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BY REV. SAMUEL COX, D.D.
1 John iv. 20. ASEABGHI G qaestion this ; yet a somewliat questionable argnment t From the weight of emphasis laid apon it, St. John obyionsly intends it for on argument, and a cogent one ; you can tell from his tone that he is content with it, that he thinks it irrefragable, unanswerable : yet one is tempted to question, if not to reject, it. " How can I love the God whom I have not seen, if I do not love the brother whom I have seen I " we might say : ** Why, it is just because I see my brother, and see too much of him, that I find it so hard to love him." Or, again, we might say, ** ot love my Father because I don't love my brother ! Why, when I was a child at home, how I used to cuff, and scufQe, and contend with my brothers ; what keen pangs of rivalry and jealousy I have felt against them ; yet all that did not in any way impair my love for my father.'* Or, taking a higher tone, we might say, " ot love the good perfect God, because I cannot love evil or imperfect men I Why, it is precisely that in me which makes me love Him which also makes me withhold my love from them ; because I love and aspire after that which is perfect, I turn away from men to God." In short, the argument looks so illogical that we may be tempted to conclude, *^ St. John was no logician. With the profoundest intaitive insight into all the mysteries of Traih and Life, he had very little faculty for argument." But before we come to this conclofiion, before at least we use it to ward off the heart- searching influence of the question St. John has asked us, let us remember that intuition is, at least in matters of affection, truer and safer than log^c, that a conviction springing from the heart is better than the most faultless syllogism, that the very deepest truths are precisely those which cannot be proved by argument. You cannot,
for instance, demonstrate your own existence or the existence of God ; yet you know that you ar^, and that God u, and that these two are supreme ultimate facts. Try to prove them, and you will fail, as all have failed before you ; there will be some weak point in your chain of argument, some assumption in your premises which will vitiate your conclusion. If, for example, you adopt the old philosophical argument, "I think^ therefore I am,'* which looks safe enough, there are at least two weak dangerous points in it. For one inference from it is, that nothing exists save that which thinks, and thus while affirming your own existence you deny that of the whole material universe, which, perhaps^ you did not intend. Moreover, you qpiietly assume that which you profess to prove : for the '< I," the person, who thinks, is the very person whose existence you were to demonstrate; yet at the outset, in saying *< I think," you take his existence to be granted ; for how can he think if he does not already exist ? Yet, though you cannot prove, you do not doubt, either your own existence or that of God. These are facts which appeal to that in you which is deeper than logic — ^to consciousness, to intuition ; you know a great deal more than you can prove. And there are many cognate facts in the spiritual life which approve themselves to you, which you feel to be true, though you cannot demonstrate their truth. The longer we live, indeed, the less we trust in logic ; the more we trust in the simple primitive inspirationH
452 BROTHERLY LOVE A D U ITY of the hnman heart. We find that logic has limits which are verj soon reached, that its power is much slighter than we thought ; we find hoth that the best things cannot be proved, and that to prove a thing ever so sorely goes a very little way with men. Convinced against their will, they're of the same opinion still ; yon must touch will and heart, yon most rouse the convictions and intuitions latent in and common to all men before you can win them to the love and obedience of the truth. ow it is to these deeps of our nature that
St. John calls from the deeps of his nature when he asks, '*He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love the G-od whom he hath not seen ? " We know and feel that the thought is a true one, even though we may think the argumentative force of it somewhat defective. But is it so defective as it seems ? Let us take up the objections to it which I have suggested, and see what after all they are worth. /< it so much easier, for instance, and more natural to love the perfect God than to love imperfect men ? It is for the perfect, no doubt. But we are imperfect ; and to the imperfect, perfection is terrible, if also attractive ; it is a standing rebuke to our weakness and defects : while, on the other hand, our sympathies la'ZZ go out, do what we may, to those who are of like passions and imperfections with ourselves. Who does not love Abraham, though he shuffled and equivocated about Sarah, and was not altogether admirable in his treatment of Hagar and her son, better than irreproachable Isaac ? David was by no means immaculate ; yet he is dearer to us than prince Daniel, in whom no fault was found. Who does not love ardent blundering Peter all the more for his very faults ? and is not even Thomas all the dearer to us because he was so sceptical and hard to convince? We cannot argue, therefore, that to love a perfect God is easier to us than to love imperfect men ; for the sympathies of the imperfect are, and must be, with the imperfect.
