"Christian Love, a Test of Christian Character"

"We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." 1 John 3:14

Surely it is a question of all others the most interesting and important, "Am I, or am I not; a true believer in the Lord Jesus Christ?" We do not say that the state of doubt and uncertainty from which this inquiry arises, necessarily invalidates the evidence of grace which already exists; nor would we have it inferred, that the question itself indicates a healthy, vigorous tone of mind. But what we affirm is, that where there exists the principle of life, and a growing acquaintance with the plague of the human heart, and a conscience increasingly tender, the question will sometimes arise, "Am I a living soul in Christ?"

In enabling us to meet and satisfy this inquiry, how kind and condescending is God, the Holy Spirit! A state of uncertainty as to his personal salvation, cannot be regarded by the believer as the most favorable for the cultivation of personal holiness. He, indeed, is the most heavenly-minded, happy, and useful child of God, who, with the lowly confidence of the great apostle, can say, "I know in whom I have believed." But we must admire the love of the Spirit in providing for the necessities of the weakest state of grace. If saints of advanced stature in Christ can sympathize but little with the timidity, the fearfulness, and the weakness of children of more dwarfish proportions, not so the loving, faithful Spirit of God. He is never above his own work. The smallest part is too precious to his heart, to allow of the withdrawment of his eye from it for a single moment. It is not the extent of the territory which he has subjugated to himself in the soul, that most thrills his heart with delight- this he is sure to perfect- but it is his having at all effected an entrance, and established himself permanently there. This is the ground of his greatest triumph, and the source of his highest joy- that after all the opposition and the difficulty, he should at last have gotten himself the victory.

Is it possible, then, that the tenderest bud of grace, or the faintest glimmering of light in the soul, can be a matter of indifference to him? Ah no! Would Titian have despised a painting upon whose outline he had stamped the impress of his genius, because its pencilings were not complete? Would Canova have destroyed his sculpture, almost breathing with life, because its chiselings were unfinished? And will the Holy Spirit, in drawing the moral likeness of God upon the soul, in modeling the mind for heaven, slight this, his master-piece of wisdom and of power, because of its present incompleteness? No! The faintest outline of the divine image, the roughest shaping of the divine nature in man, presents to his eye more beauty, and symmetry, and finish, than the finest pencilings of nature, or the most perfect modelings of are. The universe of loveliness and of wonder contains nothing that can compare with it.

Thus, rejoicing in his own work, he has placed before us, in the words which we have quoted, an evidence of Christian character, in the existence of Christian love. We do not say that it is the strongest attestation which might be given; no, it may be considered, by some, the weakest; and yet multitudes have met death with composure, and have gone to glory in peace, the Holy Spirit comforting their hearts by this sweet and lowly evidence- love to the brethren. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." But before we enter fully upon our main subject, namely, Christian love, evidencing the reality of Christian character- it may be profitable first, to consider THE NATURE OF CHRISTIAN LOVE ITSELF, and then the existence and the operation of love as attesting its truth.

It is a state of transformation. The condition from which the renewed man passes, is that of death. This was his Adamic, or natural state. The sinner is by law dead; the curse is upon him, and condemnation awaits him. No, he is now condemned. "He that believes not, is condemned already." As in a state of grace, heaven is commenced below, so in a state of nature, hell is commenced below. Grace is the beginning of glory, and sinful human nature is the beginning of condemnation. The one has in it the element of eternal happiness; the other has in it the element of eternal woe. "Dead in trespasses and in sins," is the awful sentence written at this moment upon your brow. There is nothing in the history of that which is affecting and awful that will compare with it, but the condition itself of the finally lost. Indeed, the two states may be regarded almost as identical. The sinner is by law dead. He is under the curse of God, and is shut up to its condemnation, awaiting only the period of its final and eternal infliction. No, his condemnation has, in a measure, already commenced. "He who believes not, is condemned already." Listen to it, you unconverted men and women! Let the words, as they fall from the lips of Him into whose hands all judgment is committed, sink down into your ears like the knell of death. "He that believes not is CONDEMNED ALREADY." Your condition has been tried, the verdict has been given, the sentence has been pronounced, and nothing remains but the doom! The mournful preparation for its accomplishment is made. But one step, and you have passed beyond the reach of mercy, into the hands of your tormentors. Hark! Did you hear that sound? It has come from the invisible world. It is the great bell of eternity tolling the death of lost souls. Soon it will toll for you, if angels do not celebrate your heavenly birth. O think of passing from the death that is temporal, to the death that is eternal! -from the flames that might now be quenched, to the flames that are unquenchable. Rise and pray that God may not gather your soul with sinners, but that, numbered with those who shall have part in the first resurrection, upon you the second death may have no power.

But the believer in Jesus is one who has "passed from death unto life." Having somewhat touched upon this subject in the preceding pages, we will only seize upon a few of the more prominent characteristics illustrative of this renewed state. The Spirit of God has breathed into him the breath of life, and he has become a living soul. But, if possible, there is a yet stronger light in which we may view this change. The renewed man is a living soul, in consequence of his union with the life of Christ. We too little trace the life which is in us to the life which is in Jesus. The Spirit himself could not be our life apart from our union to Christ. It is not so much the work of the Spirit to give us life, as to quicken in us the life of Christ. The Apostle thus briefly but emphatically states it- "Christ, who is our life."

Hence we see the relation and the fitness of the second Adam to the church of God. In consequence of our federal union to the first Adam, we became the subjects of death- he being emphatically our death. And in consequence of our covenant union to the second Adam, we become the subjects of life- he being emphatically "our life." Hence it is said, "The second Adam is a quickening spirit." The headship of Christ, in reference to the life of his people, is written as with the point of a diamond in the following passages- "In him was life;'' "The Son quickens whom he will;" "The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear shall live;" "I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live;" "He that eats me, even he shall live by me;" "I am the life."

Now this life that is in Christ becomes the life of the believer in consequence of his union with Christ. "You are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God;" "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me." And what is the crowning act of Christ as the life of his people? What but his resurrection from the dead? "We are risen with Christ;" "You are also risen with him;" "That I may know the power of his resurrection." This doctrine of the Lord's resurrection is the pivot upon which the whole system of Christianity hinges. He is risen, and in virtue of this, his people are partakers of a resurrection life to eternal glory. It is utterly impossible that they can perish, for they have already the resurrection-life in their souls. Their own resurrection to everlasting life is pledged, secured, antedated, in consequence of the risen Christ being in them the hope of glory. Thus is Christ the life of his people. He is the life of their pardon- all their iniquities are put away by his blood. He is the life of their justification- his righteousness gives them acceptance with God. He is the life of their sanctification- his grace subdues the power of the sins, the guilt of which his blood removes. He is the life of their joys, of their hopes, of their ordinances; the life of everything that makes this life sweet, and the life to come glorious.

But what an amazing truth is this! We see into what a new and holy life the believing sinner has passed. Leaving forever the low life of sense, he now enters on the exalted life which every believer leads- the life of faith in the Son of God. He has now learned to lean upon Jesus, his righteousness and his strength, his consolation and his support. He is happy in sorrow, joyful in tribulation, strong in weakness, as by faith he leans upon Christ.

