Love to the Godly is a Sign of Grace.
1 JOH. 3. 18. 〈◊〉
THe Apostle John in this Epistle doth much presse the Grace and Duty of Love, as the fire that ought to be on the Altar of our hearts, for every Sa∣crifice towards God or man; not onely the Holy of Holies, and the most inward parts of the Temple were covered with gold, but the Pavements and Out∣works also. Thus all our actions whether towards God or man ought to be done in love.
At the 11th verse of this Chapter, he commends this duty from the Antiqui∣ty of it, it's the Commandment they heard from the beginning; which is illustra∣ted from a contrary example of Cain, described from his original, He was of that wicked one; and from his actuals, He slew his brother; and this is amplified from the impulsive cause or motive of this his horrid wickednesse, He slew him, be∣cause his own works were evil, and his brothers righteous. Semper aliena virtus for∣midolosa est, said Tacitus. In Gen. 4. we have the occasion of Cains envy, God had respect to Abel and not to Cain, which as most judge, was by some extraordinary testimony that God gave to Abels Sacrifice, as the Apostle emphatically expres∣seth it with an Article Heb. 11. 4. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, it's gene∣rally judged by fire suddenly falling from heaven (as God did at other times) therefore the word to have respect is translated by Theodotion,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Inflam∣mavit Deus super Abel; but why Abels Sacrifice was better then Cains is also que∣stioned; Paul Heb. 11. saith, Abel offered by faith,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉a better Sacrifice, which some referre to the Quantity, as if Cain took the refuse, and Abel offered the best. Some to the Quality, He offered in faith, and the other not. A learn∣ed man Clop. de Sacrific. thinks that Cain offered onely an Eucharistical Sacrifice of fruit of the ground, and so did not beg for pardon of sin; but Abel offered an Hilastical Sacrifice by way of expiation, whereby through Christ he praied for pardon, and therefore was accepted, so that he resembleth Cain to the Pharisee, that only gave thanks to God, and Abel to the Publican, who humbled himself, supplicating for pardon, And so went away justified rather then the other.
Hereupon because every Abel will have a Cain (as the Fathers proverbial speech is) vers. 13. he comforts the godly against their afflicted condition. It is no won∣der if the world hate that which is of heaven; and ver. 14. he returneth to ano∣ther argument for this gracious Love, and that is from the profitable effect, it is a sign we have passed from death to life.
Page 97 In the words, you have two Propositions;
First, That the godly even in this life are already passed from death to life. Some render the Greek word translated, and thereupon Estius observes, because we are passive in this priviledge, that it is not to be attributed to our merits, but to the grace of God: Now the Apostle useth the Preterperfect tense, and not the Present, because of the certainty of it, and his right to it, Qui jus ad rem habet, rem ipsam habere videtur, saith the Lawyer; you have the like expression John 5. 24. By this life some understand the life of grace, and by death, the death of sinne, as if the love of the Brethren were a sign of our being in the state of grace, and then there is good reason for using the Preterperfect tense. But although this may be part, yet it doth not comprehend all, for eternal life, and glory is al∣so included herein.
The second Proposition is, That Love of the Brethren is that sign and mark whereby we know assuredly, that we are in this happy estate; so that our love is no merit or cause, but a sign only; hence it is good to observe, that this very self-same priviledge of passing from death to life, is attributed to faith, Joh. 5. 24. but in a different sense to faith, as that instrumental cause, which puts us into such a condition, to love as an effect or sign only; for though love uniteth us to Christ as well as faith, yet faith doth it Intus recipiendo, by inward receiving of Christ to us, love extra agendo, by going out in our works for him; Hence the union by love is posterior to that of faith; Hence also it is that if love should ju∣stifie, the dignity of it would arise from the act of love, because it's union con∣sists in doing something out of us, but in faiths union, the dignity is wholly from the object, viz. Christ imbraced, because this union is by inward reception and application.
That love of the brethren is a sign of true grace.*
As the Apostle makes it here a sign to our selves, so in other places to others, Hereby shall all men know ye are my Disciples, if ye love one another; he doth not say, If ye work miracles, if ye cast out devils, but if ye love. Hence the Apo∣stle Peter, 2 Pet. 1. 7. bids them adde to Godlinesse, brotherly kindenesse. As if we could not have any true comfort from all our religious duties towards God, un∣lesse this also be added to it, or with it, for so 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is used for cum, as the Hebrew 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is sometimes.
