Christian Love 36: Learning Meekness

By Hugh Binning

 

Humility is the root of charity, and meekness the fruit of both.  There is no solid and pure ground of love to others, except that the worthlessness of self-love be first cast out of the soul; and when that excessive evil is cast out, then charity has a solid and deep foundation: “The end of the command is charity out of a pure heart,” (1st Timothy 1:5).  It is only such a purified heart, cleansed from that poison and infection of pride and self-conceit which can send out such a sweet and wholesome stream, to the refreshing of the spirits and hearts of the church of God.  If self-glory and pride have deep roots fastened into the soul, they draw all the sap and virtue downward, and send little or nothing at all up to the tree of charity, which makes it barren and unfruitful in the works of righteousness, and fruits of mercy and meekness.  There are obstructions in the way of that communication, which only can be removed by the plucking up of these roots of pride and self-conceit, which prey upon all, and incorporate all in themselves and their own benefit, yet, like the lean cows who devoured the fat ones, are never the fatter or more well-favored.

It is no wonder, then, that these are the first principles that we must learn in Christ’s school, the very A-B-C s of Christianity: “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls,” (Matthew 11:29).  This is the great Prophet sent by the Father into the world to teach us, whom he has, with a voice from heaven, commanded us to hear: “This is my well-beloved Son, hear him.” Shouldn’t the fame and report of such a Teacher move us? He was testified of very honorably, long before he came, that he had the Spirit above measure, that he had “the tongue of the learned;” (Isaiah 1:4).  He was a greater prophet than Moses, (Deuteronomy 18: 15,18) that is, the wonderful counselor of heaven and earth (Isaiah 9:6) the ““Witness to the people,” a Teacher and “Leader to the people.” And then, when he came, he had the most glorious testimony from the most glorious persons, the Father and the Holy Ghost, in the most solemn manner that the world ever heard of, (Matthew 17:5) “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” Now, this is our Master, our Rabbi, (Matthew 23:8).  This is the Apostle and High Priest of our profession (Hebrews 3:1)  “the light of the world and life of men,” (John 8:12 and 6:33,51)

 


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Christian Love 35: Love Covers Sins

By Hugh Binning

 

“Charity covers a multitude of sins,” (1st Peter 4:8) and therefore “above all things have fervent charity among yourselves,” he says.  What is above prayer and watching to the end, above carefulness? Indeed, in reference to fellowship with God, these are above all; but in relation to comfortable fellowship one with another in this world, this is above all, and the crown or cream of other graces.  He whose sins are covered by God’s free love, cannot think it a hard thing to spread the garment of his love over his brother’s sins.  Hatred stirs up strife, all uncharitable affections, such as envy, and wrath.  It stirs up contentions, and makes a spreading fire of  men’s infirmities.  But “love covers all sins,” conceals them from all to whom the knowledge of them does not belong, (Proverbs 10:12)

Love in a way does not attempt to know the bad it knows, or at least to remember it much.  It will sometimes hoodwink itself to a favorable esteeming of others.  It will pass by an infirmity and flaw, but many stand still and commune with the infirmity and flaws of others.  But the one who  covers a transgression seeks love to bury offences in.  Silence is a notable way to preserve agreement and harmony, and bring forth true warmth and friendship.  The keeping of faults long above ground unburied, makes them cast forth an evil smell that will away separate friends.  Therefore, the wise man says, “He who covers a transgression seeks love: but he who repeats a matter separates close friends,” (Proverbs 17) Covering faults in a Christian way, will make a stranger a friend; but repeating and spreading of them will make a friend not only a stranger, but also an enemy.

Yet this is not to the say that we have no Christian duty of reproving and admonishing one another, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Ephesians 5:11) Love commands us to reprove in the “spirit of meekness,” (Galatians 6:1) as a man would restore an arm out of joint.  Therefore you “You shall not hate your brother in your heart.  You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. ” (Leviticus 19:17) And he who reproves his brother in this manner out of love, and in meekness and wisdom, “will afterwards find more favor from him than the one who flatters with his tongue,” (Proverbs 28:23).

To cover and hide grudges and jealousies in our hearts, is to nourish a flame in our hearts, which only waits to vent, and will at one time or another burst out.  But to look too narrowly to every step, and to write up a registry of men’s petty faults, especially so as to make them known to the world; this is inconsistent with the rule of love. And truly, it is a token of one “destitute of wisdom to hate his neighbor; but a man of understanding will hold his peace.” He who has most defects himself, will find the most in others, and strive to vilify them one way or another; but a wise man can pass by frailties, yes, even offences done to him, and be silent, (Proverbs 11:12).