What a life, too, is the life of communion with God, springing from his life of oneness with Christ! The believer now holds communion with essential life, with essential holiness, with essential love. The holy breathing of his soul is the fellowship of Christ below, with the Father above. It is the one life in heaven and on earth. What is prayer to you, my reader? Is it communion? is it fellowship? Does God meet you, and open His heart to you? Are you ever sensible that you have, as it were, attracted His eye, and possessed yourself of His ear? Is prayer the element in which your soul lives? Do you make every circumstance of life an occasion of prayer? As soon as sorrow, comes, do you take it to the Lord's heart? As soon as burdening care comes, do you take it to the Lord's arm? As soon as conscience is beclouded, do you take it to the Lord's blood? As soon as the inward corruption arises, do you take it to the Lord's grace? This, beloved, is the life of faith. Mistake not the nature of prayer. True prayer is never more eloquent and prevailing than when breathed forth in real desires, and earnest longings, and groans that cannot be uttered. Sighs, and words, and tears, flowing from a lowly, contrite heart, have a voice more powerful and persuasive than the most eloquent diction that ever clothed the lips of man. O to be led by the Spirit more perfectly into a knowledge of the nature and the power of prayer! for this is the grand evidence of our spiritual life.

This life of the renewed soul, springing from the indwelling of Christ by the Spirit, includes the crucifixion of self. "I live, yet not I." What a depth of meaning is contained in these words! We may not in this life be able fully to measure its depth, but we may in some degree fathom it. There is not- indeed there cannot be, a more sure evidence of the life of Christ in the soul, than the mortifying of that carnal, corrupt, self-boasting that is within us. For its utter annihilation, in this present time-state, we do not plead. This would be to look for that which the word of God nowhere warrants. But we insist upon its mortification; we plead for its subjection to Christ. Who has not detected in his heart its insidious working? If the Lord has given us a little success in our work, or put upon us a little more honor than upon another, or has imparted to us a degree more of gift or grace, O what fools do we often make of ourselves in consequence? We profess to speak of what he has done- of the progress of his work- of the operation of his grace; when, alas! what burning of incense often is there, to that hideous idol- self! Thus, we offer 'strange fire' upon the altar.

But the most gracious soul is the most self-denying, self-crucifying, self-annihilating soul. "I live, yet not I. I believe, and am comforted- yet not I. I pray, and am answered- yet not I. I preach, and sinners are converted- yet not I. I labor, and good is done, yet not I. I fight, and overcome- yet not I, but Christ lives in me." Beloved, the renewed life in us will be ever striving for the mastery of self in us. Self is ever striving to take the glory from Jesus. This is one cause of the weakness of our faith. "How can you believe," says the Savior, "who receive honor one from another, and seek not the honor which comes from God only?" "We know but little of God," remarks an eminently holy man, "if we do not sicken when we hear our own praise. And if we have kept the glory of God in view, rather than our own, remember, it is the gift of God, the work of his Spirit, which has gained a victory over self, through faith in Christ." O that the life of Christ within us may more and more manifest itself as a self-denying, self-mortifying, self-annihilating life- willing to be fools for Christ; yes to be nothing, that Christ may wear the crown, and God be all in all.

And remember that there will be a correspondence between the life of Christ in the soul, and the life which Christ lived when he tabernacled in the flesh. We have before remarked, that the indwelling of Christ in the believer is a kind of second incarnation of the Son of God. When Christ enters the heart of a poor sinner, he once more clothes himself with our nature. The life which Christ lived in the days of his sojourn on earth, was a life of sorrow, of conflict, of temptation, of desertion, of need, and of suffering in every form. Does he now live a different life in the believer? No; he is still tempted, and deserted, and in sorrow, and in need, and in humiliation, and in suffering- in his people.

What! did you think that these fiery darts were leveled at you? Did you suppose that it was you who were deserted, that it was you who suffered, that it was you who was despised, that it was you who was trodden under foot? No, my brother, it was Christ dwelling in you. All the malignity of Satan, and all the power of sin; and all the contempt of the world, are leveled, not against you, but against the Lord dwelling in you. Were it all death in your soul, all darkness, and sinfulness, and worldliness, you would be an entire stranger to these exercises of the renewed man. Behold the love and condescension of Jesus! that after all that he endured in his own person, he should again submit himself to the same in the person of his saints; that he should, as it were, return, and tread again the path of suffering, and of trial, and of humiliation, in the life which each believer lives. O how it speaks that love which surpasses knowledge! How completely is Christ one with his saints! And yet, how feebly and faintly do we believe this truth! How little do we recognize Christ in all that relates to us! and yet he is in all things. He is in every providence that brightens or that darkens upon our path. "Christ is all, and in all."

The unearthliness of this life is a feature that must not be overlooked. It is a divine and spiritual, and therefore an unearthly life. Its principles are unearthly, its actings are unearthly, its aspirations are unearthly, its pleasures are unearthly, its enjoyments are unearthly, its employments are unearthly, its aims are unearthly. It mixes not, it cannot mix, with earth. Most true it is, that that life which the believer lives is "in the flesh," but it is not of the flesh, nor after the flesh, and cannot coalesce with the flesh. The flesh may often deaden, and weaken, and becloud, and depress, and chain it down, but, like the needle of the compass, the moment it obtains its freedom, it turns to God again. O what a heavenly life is this! What a marvel that it should be found, like a precious pearl, in the midst of so much darkness, and pollution, and deadness, and earthliness! Who but God could maintain a life so immortal, in the midst of so much deadliness; a life so holy, in the midst of so much impurity; a life so heavenly, in the midst of so much earthliness. And yet so it is.

But may there be a personal persuasion of our possession of this divine life? The Apostle: answers this inquiry in the affirmative, when he says, "We know that we have passed from death unto life." For it is a thing of whose possession the believer may be assured. He can speak of its possession with holy boldness, and with humble confidence. The life of God in the soul authenticates itself. It brings with it its own evidence. Is it possible that a believer can be a subject of the quickening grace of the Holy Spirit, and not know it? Possess union with Christ, and not know it? the pardon of sin, and not know it? communion with God, and not know it? breathing after holiness, and not know it? Impossible! The life of God in the soul evidences itself by its actings. Are you sensible of your sinfulness? do you love the atoning blood? is Jesus precious to your soul? do you delight in God, and in retirement for communion with Him? Then, for your encouragement we remind you, that these are not the actings of a soul lying in a state of spiritual death, nor are these the productions of a soil still unregenerate. They proceed from the indwelling life of God, and are the ascendings of that life to God, the Fountain from where it flows. Thus the weakest believer in Jesus may humbly explain, "This one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see." He knows that he has passed from death unto life.

