BY PRES. MAHAN.
THE OBERLIN QUARTERLY REVIEW
[Retyped and reprinted April 1999, by Rick Friedrich]
DUTY, in all its varied forms and applications, is, as far as the principle of moral obligation is concerned, one and the same. Yet the forms of duty which bind us are endlessly diversified, every varying as the relations in which, from moment to moment, we find ourselves existing, vary. We find ourselves also, at each moment of our existence, sustaining a diversity of relations to beings around us, relations on account of which a corresponding diversity of forms of obligation are continuously devolved upon us. At the same time that we are bound to the exercise of love, gratitude, and obedience towards God, a diversity of forms of obligation, growing out of the domestic, social, and civil relations, in which we find ourselves existing, bind us, in respect to our fellow men.
Of the various forms of duty thus devolved upon us, some are presented in the scriptures as of paramount importance, such, for example, as "repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ." Among this class, that which we have selected as the subject of the present article, stands conspicuous, to wit, "brotherly love." That our readers may have distinctly before their minds the light in which this form of Christian virtue is presented in the scriptures, we will here cite, without not or comment, a few passages in which this subject is referred to. "Behold, how good and pleasant a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments."--Psalms 133:1-2. "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."--John 13: 34-35. "This is my commandment, That ye love one another."--15: 12. "Neither pray I for these alone; but for them also which shall believe on me through their word: that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one."--17: 20-22. "For this is the message that ye have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren, He that loveth not his brother, abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we out to lay down our lives for the brethren."--1 John, 3: 11-16. "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple."--Romans 16: 17-18. "Let brotherly love continue." --Hebrews 13: 1. Not only a paramount importance, but an ineffable beauty attaches to this last precept, when contemplated in the connection in which it stands. While the command is given, "Let brotherly love continue," it is immediately added, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers," and "Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them." The two utmost extremes of humanity are here presented to our contemplation, none being so near those as those who with us belong to the "household of faith," and none naturally so remote from us, as "strangers," and those "that are in bonds." These precepts, then, are given as the extreme links of that golden chain which binds us to universal humanity, and as, consequently, comprehending ever form of duty designated by the term philanthropy, when understood in its wildest sense. He that, in the sanctuary of his heart, sanctifies "his brother," on the one hand, and "the stranger," and "them that are in bonds," on the other, will fail in no form of duty to those who occupy the intermediate relations.
Without further introduction, we shall now proceed to the elucidation of the subject before us, assuming, as the basis of our remarks, the precept above cited, "Let brotherly love continue."
The question which we first raise in respect to this subject is, What is the true basis of the "new commandment? To this question but one answer can be given, to wit, actual membership of the "household of faith." On what basis do the rights of brotherhood in the domestic relations rest? On one basis exclusively, a common parentage. The same holds true of the precept under consideration. To those, and those only, who have mutually been "born of God," does this precept pertain. No other reasons do or can exist for it but this one. Take away the fact that there is on earth a "holy nation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people," "children of a heavenly birth," a people who have been really and truly "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God," a people purified from the grossness of sensuality, selfishness, and sin, and actually graced with the beauties of holiness, take away this one great fact, we say, and no basis whatever remains for the precept, "Let brotherly love continue."
No relations of kindred or country, no natural or acquired perfections, mental or physical, aside from the possession of moral purity, no external relations in church or state, constitute any part of the basis of this form of Christian virtue. For other reasons we may be, as we in fact are, required to love individuals as men, as fellow citizens, and as connect with us by domestic ties; but for one reason only can the command bind us exercise towards individuals or classes of individuals: "brotherly love," the single fact that they have be "born of God," in other words, that with us, they have a common parentage that is really and truly divine.
All other relations existing among men, on the other hand, in the absence of moral virtue, constitute so many reasons against the exercise of the form of love under consideration. Two individuals, we will suppose, have a common standing in the visible church. One of them stands revealed to the other, as in all respects, the opposite of what he professes to be. What claims has he upon the other for the exercise of brotherly love? that is, to be esteemed and treated as the opposite of what he really is? The existence of the relation supposed, in connection with a violation of all the duties which that relation imposes, constitutes the highest possible reasons against the exercise of this peculiar form of love towards the subject. The same holds true in all other instances. The faithful discharge of the various duties growing out of the diversified relations of life, constitutes the only possible basis for the duty of "brotherly love." A violation of these duties, on the other had, destroys wholly all reasons and grounds for its exercise. To those destitute of moral virtue, we owe other duties of the most sacred character. To be esteemed and treated, however, as morally pure, that is, to be objects of the peculiar form of love under consideration, they have and can have no claims whatever. Not being holy, whatever other relations they may sustain to us, the can have no claim to that peculiar regard due only and exclusively to the "pure in heart."