 


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Christian Love 34: Love is No Tale Bearer

By Hugh Binning

 

Charity is no tale bearer. It does not go about as a slander to reveal a secret, though true, (Proverbs 20:19) It is of a faithful spirit to conceal the matter. (Proverbs 11:13) Another man’s good name is as a pledge laid down in our hand, which every man should faithfully restore, and take heed how he lose it, or alienate it by back-biting.  Some would have nothing to say, if they didn’t have other’s faults and frailties to passionately speak on, but it would be better that such were always made silent, that either they had no ears to hear of them or know them, or had no tongues to vent them.  If they do not lie grossly in it, they think they do no wrong.  But let them judge it in reference to themselves. “A good name is better than precious ointment,” (Ecclesiastes 7:1) “and rather to be chosen than great riches,”. (Proverbs 22:1)

And isn’t it wrong, to defile that precious ointment, and to rob or steal away that jewel more precious than great riches? There is a strange connection between these. “Do not go about spreading slander among your people.  Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life” it is a kind of murder, because it kills that which is as precious as life to an innocent heart. “The words of a tale bearer are as wounds, and they go down to the innermost parts of the belly,” (Proverbs 18:8 and 26:22).  They strike a wound to any man’s heart, that can hardly be cured, and there is nothing that is such a seed of contention and strife among brethren as this. It is the oil to feed the flame of alienation.  Take away a tale-bearer, and strife will cease, (Proverbs 26:20).

There are some who seem to have no other occupation than to whisper into the ears of brethren, and suggest evil apprehensions of them, they will separate best friends, as we see it in daily experience,  (Proverbs 16:28). “Revilers” are among these who are excluded out of the kingdom of God, (1st Corinthians 6:10).  And therefore, as the Holy Spirit gives general precepts for the profitable and edifying improvement of the tongue, that so it may indeed be the glory of a man, (which truly is no small point of religion, as James expresses, in Chapter 3:2 “If anyone doesn’t stumble in word, the same is a perfect man,”) so that same spirit gives us particular directions about this, “ Do not speak evil one of another, brethren.  He who speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law, and judges the law,” (James 4:11) because he puts himself in the place of the Lawgiver, and his own judgment and desire in place of the law, and so he judges the law.

And therefore the Apostle Peter makes a wise and significant connection,”Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” (1st Peter 2:1) Truly, evil speaking of our brethren, though it may be true, yet it proceeds out of the abundance of these, in the heart, of deceit, hypocrisy, and envy.  While we catch at a name of piety from censuring others, and build our own reputation upon the ruins of another’s good name, hypocrisy and envy are too predominant.

If we would indeed grow in grace by the word, and taste more how gracious the Lord is, we must lay these aside, and become as little children, without deceit, and without bitterness.  Many account it excuse enough, that they did not invent evil tales, or were not the first tellers of them; but the Scripture joins both together.

The man that “shall abide in his tabernacle” must neither vent nor invent them, neither cast them down nor take them up, “whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others;” (Psalm 15:3) or neither receives nor endures it, as in the margin.  He neither gives it nor receives he it, doesn’t have a tongue to speak of others’ faults, nor an ear to hear them.  Indeed he has a tongue to confess his own, and an ear open to hear another confess his faults, according to that precept, “Confess your faults one to another.”

We are forbidden to have much society or fellowship with tale-bearers; and it is added, “He who goes about as a tale-bearer reveals secrets; therefore don’t keep company with him who opens wide his lips.” (Proverbs 20:19) as indeed commonly those who reproach the absent, flatter the present; a backbiter is a face-flatterer.  And therefore we should not only not meddle with them, but drive them away as enemies to human society. Charity would in such a case protect itself, if I may so say, by “an angry countenance,” an appearance of anger and real dislike. “As the north wind drives away rain,” so that hearers would drive away a “backbiting tongue,” (Proverbs 25:23)  If we would discredit it, backbiters will be discouraged to open their pack of news and reports: and indeed the receiving readily of evil reports of brethren, is a partaking in the unfruitful works of darkness, which we should rather reprove, (Ephesians 5:11).  To join with the teller is to complete the evil report; for if there were no receiver there would be no teller, no tale-bearer.

 


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Christian Love 33: Love Speaks Goodness

By Hugh Binning

 

Where there is a purity of truth, but also accompanied with envying, bitter strife, rigid judging, wrangling, and such like, then it is defiled and corrupted by the mixture of vile and base affections, ascending out of the manure pile of the flesh.  The vapors of our lusts arising up to the mind, stain pure truth.  They put an earthly, sensual, and devilish face on it.

