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A NEW COMMANDMENT I GIVE UNTO YOU, THAT YE LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
JOHN XIII. 34.
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 compla cency, 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 manner; that the first and the 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 í. 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 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 bere 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 assertion. It is this: And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new 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 univer
sally; 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 manner 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 Ayan, throughout the New Testament; and, as exercised particularly towards mankind, is termed Dawia: Acts xxviii. 2; Titus iii. 4. Brotherly love is called Handɛaqın: Rom. xii. 10; 1 Thess. iv. 9; Heb. xiii. 1; 2 Peter. i. 7. Love to the brethren, or brotherhood, Adλporns, 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)—to godliness, brotherly love, (iλædeλQixv) and to brotherly love, charity,' Ayan, 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.
Το 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 brethren are they who hear the word of God, and do it.' Again, Matt. xxiii. 8, he says, ' Be ye not called rabbi, for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.'
In these passages Christ has declared that his disciples are his 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 firstborn of many brethren.' Rom. viii. 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 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