The next inquiry which we raise pertains to the nature of the peculiar form of love under consideration. We are naturally so constituted, that when we contemplate any form of excellence which we very highly esteem and value, an affection of corresponding strength and intensity is thereby generated towards the subject, an affection rendering him to us, personally, an object of strong attachment and delight. In the estimation of all the "pure in heart," holiness, or moral virtue, is a form of excellence which overshadows all others, actual and conceivable, and consequently constitutes a basis for a form of mutual regard, more strong and endearing, than any other, or even than all other relations combined. Brotherly love is that form of affection for moral agents, which respect for moral purity generates in the hearts of the morally pure, towards those who are really and truly "pure in heart." In principle this form of virtue is one and the same with all other forms, having its basis in internal respect for objects as they are in themselves. As distinguished from other forms of virtue, its nature and character are determined by the peculiar character of the object towards which it is exercised. The meaning of the precept, "Let brotherly love continue," is this. Let that form of mutual good will, attachment and delight, which respect for moral purity generates in the hearts of the morally pure towards the subjects of such purity, be perpetuated and perfected in its exercise, among those who have really and truly been born of God, one toward another. Thus a divine brotherhood is created unlike all others, and as superior to them as that which, in its nature, is unchangeable and eternal, is to that which is mutable and transitory, a divine brotherhood, very properly denominated in the scriptures, "a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people," Thus, too, a form of virtue is manifested to the world, more benign and attractive, and more indicative of its divine origin, than any other of which the human mind has ever conceived. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one toward another."
The next inquiry which arises is, the conditions on which we are required to exercise this peculiar form of love towards any individual classes of men. As the precept requiring its exercise has its basis in one fact exclusively, the actual existence of moral purity, so this precept binds us to its exercise relatively to particular individuals or classes of men, when and only when the actual existence of such purity in them has been manifested to us in their visible conduct. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Holiness manifested is the exclusive condition of obligation to exercise brotherly love towards any persons whatever. However holy and pure an individual may be, no obligation rests upon us to esteem and treat him as such, till we have the means of knowing his character as it is.
A profession of religion is, in many cases, strong presumptive evidence in favor of such heart purity in the subject. In others, it may be no evidence at all; and in some it may even be a strong presumptive evidence to the contrary, as, for example, a standing in a church known to be fundamentally erroneous in doctrine and practice both. However this may be, a mere visible profession of holiness is nowhere presented in the scriptures, as the condition of the obligation to exercise towards the subject "brotherly love," holiness manifested, in whatever circumstances it exists, being its exclusive object. Judas was, in Christ's regard, none the less a devil, because he had a standing as a disciple. It is the real "brotherhood" towards whom we are required to exercise "brotherly love," and not those who "have a name to live and are dead." On the other hand, we are required to beware of "ravening wolves," who come to us "in sheep's clothing," to "mark" and "avoid all who cause divisions and offences" in the church, "contrary to the doctrine" of Christ. We are positively prohibited keeping company, "if any man that is called a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner: with such an one no not to eat."
As holiness manifested is the exclusive object of the peculiar form of affection and regard of which we are speaking, and the only condition of obligation to its exercise, so nothing whatever in the subject, which may co-exist with such holiness, is to be any barrier whatever to the exercise of this love. No external relationships civil or ecclesiastical, the presence or absence of no ties of kindred or natural friendship, no agreement or diversity of opinion or practice, religious or political, which consist with manifested heart purity and integrity, have any influence whatever to create or annihilate, vary or modify, our obligations to exercise "brotherly love," when this one exclusive condition of obligation to its exercise has been fulfilled.
