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Covington, GA., April 15, 1859.

A friend of our acquaintance in Green County, N.Y., requests our views on this Scripture: “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” Though we are deeply sensible of our inability to expound upon the Scriptures, like many of our brethren, yet we are willing to exercise what gift, we hope, the Lord has given us, in writing, as well as in the public ministration of the word.

Many of the dear children of God experience much solicitude of mind relative to their interest in Christ, and whether their exercises are such as are common with the saints. In the Northern and Eastern States there is more freedom among the brethren in speaking often to each other relative to their exercises and travel of mind, than there is in the Southern States, so far as our knowledge is concerned. It is profitable and strengthening to the feeble sheep and lambs of Christ’s flock, to speak often to each other of the dealings of the Lord with them, and not spend so much time in conversing on worldly matters when they meet for the worship of God. If it is a privilege for the saints to assemble together, let them not be so backward to speak of the glory of Christ’s kingdom, and talk of his power. In this way they may comfort and edify each other.

The text at the head of this article is one of those that expresses fully the very marrow and fatness of a gospel experience. No one that ever tasted that the Lord is gracious can deny its application. There are some, however, that believe the sentiment of our text, and who sometimes hope that they have a knowledge of it experimentally, who have not confidence to say that they know that they have passed from death unto life. Yet they love the brethren, though they have serious fears that their love is selfish or carnal. Such ones will often manifest more interest and anxiety in the welfare of Zion, and the honor of the cause of Christ, than many that are members of the visible church of Christ. With grief we have to say that the precious cause of Christ is often dishonored by the reckless, inconsiderate conduct of some that profess the name of Christ. Those that wish well to the followers of Christ under such circumstances are often grieved and wounded. We scarcely know a Primitive or Old School Baptist Church of our acquaintance but what there are more or less of that class who believe our doctrine and faith, and manifest an interest in the truth, but have never publicly put on Christ in the profession of his name. Some of them need encouragement, some reproof and admonition.

There are certain distinguishing marks by which the sons and daughters of Zion are known. A person that is literally dead shows no evidence of life. Through a galvanic process by the use of means there may be an involuntary contraction of muscles, or muscular fibres, in a dead body, but no communication of life. Where there is life there is sensation, breathing, power of action. Just so with a poor sinner that is quickened to divine life, not by the use of means, but by the sovereign power and grace of God. There is life, sensibility, action.

The death spoken of in our text is a death in sin, a destitution of spiritual life, no power of movement or action. It is a state of alienation from God as transgressors of the holy law of God. This is the condition of all the human family before God. They have no spiritual knowledge of the nature, spirituality and righteous demand of the law they are under. The law says, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” Gal. 3:10. Therefore, they that are under the law are under its curse. There is no power to love God or his people in this condition. They are as insensible and destitute of any heavenly or spiritual exercise as a person literally dead is of the functions of natural life. This is solemn Bible truth.

In relation to the chosen people of God in their graceless state, there is a period with them all, that they are without hope and without God in the world. This is death. Not only so, but they are condemned not for rejecting the offers of mercy, as some call it, but in a violation of the law of accountability to their Creator. The soul that sinneth, it shall die.

A passage from death unto life involves the idea of a change in the condition of the sinner. Also a change is wrought in him, as all Old Baptist preachers and brethren of our acquaintance contend for. Every person that has a knowledge of the first principles of a gospel experience, can call to mind a knowledge of his or her fallen and lost condition as a condemned sinner before God. This arose from some internal operation, like the still small voice of the Spirit, which produces life, sensibility, action. Here is a change from the former lifeless, senseless, inactive state of the sinner. It is true there may be some persons whose minds were spiritually exercised at so early a period of life that they cannot tell of any time when they did not feel themselves to be lost sinners. This, however, does not destroy the idea of a change, in a passage from death to life. No part of the man, either soul or body, is made spiritually holy and Christ-like in this change, but Christ Jesus, who is the LIFE of the believer, is, absolutely, the LIGHT that shines in the heart of the sinner, that shines in darkness, and manifests the corruption and vileness of his fallen nature. He was once destitute of this knowledge, he now possesses it; he was once destitute of LIFE and LIGHT, now he is in possession of it. Is not this a change? Furthermore, he now has a view of the holy character of God, and of his law and justice. He may not understand them properly, but acknowledges the righteousness of God in his condemnation. This he could not acknowledge, if there was no love to the character, law and justice of God.