To open this duty of love to the Brethren three things are considerable, which we shall speak to, 1. The Act it self, Love. 2. The Object, Our Brethren. And 3. The Effects.
First therefore, This love we speak of, is not a flower growing in Natures gar∣den, * we naturally love our parents, our children, but not so the godly, hence love is made the fruit of the Spirit; To love a man, because of the image of God in him, because he is holy, is wrought only by Gods Spirit. Naturally we hate * God, because he is an holy God, his Law, because it is an holy Law, and his children, because they are an holy people. Hence the Schoolmen say, That love to God and to our neighbour, because of God, are not two acts of love, no more then the will of the end by means, is a two-fold act of the will; and this appear∣eth by the command Matth. 19. 37. where we are commanded to love God with all our might, all we have and can do, and yet our neighbour also, which could not be if our love to another in subordination to God be not considered, as the same with the act of loving God; and this is much more true in loving of a godly man, whom we do love, not only because of Gods command, and for God (as we ought to do all men) but because of God in him, his image there, in which sense Hierom said, he did Diligere Christum habitantem in Augustino. There is a rule out of Aristotle, Idemest motus animae in imaginem & rem. It is the same moti∣on whereby the soul is carried to the image or species of a thing, and the thing it self, as we see it in the acts of the understanding and of the senses, which rule Aquinas, and other Papists wretchedly abuse, to prove the same religious wor∣ship Page 98 both in kinde and degree, to be given unto the image of God, and God himself but in our instance it is true, when we love God himself, and a godly man, because of Gods image in him, this is the same act or motion of the soul, and ariseth from the same habit of grace, and therefore doth this Apostle argue necessarily from the position of the one to the position of the other, and the ne∣gation of one to the negation of the other, he that doth not love his brother, lo∣veth not God, according to the rule of the Hebrews, Qui amat supra amat infra. We are not then speaking of a love, which cometh by the power of free-will, but of a grace infused into us by Gods Spirit, which as it's supernatural in it's original, so also in it's operations and motives; The effects are supernatural, bu∣sying and emptying themselves in industry about their souls; and their ends also, because they see Gods likenesse in them.
Secondly, This love is not verbal or complemental, such as that of the world, * which hath great veins, but little bloud in them, but it is a most inward deep affe∣ctionate grace, moving all the bowels within. Thus Rom. 12. Be kindely affectio∣nated to one another in love,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, doth imply an inward root∣ed inclination, such as is in mothers to their tender infants. There are those who seem to love godly men, but it is when the times favour them, if there be any benign constellations for such, then they respect them, otherwise in their heart and inclinations they can no waies endure those that are godly. When therefore we speak of loving godly men, we mean not a fair loving carriage, a kinde behavi∣our towards them, which makes thee farre from all railing or opposing of them, but such an affection as is rooted in thy heart.
Secondly, In respect of the object, Brethren, this is included,
1. That this love be to them, because they are brethren. We may love godly men * for other respects then their godlinesse, because they may be wise men, learned men, potent men in the Kingdom, or men that have loved us, and shewed us much kindnesse, but this is nothing of grace, here is onely nature all the while. Hence the Apostle Peter saith, Love the brotherhood in the Abstract, because it is the brotherhood. The Wasps flie about the Tradesmans shop, not out of love to him, but the hony and fruit that is there. The Crows and Vultures sit by the dying beast, not because they love it, but for themselves. Thus godly men may be loved for carnal ends and advantages, and no wonder at this, seeing such a mercenary and hypocriti∣cal love may be profered to God himself, as we see in the hypocrites of Israel.
2. As to the brethren, because godly, so the more godly the more we love them; For as the covetous man, the more wealth increaseth the more he loveth it; And * the voluptuous man, the more sweetnesse and delight in lusts, the more greedy is he of them; thus it is here, he loveth all the godly, but those that most excell in the purity, power and practice of it, he loveth them most, Sicut se habet sim∣pliciter ad simpliciter, ita magis ad magis, if godlinesse be the reason why we love, then the more godlinesse, the more love. And this is much to be observed, be∣cause it discovers much hypocrisie in many men, who fancy to themselves that they love godlinesse in the Idea, in the notion, but when it cometh to be practi∣sed by wife, children or neighbours, then they cannot endure it. As also those, who love godly men in low principles, not walking so exactly and accurately as they ought, better then the godly with high principles, that are alwaies putting on to more godlinesse.