The Holy Spirit is also a witness to the reality of this great change. "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God." The mode of his testimony is in character with the fact which he authenticates. No voice is heard, no vision is seen, nothing tangible is felt, no law of our being is suspended; but by a silent and concealed, yet effectual, operation, he witnesses to the great fact of our having "passed from death unto life." He it is who breathes the cry of "Abba, Father," in the heart- who sprinkles the reconciling blood upon the conscience- who guides the eye of faith to the cross- and who, by thus testifying of the death of Jesus to the soul, testifies to the love of Jesus in the soul. From the cross of Immanuel he brings a flood of heavenly light, and sheds it upon his own regenerating work, proving its reality, and discovering its glories. Beautiful, holy, and perfect, as is the work of the Spirit in the soul, yet not a line is revealed until Jesus shines upon it. Then, how glorious does it appear.

But have all the saints of God alike this clear personal assurance? and is its possession essential to true faith? We are far from asserting this. We do indeed think that every regenerate soul must be sensible of a transformation of mind, of character, and of habit. He must acknowledge that by the grace of God he is what he once was not. To what can he ascribe this change but to the second birth? But even this secret persuasion may be connected with many harassing fears and distressing doubts. The constant discovery of the hidden evil, the perpetual tendency to remove the eye from Jesus, the dark and the painful often experienced in the dealings of God, will at times prompt the believer to question the reality of his life. "With all this," he inquires, "can I be a child of God?"

And yet the most holy saints have been the most doubting and fearful saints.  David, for example, who had more testimonies of God's favor than any man, yet, as one says, he was at a loss sometimes to spell his evidences. And that holy man Rutherford remarks, "I have questioned whether or not I ever knew anything of Christianity, except the letters which make up the word." But doubting faith is not doubtful faith. If the believer has not the faith of assurance, he may have the faith of reliance, and that will take him to heaven. All the doubts and fears that ever harassed a child of God cannot erase his name from the Lamb's book of life, nor take him out of the heart of God, nor shut him out of glory.

"Unbelief," says Rutherford, "may, perhaps, tear the copies of the covenant which Christ has given you; but he still keeps the original in heaven with himself. Your doubts and fears are no parts of the covenant; neither can they change Christ." "The doubts and fears of the elect," remarks another, "are overruled by almighty grace to their present and eternal good; as conducing to keep us humble at God's footstool, to endear the merits of Jesus, and to make us feel our weakness and dependence, and to render us watchful unto prayer." Did ever an unregenerate, lifeless soul entertain a doubt or fear of its spiritual condition? Never. Was it ever known anxiously and prayerfully to question, or to reason about its eternal state? Never. Do I seek to strengthen your doubts? No; but I wish to strengthen your tried and doubting faith. I would tell you for your encouragement, that the minutest particle of grace has eternal glory in it, even as the smallest seed virtually contains all that proceeds from it- the blade, the ear, and the full corn in the ear.

Faint not, nor be discouraged in your trial of faith. There is not a sweeter way to heaven than along the path of free grace, paved with hard trials. It was the way which he trod who was "full of grace." Rich though he was in grace, yet see how deeply he was tried. Think not, then, that your sore trials are signs of a graceless state. O no! The most gracious saints have been the most tried saints. But rest not here. There is still richer, surer comfort for you-even the fulness of grace that is in Jesus- grace ever flowing, and yet ever full. Disclose to him your doubts and fears. Tell him you desire him above all good. Plunge into the sea of his fulness; and he who has created in your soul a thirst for grace, will assuredly and bountifully give you the grace for which you thirst.

But there is one test- a gentle, sweet, and holy test- by which the most timid and doubting child of God may decide the genuineness of his Christian character: the evidence to which we allude is, LOVE TO THE SAINTS. "By this we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." The grace which is here singled out, is the sweetest and the loveliest of all the graces. It is the product of the Holy Spirit, it flows from the heart of God, and it, more than all others, assimilates the heart to the nature of God, for "God is love." Without love, what is the actual value of all intellectual endowments, acquisitions of knowledge, understanding of mysteries, or even the achievements of faith? But small indeed. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profits me nothing."

There is no truth more distinctly uttered, or more emphatically stated than this- the infinite superiority of love to gifts. And in pondering their relative position and value, let it be remembered, that the gifts which are here placed in competition with grace, are the highest spiritual gifts. Thus does the apostle allude to them: "God has set some in the Church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, after that of miracles, then gifts of healing." And then follows his expressive declaration- "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." In other words, "Though I were an apostle, having apostolic gifts; or, though I were a prophet, possessed of prophetic gifts; or, though I were an angel, clothed with angelic gifts, yet, destitute of the grace of love, my religion were but as an empty sound, nothing worth." Is there in all this any undervaluing of the spiritual gifts which the great exalted Head of the Church has bestowed upon his ministers? Far from it. The apostle speaks of the way of spiritual gifts as excellent, but of the way of the grace of love as a "more excellent." Gifts may be possessed separate from love- but existing alone, they cannot bring the soul to heaven. And love may exist apart from gifts, but where love is found, even alone, there is that sweet, excellent grace that will assuredly conduct its possessor to glory. Grace embellished with gifts is the more beautiful; but gifts without grace, are only a richer spoil for Satan.

And why this superiority of the grace of love? Why is it so excellent, so great, and so distinguished? Because God's love in the soul is a part of God himself- for, "God is love." It is, as it were, a drop of the essence of God falling into the heart of man. "He that dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in him." This grace of love is implanted in the soul at the period of its generation. The new creation is the restoration of the soul to God, the expulsion from the heart of the principle of enmity, and the flowing back of its affections to their original center. "Every one that loves is Born of God."

Is it again asked why the love of His saints is so costly in God's eye? Because it is a small fraction of the infinite love which He bears towards them. Does God delight Himself in His love to His Church? Has He set so high a value upon it as to give His own Son to die for it? Then, wherever he meets with the smallest degree of that love, He must esteem it more lovely, more costly, and more rare, than all the most splendid gifts that ever adorned the soul. "We love him because he first loved us." Here, then, is that grace in the soul of man which more than all others assimilates him to God. It comes from God, and it raises the soul to God, and it makes the soul like God.

How encouraging, then, to know the value which the Lord puts upon our poor returns of love to him! Of gifts we may have none, and even of love but little, yet of that little, who can unfold God's estimate of its preciousness? He looks upon it as a little picture of Himself. He sees in it a reflection- dim and imperfect indeed- of His own image. And as He gazes upon it, He seems to say- "Your abilities, my child, are humble, and your gifts are few: your knowledge is scanty, and your tongue is stammering; you can not speak for me, nor pray to me in public, by reason of the littleness of your attainments and the greatness of your infirmity; but you do love me, my child, and in that love which I behold, I see my nature, I see my heart, I see my image, I see myself; and that is more precious to me than all besides. Most costly to Him also are all your labors of love, and obedience of love, and sacrifices of love, and offerings of love, and sufferings of love. Yes, whatever blade, or bud, or flower, or fruit grows upon the stalk of love, it is most lovely, and precious, and fragrant to God.

But there is another point of light which still more strongly presents to view the superior excellence and preciousness of the grace of love. We allude to the manifested love of the saints to one another. The apostle presents this as a true test of Christian character. He does not say, as he in truth might have said, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love God;" but placing the reality of this wondrous translation upon a lower evidence, the Holy Spirit, by the inspired writer, descends to the weakest exhibition of the grace which his own power had wrought, when he says, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." Thus, so costly in God's eye would appear this heaven-born, heaven-like grace, that even the faint and imperfect manifestation of it by one saint to another, shall constitute a valid evidence of his relation to God, and of his heirship to life eternal.