BROTHERLY LOVE A D U ITY 453 Again. It may be very trae that brothers treat brothers roaghly ; bat is it tme that they can injure one another without lessening their love for their father ? What do you mean by love ? Does it not include obedience when it is felt toward a superior ? If boys do not obey their father — and what father does not wish his sons to love and serve one another ? — does not their disobedience detract from their love ? Well, this is part of the Apostle's argument. In the very next verse he tells ns, " This commandment have we
from God, That he who loveth God love his brother also.*' And if we do not keep his commandment, what proof have we that we love Him ? If we obey our Father, we shall love our brother : if we do not love our brother, we disobey our Father, and so far forth fail in love to Him, The other objection has more in it, I confess. For it is often because we see so much, and too much, of our brother, that we find it hard to love him. We grow familiar with his excellences and blind to them — ^familiar with his faults and, according to the perverse law of our nature, not blind to these, but more alive to them. Still, this is our infirmity, and we know it. Should not the consciousness of our infirmity impel us to reverse the evil law of our nature, and to be to our brother's faults a little blind, and very kind to his excellences and virtues ? Moreover, it is our brother whom we are to love— one who is in the image of his Father and ours. If we see so much of him, could we not contrive to see some traits of this likeness, and to love him for them ? It is from our brother-men, too, and the various relations we sustain to them, that we gather our conception of our Father in heaven and of what He is. How, then, can we love Him unless we love them and such likeness to Him as they wear ? And, again : what U love ? Is it an indolent complacent
454 BROTHERLY LOVE A D U ITY. enjoyment of what charms ns ? or is it a sacred ennobling passion which is willing to sacrifice itself in order to benefit its object ? What is God's love ? Does it extend only to the perfect, and consist in a complacent contemplation of their excellences ? If it did, what hope were there for ns ? Bat if his love embrace the imperfect in order that it may benefit
them and lead them on to perfection, should not ours ? What is oar love worth if it be not the love of God, t.^., the love which is from Him and like his love? What is it worth if it be not a passion as sacred, as self-sacrificing, as devoted to the good of the imperfect as his ; although we can only have it in oar measure, according to our several capacity ? The argument of the Apostle runs clear, then, however doubtful or questionable it may seem. We cannot love the Father whom we have not seen unless we love the brother whom we have seen — the brother whom God loves, and whom He bids us love with a love like his own. But, now : If any man have this world's good, or indeed, the good of the heavenly world, and, seeing his brother have need, shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him ? If any man say, " O yes, I love my brother, but I wUl not worship with him, nor comC' to the Lord*s table with him, nor admit him to an equal share in all my rights in the Church, until he thinks exactly as I think and does precisely what I do," — ^how much does he love his brother after all ? how dwelleth the love of God in him ? When a Christian says, *' Though I have as little to do with him as possible, I love so and so as a brother^ of course,** he means — ^what does he mean by loving him as a brother ? Does he mean that he does not love him like a brother, but suspects him for a heretic who will not see obvious truths, or for a hypocrite who will not do his plain duty ? I am afraid that this is what, for the
BROTHERLY LOVE A D U ITY. 455 most part, we mean by loving a man as a Christian brother : t.«., we don*t love him at all, bat grudgingly concede to him just as much as we cannot withhold. Again, therefore, I ask, What would become of us if Ood loved us like that ?
Alas ! there are many signs that we have not outgrown the need of *' the new commandment," that even yet we are not a law to ourselves, but need to be held in with bit and bridle lest we bite and devour one another. It would be pleasant to think that, though there was too much cause for the command, <* Love one another," when St. John wrote — when Jew hated Gentile and Gentile Jew, when 8ect hated Sect in the Church and out of it, when Pharisee would have no more dealings with Sadducee than Hebrew with Samaritan, nor he who said, <* I am of Cephas,*' with him who was " of Paul " than the Circumcision with the Uncircumcision — yet now this new commandment, being nineteen centuries old, had well*nigh done its work. But how can we think it has? There are more sects in the Christian church now than when John was a prisoner for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. There are more sects — is there less distrust, and suspicion, and bitterness between them ? Try to unite them, if you care to know. ay, as if it were not shame enough to have so many militant sects, even the members of any one of these cannot be at peace among themselves — ^will not worship together or commune together ; every man must have everything exactly to his mind, even every whim or pique or preference must be gratified, or, careless of the ^ common good, he will fling o£f from the Church in which he has been bred. Again I say, If God loved us as we love one another, if God loved his Church as we love the Church, and shewed his love as we shew it — ^flinging off from us every time we did not think exactly as He thinks, or failed to do his will — ^what were before us but the prospect of endless confusion rushing down to eternal darkness and loss ?