Among the morally pure holiness exists in connection with intellectual powers not only limited in their nature, but in endlessly diversified degrees of development. Hence, in every such individual, to whatever degree sanctified, there is a continued liability to erroneous judgment. Among the masses also, constituting the "household of faith," there is an equally liability to a wide diversity of opinion and forms of action, in respect to all subjects perfect agreement in regard to which is not essential to the existence of holiness itself. Each one will contemplate almost all objects of thought from a stand-point peculiar to himself, and that stand-point will occasion a corresponding peculiarity in many important respects, of opinions and sentiments in respect to it. Individuals, each and all alike under the exclusive influence of the most perfect integrity, may investigate the same subject, and no two of them perfectly agree, and many of them come to directly opposite conclusions in respect to it. Now such differences are to constitute the least barrier to the exercise of brotherly love, while the heart integrity stands revealed as co-existing with them. We will put an extreme case in elucidation of this principle. We will suppose that an individual, from no malicious intention, as we have evidence to believe, but in the honest use of the best light within his reach, has come to this conclusion, that we are "wolves in sheep's clothing;" while we are fully conscious to ourselves that we are approved of God as members of his church, and ministers of the everlasting gospel. Cases like this have actually occurred among Christians. How shall we regard such an individual? With the same confidence, esteem, affection, and delight, as if his judgment were ever so favorable in respect to us. Liability to error in judgment, in connection with even the most perfect goodness and integrity, pertains to character, our own not excepted, as well as to other subjects. Such error in no sense or degree diminishes or modifies the intrinsic beauty or value of the virtues with which it co-exists; nor should it diminish our respect for that virtue, or the individual who is the subject of it, when such virtue is manifested to us.
From what has been said, it will readily be perceived, that between individuals who are fully approved in the sight of God the exercise of "brotherly love" may for a time, wholly cease, and that without crime, on the part of either. The character of each may be presented to the other under the veil which hides his brother's character from his view, a false profession lies concealed. Each, under such circumstances, will be to each other the object of benevolent regard, but not of "brotherly love," the exclusive object of which, being, as we have said, moral purity manifested. It is in itself a very painful thought, that individuals who have been rally and truly born of God, and who are still the objects of his full approbation and delight, should nevertheless be to each other as strangers and foreigners. Such things, however, owing to the necessary limitations of the human faculties, may happen, and that without crime.
The inquiry which next presses upon us is, how may the exercise of "brotherly love" be continued among the members of the "household of faith?" In the scriptures, independent thought in its highest and best sense, is required of each member of this household. Every one, as he becomes a member of it, is addressed with the solemn command, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." An evil, if it can be called an evil, incidental to a community thus organized, is a wide diversity, and even opposition, of thought, speech, and action, in respect to many important subjects. In full view of all such necessary attendants of moral virtue, in the only form in which it can exist in connection with limited intellectual faculties, we are addressed by the divine precept, "Let brotherly love continue." How can the exercise of this virtue be perpetuated among those who are "sanctified by the faith of Christ?"
1. Let each carefully cherish a respect for the overshadowing claims which moral purity and all who are revealed to us as the subjects of it, have upon our esteem, affection, and endearing fellowship. We should ever bear in mind, with full and perfect distinctness, that when moral purity ceases to attract us towards and attach us to individuals above all other qualities and excellencies combined, we ourselves cease to be pure in heart. On the other hand, let all who are themselves morally pure, continuously entertain and manifest this regard for moral purity and for every one who stands revealed as possessing it, and "brotherly love" will "continue" among those who are the proper objects of it, one toward the other.
2. As a necessary means of the continuance of "brotherly love" the sentiment should be carefully and distinctly entertained by all the members of the "household of faith," that while the subjects in respect to which there is a perfect unity of views and conviction, among all truly pure minds, are of infinitely greater importance than those in respect to which they differ, the union is permanent, the difference is transitory, and will soon disappear altogether, as the increasing light of the future dawns upon their minds. In respect to ultimate aims, and all forms of doctrine the belief of which is essential to the existence of moral virtue, there is among all such minds, an absolute unity. They differ only in respect to the means by which these common ends shall be realized, and in respect to forms of belief not essential, and relative to which a perfect harmony of views will ere long, with perfect certainty obtain. Let all minds, who are conscious of being internally pure themselves, entertain such sentiments in respect to all others of the same character, and especially when particular cases of disagreement arise among them, and the spirit of discord will have no place in the family of Christ. Within that sanctified circle, brotherly love will continue. A forgetfulness of this great fact is one of the chief causes of all the discord which ever obtains there.