3. It implieth we love all godly men, for so that phrase in the Abstract, Love the*Brotherhood, supposeth, that is, Take every godly man, rich as well as poor, de∣spised as well as honoured, low and base as well as high and esteemed, thou dost love all of them. It may be thy love is restrained to love godly men onely, that are of thy constitution, condition or opinion; but then there are others upon whom thou castest no favourable aspect at all. The Apostle James doth much condemn that practice of differencing the poor godly from the rich, Jam. 2. 1, 2. where the Apostle doth not absolutely prohibit a civil differencing of men in Page 99 place from others, but when it is done with an humane respect, immoderately regarding wealth more then godlinesse, and when it's done to the contempt and disgrace, or discouragement of the godly poor; hence he bids them consider that though they be poor, yet God hath chosen them rich in faith: Now this carnal respect of persons the Apostle makes a great sinne, both because hereby he saith, They become judges of evil thoughts, that is, these thoughts of theirs in judg∣ing thus are wicked and sinfull, and partly because hereby the name of God is blasphemed; hence vers. 1. he cals Christ, The Lord of glory, implying, that those things which are godly and gracious should be glorious to us. So then as hatred of sin is totius speciei, we hate every kinde of sinne; so is love of the Brethren, of all Brethren, making no difference in this respect. Indeed there is a love of fa∣miliarity which we may shew more to one godly man then another; thus Christ loved John more then the other Disciples; but we speak of a gracious love; and in this we ought not to attend to humane respects but evangelical meerly; There∣fore the Apostle cals it 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that is, when we in judging look to some∣thing else then the merits of the person, or the cause. This we are all apt and very prone unto; See we therefore that in Gospel-love we attend only to Gospel∣considerations.
In the next place, Consider the effects by which this love to the godly discovers it self.*
And 1. By not being ashamed to own them as Brethren, and joyn with them in the times of persecution. The Church of God hath had many Swallow-friends that will stay with her no longer then Summer; our Saviour foreseeing this proneness to Apostasie, antidoteth against it, He that is ashamed of me in the midst of a crook∣ed generation, of him my Father also will be ashamed before the Angels. The world that is full of scorns and reproaches, The holy Brethren, The holy Sisters, now men are through their pride and corruption ashamed of such waies. This argu∣eth thou hast no love to them. It was observed by the Heathens how the Primi∣tive Christians loved one another, Ecce quam se mutuò diligunt & fratres se vocant! Now then as it is noted of God, Heb. 11. that he was not ashamed to be the God of believers; thus also may we observe of thee, thou art not ashamed to be called one of the believers; Thy speech, conversation, whole deportment shall betray thee to be one that followeth Christ. It's observed by some, That there were but few hypocrites comparatively in the first Plantation of the Churches by Christ and his Apostles, because there was such certain and present danger to all those that imbraced their way, and no advantage at all to carnal considerations, yet for all that some hypocrites there were. It was a weaknesse in Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night, he dared not publickly own him, because of the Jews. Examine therefore thy self, if thou lovest the godly, then this will appear when godlinesse is the onely scorned, reproached and persecuted way that is. It is strange to observe how godlinesse in the power of it doth diminish respect in the world, Bonus vir Caius & prudens, nisi quod Christianus, A learned man, a wise man, a good man, but only too precise, too puritanical, enclining too much to strictnesse. If it were an Heathen that derideth all Christianity that saith thus, it would be no wonder; but for a Christian, who by his profession is ingaged to all this practice of holiness, it is unsufferable; if we may have too much godliness, then too much of heaven and happiness.
