Covington, GA., Feb.15, 1860.
Brother A. Tomlin desires us to extend, according to our light, on the text now before us, which reads as follows: “Let brotherly love continue.” Though we claim no superiority over our brethren, yet we are willing to give such light, or views, as we have of Scripture, so far as opportunity, and ability may be afforded us.
The language of the inspired Apostle in our text, presupposes the existence of a certain relationship which justified him in the admonition to his brethren. It was not in a natural sense he used the admonition, for though they were his brethren in a fleshly relation, yet it was in a spiritual sense only, he addressed them as “holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle, and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” Chap. 3:1. We learn that their manifest existence as children of God, signified that God was their heavenly Father, and that they had a spiritual existence in the Sonship of our Lord Jesus Christ. And as they were the children of the new covenant, or Jerusalem which is above, and had, therefore, a heavenly Mother, they were the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty. Hence the expression holy brethren was applicable to them, and not to them only, but also to all the family of God, whether Jews or Gentiles, in every nation, kindred, and tongue. Even in our day the followers of Jesus, which are scattered abroad, are entitled to the same distinguished appellation.
But another important consideration must be considered relative to this people. In this relationship brotherly love exists, and the question arises, from what source does it come? We answer from the same source that all spiritual blessings come. Says Paul, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” This love existed in the bosom of the eternal Father before time began. Its origin is in God, so to speak. It is of the same nature in its intrinsic properties with the character of God. God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. His love to his people is called an everlasting love. He loved, and chose them in the person of his dear Son. Grace was given them in our Lord Jesus Christ before the starry heavens were spread abroad, or the earth, the seas, and fountains of water were created. His Omniscient eye saw them all involved in sin and death in the transgression of the earthly Adam; yet he loved them, and provision was made for them in their covenant Head and Representative. His love was manifest in the redemption of his people, when Jesus was delivered for their offenses, and raised again for their justification. He not only loved them when they were dead in trespasses and sins, but it is called, emphatically, his great love wherewith he loved them, or us, and his quickening them together with Christ in the manifestation of his great love to them. It is with loving-kindness he draws them. Upon this principle the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto them. We love him, says John, because he first loved us. If we love him who begat, even God our Father, we love them also which are begotten of him. They are our brethren and sisters, heirs together of the grace of God, and of that inheritance which will never fade away. While the saints derive their natural, or earthly existence from Adam, as natural life was given to all the human family in Adam, so they derive their spiritual existence from Christ, as eternal life was given them in Christ their spiritual Head. Therefore the saints can adopt the language of Paul, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
“Hail sacred union, firm and strong,
How great the grace, how sweet the song!
That worms of earth should ever be,
One with incarnate Deity!
One in the tomb, one when he rose,
One when he triumphed o’er his foes,
One when in heaven he took his seat,
While seraphs sung all hell’s defeat.”
The word let in our text, signifies to allow or permit brotherly love to continue, or in other words, not to prevent or hinder it. The idea is, that the saints are not to allow any obstacle, or difficulty to arise among them in a way which is calculated to hinder the free exercise of love to one another and to impede their travel together in a church relation, as the followers of Jesus. They are to love one another as brethren, and allow that love to flow freely without any obstacle to prevent. They are to be kind and affectionate towards each other, as the Lord’s dear children.
Sometimes, when the flesh predominates, they become carnal, and worldly-minded, and manifest a very bad spirit. Take, for instance, a church where brotherly love and fellowship once existed, and peace and harmony abounded, just as soon as jealousy, discord, and an evil spirit shows itself, those that are the most guilty will resort, often, to self-justification in their own defense, and condemn that in others which they are the most guilty of themselves. Crimination, and recrimination will necessarily follow, and if persisted in, a church will soon get into disorder of the worst kind, and perhaps perish out, and lose its visibility. In this way the cause of Christ is dishonored, and the enemies will say, tauntingly, “Aha; so we would have it.” Those, who have caused all the trouble, will continue to manifest a hard, unyielding spirit, while the innocent, feeble lambs of the flock, mourn and grieve in secret places. There is a great difference between the old man’s being mad, and the new man’s being grieved. How important it is for brethren to bridle their tongues, and to act calmly and dispassionately in all their movements, and especially so at the time of any agitation, or excitement. A soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger. James says, “The tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity; so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” The Apostle further says, “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing; my brethren, these things ought not so to be.”