3. As a necessary means of the continuance of the form of virtue of which we are speaking, the sentiment should be an omnipresent reality to all sanctified minds, that no forms of practice, no errors in doctrine, and no diversity or opposition of views on any subject whatever, the existence of which do not imply the absence of heart purity and integrity are, in the least degree, to weaken or modify our respect, esteem, and affection for individuals as "brethren be loved," nor to prevent our treating them as such before the world. We cannot will that our brethren should cease to prove all things for themselves, that is to be independent thinkers, without willing that they should cease to be really and truly pure in heart. They can not think, and act according to their own internal sacred convictions, without differing from us in many important particulars, in thought and action. Whenever such differences co-exist with, and result from heart integrity, it is virtue in them thus to differ from us. They can not harmonize with us, without ceasing to be "pure in heart." For us to cease to esteem and love them as brethren, for such differences, is to cease to render them the objects of "brotherly love," for the only reason on account of which they are or can be entitled to such love from us. Christian union should always be formed with the definite expectation, that a diversity of views will obtain among believers, and with the conviction deeply penetrating all minds, that no diversity or opposition not implying moral guilt shall, in the least degree, disturb that union and harmony. Under no other circumstances can "brotherly love" continue.
4. The frequent intercommunion of mind with mind, in respect to those subjects about which there is a perfect agreement among all the pure in heart, is also an indispensable requisite to the continuance of "brotherly love." When such individuals cease to meet in the circle of prayer, when their social intercourse turns mainly upon worldly objects, they will, as spiritual men, become as strangers to one another. When, on the other hand, "they that fear the Lord, speak often one to another," and especially when their conversation turns mainly upon those high ends and aims, and "deep things of God" in respect to which all such minds perfectly harmonize, they will hardly fail to know each other, and "to love as brethren."
5. When such intercommunion, as that above referred to is accompanied with active self-denying co-operation in the direct promotion of the great ends of benevolence, in their varied forms, then the secret movements of sanctified hearts become most distinctly revealed, and "brotherly love" is called into the most vigorous exercise among minds thus associated. Its exercise can hardly fail to continue. Merely meeting together in the same house of worship from sabbath to sabbath, and putting contributions into the same box as it passes round, is not the form of co-operation to which we refer. All this may exist in connection with the widest remove, on the part of all concerned, form the spirit of benevolence, and consequently from the form of benevolent co-operation, demanded, as the basis for the mutual exercise of "brotherly love." On the other hand, when many hearts are separated, in spirit, from all selfish ends and aims, and with full devotion, are consecrated to God, and the temporal and eternal weal of humanity, and when, for the promotion of such ends, they have combined their energies and resources for the accomplishment of some specific purposes of absorbing interest, there arises a form of benevolent co-operation which will not and can not fail to be sanctified by the mutual exercise of "brotherly love," on the part of all concerned. Under such circumstances the benevolent intentions of benevolent minds become manifest to all, and an intercommunion of kindred hearts results, presenting the most perfect reflection that earth ever witnesses, of that intercommunion which is perfected above. "Brotherly love" can have no place anywhere, while this form of co-operating is wanting. Permit us here to ask, whether the want of this co-operation is not the main cause of the absence of an impressive manifestations of heart unity in the churches at the present time? "All seek their own and not the things of Jesus Christ." The general professedly sanctified heart, has enlarged itself, not to a "comprehension of the breadth and depth, and length and height," not to "know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge," that it may thereby be "filled with all the fullness of God," but to the love of wealth, to the spirit of pride, and to worldly sensual delights. How vain it is to exhort individuals, in such a state, "to love one another."
6. Mutual confessions, when wrong may have been done, is another necessary means of promoting the exercise of "brotherly love." Indeed, when it has ceased to exist, through a visible departure from duty, it can be reintroduced by no other means. Confession may be demanded for two reasons--acts of mutual wrong--and acts indicating a want of wisdom, which may yet consist with right intentions. The spirit of mutual confession, to whichever of the forms of action above named it may refer, tends more powerfully than almost anything else, to cement sanctified hearts together. The reason is obvious. Heart purity and rectitude is thereby most distinctly manifested.