Secondly, By rejoycing and delighting in other mens godlinesse and abilities where∣by*the Kingdom of God is advanced, though it be an umbrage and over shadowing of all our glory, though we be laid aside and accounted as no body. As in the sweetest fruit sometimes worms do grow; so in the choisest Christians there will be envies, emulations and repinings at one anothers excellencies. Thus the Disciples of Christ did twice strive about greatnesse, Johns Disciples muttered because all runne after Christ; but how graciously doth John deal with them, I must decrease and he encrease. So that this love of the Brethren is a more spiritual and difficult work then we are aware off. Thou lovest a godly man that liveth remote from Page 100 thee, but how art thou to one that is thy neighbour of the same profession and calling? now it may be the eminency of his graces and worth carrieth away the esteem and repute from thee, Canst thou for all this rejoyce in his graces and abilities, praise God for him, and so that his glory be advanced, thou carest not though God lay thee aside, as a broken vessel? This is a good symptome of grace. Oh (Beloved) if we consider the jealousies, heart-burnings, contenti∣ons, envyings, strifes that are among the godly, Doth not this demonstrate that they are in a great measure carnal? Are not most of these contentions from the flesh, who shall have most power, whose way shall have most followers and ad∣mirers? Whereas true love to godlinesse manifesteth it self in this, that it rejoy∣ceth in the graces of others, praiseth God for them. It is an high sinne to make godlinesse a faction, a party, as that whereby I will have carnal advantages. The Apostle contradicteth this, when he saith, We know no man, no not Christ himself after the flesh. By reason of this self-pleasing it is that at last we inclose godlinesse, and monopolize it to our own selves, that none shall be godly but those in our way. Thus the Donatists would call no men Christians but themselves. Thus Tertullian, when he turned Montanist, pretending to Revelations of the Spirit, wrote a book against the Orthodox, which he called Adversus Psychicos, as if they all were but carnal, and natural men. Thus many rigid Lutherans dispute the Question, Whether Calvinists may be reckoned as Brethren, and they de∣termine negatively. Take we heed therefore, how we envy the graces of others that overtop us. Augustine thought this to be the sinne against the holy Ghost, or ve∣ry near. But it cannot be so, because we have instances even of some godly men who have been tainted this way. It is an hard thing not to look upon godlinesse and the truths of God, as ours, more then as Gods, which doth breed carnal and humane dispositions in us. Know therefore that so farre as thou enviest and grudgest at the excellency of anothers godlinesse overtopping thee so far, thou hast no love to the Brethren.
Thirdly, This love to the Brethren is manifested by the contrary, viz. A zeal*against sinners, an impatiency and holy grief at the wickednesse of others. That as the Apostle saith Cain hated Abel, because his own works were evil, and Abels good, so a godly Abel is grieved at the conversation of the wicked, because his own are good, and the others evil. Thus a godly man is described by this Character, Psal. 35. 4. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned, but he honoureth those that fear the Lord. You have a notable instance of this in Lot, 2 Pet. 2. 8. where righteous Lot is said to vex his soul by hearing and seeing the wicked Sodomites. The Greek word signifieth to torment his soul, and it is used of the damned in hell. There is also an emphasis in the phrase, his soul, he doth not say himself, but his soul, as if a sword had pierced. Thus God saith, His soul shall have no pleasure in the backeslider, when he would expresse his great abhorring of such an one. Fur∣ther this torment is amplified in the instruments by which, both in seeing and hear∣ing. Lot was among the Sodomites as the Dove among Hawks, a Sheep among Wolves, a rose among thorns, a bright Starre in a dark night; and this did so much afflict him, that August. in praef. Psal. 69 cals this a persecution, and saith, The evil deeds of the Sodomites were a persecution of Lot. Hereupon the same Father proves, That the persecutions of godly mens souls by wicked scandals, is worse then that of Tyrants killing the bodies. And Bernard speaks excellently to this purpose of the Churches bitternesse, Amara prius fuit in nece Martyrum, amarior postea in conflictu haereticorum, sed amarissima in moribus domesticorum. Try thy love to the godly, by thy grief and trouble that cometh to thee, through the wicked∣nesse of others; for seeing by their evil deeds, God is so much dishonoured, how can it be but that with David, Rivers of water should runne down thy eyes, because men keep not Gods Law? and David said, He hated those who hated God with a perfect hatred, that is, a full, absolute, irreconcilable hatred, which is to be under∣stood of their will not their persons.