Our blessed Lord, who is beautifully said to have been an incarnation of love, places the evidence of Christian discipleship on precisely the same ground. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another." He might justly have concentrated all their affection upon himself, and thus have made their sole and supreme attachment to Him the only test of their discipleship. But no! In the exercise of that boundless benevolence which was never happy but as it was planning and promoting the happiness of others, he bids them "love one another," and condescends to accept of this as evidencing to the world, their oneness and love to himself.

We are at length conducted to the consideration of the subject to which this chapter more specifically invites our attention- CHRISTIAN LOVE, A TEST OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER. The affection under consideration, let it be remarked, transcends all similar emotions embraced under the same general term. There is a natural affection, and a human affection, and a denominational affection, which often binds in the sweetest and closest union those who are of the same family, or of the same congregation, or who assimilate in mind, in temper, in taste, or in circumstance. But the affection of which we now speak, is of a higher order than this. We can find no parallel to it, not even in the pure, benevolent bosoms of angels, until, passing through the ranks of all created intelligences, we rise to GOD Himself. There, and there alone, we meet the counterpart of Christian love. Believer, the love for which we plead is love to the brethren- love to them as brethren. The church of God is one family, of which Christ is the Elder Brother, and "all are members one of another." It is bound by a moral tie the most spiritual, it bears a family likeness the most perfect, and it has a common interest in one hope, the most sublime. No climate, nor color, nor sect, affects the relationship. Do you meet one from the opposite hemisphere of the globe, having the image of Christ, manifesting the fruits of the Spirit; who in his walk and conversation is aiming to cultivate the heavenly dispositions and holy habits of the Gospel, and who is identifying himself with the cause of God and of truth, and you meet with a member of the one family, a brother in the Lord, one who calls your Father his Father, your Lord his Lord, and one, too, who has a higher claim upon your affection and your sympathy than the closest and the tenderest natural relation that life can command.

But it is proper that we explain more clearly, in what the true UNITY of the church of God consists. The words of her Great Head shall be our sole authority and guide. "That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us." We commence with a declaration of a great truth, that the unity of the church of God, as set forth in this remarkable passage, is, her unity in the Triune God. Her unity in herself is the effect of a cause. She is one bodily, because she is spiritually and essentially one in Jehovah. The words, "One in us," convey the strongest idea, and afford the clearest evidence of her essential and individual unity, of any that exists. We commence with God the Father- she is one in Him. The apostle clearly states this in the Epistle to the Ephesians. "One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." All who? -the one church of God. One covenant God and Father unites the one family in heaven and in earth. They are one in His choice, one in His purpose, one in His covenant, one in His heart. The same will chose them- the same affection loved them- the same decree predestinated them: they are one in Him. Blessed truth!

"One God and Father." Behold them clustering together around the mercy seat- they come from various parts of the world, they speak different languages, they express opposite feelings, they unfold various needs and sorrows- yet, listen! they all address Him as, "Our Father." Every heart bows in love to Him- every heart is fixed in faith upon Him, and every tongue breathes, the lofty, and endearing, and holy name of, "Abba, Father." There, in the glowing light amid which the throne of mercy stands, all sectarian feeling dies, all denominational distinction is lost, and Christians of every name meet, and embrace, and love as brethren. Holy thought! One God loves all and protects all- one Father pities all, supplies all, bears with all, and, with an impartial affection, binds all together and alike in his heart.

The church is also one in THE SON- "There is one Lord." The Lord Jesus is the one Head, as he is the one Foundation of the Church. All believers are chosen in Christ, blessed in Christ, saved in Christ, preserved in Christ, and in Christ will be glorified. The work of Christ is the one resting-place of their souls. They rely for pardon upon the same blood, for acceptance upon the same righteousness, and for sanctification upon the same grace. One in Christ, all other differences and distinctions are merged and forgotten. "There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither bond nor free; there is neither male nor female, for You Are All One in Christ Jesus." Blessed truth! The "righteousness of God, which is unto all and upon all those who believe," imparts the same completeness to all believers in Christ. Upon the breast-plate of the great High Priest, now within the veil, every name is alike written- not a sectarian appellation dims the luster of the "Urim and the Thummin," in whose glowing light the names of all the saints are alike enshrined.

What a uniting truth is this! Jesus is the one Head of life, light, and love, to all his saints. He carried the transgression of all- he bore the curse of all- he endured the hell of all- he pardons the sin of all- he supplies the need of all- he soothes the sorrows of all- and he lives and intercedes for all. To him all alike repair- it is true, with different degrees of knowledge and of faith, and from different points; yet, to Jesus, as to one Savior, one Brother, one Lord, they all alike come. Oh! what a cementing principle is this! The body of Christ- the purchase of the same blood, loved with the same affection, and in heaven represented by the same Advocate, and soon, O how soon, to be "glorified together with him!" What love, then, ought I to bear towards him whom Jesus has so loved! How can I feel coldly to, or look unkindly at, or speak uncharitably of, one whom Jesus has redeemed with the same precious blood, and whom he carries each moment in the same loving heart.

The Church of God, too, is equally one in the HOLY SPIRIT. "By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." With what increasing glory does this great truth unfold itself! We seem to be brought to the climax of the argument here. One Spirit regenerating all, fashioning all, teaching all, sealing all, comforting all, and dwelling in all. Degrees of grace, and "diversities of gifts" there are, "but the same Spirit." That same Spirit making all believers partakers of the same Divine nature, and then taking up his abode in each, must necessarily assimilate them in every essential quality, and feature, and attribute of the Christian character. Thus the unity of the Church is an essential and a hidden unity.

With all the differences of opinion, and the varieties of ceremonial, and the multiplicity of sects into which she is broken and divided, and which tend greatly to impair her strength, and shade her beauty, she is yet essentially and indivisibly ONE- her unity consisting, not in a uniformity of judgment, but, better far than this, in the "unity of the Spirit." Thus, no individual believer can with truth say, that he possesses the Spirit exclusively, boasting himself of what other saints have not; nor can any one section of the Christian Church lay claim to its being the only true Church, and that salvation is found only within its pale. These lofty pretensions, these exclusive claims, this vain-glory and uncharitableness, are all demolished by one lightning touch of truth, even by that blessed declaration, "for by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body."

Behold, then, the threefold cord which unites the family of God. The ever blessed and glorious Trinity dwells in the Church, and the Church dwells in the blessed Trinity. Who can divide this body from itself, or separate it from God? Having thus endeavored to show in what the unity of the Church of God really consists, we proceed to the subject more especially before us- the manifestation of this unity by believers, and the evidence which it affords, and the consequent assurance which it imparts, of their personal relationship to God. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren."

