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BROTHERLY LOVE AN ESSENTIAL QUALITY FOR THE CHRISTIAN.
Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers.
13th Hebrews, 1st & 2nd verses.
It is evident that in our Lord's life on earth, love to himself, and to each other was his great commandment; and after he had left the earth, his apostles endeavoured to preach all he had so wisely inculcated; and in the verses before us, St. Paul is admonishing the same good principle; for "he that loveth not his brother abideth in death." We are here reminded of another christian duty—" to entertain strangers." In carrying this out, we are prevented from loving them which love us, and from doing good to them which do good to us—the common course of the world ; and as despicable, as common. But love to our neighbour must be based upon a better foundation than mere like or caprice of a moment,—christian "brotherly love," which the apostle enforces must spring from the love which we have towards that Divine Being in whom every grace and every virtue is concentrated, and from whom we must pray to possess the same. For what is love? "God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him."— There are two kinds of love, slavish and perfect. "Perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." The christian then who is anxious to exercise that spirit of kindness, and love, and good will to all, even to strangers, must seek it from that spiritual fountain of love, which is open to all believers. It is an easy thing to entertain friends; but there is little merit in doing so. The apostle teaches us something more difficult, perhaps, less pleasing; but yet perfectly consistent with the christian dispensation. "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers;" for he adds, *' thereby some have entertained angels unawares." And the apostle by this expression not only means those individuals we have never seen with our eyes before, or enjoyed intercourse with, but also those who are by various circumstances strangers to the religion of Christ, and perhaps living in sin, and all uncleanness; who are justly to be termed "strangers" to all heavenly knowledge, whose eyes have been blinded to those spiritual truths which are alone able to make us wise unto salvation; we are to entertain such by unfolding to them the true riches of God's word. Brotherly love is to be cultivated and attained; but at the same time we have to see that it is abiding with us. "Ye did run well; who did hinder you?" How many pride themselves in the maxim that union is strength, and all the while are as diametrically opposed to each other as they could possibly be. But of christians, far different is expected! Baptized and adopted into the family of Christ, made sons and heirs of God, and at confirmation renewing for themselves the solemn engagement made for them in their infancy to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil, to forsake every evil passion, and sinful desire,—of such, I say, far different is expected; and it is theirs to maintain the high dignity of their calling—to cultivate that feeling of mutual regard, which shall shine in every action both private and public, the ruling power over all their dealings, and the gem of their whole lives glittering like a precious diamond. Brotherly love removes selfishness; it causes us to think of the cares and wants and pleasures of others, and induces us to befriend the needy and distressed. To sacrifice some of our time and wealth, and even comfort for our brethren; to provoke each other to love and to good works :—it removes also Pride,—Pride which first overcame man, and the last thing he overcomes. "The brother of low degree will rejoice in that he is exalted, but the rich in that he is made low." Still this holy feeling can only belong to the faithful! Faith and love are joined together. "But ye beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." (Jude xx. 21.) In primitive times we read, "All that believed were together." (Acts ii. 44.) Thus were they united because they were walking in one path, having but one and the same object in view, and who were desirous to grow in grace. "One is our Master even Christ, and all we are brethren. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." These are truths admitted, but in the present times too often forgotten. Are we, as the christians of old, not only believing together, but bringing forth the fruits of our belief? Does the Holy Spirit dwell in us and draw us nearer to each other, so that we may be giving effect to the apostle's precept, "Let brotherly love continue?" We all, more or less, boast of our love to God and man, and would feel insulted if any doubted our possession of this glorious principle; but are we quite positive that we bring it into practise, and that the golden rule is ever before us "to do unto others as we should wish othersto do unto us?" Look at the man of the world—the man of business. Is brotherly love and consideration for his fellow man (perhaps one who is stricken by poverty, and in less fortunate circumstances than himself) characterizing him, when he is grasping all for himself, and caring not how his neighbour suffers, so that he adds to his already mass of worldly treasures? Is brotherly love the ruling passion and ornament of the Young, when so many form their friendships almost without a thought, and when any disagreement (however slight) arises, or affliction and poverty visit the one, the other, as the swallows, "who vanish when winter draws nigh," like them fly away when their sky of sunshine is darkened by the tempestuous clouds of misfortune, and their friendship begins and ends in the name? they do not abide in the day of adversity, or in the day of provocation. St. Paul says to the Thessalonians, "Your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you toward each other aboundeth;" and to the Ephesians, "I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints." We all have our infirmities—the best among us have our besetting sins, and in seeing, as we often most quickly do, the mote in our brother's eye, oh, let us not forget the beam in our own! If we see faults in our friends, we shall be exercising brotherly love, by exhorting them to amend such, and by carefully avoiding the same in ourselves. Especially would I here inculcate forgiveness of injuries. It is related of Archbishop Cranmer, that whenever any one did him a wrong, he was careful to requite it with a kindness. Be "all things to all men, that you may save some." The prophet Malachi delineated the character of those that fear the Lord, "that they speak often one to another." Observe this beautiful intimate connection. "We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth."
"Oh, if the selfish knew how much they lost,
In conclusion, I would address a few words to the Young, upon the necessity of their striving to cultivate this holy principle in the summer of their days, without which it will be impossible for them to maintain those christian friendships which they form in childhood; it will be impossible for them to exercise it, unless they are first influenced by the love of Christ, and through his help, are assisted in loving each other. Let them remember that their friendships will be resting but on a broken reed in the hour of trial, if not based upon a desire to promote each others welfare, and ever eager to do acts of kindness from the affections of the heart! That brotherly love will remove the feeling of envy, that secret dislike to see others excelling in the Christian graces, or more commonly the trivial and fleeting atttactions of beauty, dress, and accomplishments. Endeavour to cherish friendship like unto that of Jonathan and David, which we read of in the 1st Samuel, xx. 42nd verse. "And Jonathan said to David, go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, the Lord be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever." Whilst to all, I would suggest a careful selection of friends. There are many who call themselves by this name, and many who pretend to exercise "brotherly love;" but put them to the test, when a suitable opportunity occurs, when you require assistance, perhaps encompassed in difficulties; or when you ask a favour at their hands, which would inconvenience them to gratify you, or be repugnant to their selfish and envious dispositions, you will then look upon them as you do on the beautiful flowers of the cistus,— which bloom only in the sunshine, and when the first night cloud gathers around, their loveliness and bright tints fade away;—or when you most place your dependance (like Jonah on the Gourd) on their professed sincerity, behold, you find it quickly wither,— their true characters are brought to light, and the mask which hid such from your view is removed.
Reader!—Examine thy own heart, and see if it possesses that "brotherly love " which is the bond of all perfectness, whether we love our enemies and entertain them as well as strangers, using hospitality without grudging; "For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things." Is it your pleasure to "think no ill of your neighbour," to give no pain to any one," and to enjoy intercourse with those whose piety, virtue, meekness, goodness, and love are proverbial, and who deserving your esteem and brotherly love receive such constantly from you? Pray for those you may consider to be in error; those that may have partially offended you, as you hope to be forgiven of God through Christ: thus bearing and forbearing towards each other's imperfections, daily strive to improve one another through " brotherly love," and being called on earth to "one faith, one spirit,— and one hope of our calling" journey on together as christians linked in one holy communion and fellowship through this vale of tears, loving and beloved, and hereafter enjoy perfect friendship and perfect love unchangeable, as the recompense for having kept the u