When the saints let the corruptions and evil propensities of their fallen nature have the ascendancy, peace, quietness, and brotherly love in the church, immediately disappear. How important, then, is the admonition in our text. And how wrong it is to allow carnal reason to assume the control of our judgment on revealed things, so as to reason on them as we would on natural things. Because we cannot comprehend the deep things of God, only by revelation, and divine teaching, how wrong it is to be unreconciled to them, and to oppose them. The more the saints know of the deep things of God, the stronger they are in the faith, and more deeply cemented in their love towards each other.
The saints are to let brotherly love continue by a spirit of christian forbearance towards each other, each expecting the same in return. The object, in all cases, should be to reclaim a brother when he errs, and not to condemn him by impugning his motives, and censoring his conduct. But this forbearance will not admit of any violation of the law of Christ in his church. The doctrine, faith, practice, and discipline of the church must be steadily maintained. Any departure therefrom is a violation of the solemn admonition of the Apostle. Brotherly love only exists where the Spirit of Christ is manifest. And it continues only, as the strong bear the infirmities of the weak, and administer to the comfort and edification of the poor, and feeble of the flock. And certainly the weak should consider the condition of the strong, who desire, and require hearty, healthy food for their nourishment and support. It is not expected in this imperfect state of existence, that perfect equality in an experimental understanding of gospel truth, will be realized. Some are strong in the faith, others are more weak and feeble. Yet they are all brethren in Christ.
The blessed and happy effect of the love of God in the soul, will cause the saints to love one another for the truth’s sake, which is in obedience to the command of Christ, and is to their own peace, and comfort, and to the glory of God. The enemies have no occasion to blaspheme when the saints love one another. When the members of a church are orderly, demean themselves as good citizens, avoid tippling shops, and bad company, live circumspect, obey the relations of life, and mind their own business, and very particular to assemble with the church in all her regular meetings, and make no frivolous excuses to stay at home; we say when they do this, brotherly love will continue, for there is no obstacle, or hindrance in the way. The ministers of Christ should walk according to their profession in all things and teach, and speak the things which become sound doctrine. Much depends upon the orderly course, and correct deportment of those who minister in word and doctrine relative to the continuance of brotherly love among the saints. When a preacher is carnal, strives for the mastery, is self-willed, and is perverse in his course, grief and sorrow among the saints is the result, and a scattering of the flock immediately follows. But when he is exercised by the Spirit of the Lord, he feeds the flock, comforts the saints, reproves, rebukes, and exhorts with all long-suffering, and doctrine. He will manifest a conciliatory, forbearing spirit, but great boldness in defending the truth in meekness and fear. An establishment in the doctrine and order of the gospel, is not only demanded, but an establishment in the laws, ordinances, and discipline of God’s house, is necessary for the permanent exercise of brotherly love.
To behold a band of brethren and sisters walking together in christian love and fellowship, speaking often one to another of the Lord’s dealings with them, to sing, pray, preach, and attend to the ministry of the word, is the most lovely sight than can be seen on earth. It is heaven here below. Truly it can be said, “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; for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” Psa. 133.
Many of the Lord’s dear children are deprived of the privilege of assembling with the saints for public and social worship. Some are located so far from a gospel church, they seldom have an opportunity to attend, others are infirm and advanced in years, so that they cannot attend. But whenever they have an opportunity to converse with the saints, and to hear the gospel preached, they enjoy, and rejoice in the privilege even more than those who often have the privilege.
In conclusion we will remark that we hope our brethren, and the friends of Zion generally, will duly consider the importance of the subject treated upon in this article, and be profited by it, and derive instruction from it, and conform to the solemn admonition of the Apostle. And may we, ourselves, consider its application to us as professed followers of Jesus, and be enabled to pursue a course accordingly.