When God speaks deliverance and peace to a lost sinner, there is joy and praise. He can say, whereas I was once blind, I now see. Love to the precious Redeemer and to the brethren now is in exercise in his soul. Truly this is a change. He beholds by faith the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ. He has passed from a death in sin to a state of life in Christ.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but know am found,
Was blind, but know I see.”

But the idea of a passage from death unto life signifies a passing from one place to another. He passes from under the law and under its curse, from the land of darkness and death, unto a state of life, justification and acceptance with God in Jesus Christ. He is now no longer under the law, but under grace. The relationship of the sinner is so changed that whereas he was under the law of sin and death, he is under law to Christ, to follow him continually.

Love to God and the brethren is not a fleshly or carnal exercise, as we have already stated. A person that is born of God is in possession of love to God. This pure, heavenly, and divine love is of God. To love the brethren is expressive of union to them. This union is vital. It is a love-union, as well as life-union. This union is wholly and exclusively in Christ. The fullness of the Godhead, the fullness of salvation and all spiritual blessings, and the fullness of the church, are all in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To know is not to be doubtful, but to have a satisfactory evidence of anything which exists. If there is actual evidence of existing facts in a natural sense, we certainly believe there is in a spiritual sense. The language of our text is to the point in that particular. Here is death and life, and a passage from one to the other. The evidence of this fact or truth, so to speak, is, we love the brethren. Therefore, we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. We may love some of our brethren better than others, simply from the fact that the image and character of Christ may exhibit itself more fully in some than others. The more we see the meekness and humility of Christ in our brethren the better we love them, and the nearer they seem to us.

Our friend makes the inquiry, “Do you think that a person can love the brethren, and that love not be the pure love of a christian? I have about concluded that a person can love the brethren and that love be selfish or carnal, or, to speak more plain, they may love the brethren, and yet be destitute of the vital principle of the Christian religion. Will it do for a person that knows he loves the brethren to think because he loves them, that he has passed from death unto life, when he cannot bring up any other evidence to prove it? Now, to me these are serious questions, and I ask for information.”

If the views we have expressed in this article are sound and Scriptural, {and we certainly believe they are,} we have to reply to our friend by stating that a person cannot love the brethren and that love not be the pure love of a Christian. And to love the brethren and yet be destitute of the vital principle of the Christian religion is impossible. God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Love is an essential vital principle of the religion of Christ. There can be no other positive evidence of a passage from death unto life, but love to the brethren. We will say to our friend that the poetry you have forwarded us, {copied from the SIGNS,} for publication, and which will appear in this number of our paper, and which you say is in exact correspondence with your own feelings, is very expressive of the thoughts, feelings and exercises of those who love the brethren and are acquainted with the plague of their own hearts. Graceless men have no trouble relative to themselves, whether they love Jesus or the brethren. Those that see and know the unloveliness of their own fallen nature, have many fears that they do not love the brethren as they ought and as they wish to. Yet they esteem them as the excellent of the earth, and prefer to live and die with them, like Ruth of old.

Our friend says: “I could go back six years in my own experience and tell you how I then loved the brethren, and how inexpressibly sweet the name of Jesus sounded in my ear, and I think through all that time I loved them. I love them still, but the question is, is not my love selfish? And then I think in this way; if a minister comes here, a stranger – I have never seen before, of course have no acquaintance with him, no love for him, but let him preach, let him speak of the glorious things contained in the Gospel, and to speak the good news of salvation by grace, and my heart thrills with love for him. Now, what kind of love is this? I often fear I know nothing as it should be known, I see so much selfishness in myself. I expect the writing of this is to gratify self. But my paper is filled, and I must close, though I have not written half what I wished to. I have often felt a desire to write you some of my exercises, but thinking perhaps it would be of no interest to you, I have not done so. Please excuse this.

Sincerely, your friend; A.”

We have made extracts from the letter of our friend, believing that the exercises therein expressed, will apply to many of our readers. It is the language of Zion, the language of a penitent soul.

For the encouragement of our friend, we will say the Lord has been gracious to you for Jesus’ sake. The kind of love you express is true love to the brethren. They are your people, your kindred, your brothers and sisters. Own the relationship, and confess what the Lord has done for you. Remember the command of the dear Redeemer to his disciples, “Follow me,” and go and do likewise.

J.L. Purington.