This post is taken from Emblems From Eden by James Hamilton (1814-67) and published by The Greater Heritage.
James Hamilton, D.D. (1814-67) was a Scottish Presbyterian minister and author of biographies, tracts, hymns, memoirs, and bible studies. He earned an M.A. from Glasgow University, D.D. from the University of Edinburgh, was a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London (F.L.S.) and was a lecturer and journalist. He edited the Presbyterian Messenger and Evangelical Christendom and was also a respected botanist. He ministered at the National Scotch Church in Regent Square, London for most of his life.
9 Evidences of Christian Love – By James Hamilton
The living branch is fruitful. The chemist who can analyse the fruit of the vine finds many ingredients there. Of these no single one, nor any two together, would form the juice of the grape; but the combination of all yields the polished and delicious berry, which every one knows so well. In different climates, and even in different seasons, the proportion and blending of these constituents may vary, but that is not a good cluster where any is wanting. The fruit of the true Vine has also been analysed, and in the best specimens the nine following ingredients are found (Gal. v. 22): Love, Gentleness, Joy, Goodness, Peace, Faith, Long-Suffering, Meekness and Temperance. “The living branch is fruitful.”
In poor samples there is a deficiency of one or other of these elements. A dry and diminutive sort is lacking in peace and joy. A tart kind, which sets the teeth on edge, owes its austerity to its scanty infusion of gentleness, goodness, and meekness. There is a watery, deliquescent sort, which for the want of long-suffering is not easily preserved; and there is a flat variety, which having no body of faith or temperance, answers few useful purposes. Love is the essential principle which is in no case entirely absent; and by the glistening fulness and rich aroma which its plentiful presence creates, you can recognize the freshest and most generous clusters; whilst the predominance of some other element gives to each its distinguishing flavour, and marks the growth of Eshcol, Sibmah, or Lebanon.
1 – Love, The Essential Principle
Wherever there is union to Christ there is love. This, as we have said, is the essential principle. Whatever else there be, if there be not love, it profits nothing, it proves nothing. Love to God and our neighbor is the essence of piety. It is the body, the basis, the staple element; and if the great commandment, and the next greatest be absent, whatever else there be, there is not Christianity. Reader, have you got it? To Christ’s question, “Lovest thou me?” is it your answer, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee?” Then, if you love Jesus, you will love Him whose express image Jesus is. To God in Christ, your soul will be attached in gratitude, submission, and complacency.“Whatever else there be, if there be not love, it profits nothing, it proves nothing.” You will not wish Him less holy, less righteous, less true. Awed by His glorious majesty, and melted by His ineffable mercy, all that is dust and ashes in you will be humbled, and all that is devout and filial will be kindled into grateful adoration. If nothingness and sin bid you be silent, the sight of your Great Representative gone back to the bosom of His Father, inspires you with a joyful assurance and a humble confidence Godward; and, boldest where you are most abased, beneath the Cross you learn to cry, Abba, Father. You love Him who first loved you, and “feeling it sweet to be accepted of God on any grounds, to be accepted in his own beloved Son, you feel is sweeter far.” (Nevins’ Remains, p. 27.)
2 – Joy, Love Exulting
And joy. The essence of love is attachment. Joy is the happiness of love. It is love exulting. It is love aware of its own felicity, and rioting in riches which it has no fear of exhausting. It is love taking a view of its treasure, and surrendering itself to bliss without foreboding. “God’s promises appear so strong, so solid, so substantial, more so than the rocks and everlasting hills; and His perfections, what shall I say of them? “Were the universe destroyed, and I the only being in it besides God, HE is fully adequate to my complete happiness.”When I think of one, I wish to dwell upon it for ever; but another, and another equally glorious, claims a share of admiration; and when I begin to praise, I wish never to cease, but to find it the commencement of that song which will never end. Very often have I felt as if I could that moment throw off the body, without first going to bid them farewell that are at home in my house. Let who will be rich, or admired, or prosperous, it is enough for me that there is such a God as Jehovah, such a Saviour as Jesus, and that they are infinitely and unchangeably glorious and happy!” (Payson’s Life. Chap. 19.) And in a similar frame another felt, “Were the universe destroyed, and I the only being in it besides God, HE is fully adequate to my complete happiness; and had I been in an African wood, surrounded by venomous serpents, and devouring beasts, and savage men, in such a frame I should be the subject of perfect peace and exalted joy.” (Memoirs of Rev. S. Pearce.)
3 – Peace, Love Reposing
Peace. If joy be love exulting, peace is love reposing. It is love on the green pastures, it is love beside the still waters. It is that great calm which comes over the conscience, when it sees the atonement sufficient and the Saviour willing. It is unclouded azure in a lake of glass; it is the soul which Christ has pacified, spread out in serenity and simple faith, and the Lord God, merciful and gracious, smiling over it.
4 – Long-suffering, Love Enduring
Long-suffering. This is love enduring. If the trial come direct from God, it is enough. It is correction. It is his Heavenly Father’s hand, and with Luther the disciple cries, “Strike, Lord, strike. But, oh! Do not forsake me.” If the trial come from Christian brethren, till it be seven-fold seventy times repeated, love to Jesus demands forgiveness. “One apostle denied Him, and all the disciples forsook Him; but Jesus prayed for Peter, whilst Peter was cursing, and His love followed the rest, even when they were running away.”If it come from worldly men, it is the occasion for that magnanimity which recompenses evil with good. And in every case, it is an opportunity for following a Saviour whom sufferings made perfect. That Saviour never loved the Father more intensely, than when His Father’s face was hid, and when the bitter cup proclaimed His justice terrible, and His truth severe. One apostle denied Him, and all the disciples forsook Him; but Jesus prayed for Peter, whilst Peter was cursing, and His love followed the rest, even when they were running away. Jerusalem killed Him; but in foresight of the guilty deed, it was over Jerusalem that Jesus wept; and when the deed was done, in publishing pardon and the peace of God, it was at Jerusalem that evangelists were directed to begin.