Charity, its conversation and discourse, is without judging, without censuring, because it contains much edification, I will speak more hereafter. “Without partiality, without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17) words in the original mean (without judging and wrangling, and without hypocrisy), revealing, that great censurers are often the greatest hypocrites, and sincerity always has much charity.  Truly, there is much idle time spent this way in discourses of one another, and venting our judgments of others, as if it were enough of commendation for us to condemn others, and much piety to charge another with impiety.  We should even be sparing in judging them that are without, (1st Corinthians 5:12-13) Ruminating on them or their ways, has more provocation than edification in it. A censorious disposition is certainly most partial to itself, and self indulgent. It can sooner endure a great beam in its own eye, than a little mote in its neighbor’s, and this shows evidently that it is not the hatred of sin, or the love of virtue, which is the single and simple principle of it, but self-love, shrouded under the veil of displeasure at sin, and delight in virtue.

I think one great help to prevent this, is to turn away from the excessive amount of discourse about others.  “In the multitude of words there is no lacking of sin,” and in the multitude of discourses about other men, there cannot miss the sin of rash judging.  I find the saints and God fearing commended for speaking often one to another, but not at all for speaking one of another.  The subject of their discourse (Malachi 3:16) certainly was of another strain, “how good it was to serve the Lord,” and the like, opposite to the evil communication of others there registered.

Christian Love 32: Love Seeks Peace

By Hugh Binning

 

Charity follows peace with all men, as much as is possible, (Hebrews 12:14) “If it be possible as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men,” (Romans 12:18). Many spirits are predisposed for contention.  If peace follows them, they will flee from it.  But a Christian having made peace with God, the sweet fruit of that upon his spirit is to dispose him to a peaceable and quiet humility to others, and if peace flee from him, to follow after it, not only to entertain it when it is offered, but to seek it when it is away, and to pursue it when it runs away. (Psalm 34:14), which Peter urges upon Christians,  “Finally, be all like-minded, compassionate, loving as brothers, tenderhearted, courteous,  not rendering evil for evil, or insult for insult; but instead blessing; knowing that to this you were called, that you may inherit a blessing.  For, “He who would love life, and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.  Let him turn away from evil, and do good.  Let him seek peace, and pursue it.” (1st Peter 3:8-11)

I think, since we obtained the mercy to get a Peace maker between us and God, we should from then count ourselves bound to be peace makers among men. And truly such have a blessing pronounced upon them,  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) because he is “the God of peace,” and to resemble him in these, first in purity, then in peace, is a character of his image.  It is true, peace will sometimes flee so fast, and so far away, as a Christian cannot follow it without sin, and that is breach of a higher peace.  But charity, when it cannot live in peace without, then lives in peace within, because it has that sweet testimony of conscience, that, as far as did lie in it, peace was followed without.

Divine wisdom, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceful, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17) If wisdom is peaceable and not pure, it is but a carnal conspiracy in iniquity, earthly and sensual.  But if it is pure it must be peaceable.  For the wisdom descending from above has a purity of truth, and a purity of love, and a purity of the mind and of the affection too.

 


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Christian Love 31: Love Makes Holy

By Hugh Binning

Charity by all means will avoid scandal, and live honestly in the sight of all men.  The apostle says, “Give no occasions for stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the assembly of God,” (1st Corinthians 10:32)  And he adds his own example, “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved,” (verse 33). Charity is not self addicted.  It has no selfish will to please.  It can displease itself so that others profit.  I certainly think there is no point of Christianity less regarded.  Others we acknowledge, but we fail in practice.  This scarce has the esteem of the mind.  Few do conceive an obligation lying on them to it.

But Oh how is Christianity, the most of it, humanity?  Christ makes us men as well as Christians.  He makes us reasonable men when believers.  Sin transformed our nature into a wild, beastly, viperous, selfish thing.  Grace restores reason and natural affection in the purest and highest strain.  And this is reason and humanity, elevated and purified, to condescend to all men in all things for their profit and edification, to deny itself to save others.  Whatsoever is not necessary in itself, we ought not to impose a necessity on it by our imagination and preference, to the prejudice of a greater necessity, another’s edification.  Indeed charity will dare not sin to please men.  That were to hate God, to hate ourselves, and to hate our brethren, under a base pretended notion of love.  But I believe, addiction to our own desires in things not necessary, which have no worth but from our disposition, more often transports us beyond the bounds of charity than the apprehension of duty and conscience of sin.