The feeling here referred to is a love to the saints, as saints. Whatever natural infirmities we may discover in them, whatever different shades of opinion they may hold from us, and to whatever branch of the Christian Church they may belong, yet the feeling which is to establish our own divine relationship, is a love to them as brethren. Irrespective of all dissonance of creed, of denomination, of gifts, of attainment, of rank, of wealth, of nation- when we meet in a Christian professor the image of Christ, the family-likeness, our love will prompt us immediately to recognize that individual as a believer in Jesus, and to acknowledge him as a brother in the Lord.

And what are the grounds of my affection? I may esteem his character, and prize his gifts- may admire his talents, and feel there is an assimilation of disposition, of taste, and of judgment- but my Christian love springs from an infinitely higher and holier source. I love him because the Father is in him, and because the Son is in him, and because the Holy Spirit is in him. I love him because he is an adopted child of the same family, a member of Christ, and the same body, and a temple of the same Holy Spirit. I love him that is begotten, because I love him that begat. It is Christ in one believer, going out after himself in another believer. It is the Holy Spirit in one temple, holding fellowship with himself in another temple. And from hence it is that we gather the evidence of our having "passed from death unto life." "He that loves him that begat, loves him also that is begotten." Loving the Divine Original, we love the human copy, however imperfect the resemblance. The Spirit of God dwelling in the regenerate soul, yearns after the image of Jesus, wherever it is found. It pauses not to inquire, to what branch of the Christian Church the individual resembling him belongs; that with which it has to do is the resemblance itself. Now, if we discover this going out of the heart in sweet, and holy, and prayerful affection towards every believer in Christ- be his denominational name what it may- the most to those who most bear the Savior's image, then have we the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us.

A surer evidence we cannot have. There is the affection which surmounts all the separating walls of partition in the Church, and in spite of sects, and parties, and creeds, demonstrates its own divine nature and heavenly birth, by its blending with the same affection glowing in the bosom of another. And where this love to the brethren exists not at all, in any Christian professor, we ask that individual, with all the tenderness of affection consistent with stern faithfulness, where is the evidence of your union with the body of Christ? You have turned away with contractedness of heart, and with frigidity of manner, if not with secret disdain, from one whom God loves, whom Christ has redeemed, and in whom the Holy Spirit dwells, because he belonged not to your sect. Yes, you have turned away with coolness and suspicion from Christ himself! How can you love the Father and hate the child? What affection have you for the Elder Brother, while you despise the younger? And if you are a living branch of the same Vine, can you, while, cherishing those feelings which exclude from your affection, from your sympathies, and from your fellowship, other Christians, more deeply; wound Jesus, or more effectually grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom they are "sealed unto the day of redemption?"

Perhaps, my brother, you have long walked in darkness and uncertainty as to the fact of your own personal adoption into the family of God. Anxious fear and distressing doubt have taken the place of a holy assurance and a peaceful persuasion that you are one of the Lord's people. In endeavoring to trace this painful state of mind to its cause, did it ever occur to you, that your lack of enlargement of heart towards all saints, especially towards those of other branches of the same family, has, in all probability, so grieved the Spirit of adoption, that he has withheld from your own soul that clear testimony, that direct witness by which your interest in the covenant love of God, and your union with Christ, would have been clearly made known to you? You have grieved that same Spirit in your brother, who dwells in you, and upon whom you are so dependent for all your sweet consolation and holy desires; and he has suspended the light, and peace, and joy of your own soul.

But here is a test of relationship to the family of God which never fails. "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." From this, the weakest believer may extract the greatest consolation. Other evidences, beloved, may be beclouded. Divine knowledge may be deficient, and Christian experience may be limited, and the question, "Am I a child of God?" may long have been one of painful doubt; but here is an evidence which cannot deceive. You may doubt your love to God, but your love to His people, as such, proves the existence and the reality of your love to Him. Your attachment to them, because they are holy, is an evidence of your own holiness, which no power can invalidate or set aside. Since the Holy Spirit has constituted it as evidence, and since God admits it as such, we press its comfort, with all the energy which we possess, upon the heart of the doubting, trembling child of God. You may often have questioned the reality of your love to God, scarcely daring to claim an affection so great as this. Your attachment to Jesus, so inconstant, so wavering and so cold, may often have raised the anxious fear and the perplexing doubt. But your love to the people of God has been like a sheet-anchor to your soul. This you have not questioned, and you could not doubt. You have loved them because they were the people of God; you have felt an attachment to them because they were the disciples of Christ.

What can this prove, but your love to God, your affection to Jesus, and your own participation in the same Divine nature? It were a thing impossible for you to love that which is holy without a corresponding principle of holiness in yourself. Speaking of the enmity of the ungodly against his people, our Lord employs, this language: "If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." Now, if there is the opposite feeling to this, glowing in your hearts, be sure that, as the hatred of the world to the saints proves that it loves only its own, so your love to the saints places the fact of your union with them beyond all doubt.

Try your heart, beloved, by this test. Do you not love the people of God because they are His people? Is not Christ's image in them, that upon which you so delight to gaze, and, gazing upon which, often enkindles your soul with love to Christ himself? And do you not love to gather the choicest flowers of grace in the Lord's garden- growing in what bed they may- as those in whom your soul has the greatest delight- their different tints, their varied beauties and odors, rather increasing, than diminishing, the pleasure which they afford you? Then, let every Christian professor test his religion by this grace. Let him who has been wont to retire within his own narrow enclosure ask himself the question, "If I love not my brother whom I have seen, how can I love God whom I have not seen?"

Let us now briefly trace some of the operations of this heaven-born grace of Christian love, by which its real existence in our hearts is proved. We have endeavored to show, that it recognizes as brethren, all who are partakers of like precious faith with us, who hold Christ the head, who walk according to the Gospel of Christ, and who are laborings and seeking for the coming of his kingdom. We will now proceed to portray some of the EFFECTS of brotherly love.

It tenderly sympathizes with all the suffering believers. Here is the evidence of our own membership with the family of God. "If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it." And it is in this exercise of Christian sympathy that "the members have the same care one for another." The Church of God is a suffering Church. All the members are, more or less, and variously, tried. Many are the burdens of the saints. It would be impossible, we think, to find one, whose lip has not touched the cup of sorrow, whose spirit has not felt the pressure of trouble. Some walk in doubt and darkness- some are particularly set up as a mark for Satan- some suffer from a nervous temperament, discoloring every bright and beautiful picture of life- some are the subjects of personal affliction, pining sickness excluding them from all participation in the songs of Zion and the solemn assemblies of the saints- some are bereaved, sorrowing like Rachel for her children, or mourning, like the sisters of Bethany, for their brother. Some are suffering from narrowed and exhausted resources; and there may do not be a few, suffering even from actual poverty itself.

Ah! how many will say, "You have touched upon every sorrow but mine," -so extensive is the field of Christian sympathy! But what scope for the play of those heaven-born affections begotten in the heart of each true believer! "A new commandment give I unto you," says Christ, "that you love one another." And how is this commandment to be obeyed? The apostle answers, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Therefore the bearing of one another's burdens is a necessary effect and proper exercise of this holy love. It will delight to recognize the suffering Savior in his suffering members. And it will go and lift the pressure from the spirit, and chase the sorrow from the heart, and dry the tear from the eye, and supply the pressing need. And if it cannot accomplish this, it will take its place by the side of the sufferer, sharing the sorrow and the need it has no power to comfort or remove. Is this law of Christ- the law of love- thus exhibited in you?

