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proof of the religious character of him who feels it: “ The fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness.”* This goodness, this genuine benevolence of christian deportment, has its charms; and, on a variety of occasions, may excite esteem in persons who have no regard to the principle from whence it flows. “ Demetrius had good report of all men, and of the truth itself.”f When St. Paul had been inculcating certain christian graces, he adds, He that hath these things “ is acceptable to God and approved of men.”! If we find ourselves overpowered, as it were, and captivated by the display of christian virtue, we are not hence entitled immediately to draw a favourable conclusion respecting our state, without looking deeper, and inquiring how we stand affected towards the principle whence these virtues emanated.
This leads us to observe, that it is the ground on which our attachment to a christian is founded that can alone afford a favourable decision in this matter. Do we love the brethren as brethren, christians as christians, on account of the relation they bear to their heavenly Father, and on account of their union to Christ? In any specific case, when we feel warmly attached to a christian, is it founded on this consideration, that he is a christian, a follower of the holy and immaculate Lamb of God ? If we can answer this question in the affirmative, St. John authorizes us in our deeming it an infallible evidence of our having passed from
* Ephes. v. 9. + 3 John 12. Rom. xiv. 18.
death unto life. It affords such an evidence in two ways :
I. Negatively, it proves that we are not of the world.
II. Positively, it demonstrates that we are of God.
I. It proves that we are not of the world : for the world is entirely destitute of an attachment to the disciples of Christ as such. At no period did the world appear favourably disposed to the disciples of Christ as such, or on account of their relation to this their divine Head. Our Lord repeatedly warned his followers to expect just the contrary: “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.”* “ If ye were of the world, the world would love its own : but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." of “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”.
The course of events, from that to the present time, has verified the truth of the Saviour's declaration : “ They were hated of all men for his name's sake;" they were “ persecuted from city to city,”\ and even the most eminent among them accounted as “the offscouring of all things.” || In every subsequent age, and in every country, the true disciples of Christ have encountered opposition, which has been almost invariably more * Matt. x. 22. † John xv. 19. John xvii. 14. $ Matt. xxiii. 34.
|| 1 Cor. iv. 13.
or less violent in proportion to their attachment to the Saviour, to the purity of their faith, and the lustre of their piety. Look at the world at present; view it in this highly favoured nation, furnished as it is with wholesome laws, and restrained from open persecution: Do you perceive the world to evince a predilection for the serious and earnest followers of Christ? Is decided christian piety, conspicuous in the character of any, a passport to distinction and favour? On the contrary: Will a man be better received in worldly circles for being supposed to resemble Christ? No. We can be at no loss to answer these questions, or avoid perceiving that the world continues invariably consistent with itself in “ loving its own," * and none but its own. If, in any instance, its affections stray beyond its own circle; if, in any instance, it extends its favourable regards to a real christian; it is never on account of his being a christian, it is never, as St. John expresses it, “ for the truth's sake, which dwelleth in him.” Since this is an unquestionable fact, that the world is thus unfavourably disposed towards serious christians; if it be otherwise with us, it proves that we are “not of the world;"I or, in other words, that we have “ passed from death unto life.”
II. The love of the brethren, as such, affords a positive proof of our being of God.
This will appear in a clearer light, if we consider the grounds on which love to christians proceeds :
* John xv. 19. † 2 John 2. I John xv. 19.
1. To love christians, as such, is to love them on account of their relation to God and the Redeemer.
2. On account of their attachment to both.
3. On account of the resemblance which they bear to these divine persons.
1. He who loves christians as such, is attached to them on account of their relation to God. The Supreme Being stands in a peculiar relation to christians, as their God: He is their “covenant God and Father through Christ Jesus.” They are, emphatically, a peculiar treasure to him above all the nations of the earth. They are his possession, his inheritance, his people. In every age there have been a people in whom the blessed God claimed a peculiar interest, on whom he fixed his special love, and manifested himself unto them, as he does not to the world; a people who were “ the temple of God,”* the seat of his special presence, among whom he walked and dwelt. Under the christian dispensation true christians compose this people. In whatever interesting and endearing relation God stood to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; he stands in that same relation to the sincere followers of Christ. They are the objects of that special love, of which the Saviour speaks in these words: “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” To feel attached to christians, on this account, is a proof of a heart well affected towards the Supreme * 1 Cor. iii. 16.
| John xvi. 27.
Being, reconciled to his requirements and government: and as “ the carnal mind is enmity against God,”* it affords an evidence that this enmity is subdued. If we feel favourably towards the domestics of a family, on account of their relation to their master, it is an evidence of affection to the master himself; it is a fruit of it. The relation which christians bear to the Redeemer is still more intimate and endearing : they are the people that were given him to redeem before the world [began]; they are the children for whose sake he took flesh and blood; they are his pupils, his household, and family; nay, more, his spiritual spouse and the members of his mystical body. The love of the brethren contemplates them in that light, and consequently evinces a heart well affected towards their Lord and head. To give " a cup of water in the name of a disciple," of shall not lose its reward.
2. On account of their attachment to God, and their zeal for the interest of his glory. This is so essential a part of the christian character, that it cannot be separated from the grounds and reasons of a rational regard for christians, unless we are supposed to be ruled by a blind and unthinking impulse. Our esteem for good men will be intimately blended with the consideration of their being on God's side. While the rest of the world continue in a state of enmity and alienation, we must look upon these as reconciled, as persons who have given a cordial and respectful reception to his * Rom. viii. 7.
† Matt. x. 42.