Some will grant they should be tender of offending the saints.  But they do not conceive it is much matter what they do in relation to others, as if it were lawful to murder a Gentile more than a Christian.  That is a barbarous imagination, opposite to that innocent Christian, Paul, who says, we should be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,” (Philippians 2:15) among whom we should shine “as lights.” And truly it is humanity elevated by Christianity, or reason purified by Christianity, that is the light that shines most brightly in this dark world.  And he says (Colossians. 4:5), “Walk in wisdom toward those who are without,” and (1st Thessalonians 4:12) “walk honestly toward those who are without,” avoiding all things, in our profession and life, which may alienate them from the love of the truth and godliness walking so, as we may insinuate into their hearts some apprehension of the beauty of Christianity.

Many conceive, if they do good, all is well, if it be a duty, it matters nothing.  But remember that caution, “Then don’t let your good be slandered,” (Romans 14:16) We would have our eyes on that too, so to carry out all our duties, as they may have least offence in them, and be exposed to least public disrepute of men, “having good behavior among the nations, so in that of which they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they see, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1st Peter 2:12)

 


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Christian Love 30: Righteousness, Mercy, and Intercession

By Hugh Binning

We will not be curious in the ranking of the duties in which Christian love should exercise itself.  All the commandments of the second table are but branches of it: they might be reduced all to the works of righteousness and of mercy.  But truly these are interwoven through each other.  Though the understanding of mercy is usually restricted to the showing of compassion upon men in misery, yet there is a righteousness in that mercy, and there is mercy in most all acts of righteousness, as in not judging rashly, in forgiving, and so on.  Therefore we will consider the most eminent and difficult duties of love, which the word of God solemnly and frequently charges upon us in relation to others, especially those of the household of faith.

I conceive we would labor to enforce on our hearts, and persuade our souls to a love of all men, by often ruminating upon the words of the Apostle, which urge us to “abound in love towards all men,” (1st Thessalonians 3:12).  And this is so concerning, that he prays earnestly that the Lord would make them increase in it, and this we should pray for too. An affectionate disposition towards our common nature is not a common thing. Christianity presses it, and it is only true humanity, (Luke 6:36-37) “Be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.  Don’t judge, and you will not be judged, don’t condemn, and you will not be condemned, forgive, and ye will be forgiven.”

Now in relation to all men, charity has an engagement upon it to pray for all sorts of men, from that Apostolic command, (1st Timothy 2:1) : “I exhort you therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men.” Prayers and supplications, earnest prayers out of affection, should be poured out even for them that cannot, or do not pray for themselves. Wherefore are we taught to pray this way, so that we may be the mouth of others? And since an intercessor is given to us above, how are we bound to be intercessors for others below, and so to be affected with the common mercies of the multitude, as to give thanks too! If man, by the law of creation, is the mouth of the stones, trees, birds, beasts, of heaven and earth, sun and moon and stars, how much more ought a Christian, a redeemed man, be the mouth of mankind to praise God for the abounding of his goodness, even towards these who are left still in that misery and bondage that he is delivered from?

 

 

Christian Love 29: Sons of God

By Hugh Binning

Is there any privilege so precious as this, to be “the sons of God?” (1st John 3:2). What are all relations, or states, or conditions, to this one, to be the children of the Highest? It was David’s question, “Should I be the king’s son in law?” Alas! what a petty and poor dignity in regard of this, to be “the sons of God,” partakers of a divine nature? All the difference of birth, all the distinction of degrees and qualities among persons, besides this one, are but such as have no being, no worth but only in the thinking and construction of them. They really are nothing, and can do nothing.  This only is a substantial and fundamental difference.  A divine birth carries along with it a divine nature, a change of principles, from the worst to the best, from darkness to light, from death to life.

Now, imagine then, what excellency is in this grace, which is made the character of a son of God, of one begotten of the Father, and passed from death to life? (1st John 3:10,14)  “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.  Whoever does not do righteousness is not of God, neither he who doesn’t love his brother.  We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren, he who doesn’t love his brother, lives in death.” (1st John 4:7)  “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and every one who loves is born of God, and knows God.” And truly it is most natural, if it be so, that the children of our Father love each other dearly.  It is monstrous and unnatural to see it otherwise.  But besides, there is in this a great deal of resemblance of their Father, whose eminent and single property it is, to be good to all and kind even to the ungrateful, and whose incomparable glory it is to pardon iniquity, and suffer long patiently.  A Christian cannot resemble his Father more nearly than in this.

Why do we account that baseness in us which is glory to God? Are we ashamed of our birth, or how do we dare not own our Father?  Will we be ashamed to love them as brethren whom he has not been ashamed to adopt as sons, and who Christ is not ashamed to call brethren?

 

 


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