"Do you love Christ? I ask not if you feel
The warm excitement of that party zeal
Which follows on, while others lead the way,
And make his cause the fashion of the day
But do you love him when his garb is mean;
Nor shrink to let your fellowship be seen?
Do you love Jesus, blind; and halt, and maimed?
In prison support him; nor feel ashamed
To own him, though his injured name may be
A mark for some dark slander's obloquy?
Do you love Jesus in the orphan's claim,
And bid the widow welcome in his name?
Say not, 'When saw we him?' -Each member dear,
Poor and afflicted, wears his image here;
And if unvalued or unknown by you,
Where can your union with the Body be?
And if you thus are to the body dead,
Where is your life in Christ the living Head?
And if dissevered from the living Vine,
How can you dream that you have life divine!
"Sweet is the union true believers feel
Into one Spirit they have drunk; the seal
Of God is on their hearts- and thus they see
In each the features of one family!
If one is suffering- all the rest are sad;
If but the least is honored- all are glad.
The grace of Jesus, which they all partake,
Flows out in mutual kindness for his sake;
Here he has left them for a while to wait,
And represent him in their suffering state;
While he, though glorified, as yet alone,
Bears the whole church before the Father's throne."

In the exercise of brotherly love, there will also be a tender forbearance with all who differ from us in judgment. The exercise of private judgment is the natural and inalienable right of every individual. Sanctified by the Spirit of God, it becomes a precious privilege of the believer. He prizes it more than riches, claims it as one of the immunities of his heavenly citizenship, and will surrender it only with life itself. Christian love will avoid infringing, in the least degree, upon this sacred right. I am bound, by the law of love, to concede to my brother, to its fullest extent, that which I claim for myself. I am, moreover, bound to believe him conscientious and honest in the views which he holds, and that he maintains them in a reverence for the word, and in the exercise of the fear of God.

He does not see eye to eye with me in every point of truth- our views of church government, of ordinances, and of some of the doctrines, are not alike. And yet, discerning a perfect agreement as to the one great and only way of salvation; and, still more, marking in him much of the lowly, loving spirit of his Master, and an earnest desire, in simplicity and godly sincerity, to serve him, how can I cherish or manifest towards him any other than a feeling of brotherly love? God loves him, God bears with him, and Christ may see in him, despite of a creed less accurately balanced with the word of truth than mine, a walk more in harmony with the holy, self-denying, God-glorifying precepts of that truth. With an orthodoxy less perfect, there maybe a life more holy. With less illumination in the judgment, there may be more grace in the heart. How charitable in my interpretation, then, how loving in my spirit, how kind and gentle in my manner, should I be towards him!

How jealous, too, ought I to be of that independence of mind, in the exercise of which he may, notwithstanding, have arrived at conclusions opposite to my own! Cherishing these feelings, Christians who differ in judgment, will be placed in a more favorable position for the understanding of one another's views, and for the united examination of the word of God. Diversity of judgment, through the infirmity of our fallen nature, is apt to beget alienation of feeling; and, consequently, the development of truth is hindered. But where harmony of affection is cultivated, there will be a greater probability of arriving at more perfect agreement in sentiment, thus walking in accordance with the Apostle's rule- "I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment."

Another exercise of Christian love will be its endeavors to avoid all occasions of offence. These, through the many and fast-clinging infirmities of the saints of God, will often occur. But they are to be avoided, and in the exercise of that love which proves our Christian character, they will be avoided. The child of God will desire to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Whatever tends to weaken that bond, he will endeavor to lay aside. Whatever he may discover in his communion with the saints calculated to wound, to distress, to alienate, to offend, either in his manner, or in his spirit, the healthy exercise of holy love will constrain him to overcome. He will avoid giving offence. He will be modest in the expression of his own opinion, respectful and deferential towards the opinion of others. He will avoid that recklessness of spirit which, under the cover of faithfulness, cares not to estimate consequences; but which, pursuing its heedless way, often crushes beneath its rough-shod heel the finest feelings of the human heart; saying and doing what it pleases, regardless of the wounds which, all the while, it is deeply and irreparably inflicting.

How sedulous, too, will he be to avoid anything like a dictatorial manner in enunciating his judgment, and all hard words and strong expressions in differing from authorities of equal, perhaps of greater weight than his own. Oh! were this divine affection but more deeply lodged in the hearts of all those who 'profess and call themselves Christians,' what courtesy of manner- what grace of deportment- what tender regard of one another's feelings- what kindness in word and in action- what carefulness to avoid inflicting even a momentary pain- what putting away, as becomes saints, all wrath, anger, evil speaking, and malice- and what constant remembrance of his solemn words, who said, "Whoever shall offend one of these little ones who believe in me, it were better that a mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depths of the sea," -would each believer exhibit! Lord, fill our souls more and more with this lovely grace of love!

The forgiveness of offences is an operation of Christian love, equally as essential and beautiful. If there is a single exercise of divine grace in which, more than in any other, the believer resembles God, it is this. God's love to man is exhibited in one great and glorious manifestation and a single word expresses it- FORGIVENESS. In nothing has He so gloriously revealed Himself as in the exercise of this divine prerogative. Nowhere does He appear so like Himself as here. He forgives sin, and the pardon of sin involves the bestowment of every other blessing. How often are believers called upon thus to imitate God! And how like Him in spirit, in affection, and in action do they appear, when, with true greatness of soul and with lofty magnanimity of mind, they fling from their hearts, and efface from their memories, all traces of the offence that has been given, and of the injury that has been received!

How affecting and illustrious the example of the expiring Redeemer! At the moment that his deepest wound was inflicted, as if blotting out the sin and its remembrance with the very blood that it shed, he prayed, as the last drop oozed and as the last breath departed, "Father, forgive them!" How fully and fearfully might he have avenged himself at that moment! A stronger than Samson hung upon the cross. And as he bowed his human nature and yielded up his spirit, he could as easily have bowed the pillars of the universe, burying his murderers beneath its ruins. But no! he was too great for this. His strength should be on the side of mercy. His revenge should impose itself in compassion. He would heap coals of fire upon their heads. He would overcome and conquer the evil -but he would overcome and conquer it with good. "Father, FORGIVE them."

It is in the constant view of this forgiveness that the followers of Christ desire, on all occasions of offence given, whether real or imaginary, to "forgive those who trespass against them." Themselves the subjects of a greater and diviner forgiveness, they would be prompt to exercise the same holy feeling towards an offending brother. In the remembrance of the ten thousand talents from whose payment his Lord has released him, he will not hesitate to cancel the hundred pence owed to him by his fellow-servant.