7. We mention one and only one other means of the "continuance of brotherly love," the most important and indispensable of any, yes, more important than all others to which we have referred. The appropriate and exclusive object of this form of regard is, as we have seen, moral purity manifested." In its absence, "brotherly love" can, by no possibility, exist, and ought not to exist, if it could. The great obligation then resting upon us in respect to its existence and continuance, is to be in ourselves the appropriate objects of this divine virtue, that is, to posses, at all times and relatively to all subjects, moral virtue ourselves, and to exhibit it, in all its appropriate manifestations, before the world. Then, when located among individuals "like minded," we shall not fail to exercise "brotherly love" ourselves, or under ordinary circumstances to be the objects of it on the part of others. None will then be straitened in us. If straitened at all, it will be in their own bowels. Nor will this long continue among those who are really and truly "pure in heart."
The last inquiry which claims our attention is, the things which which impede or wholly suspend the exercise of "brotherly love" among the members of the "household of faith," one towards the other.
1. That which first of all demands notice, as the chief cause of such evil, is the cessation or absence of that which is the exclusive basis of obligation to exercise "brotherly love," to wit, moral purity manifested in all appropriate forms of benevolent activity. It is a contradiction in terms, to suppose, that "brotherly love" can co-exist with the absence of spiritual mindedness, as much so, as the supposition that individuals remaining totally selfish, may yet act benevolently towards each other. When believers, too, have departed form the "way of holiness," repentance must with them, precede the exercise of "brotherly love."
Another very common and fruitful sources of the evil under consideration; is the imputing of differences or opposition of opinion and action in respect to subjects in reference to which honest minds may differ, to a state of heart morally wrong. When we impeach the motives of an individual, whether rightly or wrongly, in any transaction, he becomes to us of necessity "a stranger and foreigner," till he manifests repentance. In whatever light we may regard him in other respects, he can not be to us an object of "brotherly love." To exercise it toward him becomes impossible. If he becomes aware of the attitude of our minds towards him, and is conscious of integrity in the matter referred to, he will be strongly tempted to regard himself the object not only of error in judgment, but of injustice. Hence we shall cease to be to him the objects of "brotherly love." Thus hearts have been sundered, each of whom may have preserved its integrity. We should ever bear in mind the fact, that because a subject most manifestly presents itself in a given light to us, it by no means follows that others will judge of it as we do. In consequence of viewing it from a standpoint the reverse of ours, their honest convictions in respect to it may be in direct opposition to our own. But when a subject appears very plain to us, how strongly tempted we are to assume, that all honest minds must view it as we do, and consequently that all judgments the opposite of ours must proceed from a want of internal rectitude. In consequence of such unauthorized assumptions, individuals cease to love each other as brethren, who are as dear to Him to whom the secrets of the heart are visible, as the apple of his eye. There is almost no department of Christian obligation in respect to which the church needs more careful instruction than this.
3. The exercise of discipline in the church for forms of belief and practice which do not, as all acknowledge, imply moral guilt, but may consist with moral virtue and integrity, is another cause and fruitful source of discord, and consequent extinguishment of "brotherly love" in the church of God. A church rightly instructed would as soon "touch the apple of God's eye," as to lay the rod of discipline upon the back of one whom she acknowledges to be an honest man, and for any acts or forms of belief in respect to which she believes him to have acted from heart integrity. The rod was never put into her hands for any such purpose. Rulers in church and state were "never appointed of God, to be a "terror to good works, but to evil." No man was ever the subject of discipline for any form of belief or practice, in respect to which he is conscious of having acted in "the fear of God" and is acknowledged to have done so by others, who did not regard himself as the object of oppression, if not of persecution for "righteousness sake." Many in the church also will, with almost absolute certainty, sympathize with him in such impressions. The majority also, will have the secret consciousness of having acted without authority from the head of the church. The result will be division and every evil work.
4. The habit, so common, of passing judgment upon men in view of what they believe and do, and not in view of reasons why they thus judge and act, is another quite common and fruitful source of discord in the church. When we have clearly ascertained that a given form of belief or practice is in itself erroneous, or accordant with truth, it by no means follows from such a fact, that all who do not symbolize with us, are guilty of moral wrong. If we make our own knowledge instead of theirs the standard of judgment in respect to their character in the case referred to, however approved they may be in the divine estimation, we shall not esteem or love them "as brethren." "Brotherly love" relatively to all individuals whom we have thus judged, will have no place in our hearts, however deserving of it they may be. "The unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace" can never be preserved, in any association where such a standard of judgment is adopted. Whatever a man holds from internal respect to truth, whatever he does from similar respect to the law of duty, after having honestly used the best means in his power to know what truth and duty are, it is moral virtue in him to believe and practice. The character of each moral agent depends upon his conformity or non-conformity to the light actually granted to him; and not the higher dimmer light conferred upon others. "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin."