5 – Gentleness, Love in Society
Gentleness, or affectionateness. This is love in society. It is love holding intercourse with those around it. It is that cordiality of aspect, and that soul of speech, which assure us that kind and earnest hearts may still be met with here below. It is that quiet influence which, like perfumed flame from an alabaster lamp, fills many a home with light and warmth and fragrance all together. It is the carpet, soft and deep, which, whilst it diffuses a look of ample comfort, deadens many a cracking sound. It is the curtain which from many a beloved form, wards off at once the summer’s glow, and the winter’s wind. It is the pillow on which sickness lays its head and forgets half its misery, and to which death comes in a balmier dream. It is considerateness. It is tenderness of feeling. It is warmth of affection. It is promptitude of sympathy. It is love in all its depth, and all its delicacy. It is every melting thing included in that matchless grace, “the GENTLENESS of Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:1 KJV)
6 – Goodness, Love in Action
Goodness or beneficence. Love in action, love with its hand at the plough, love with the burden on its back. It is love carrying medicine to the sick, and food to the famished. It is love reading the Bible to the blind, and explaining the Gospel to the felon in his cell. It is love at the Sunday class, or in the Ragged-school. It is love at the hovel-door, or sailing far away in the missionary ship. But whatever task it undertakes, it is still the same, – Love following His footsteps, “who went about continually DOING GOOD.”
7 – Faith, Love in the Battlefield
Faith. Whether it means trust in God, or fidelity to principle and duty, Faith is love in the battle-field. It is constancy following hard after God, when the world drags downward, and the flesh cries, “Halt.” It is zeal holding fast sound words when fervor is costly and sound words are obnoxious. It is firmness marching through fire and through water to the post where duty calls and the captain waits. It is Elijah before Ahab. It is Stephen before the Sanhedrim. It is Luther at Worms. It is the martyr in the flames. Nay, it is a greater than all, – it is Jesus in the desert. (Matt. 4:1-11 KJV) It is Jesus in Gethsemane. It is Jesus on the cross. And it is whosoever pursuing the path, or finishing the work which God has given him, like the great Forerunner, does not fear to die.
8 – Meekness, Love at School
Meekness is love at school, – love at the Saviour’s school. It is Christian lowlihood. It is the disciple learning to know himself; learning to fear, and distrust, and abhor himself. It is the disciple practising the sweet but self-emptying lesson of putting on the Lord Jesus, and finding all his righteousness in that righteous Other.“Meekness is the living Christian at the Saviour’s feet, learning of Him who is meek and lowly, and finding rest for his own soul.” It is the disciple learning the defects of his own character, and taking hints from hostile as well as friendly monitors. It is the disciple praying and watching for the improvement of his talents, the mellowing of his tempter, and the amelioration of his character. It is the living Christian at the Saviour’s feet, learning of Him who is meek and lowly, and finding rest for his own soul.
9 – Temperance, Love in the Gymnasium
Temperance, – Love in the gymnasium, love enduring hardness, love seeking to become healthful and athletic, love striving for the mastery in all things, and brining the body under. It is superiority to sensual delights, and it is the power of applying resolutely to irksome duties for the Master’s sake. It is self-denial and self-control. Fearful lest it should subside to gross carnality, or waste away into shadowy and hectic sentiment, temperance is love alert and timeously astir; sometimes rising before day for prayer, and sometimes spending that day on tasks which laziness or daintiness declines. It is love with girt loins, and dusty feet, and hands which work makers horny. It is love with the empty scrip but the glowing cheek, – love subsisting on pulse and water, but grown so healthful and so hardy, that it “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”
Reader, if you abide in Jesus, – if His words abide in you, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful. Graces such as these will be in you, and abound. Is it so? The great vine-principle, the main element of the Christian character, holy love, does it abound in you? And blending with it, tinging it and deriving sweetness from it, can you detect from time to time joy in God, peace of conscience, patience in suffering, and forgiveness of injury, affectionateness, beneficence, trust in God, and trustworthiness in your place and calling, a lowly willingness to learn and a readiness to take up the cross and deny yourself? When Christians live close to Christ His mind is transferred into theirs.“If you abide in Jesus, – if His words abide in you, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful.”
“Purity and love shine forth in their character: meekness and truth guide their footsteps. Nay, in the experience of some, so great has been the change, that the very expression of their countenance has altered. Thus was it with Moses and Stephen. These blessed saints were full of God; Christ was in them of a truth; and his likeness was thus by them peculiarly reflected. Nor is it wonderful that such should sometimes be the case with believers; for, when He thus fills their hearts with His presence, when His peace dwells there; when the calm joy which He felt, when rejoicing in spirit, reigns there; there must needs be gentleness in their manners, and heavenliness in their talk, and meekness in their eye, and angelic serenity and conscious elevation in their whole countenance.” (“Thoughts on Union to Christ,” by Sosthenes. Edin. 1838, p. 213.) -James Hamilton
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A Bridal Couple, c. 1470. Southern Germany, 15th century. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Delia E. Holden and L. E. Holden Funds 1932.179