Where, then, will you find any exercise of brotherly love more God-like and divine than this? Forgiveness, in its immediate proposal, its greatest sweetness and richest charm appear. The longer forgiveness is delayed, the more difficult becomes the duty. The imagination is allowed to dwell upon, and the mind to brood over, a 'slight offence' received, perhaps never intended, until it has increased to such a magnitude as almost to extend, in the eye of the aggrieved party, beyond the limit of forgiveness. And then follows an endless train of evils; the wound festers and inflames; the breach widens; coldness is manifested; malice is cherished; every word, look, and act, are misinterpreted; the molehill grows into a mountain, and the little rivulet swells into an ocean, and happiness and peace retire from scenes so uncongenial, and from hearts so full of all hatred and strife.

But how lovely in its appearance, and how pleasurable in the feelings it enkindles, is a prompt exercise of Christian forgiveness! Before the imagination has had time to play, or the wound to fester, or ill-minded people to interfere, Christian love has triumphed, and all is forgiven! How full of meaning is our blessed Lord's teaching on this point of Christian duty! It behooves us prayerfully and constantly to ponder his word. Peter inquired of him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him until seven times? Jesus says unto him, I say not, Until seven times, but, Until seventy times seven." Thus, true love has no limits to its forgiveness. If it observes in the bosom of the offender, the faintest marks of regret, of contrition, and of return, like Him from whose heart it comes, it is "ready to forgive," even "until seventy times seven."

O who can tell the debt we owe to His repeated, perpetual forgiveness? And shall I refuse to be reconciled to my brother? Shall I withhold from him the hand of love, and let the sun go down upon my wrath? Because he has trampled upon me, who have so often acknowledged myself the chief of sinners; because he has slighted my self-importance, or has wounded my pride, or has grieved my too sensitive spirit, or, it is possible, without just cause, has uttered hard speeches, and has lifted up his heel against me. Shall I keep alive the embers of an unforgiving spirit in my heart? Or rather, shall I heap coals of fire upon his head, not to consume him with wrath, but to overcome him with love? How has God my Father, how has Jesus my Redeemer, my Friend, dealt with me? Even so will I deal with my offending brother. I will not even wait until he comes and acknowledges his fault. I will go to him and tell him that, at the mercy-seat, beneath the cross, with my eye upon the loving, forgiving heart of God, I have resolved to forgive all, and will forget all. "And when you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses."

But some may reply, The breach is of so long standing, it is now too late to seek reconciliation. An old and acute writer thus meets the objection: "Well, then, if it be too late, give me leave to entreat one thing at your hands; it is this: I say if it be too late, and you say it is too late to be reconciled and to love one another, let me entreat this, that you should lay aside your garments- the garments of your profession of being Christ's disciples. For our Savior says, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another." And, therefore, if it be too late to love one another, and to be reconciled, come and let us lay down our garments, let us lay down our profession of being the disciples of Christ; yes; let us lay down our expectation of heaven too, for says the apostle, 'Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.' And is not passion, malice, and lack of love, flesh and blood? Certainly, certainly, if I do not walk in this way of love, it is not all my parts and all my gifts that will bail me from the arrest of that scripture, 'Flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven.' Believe it, believe it, it is not too late, it is not too late to love one another; it is not too late to do my work as long as it is not too late to receive my wages. And if I say, it is too late to be reconciled, what if God say to me, then it is too late for my soul to be saved?

And oh! what a lovely spectacle would it be- a spectacle on which angels would look down with delight- to see, in the exercise of this all-divine, all-powerful, all-expulsive emotion of Christian love, individuals, or families, or churches, who had long been at variance one with another, now drawn together in sweet affection, past injuries and old animosities forgotten in the joys of perfect reconciliation, forgiveness, and love! Let the holy attempt be made. "Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, affections of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do you."

Christian forbearance is another beautiful exhibition of this feeling. The image of God is but imperfectly restored in the renewed soul. The resemblance to Christ in the most matured believer, is at best but a faint copy. In our communion with the saints of God, we often meet with much that calls for the exercise of our forbearance- many weaknesses of the flesh and of the spirit; and many peculiarities of thought and of manner. There are, too, diversities of gifts, and degrees of grace. Some are more deeply taught than others- some are strong, and some are weak- some travel rapidly, and others slowly- some are fearless and courageous, others are timid and scrupulous. Now all these things call for the exercise of Christian forbearance. The apostle clearly defines the rule that should guide us here- "We who are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves."

Especially in 'church fellowship' will the grace of forbearance be called in requisition. When the providence of God has thrown together a community of individuals, composed of a great variety of character, and of mind, and of constitutional temperament, although each grade may be more or less modified by the renewing of the Spirit, there will still be a broad field for the passive exercise of love. In a church, necessarily imperfect, there may be found to exist many things, in which taste as well as judgment will be found at fault, calculated to engender a feeling of dislike, and even of disgust, in a mind refined and delicate. But here Christian forbearance must be exercised. They are the infirmities of the weak of Christ's flock, and they who are stronger in grace should kindly and patiently bear them.

In pursuing a different course, we may wound some of the most gracious, humble, and prayerful saints of God. We may be but little aware with what frequent and deep humiliation in secret, their conscious failings may overwhelm them. And we ought to bear in mind, that if we sometimes might wish to see in them less that was rough in speech, and abrupt and forward in manner, and fault-finding in disposition, they may detect in us a loftiness of spirit, a coldness of manner, and an apparent haughtiness of carriage, which may be an equal trial to them, demanding the exercise on their part of the same grace of forbearance towards us. How watchful, how tender, how kind, then, should we be, ever standing with that broad mantle of love in our hands, which "is patient and kind; which seeks not its own; is not easily provoked," prepared to cast it over the failing of a Christian brother, the moment it meets the eye!

The duty of brotherly admonition and reproof is a perfectly legitimate exercise of Christian love. It may be found the most difficult, but the result will prove it to be the most holy and precious operation of this grace. The Church of God is one family, linked together by ties and interests the closest, the holiest, and the tenderest. It is natural, therefore, that each member should desire for the others the utmost perfection of Christian attainment, and must feel honored or dishonored, as the case may be, by the walk and conversation of those with whom the relationship is so close. In Christian friendship, too, the same feeling is recognized. We naturally feel anxious to see in one whom we tenderly love, the removal of whatever detracts from the beauty, the symmetry, and the perfection of Christian character. Here, then, will the duty of brotherly admonition and reproof, find its appropriate sphere of exercise. But few things contribute more to the formation of Christian character, and to the holy walk of a church, than the faithful, Christ-like discharge of this duty.

It is true, it requires an extraordinary degree of grace in him who administers, and in him who receives, the reproof. That in the one there should be nothing of the spirit which seems to say, "Stand by, I am holier than you;" nothing to give needless pain or humiliation, but the utmost meekness, gentleness, and tenderness; and that in the other, there should be the tractable and humble mind, that admits the failing, receives the reproof, and is grateful for the admonition. "Let the righteous smite me," says David, "it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil." "He that refuses reproof errs, and he that hears reproof gets understanding, and shall be honored. Open rebuke is better than secret love; and faithful are the wounds of a friend." Thus, while this duty is administered and received in the spirit of the meek and lowly Jesus, the Church will be kindly affectioned one to another, knit together in love, and growing up into that state in which she will be without a spot, or a wrinkle, or any such thing.