5. Whenever a majority in the church make the subject of discipline, any forms of belief or practice, the believing or performance of which, honest minds do not regard as involving moral guilt, or when measures are carried, or attempted to be carried by discipline, which such minds sincerely regard as, in themselves, inexpedient or wrong, an almost insuperable barrier is thereby raised, to the exercise of "brotherly love." All the ends of discipline are not only defeated, when it is thus employed, but parties are formed, among whom the spirit of distrust and opposition is generated, rendering future harmonious co-operation almost impossible. All such measures appear to all who do not advocate them as oppression, and not as dictated by a regard to truth, justice, and the ends of benevolence. We would lay down as a universal principle, that nothing should be made, in the household of faith, a subject of discipline, which honest minds do not unite in regarding as involving moral guilt. Any departure in any direction from this principle, tends to "make schisms in the body of Christ," and never to the promotion of "brotherly love."
6. On the other hand, the refusal or neglect to apply the rod or excinding power of discipline, to the correction of gross offences, "known and read of all men," as existing in the church, tends to precisely the same result. When by common consent, individuals unite in doing wrong, or in neglecting to do what the law of duty manifestly requires to be done, as is true in the case supposed, they mutually, though in many instances almost unconsciously, cease to respect one another, as morally virtuous. Thus in the common neglect of manifest duty, the exercise of "brotherly love" has totally ceased in many of our churches.
7. Practically treating individuals of known and acknowledged piety as "heathen men and publicans," is another too common a cause of the extinction of "brotherly love," in the church of Christ. We refer to acts of withdrawment or of withholding ecclesiastical or church fellowship from individuals confessed to be "good men, full of faith and of the Holy Ghost," on the ground of mere imputed errors in doctrine or practice, errors not regarded as involving moral character. All who unite in such acts, of necessity, though they may not be aware of it themselves, cease to respect one another, as actuated in such conduct by respect to the most sacred of all rights, the rights of character. They will, of course, cease to be among themselves even the objects, the one towards the other, of "brotherly love." When men unite in the doing of unauthorized acts, even in the midst of their apparent union they become to each other the objects of mutual distrust. It can not be otherwise. Much less can the bonds of fellowship continue to unite our hearts to those whom we treat in opposition to our sacred convictions of their real deserts. The acknowledged fact that "God has received" an individual, must be to us an all authoritative reason for "receiving him" ourselves, or he will cease to be to us the object of "brotherly love."
8. We mention but one other impediment to the exercise or continuance of "brotherly love." We refer to a want of respect for the rights of others to judge, according to the best light they have, of our character, and to express, on all proper occasions, their honest convictions whether favorable or unfavorable, in respect to it. Character, our own not expected, is public property. So we regard and treat the character of others. Why should we be unwilling that our own should be subject to the same law? We regard ourselves, as having justly forfeited the esteem of no man, for having formed, and on proper occasions, expressed honest, and only honest convictions in respect to his character, whether such judgments be favorable or unfavorable to his reputation, or whether we may or may not have erred in judgment. No one, therefore, should cease to be love by us, as a brother, whatever his opinions in respect to our character may be, who has judged and spoken of us in conformity with the principle just stated. Suppose he has erred in judgment. Thus to err is not only human, but the common frailty of all finite intelligences. We can not justly require all men to think correctly or favorably of us. We can, however, require them to think honestly. When we have evidence that they have thus thought, whether they have judged favorably or unfavorably, correctly or incorrectly, they are to be to us objects of the warmest moral esteem and regard. Now it is the want of this free toleration of opinion and speech in respect to personal character which sunders many hearts "which else, like kindred drops had mingled into one."
In the preceding remarks, it has been our object to elucidate and enforce subjection to a fundamental principle of Christian duty. It has not been our object to chide others for the want of "brotherly love;" but to lay out before our own minds and those of others, the great law which binds alike "all the family in heaven and on earth," one towards the other. It has long been a pleasing thought to us, that many hearts now kept asunder, through mutual ignorance of each other, will most sweetly and cordially flow together, as, in the midst of the light of the coming future, the present veil will be removed from character, and each will know his brother as he is. Nor will individuals love each other the less cordially or intensely there, because they failed to know each other here. "Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block, or an occasion to fall in his brother's way."