4S6 BROTHERLY LOVE A D U ITY, But are there no signs of hope and promise ? Do no tendencies toward unity reveal themselves amid all these disruptions and separations ? I cannot deny that there are such tendencies and signs ; nay, if we have much faith in the puhlic talk of public men, we may well think that the happy
millenium of catholic charity cannot be far off now. For twenty years at least, over all dinner-tables and upon all platforms, we have heard the graceful effusions which have caused us to hope. Conformist, at such times, can see no reason why he should not embrace onconformist, nor Baptist why he should not be one with the Psedobaptist. But though we have gone on so long *< loving one another in word and in tongue,** the lion has not yet lain down with the lamb nor the leopard with the kid. If the love of the tongue has been also a love '' in truth," the love *' in word *' has not yet become a love '* in deed." We all of us hope that we love the God whom we have not seen ; nevertheless it does somehow happen that we do not love the brothers whom we have seen — at least we love them only ''a« hrotkersy* and not enough to unite with them and worship with them. We are still waiting till we are all of one mind, which we never shall be, and follow one rule of life, which we never shall do ; no, not in heaven itself : for even there there are many mansions, though all are parts of one house ; even in the heavenly garden the trees yield fruit of every sort, though all are trees of righteousness. And why, at least here, should we wish all our brothers to be of one mind — that is, of the same mind with us, for that is what we mean ? Are we infallible, and are all our humble penitent confessions of ignorance a lie ? Why should we wish them to do exactly as we do, when our conceptions of duty are still imperfect and in much mistaken ? Do we not need each other ? Might we not learn of each other ? If we are brethren, what right has one brother to dictate to
BROTHERLY LOVE A D U ITY, 457
another, or to exclude any whom the Father acknowledges to be members of his family, whom even we ourselves confess to be of the family, though we are very careful to
keep them at arm*s length ? Is not the true unity that of different members of one body, all unlike, yet all one, each having its own proper function, but each needing the rest, and all instinct with one life — the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, growing according to the vital working in the measure of every individual part, tih we all come, through this very unity of faith and service, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ ? True unity does not exist between things similar and alike, but between things dissimilar and unlike. There is no unity, as Robertson has said, in a heap of sand, though every grain of it is exactly like the other : take away a handful, and it is still a heap of sand. There is no unity in a flock of sheep, though no one but the shepherd could distinguish any one of them from any other : take away five or fifty of them, and there is still a flock of sheep. But the unlike and dissimilar members of the physical body compose a vital unity : take away one of these, pluck out an eye or cut ofif an arm, and the unity of the body is impaired, every member suffers with the suffering member, and the body is never again complete. So with a family. Subtract any one member of it, though these may all be of different ages or sexes, and the family unity is broken ; you have created a void that cannot be filled. So far, therefore, from wishing all our Christian brethren to be alike, or refusing fellowship with them until they are exactly what we are and do as we do, we should remember that one and the selfsame Spirit has diversities of operations and confers a large variety of gifts for this express purpose — <' the perfecting of the saints/' the establishment of a true vital unity; that we
458 BROTHERLY LOVE A D U ITY. - - — -^ caunot afford, therefore, to dispense with any gift possessed by any brother, that we need him even as he also needs as ;
and that we sin against the unity which God has designed, and against that charity which is the fnndamental law of the Divine life and kingdom, so often as we cat ourselves off from any of oar brethren, however unlike us they may be. K we do not love the brother whom we have seen, ani/ brother, and cannot work and worship with him, we need no other proof that we do not love the Father whom we have not seen« or do not love Him as we should.
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