True Christian love will avoid taking the seat of judgment. There are few violations of the law of love more common than those rash and premature 'infallible' judgments, which some Christians are ever ready to pronounce upon the actions, the principles, and the motives of others. And yet a more difficult and delicate position, no Christian man can be placed in than this. To form a true and correct opinion of a certain line of conduct, we must often possess the heart-searching eye of God. We must be intimately acquainted with all the hidden motives, and must be fully in possession of all the concomitant circumstances of the case, before we can possibly arrive at anything like an accurate opinion. Thus, in consequence of this blind, premature judgment, this rash and hasty decision; the worst possible construction is often put upon the actions and the remarks of others, extremely unjust and deeply wounding to the feelings.

But especially inconsistent with this love, when small unessential differences of opinion in the explanation of scriptural facts, and consequent nonconformity in creed and discipline, are construed into rejection of the faith once delivered to the saints, and made the occasion of hard thoughts, unkind and severe treatment. Let us then hear the Lord's words, "Judge not, lest you be judged." And the apostle's, "Why do you judge your brother? Or why do you set at nothing your brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ. Let us not therefore judge one another any more."

Christian liberality, in alleviating the necessities of the Lord's poor, is an attribute of brotherly love which we must not pass by unnoticed. The greater number of the Lord's people are "poor in this world." "I will leave in the midst of you a poor and an afflicted people, and they shall trust in the Lord." The poor, the Church has always with her. They are a precious legacy committed to her care by her ascended Lord. The line of Christian duty is clear respecting them. Even in the old dispensation, we find more than a dim shadowing forth of this duty. "If your brother becomes poor, you shall relieve him. You shall not give him your money on interest, nor lend him your food for increase." "If there be among you a poor man of one of your brethren, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother: but you shall open your hand wide unto him, and shall surely lend him sufficient for his need. And your heart shall not be grieved, you shall not begrudge the gift, but shall give cheerfully, when you give unto him."

This duty becomes still more obligatory, and is enforced with still stronger motives, under the Christian dispensation. "Whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his compassion from him, how dwells the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth." Thus, "by love we serve one another." And what holy luxury of feeling has the Lord associated with the discharge of this Christian duty! Who has not realized, in walking in this sweet and lovely precept, a blessing peculiar to itself? Who has not felt that it was "more blessed to give than to receive;" that in this walk, the greatest expenditure has always resulted in the greatest increase; and that in supplying Christ's need in his poor, tried, and necessitous representatives, Christ has himself met us in the way with some manifest token of his gracious approval?

O for more love to Christ as exhibited towards his people! To see only Christ in them- be they lowly, or poor, or tried, or infirm, or despised, or reviled, or sick, or in prison, or in bonds- to recognize Christ in them, and to love Christ in them, and to serve Christ in them. This would bring more sweet discoveries of the indwelling of Christ in our own souls. How could we show our love to Christ in another, and not feel the sunshine of his love in our own hearts? Impossible! Oh! to hear him speak when the case of need presents itself, "Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto ME!"

True Christian love will excite in the mind, a holy jealousy for the Christian reputation of other believers. How sadly is this overlooked by many professors! What sporting with reputation, what trifling with character, what unveiling to the eyes of others, the weaknesses, and the infirmities, and the stumblings, of which they have become cognizant; marks many in our day! Oh! if the Lord had dealt with us, as we have thoughtlessly and uncharitably dealt with our fellow-servants, what shame and confusion would cover us! We would blush to lift up our faces before men. But the exercise of this divine love in the heart, will constrain us to abstain from all envious, suspicious feelings; from all evil surmisings; from all wrong construing of motives; from all tale-bearing- that fruitful cause of so much evil in the Christian church; from slander; from unkind insinuations; and from going from house to house, retailing evil, and making the imperfections, the errors, or the doings of others, the theme of idle, sinful gossip- "busy-bodies in other men's matters."

All this is utterly inconsistent with our high and holy calling. It is degrading, dishonoring, lowering to our character as the children of God. It dims the luster of our piety. It impairs our spiritual influence in the world. Ought not the character of a Christian brother to be as dear to me as my own? And ought I not as vigilantly to watch over it, and as zealously to promote it, and as indignantly to vindicate it, when unjustly aspersed or maliciously assailed, as if I, and not he, were the sufferer? How can the reputation of a believer in Jesus be affected, and we not be affected? It is our common Lord who is wounded- it is our common salvation that is injured- it is our own family that is maligned. And our love to Jesus, to his truth, and to his people, should caution us to be as jealous of the honor, as tender of the feelings, and as watchful of the character and reputation of every member of the Lord's family, be his denomination what it may, as of our own. "Who is weak," says the apostle, "and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?"

O how graciously, how kindly does our God deal with His people! Laying His hand upon their many spots, He seems to say, "No eye but mine shall see them." Oh! let us, in this particular, be "imitators of God as dear children!" Thus shall we more clearly evidence to others, and be assured ourselves, that we have "passed from death unto life." But, inviting as it is, we must conduct this subject to a close.

Anticipate the happiness of heaven. It is a world of love. Love reigns in every heart- beams from every eye- glows on every cheek, and breathes from every lip. Nothing is there tending to interrupt the deepest flow of this, the holiest, the divinest, and the sweetest of all affections. The God of love is there; and Jesus, the revelation of love, is there; and the Holy Spirit, the revealer of love, is there; and from the infinite plenitude of each, the glorified spirits receive and drink full and everlasting draughts of love. O blissful regions these, where there are no more strifes, and divisions, and selfishness, and pride, and ambition, and coldness, and discord; but where the songs are the music of love; and the trees wave in the winds of love; and the rivers flow with the fulness of love; and the air is balmy with the soothing of love; and the bowers are fragrant with the odors of love! "Love is the golden chain that binds the happy souls above, And he's an heir of heaven, who finds his bosom glow with love."

Let us more deeply cherish in our bosoms this heaven-born affection; let us cultivate it more and more towards all with whom we hope to spend our eternity of joy. Let us "love as brethren." Why should we 'fall out by way,' when we are journeying to the same land of promise? And why should we stand aloof from one another, when We are All One in Christ Jesus?

"We are ONE in Christ our Lord,
Time has no chain to bind us,
We fear not death's sharp sword,
And the grave we leave behind us."
"We are ONE in faith below,
In hope and consolation,
Though garb and colors show
Shadows of variation."
"We are ONE in love divine,
Each stony heart renewing,
Let it reflected shine,
Christians, your hearts imbuing."
"We are ONE from Christ's last prayer,
Whom the Father hears ever,
And how can we despair,
Who from his love can sever?"
"We are ONE in homes on high,
Which Jesus is preparing,
For the blessed ones who die,
One cross, one glory sharing."
"We are ONE in Christ our Lord,
O You, of peace the Giver
From every strife abhorred
Your family deliver."
"We are ONE in Christ our Lord,
He speaks who knows no turning,
And we stay upon his word,
Its light afar discerning."
"We are ONE in Christ our Lord,
Though earth and hell endeavor
To change his mighty word,
Its truth abides ever."