Page 101 Fourthly, This emptieth it self in doing and procuring all spiritual good to them.* To love is to will good to another, that is, their proper, convenient good. Thus to love the Brethren is to pray much for them, to be diligent in the exhorting and provoking of one another to good; for of such a love and hatred which re∣gards spiritual things, the Apostle speaketh, as by his instance in Cains hatred ap∣peareth, which was from a spiritual consideration, Prov. 27. 17. As iron sharpneth iron, &c. so a man sharpneth the countenance of his friend, that is, as the instrument which is rusty, or edge dulled, is made serviceable by the file; so is one godly man quickned up by another. The Church is compared to a flock of sheep, whereof every one brought twins, that is, their fruitfulnesse, and vers. 9. in the same Chapter, Christian love is compared to Ointment and Perfume, which hath much sweetnesse and strengthning in it; yea reproof is sometimes necessary, as David witnesseth, when he said, Let the righteous smite me, and it shall be bet∣ter then oil: yea this love is so farre commanded that sometimes it's our duty to lay down our lives for the Brethren.
Lastly, This is seen in bearing their burdens, and forbearing their infirmities;* Bearing their burdens; hence as members of the same body they are to weep with those that weep, and rejoyce with those that rejoyce. They are to be like the strings of an instrument, touch one, and they all sound; And forbearing infirmities, Gal. 6. 1. Ye that are spiritual restore such an one; The word signifieth, Set him in joint again, as if a godly man overtaken by sinne should cause as much grief to the whole body, as a dis-jointed member useth to do; So that to love the Brethren (if all things be considered) is a choice and difficult sign of grace; it is not every one that is thus affected. Now here is a proper Question, Whether if Brethren be fallen into heresies and wicked errours, it be not against the love of brethren, to set against them, to endeavour the suppression of them? And certainly the matter may be so carried, as thou maiest discover not only an hatred of their er∣rours, but their godlinesse also; again it may be so, that thou maiest most of all discover thy love to their godlinesse, only hatred to their false doctrines: but this is a large field, and many things are to be said to it, else we cannot give full satisfaction to the Point.
Now to all this there is an Objection made, Love of the Brethren, say they, *cannot be a sign of grace, because if it be true love it must have all those properties de∣scribed, 1 Cor. 13. Charity suffereth long, envieth not, &c. Now who doth not finde some envyings, some impatiencies?
The Answer is easie. We are not seeking for perfect signs, but true signs; and if * we finde true signs we may gather much comfort, though several defects cleave to us. Wilt thou think there is no honey or milk in Canaan, because Jebusites and wilde beasts are left there?
But again they object, Every sect thinketh their sect the true Brethren. Hence the Papist loves a Papist, thinking him a true Brother, and so men may comfort them∣selves with false signs.
The Answer is, True signs are indeed so, though men blinded and deceived are se∣duced by counterfeit. A true Pearl is judged to be true by a skilfull Artificer, and he knoweth he is not deceived; though the unskilfull takes much counterfeit pearl for true; so a man awake is sure he is awake, although men in a dream think themselves also awake, but are indeed deceived.
Lastly, They say, The Apostle speaks this love as it is a sign to others, not to our selves.
Thus the Antinomian, and Estius to this purpose, The Apostle speaketh (saith he) of the whole Church as it is a Society, not of every particular person. But as the A∣postle intends that every particular man should love the Brethren, so he also ma∣keth this as an Argument, because hereby every man in particular may be assured he is translated from death to life.
If love to the Brethren demonstrate our spiritual life, then hatred, opposition, * scoffs and reproaches of such, demonstrate the actors therein to be of the devil. Page 102 Oh how many Cains are there, that therefore hate and stomack others, because their courses are contrary to their sins! There cannot be a surer symptom of thy rotten, yea devilish heart, then to say, I could love such an one, honour such an one, but I cannot abide his strictnesse. Like delights in like. Davids delight is in the Saints of the earth; if thine be in Swine and Dogs who wallow in their vo∣mit and mire, tremble at thy disposition; Canst thou say thou lovest God and hatest his Image? that which resembleth him here upon the earth? The saying is, Noscitur ex socio, &c. You may know a man by those he delighteth and re∣joyceth in, and converseth with.
Use 2. To bewail the neglect of this even among the godly, How doth this * manifest that we have the faith of Christ in respect of persons? Do not abuse godlinesse to make it an occasion of thy carnal pride, envy, or earthly advantage? The Apostle therefore makes heresies and schisms the fruit of the flesh, because these arise from carnal motives one way or other. Yet this is not so to be ur∣ged, as if a prudent and godly Zeal were not to be urged against the false doctrines of godly men; it is one thing to set against a man because of his god∣linesse, that is devilish; and another thing because of his corruption, whether in practice or opinion. But love like Eliyah hath left the Church, and is carried up to heaven in a fiery Chariot.