to direct us in all things, and to search the sacred record for instructions, adapted to every emergency; But above all things, our allegiance to Christ, our obedience to the faith, and conformity to all the laws of the King of Zion, should engage our prayerful attention. If we are enabled to walk worthy of our high and holy vocation, as members of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, we cannot be deficient in loyalty to the powers that be; but every soul will be in subjection to the higher powers, which are ordained of God. What then are we required to observe and do, as the subjects of that kingdom, which is not of this world? In this Circular we propose to call your attention, dear brethren, to a few of the many important obligations which are binding on us as the children of God and disciples of the meek and lowly Savior.
The first and most vitally important of all is: the new commandment which Jesus gave to the disciples, namely, “That ye love one another.” We may rest assured that nothing else can be right with us, if we are deficient in our obedience to this great command. Though we speak with the tongue of men or angels, have all knowledge, can expound all mysteries, have zeal to give our bodies to be burned, and benevolent to give our goods to feed the poor; all is but sounding brass and tinkling cymbal, in the absence of love. If we do not love one another, what evidence have we that we have passed from death unto life? John makes this a sealing evidence, an indispensable witness: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” The inference is unavoidable. We do not know that we have passed from death unto life, if we do not love one another as brethren. This love is not a mere formal or nominal profession, which will say to a destitute brother or sister, Be ye warm; or Be ye clothed, and withhold the things which are required to make them so.- “How dwelleth the love of God in such?” This love is the fulfilling of the law. In its active development, they who possess it will cheerfully bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ. The more zeal a professor of Christianity may have, if destitute of love, only renders him the more mischievous in the church, in biting and devouring. “If ye love Me,” says Jesus, “keep My commandments.” We cannot keep His commandments except we love Him; for love is the fulfilling of His law; nor can we love Him who begat and not love them that are begotten of Him. Love to Christ and to the saints is both an internal and an external witness of our regeneration. “We know that we have passed from dead unto life, because we love the brethren”; – this evidence is internal. And “by this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one for another.” – This is an external evidence. But where have we either an internal or an external evidence that we can rely upon, if we do not love one another? We cannot derive this fraternal love from our fleshly natures, (but we may to some extent feign it;) for it is the fruit of the Spirit, which is not found among the works of the flesh.
Peter says, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the Truth through the Spirit, unto unfeign love of the brethren; see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.”And another apostle exhorts, “Let love be without dissimulation. And let brotherly love continue.” Where these solemn injunctions are faithfully obeyed, the saints shall know “how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” Where this love predominates, brethren and churches will delight in each other’s society; they will take sweet counsel together, they will walk in company to the house of God, they will seek after each other’s welfare, they will pray for each other, and if they have occasion to admonish, rebuke or reprove one another, it will be done in such meekness and humiliation that it will constrain the delinquent to say it is as excellent oil, healing, cleansing, curing. This love will cover a multitude of sins; it will drown out personal affronts, and lead brethren to stand less upon their personal dignity, and seek the lowest place in the house of God.
Without love, however orthodox our creed; however circumspect our outward walk; however loud our professions of godliness; we only can have the form without the power; the carcass without the vitality. And without this love, it is presumptuous to assume to be the church of God, and sacrilegious to presume to execute the discipline, or administer the ordinances of the church of the living God, which is the ground and pillar of the Truth.
It is distressing to all good people to see our country involved in bitter strife and animosity, and large armies with deadly implements drawn in battle array to take each other’s lives. But it is heartrending to the saints of God, to witness the spirit of brutal hate, malicious animosity, and revengeful feelings cherished among those who profess to be the humble followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. To see brethren sell their birthright for a momentary gratification of their carnal passions, and dragging out a miserable and quarrelsome existence, in strife for the mastery, in censuring, accusing and malignantly pursuing one another. But this state of things is the natural result of sowing to the flesh; for it yields a full body of corruption. And the apostle says, “If ye bite and devour one another; take heed that ye be not consumed one of another:” to avoid all such scenes of disorder and confusion, let us be careful that we do not depart from our first love; let love predominate in all the departments of the church of God; let the servants of the church enter the sacred office of the ministry like Paul, in fear and in much trembling, not for filthy lucre; but of a ready mind, in love to Christ and in love to the brethren, as well as in love of the Truth and purity of the Gospel of Christ; and let him speak the Truth in love; and let his constant admonitions be to the saints, like John the Aged, “Little children love one another.”Let the deacons also abide under the power and dominion of the love of God, and in meekness and love discharge faithfully every service devolving on them. Let each member, whether public or private, see that all their deportment be tempered with love unfeigned; making straight paths for their feet, lest that which is lame be turned aside, but let it rather be healed.
We had intended to present some other admonitions to the consideration of the churches, but as love is the fulfilling of the law, it covers the whole ground, and as no other Gospel precept can be obeyed in its spirit and truth, where this new commandment is disobeyed we are certain that no subject of greater or more vital importance could be presented for your consideration; we shall therefore conclude our Circular with a few remaining comments.
Dear Brethren in Christ, as you love peace and good order; and as you desire to show forth the praise of Him that hath called you to glory and virtue, strive to keep the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace. See that ye fall not out by the way. Remember that we are yet in the flesh, and need the sympathy, love and kindest offices of each other, and be ye followers of God, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us. And “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any compassions and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love. Being of one accord, of one mind; Let nothing be done through strife and vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also with care on the things of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Gilbert Beebe, Moderator 1861
William L. Benedict, Clerk.