THESE words of apostolic admonition to the whole brotherhood of the gospel church, demand our serious consideration. The love of God shed abroad in the hearts of his children is undoubtedly the love intended by the qualifying term, brotherly. Such love we are not called upon to originate: this would be impossible, for it is the sovereign gift of God. But the admonition implies an obligation on the part of brethren to cherish its action by carefully avoiding whatever is calculated to oppose it. The frequent exhortations to the saints on this subject, show the importance of our watchfulness against those fruitful sources of bitterness, strife and contention which have ever been found so unfriendly to the spirit and temper of the meek and humble followers of the Lamb of God. The experience of all the saints, from the primitive age of the church of Christ to the present time, has always encountered a very strong propensity of the flesh warring against the spirit, and opposing the free expression and salutary effects of brotherly love. At an early day John and James, these eminent apostles of our Lord, joined their over-anxious mother in desiring for them an elevation above their brethren in the kingdom of the Redeemer, and by this imprudent step subjected themselves to the reproof of their Lord and to the great displeasure of their brethren. If these two disciples, personally present with the Master, displayed a disposition so hostile to the continuance of brotherly love; caught we not, in this age in which error abounds, and the love of many seems to be waxing cold, to seek out and endeavor to apprise our brethren of the existing causes of dissension and bitterness among the saints! That there now exists among us some things which are calculated to hinder and dampen the ardor of christian love and fellowship, cannot be reasonably doubted. And that whatsoever so interrupts our mutual love robs us of one of the brightest evidences of our vital union to Christ, is established by the declaration, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” Again, “Then are ye my disciples indeed, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another.” How very important it is then that we should carefully avoid giving offence to the children of God. We have witnessed, greatly to our sorrow, many things of late calculated to remind us of the apostle’s words: “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” In cultivating harmony we are not at liberty in any case to transcend the gospel rule, or to barter away either the truth or order of the gospel for the sake of peace; for peace procured at such expense is but a treacherous alliance with the enemies of our Lord. No one governed by the spirit of truth would require us to depart from truth or gospel order to secure his love; none but an enemy to God and to his cause and people would ask such sacrifice at our hands.
That brotherly love for which we contend is to be continued upon the principles laid down in the case of those added to the church at the day of Pentecost, viz.: those who gladly received the word and were baptized, continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship and breaking of bread, &c. A steadfast continuance in the apostles’ doctrine is then an indispensable prerequisite to that fellowship called brotherly love. By the apostles’ doctrine we are, however, to understand more than a simple admission of the correctness of the sentiments set forth in their instructions, in relation to the character and attributes of God, the purpose and election of grace, predestination, calling, &c.; all the instructions, admonitions and reproofs taught by them belong to their doctrine, and all are alike essential to the preservation of brotherly love. If, therefore, while we contend for the doctrine of our Lord, we thrust with side and shoulder so that the weak and lame are turned out of the way, we oppose ourselves to the continuance of brotherly love. Or if, on the other hand, we contend for perfect harmony and a disregard for heresies or departure from the faith, or wink at innovations, &c., we still oppose brotherly love, and all our energies are enlisted in the promotion, a false and treasonable amalgamation with that and those from which and whom God has commanded us to be disconnected and separate.
We are glad to see that a general disposition is manifested among our brethren to arrest the heated discussions which have been carried on through our paper for some time past. Our allusion is general, we mean to personate none. A very commendable zeal has been manifested to sustain what each writer has regarded as fundamental truth; but that zeal has not in every instance been tempered with as great a degree of meekness and brotherly love as the gospel will admit. While we honestly believe (and act upon the principle) that right hands and right eyes are to be sacrificed when the order of the gospel and the laws of our Commander require it, we are far from being convinced that the war dogs ought to be let loose upon all occasions when undesigning brethren differ from our views, when such difference does not amount absolutely to heresy. It is not unfrequently the case that brethren have different ways of expressing the same things, and in some cases the different form of expression may, by a critical construction of the language employed, seem fairly to involve serious, and perhaps irreconcilable, discrepance, when at the same time such brethren are in reality as well united in their real sentiments as can be reasonably expected while encompassed with imperfections.
NEW VERNON, N. Y., Sept. 15, 1842.
RESUMING the subject commenced in our last number, we wish to show the necessity of a strict observance of the admonition at the head of our article in all matters of correspondence through the SIGNS OF THE TIMES. The principle of brotherly love is that which renders a correspondence desirable and pleasant; but in the absence of love there can be nothing in a public correspondence calculated to edify, refresh or comfort the children of the kingdom of our God. In the absence of brotherly love, some motive of an opposite character must predominate; and can we, under the influence of any spirit hostile to the lovely temper of the gospel of Christ, contribute to the upbuilding of the saints in their most holy faith? As well might we attempt to overcome the corruptions of our depraved nature by gratifying every evil propensity and unholy lust. Why do our brethren who are scattered abroad throughout the whole world desire to hear of each other’s welfare? Why do they when grieved, afflicted, tempted, tried and persecuted, wish to speak out and give vent to the painful sensations of their hearts? It is because they feel assured that wherever the winds of heaven may waft their communications, they shall receive the sympathies of those whom they love in the Lord; and because they expect in return from them expressions of their sympathy and words of consolation and kindness. It was to facilitate such correspondence, and to expose and oppose the prevailing abominations of anti-christ, the publication of our paper was proposed and commenced; and when its publication shall cease to facilitate these object, it ought to be discontinued.
For several years after the commencement, our paper was hailed with joy by the oppressed children of Zion; and thousands who had thought themselves left quite alone in the field, were sought out, and through our columns introduced to each other. Thousands have testified of the joy and encouragement they have realized through the communications of their brethren communicated through this humble medium. Brotherly love has been made to abound, and the most clear and emphatic declarations of kind and christian fellow ship have been exchanged from Maine to Georgia, and from the Atlantic to the remotest western settlements. Brotherly love has been greatly developed by the enlargement of acquaintance with each other’s situation, experience, faith, order and trials. But if, by the present prevalence of iniquity through-out our land, the love of brethren is suffered to wax cold, the utility of a vehicle of correspondence will be very seriously changed. If that kind and generous love and fellowship of the brethren is to give place to discords, animosity and contention, the service of our sheet will not be required to tell the lamentable tale in Gath or publish it in the streets of Askelon, where it can make none but the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph or rejoice. Those brethren who wish the continuance of our paper, and desire it to subserve the general interest of the cause of God and truth, are requested to take this subject into prayerful consideration.
We should profit by our experience: those things which have interrupted the harmony and brotherly love of the saints, and gendered strife and acrimony should be avoided; and whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report, if there be any virtue, if there be any praise, we should think on these things.
New Vernon, N. Y.,
Sept. 1, 1842.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 57 - 61