Charity, the Sum of All Virtues - Part Two
1. In view of it, let us examine ourselves, and see if we have the spirit which it enjoins....
"Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him." 1 John. 5:1
"And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
"Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed."
"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him..." 1 John 3:16-19
- First,"This doctrine shews us what is the right Christian spirit.
"...it is plain that this spirit, even a spirit of love, is the spirit that the gospel revelation does especially hold forth motives and inducements to; and this is especially and eminently the Christian spirit - the right spirit of the gospel."
"...the spirit of divine and Christian love...is much more insisted on in the New Testament, than anything that concerns either our duty or our moral state....This spirit, even a spirit of love, is the spirit that God holds forth greater motives in the gospel to induce us to, than to any other thing whatever. The work of redemption which the gospel makes known, above all things affords motives to love; for that work was the most glorious and wonderful exhibition of love that ever was seen or heard of. Love is the principal thing that the gospel dwells on when speaking of God, and of Christ. It brings to light the love eternally existing between the Father and the Son, and declares how that same love has bee manifested in many things....There it is revealed how the Father and Son are one in love, that we might be induced, in the like spirit, to be one with them, and with one another, agreeable to Christ's prayer in John 17:21-23....The gospel also declares to us that the love of God was from everlasting, and reminds us that he loved those that are redeemed by Christ, before the foundation of the world; and that he gave them to the Son; and that the Son loved them as his own....And all this love is spoken of as bestowed on us while we were wanderers, outcasts, worthless, guilty, and even enemies...."[See also John 15:13 and Romans 5:7-10]
- Second, "If it is indeed so, that all that is saving and distinguishing in a true Christian, is summarily comprehended in love, then professors of Christianity may in this be taught as to their experiences, whether they are real Christian experiences or not. If they are so, then love is the sum and substance of them."
"If persons have the true light of heaven let into their souls, it is not a light without heat. Divine knowledge and divine love go together. A spiritual view of divine things always excites love in the soul, and draws forth the heart in love to every proper object. True discoveries of the divine character dispose us to love God as the supreme good; they unite the heart in love to Christ; they incline the soul to flow out in love to God's people, and to all mankind. When persons have a true discovery of the excellency and sufficiency of Christ, this is the effect....When persons experience a true trust and reliance on Christ, they rely on him with love, and so do it with delight and sweet acquiescence of soul....When persons experience true comfort and spiritual joy, their joy is the joy of faith and love. They do not rejoice in themselves, but it is God who is their exceeding joy."
- Third, "This doctrine shews the amiableness of a Christian spirit. A spirit of love is an amiable spirit. It is the spirit of Jesus Christ - it is the spirit of heaven."
- Fourth, "This doctrine shews the pleasantness of a Christian life...a life of love is a pleasant life."
and the one who gets understanding..." Prov. 3:13
and all her paths are peace." Prov. 3:17
- Fifth, "Hence we may learn the reason why contention tends so much to the ruin of religion.
"For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice." James 3:16
"But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice,have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned." Titus 3: 9-11
Experience also teaches its dangers:
"When contention comes into a place, it seems to prevent all good. And if religion has been flourishing before, it presently seems to chill and deaden it; and everything that is bad begins to flourish....religion and contention cannot live together."
- Sixth, "Hence, then what a watch and guard should Christians keep against envy, and malice, and every kind of bitterness of spirit towards their neighbors! For these things are the very reverse of the real essence of Christianity.
"They should suppress the first beginnings of ill-will and bitterness and envy; watch strictly against all occasions of such a spirit; strive and fight to the utmost against such a temper as tends that way; and avoid, as much as possible, all temptations that may lead to it. A christian should at all times keep a strong guard against everything that tends to overthrow or corrupt or undermine a spirit of love. That which hinders love to men, will hinder the exercise of love to God.
An envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction. It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!"
- Seventh, Hence it is no wonder that Christianity so strongly requires us to love our enemies, even the worst of enemies? For love is the very temper and spirit of a Christian: it is the sum of Christianity."
- If you call yourself a Christian, where are your works of love?
- Have you abounded, and do you abound in them?
- If this divine and holy principle is in you, and reigns in you, will it not appear in your life in works of love?
- Consider, what deeds of love have you done?
- Do you love God?
- What have you done for him, for his glory, for the advancement of his kingdom in the world?
- And how much have you denied yourself to promote the Redeemer's interest among men?
- Do you love your fellow-men?
- What have you done for them?
"Consider your former defects in these respects, and how becoming it is in you, as a Christian, hereafter to abound more in deeds of love. Do not make excuse that you have not opportunities to do anything for the glory of God, for the interest of the Redeemer's kingdom, and for the spiritual benefit of your neighbors. If your heart is full of love, it will find vent; you will find or make ways enough to express your love in deeds. When a fountain abounds in water, it will send forth streams. Consider that as a principle of love is the main principle in the heart of a real Christian, so the labor of love is the main business of the Christian life." (emphasis mine)
(Text in black is quoted directly from Edwards. Scripture is quoted in red. My thoughts are rendered in green.)