Christian Love 45: Humility and Peace

By Hugh Binning

 

Lowliness of mind is the strongest bond of peace and charity. It banishes away strife and vain glory, and makes each man to esteem another better than himself, (Philippians 2:3) because the humble man knows who he is inside, and only another’s outside. Now certainly the outside is always better and more misleadingly attractive than the inside, and therefore a humble man seeing nothing but his neighbor’s outside, and being acquainted thoroughly with his own inside, he esteems another better than himself. Humility, as it makes a man think well of another, so it hinders him from speaking evil of his brother. (James 4)

He lays down the ground work in the 10th verse, “humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” He raises his superstructure, verses 11,12: “Don’t speak against one another, brothers. He who speaks against a brother and judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge. Only one is the lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge another?” Certainly the very ground of evil speaking of that nature, is some advantage, we think, that it may improve our own reputation, by the belittling of another’s fame. Or, because we are so short sighted in ourselves, therefore we are sharp sighted towards others, and because we think little of our own faults, we are ready to come down heavy on other men’s to an extremity. But in doing so we take the place of the judge and law upon ourselves, which judges others, and is judged by none. So we judge others, and not ourselves. Neither will we suffer ourselves to be judged by others. This is to make ourselves the infallible rule, to judge the law.

Humility levels men to a holy subjection and submission to another, without the confusion of their different degrees and stations. It teaches men to give the respect and regard to one that is due to his place or worth, and to signify it in such a way as may testify the simplicity of their thinking and sincerity of their respect. (Ephesians 5:21) “Submit yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ.” (1st Peter 5),” Yes, all of you clothe yourselves with humility, to subject yourselves to one another; .”

Now, if humility can put a man below others, certainly it will make him endure patiently and willingly to be thought lowly of by others. When others give him that place to sit down, that he had already chosen for himself, will he think himself wronged and offended, though others about him think so? No, it is hard to persuade him of an injury of that kind, because the understanding of such an offence has for its foundation the imagination of some excellency beyond others, which lowliness has leveled out. He has placed himself low for every man’s edification that others can put him no lower, and there he sits quietly and peacefully. Bene qui latuit bene vixit. Affronts and injuries fly over him, and land upon the taller cedars, while the shrubs are safe. Qui cadit in plano, (vix hoc tamen evenit ipsum,) Sic cadit, ut tacta surgere possit humo. He sits so low, that he cannot fall lower, so a humble man’s fall upon the ground is indeed no fall indeed, but only in the thinking of others, but it a heavy and bruising fall from off the tower of self conceit.

 

 


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Christian Love 43: Love Lowers for Others

By Hugh Binning

 

The apostle Paul gives a solemn charge to the Romans (Romans 12:3), that no man should think highly of himself; but soberly, according to the measure of faith given.  That extreme undervaluing and denial of all worth in ourselves, though it be suitable before God (Luke 17: 6,7,10, Proverbs 30: 2,3 Job 42: 6, 1st Corinthians 3:7), yet it is not attracting to and is in-congruent with men.

Humility does not exclude all knowledge of any excellency in itself, or defect in another, it can discern, but this is the value of it: that it thinks soberly of the one, and not despise the other.  The humble man knows any advantage he has beyond another, but he is not wise in his own conceits.  He looks not so much on that side of things, his own perfections and others imperfections.  That is very dangerous.  But he casts his eye most on the other side, his own weaknesses and the others’ virtues, his worst part and their best part, and this makes up an equality or proportion.

Where there is inequality, there is a different measure of gifts and graces, there are many different varieties of failings and weaknesses, and degrees of them.  Now, how shall so unequal members make up one body, and join into one harmonious being, except this proportion be kept, that the defects of one be made up by the humility of another? The difference and inequity is taken away this way, by fixing my thoughts upon my own disadvantages and my brother’s advantages.  If I am higher in any way, yet certainly I am lower in some, and therefore the unity of the body may be preserved by humility.  I will consider in what way I come short, and in what way another excels, and so I can be lowered to them of low degree.  This is the substance of that which is spoken here. (Romans 12:16) “Do not mind high things, but condescend to men of low estate.  Do not be wise in your own conceits.” And this makes us come together in honor to prefer one another, thinking about the evil that is in us, and thinking of the good that is in others.  (Romans 12:10) “Be kindly affectionate one to another, with brotherly love in honor preferring one another.”

