Love to the Saints
James Smith, 1858
Some Christians think they are not loved as they should be — and they complain of other people as cold, distant, and perhaps proud. They say that churches are selfish, carnal, and sadly lacking in love to the brethren. Now I dare say there is some truth in this, and no doubt some have just cause to complain — but it is necessary sometimes to ask, "Is all the fault on one side?" Are we as loving as we should be? Are we very lovable? We may love ourselves, and love ourselves dearly — but are our spirit, temper, conversation, and general behavior — such as to win the love of others? If we are sour, morose, reserved, snappish, selfish, or given to complaining — we must not be surprised if people are not very warmly attached to us. They must be more than human to love us much. Let us therefore leave off complaining, take it for granted that there is some defect in us; and make up our minds that people shall love us, just because they cannot help it.
In order to do this — we must be more like Christ. All Christians love Christ, and they love all who are like Christ — and just in proportion as they are like Christ. How natural it is to love a lamb; and if we were lamb-like, or Christ-like, the Lord's people would love us — they could not help it. There is something in meekness and humility, in gentleness and forbearance, in kindness and love, in unselfishness and concern for the good of others — which always wins love. Depend upon it, if we had more of these excellencies — we would be much happier and would be loved more by others. Let us therefore seek more earnestly the Spirit of Christ, that we may manifest the temper of Christ, and copy the life of Christ-and if we do, no one will ever hear us complain that other Christians do not love us enough.
If we would be loved more — we must have a greater measure of the Holy Spirit. Primitive Christians were very lovely, and therefore it is said, "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had." But then the testimony is, that they were "full of the Holy Spirit, and great grace was upon them all."
Now the Spirit is promised to us, just as He was to them. God is not weary of giving, nor has he changed his mind. His promise stands good, and he is ready to perform it; there we read such an exhortation as this, "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess — but be filled with the Spirit." Whatever God commands us to possess — he has promised to give; and both the promises and precepts should be turned into prayer by us. Depend upon it, if we had a greater measure of the holy, loving, and lovely Spirit of God — we would never have reason, or inclination to find fault, that our fellow Christians did not love us enough.
If we would be loved more — we must be more kind, obliging, and ready to assist each other. Love cannot be forced, or commanded — it must be won. We love — because we cannot help it. Kindness is a key that fits the lock of every human heart! Some of these locks open much harder than others, as they are rusted with sin; but there never was a human heart that kindness would not open!
"Be kind one toward another" is an apostolic precept, and if we were more kind — we would be more loved. Kindness is always obliging, and when we condescend to men of low estate, and think more of obliging others, than of being obliged ourselves — we shall win the love of all about us. A readiness to oblige always prompts us to assist those who are in difficulty or need. Attention and interest delicately manifested, insensibly draw the heart towards us, and the parties, love us before they are aware of it.
Let us then seek to be more like Christ, to have a greater measure of the Holy Spirit, and to be kind, obliging, and help each other — so will our mutual love be fervent, and we shall be happy, because we make others happy.
On the other hand, if we would love others more, and love some that we do not — we must look at them in Christ. Every Christian, however imperfect he may be — is in union with Christ — is a member of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Now though I may find it difficult to love a man, as I look at him in himself apart from Christ, and compassed with infirmities; yet when I view him as the purchase of my Savior's blood, a member of my Savior's body, and therefore a part of my Savior's self — I can, I do, I must love him. The way therefore to love an imperfect Christian, is to identify him with Christ, consider him as one with Christ, and so we can love him. We must love Christians — for Christ's sake — because they belong to him, are loved by him, and he wishes us to love them. I can love the dog of my friend — for my friend's sake, much more his poor, deformed, and wayward child. So I can love an imperfect, fretful, faulty Christian — because he belongs to Christ. If, therefore, we are tempted to dislike, or to turn away from anyone who believes in Jesus, because of peculiarities, imperfections, or anything else but sin — let us remember they are the Lord's, and love them for his sake.
We must also make allowance for many things. Education, prejudices, families, and religious training, greatly influence us; so also do constitutional peculiarities. We ought, therefore, to make much allowance for each other, and continue to love, though there may be much that we dislike, and some things that we cannot understand. If we have reason to believe that Jesus loves any person — then the Dissenter should love the Churchman — and the Churchman the Dissenter; the Calvinist should love the Arminian — and the Arminian the Calvinist; the poor should love the rich — and the rich should love the poor.
Once more, we must be more active in God's cause. Active Christians are generally loving Christians. Those who work much for Christ — have neither time nor disposition to quarrel about trifles. Workers discover so much of their own defects, and smart so frequently on account of their own imperfections, that they make an allowance for others, and love them, notwithstanding their faults and follies. A loving Christian is so set on honoring Jesus, that he overlooks a thousand things which stumble others. Let us then endeavor to love all on earth whom we shall love in Heaven; and so act, as to win to us the love of all that now love Jesus.
Love to saints, as saints, for Christ's sake — is one of the clearest, and surest evidences of the new birth, We love the picture — because we love the original. We love the child — because we love the parent. We love the believer — because we love Jesus; and we love Jesus, because his loving Spirit has taken up his residence in our hearts. Every real Christian loves Christ; and everyone that loves Christ, loves every real Christian. If we are persuaded in our minds that anyone is a Christian — if we have the grace of God in our hearts — we do, we must love them, and the degree of our love will be, just in proportion to their resemblance to our beloved Lord and Savior!