In this way there may be an equality of mutual respect and love, where there is a inequality of gifts and graces, there may be one measure of charity, where there are different measures of faith, because both neglect that disparity, and think on their own evils and the other’s good.

It is our way to compare ourselves among ourselves, and the result of that secret comparison is favored conceit of ourselves and the despising of others.  We take our measure, not by our own real and intrinsic qualities, but by the stature of other men’s, and if we find any disadvantage in others, or any preeminence in ourselves, in such a partial application and comparison of ourselves with others (as readily self-love, if it doesn’t find it, will imagine it), then we have a secret glorying within ourselves.  But the humble Christian dares not make himself of that number, nor does he boast of things without his measure.  He dares not to think himself good, because, deterioribus melior, “better than others who are worse.”  But he judges himself by the intrinsic measure which God has distributed to him, and so finds reason of sobriety and humility, and therefore he dares not stretch himself beyond his measure, or go beyond his station and degree, (2nd Corinthians 10:12-14).

 


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Christian Love 38: He Lived It

By Hugh Binning

 

That is the proper excellence and glory of it.  All arts and sciences have their principles, and common axioms of unquestioned authority.  All kinds of professions have some fundamental doctrines and points which are the character of them.  Christianity has its principles too.  And principles must be plain and undeniable; they must be evident by their own light, and apt to give light to other things.  All the rest of the conclusions of the art are but derivations and deductions from them.

Our Master and Doctor follows the same method.  He lays down some common principles some fundamental points of this profession, upon which all the building of Christianity hangs.  “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly.” This was the high lesson that his life preached so exemplary, and his doctrine pressed so earnestly, and in this he is very unlike other teachers who impose burdens on others, and themselves do not so much as touch them.

But he first practices his doctrine and then preaches it.  He first casts a pattern in himself, and then presses us to follow it.  Example teaches better than rules, but both together are most effective and sure.  The rarest example and noblest rule that ever was given to men are here met together.  The rule is about a thing that has a low name, but a high nature.

 


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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 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 27: Love is Real Light and Life

By Hugh Binning

 

Love is real light, light and life, light and heat both. “When your fathers did execute judgment, and relieve the oppressed, wasn’t this to know me? says the Lord,” (Jeremiah 22:15-16).  The practice of the most common things, out of the love of God, and respect to his commands, is more real and true Christianity than the most profound and abstracted speculations of knowledge.  Then only is God known, when knowledge stamps the heart with fear and reverence of his Majesty and love to his name, because then he is only known as he is a true and living God.

Love is real light and life.  Isn’t it “a pleasant thing for the eye to behold the sun?” Light is sweet, and life is precious.  These are two of the rarest jewels given to men.  “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness even until now, and doesn’t know where he goes; because darkness has blinded his eyes, but he who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him,” (1st John 2:9-11).  “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren; he who doesn’t  love his brother, abides in death,” (1st John 3:14).

The light of Jesus Christ cannot shine into the heart, but it begets love, even as intense light begets heat, and where this impression is not made on the heart, it is an evidence that the beams of that Sun of righteousness have not pierced it.  O how suitable is it for a child of light to walk in love! And for what purpose is it made day light to the soul, but that it may rise up and go forth to labor, and exercise itself in the works of the day, duties of love to God and men?

Now in such a soul there is no cause of stumbling, no scandal, no offence in its way to fall over.  When the light and knowledge of Christ possesses the heart in love, there is no stumbling block of transgression in its way.  It does not fall and stumble at the commandments of righteousness and mercy as grievous, “therefore love is the fulfilling of the law,” (Romans 13:10).  And so the way of charity is the most easy, plain, expedient, and safe way.  In this way there is light shining all along it, and there is no stumbling block in it.  For the love of God and of our brethren has polished and made it all plain, has “taken away the asperities and swellings of our affections and lusts.” Complanavit affectus. “Great peace have all they who love your law, and nothing shall offend them.” Love makes an equable and constant motion, it moves swiftly and sweetly.  It can loose many knots without difficulty, which other more violent principles cannot cut, it can melt away mountains before it, which cannot be hauled away.  Albeit there be many stumbling blocks without in the world, yet there is none in charity, or in a charitable soul.  None can enter into that soul to hinder it to possess itself in meekness and patience.  Nothing can discompose it within, or hinder it to live peaceably with others.

 

 


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Life of Faith 16: Faith, Love, Death and Life

By Richard Sibbes

 

Christian affections are as the wind, to carry us on in a holy life.  Thus strength, reason, and affections, these make a man work.  First, love sets us to work : “we love him,” the apostle says,  “because he loved us first,” (1st John 4:19).  We have his love first shed abroad in our hearts, inflaming the affections, and kindling the heat of divine love; and then we send back a reflex of love to him.  God cares for nothing but faith which works by love.  This love is a most operative affection stirred up by faith.  Indeed, all our Christian graces are set to working by faith in Christ.  Thus you see faith apprehending Christ, as God offers him; and these things which I have mentioned following, we come to live the life of faith in sanctification: an example of this is the woman, who because many sins were forgiven her, loved much.  Love is bountiful.  All obedience comes from love.  Love is the keeping of the law.

This affection is stirred up by faith, yes, by Christ, for by him we have the promise of the Spirit, from whom all graces come, and promises of the new covenant, to have fleshly hearts given, and his Spirit put in us.  All promises of justification and sanctification are derived from Christ.  They are in him, made for him, and effected for his sake; for he is ” yes and amen,” the center and ground of all the promises.

Now being brought by faith to live in justification, we must of necessity also live by faith in sanctification.  There are two parts of a holy life: First, In mortification , dying to sin; Second, in being made alive, living to righteousness. For the first, What happens to a man in this case? Why, he looks at what brought Christ to suffer so much; my sin.  So this affection stirs up the same passion in him, in a kind, which was in Christ, and makes him hate sin with a perfect hatred, as in Zechariah it is said, “They should look upon him whom they have pierced, and mourn for him as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first born,”. (Zechariah 12:10)

Secondly, It looks on the love of Christ, that made him give himself for us. This makes us to hate sin, and provokes us to live to him who has done so much for us. These two things in the death of Christ stir up hatred to sin. Then again, in being made alive, the same Spirit which quickened him also quickens us: as in (Colossians 3:1-2), “If then you were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated on the right hand of God.  Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth.” So that the same Spirit which is in Christ, being sent into us, quickens us also to have rising and heavenly thoughts.

As the foot and little finger, though distant, live and stir by the same life and spirits diffused through the whole body, so the same Spirit quickens every Christian this way.  As also by imparting strength, he imparts reasons from the resurrection of Christ to make us heavenly-minded, so when the soul dies one  way, it lives another way.  For Christ having by the Spirit discovered a better state, and life to come, of eternity, immortality, tranquility, and glory; then a Christian dies to all worldly things, and has the affections taken up that way.

Christian Love 22: No Place for Comparisons

By Hugh Binning

 

Now the fountain of uncharitable and harsh dealing is seen in the 3rd verse,”If any man thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”  Since all mortal men are nothing, vanity, altogether vanity, he that would seem something, and seems so to himself, deludes himself.

Hence is our insulting fierceness, hence our haughty rigor.  Every man apprehends some excellency in himself beyond another.  Take away pride, and charity shall enter, and modesty shall be its companion.  But now we mock ourselves, and deceive ourselves, by building the weight of our pretended zeal upon such a vain and rotten foundation, as a gross practical fundamental lie of self conceit of nothing.

Now the Apostle furnishes us with an excellent remedy against this in the 4th verse, “Let a man prove himself and his own work, and then he shall have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”  — a word worthy to be fastened by the Master of assemblies in the heart of all Christians!  And indeed this nail driven in would drive out all conceit.  Hence is our ruin, that we compare ourselves among ourselves, and in so doing we are not wise, 2nd Corinthians 10:12.  For we know not our own true value.  Only we raise the price according to the market, so to speak.  We measure ourselves by another man’s measure, and build up our own valuing of ourselves  upon the disesteem of others, and how much we please ourselves.

But, says the Apostle, let every man prove his own worth, search his own conscience, compare himself to the perfect rule; and then, if he find all well, he may indeed glory in himself.  But that which you have by comparison with others is not your own.  You must come down from all such advantages of ground, if you would have your just measure.  And indeed, if you prove yourself, and your work after this manner, you will be the first to reprove yourself, you shall have that glory due unto thee, that is none at all.  For every man shall bear his own burden, when he appears before the judgment seat of God.  There is no place for such imaginations and comparison’s in the Lord’s judgment.

 

 

 

 


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