1) Now, the Lord Jesus having redeemed lost man, and repaired his ruins, he makes up this breach, especially restores this fundamental ordinance of our creation, and unites men again to God and to one another. Therefore he is our peace, he hath removed the seeds of discord between God and man, and between man and man. And this is the subject of that divine epistle which the beloved apostle, full of that divine love, did pen, ‘God is love, and in this was the love of God manifested, that God sent his only begotten Son into the world. And he that loves is born of God, and knows God ; but we love God, because he loved us first, and if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another,’ 1 John iv. This is the very substance of the gospel, a doctrine of God’s love to man, and of man’s love due to God, and to them who are begotten of God ; the one declared, the other commanded. So that much of the gospel is but a new edition or publication of that old ancient fundamental law of creation. This is that paradox which John delivers, ‘ I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment, which you had from the beginning: again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and you; because the darkness is past, and the true light now shines,’ 1 John ii. 7, 8. It is no new commandment, but that primitive command of love to God and men, which is the fulfilling of the law; and yet new it is, because there is a new obligation superadded. The bond of creation was great, but the tie of redemption is greater. God gave a being to man, that is enough. But God to become a miserable man for man, that is infinitely more. Fellow-creatures, that is sufficient for a bond of amity. But to be once fellow-captives, companions in misery, and then companions in mercy and blessedness, that is a new and stronger bond. Mutual love was the badge of reasonable creatures in innocency. But now Jesus Christ hath put a new stamp and signification on it; and made it the very differential character and token of his disciples, ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another.’ And therefore, when he is making his latter will, he gives this testamentary commandment to his children and heirs, ‘A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another, as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.’ New indeed! For though it be the same command, yet there was never such a motive, inducement, and persuasive to it as this. God so loved that he gave me, and I so loved that I gave myself, that is an addition more than all that was before, John xiii. 34, 35.
There is a special stamp of excellency put on this affection of love, that God delights to exhibit himself to us in such a notion. ‘God is love,’ and so holds out himself as the pattern of this. ‘Be ye followers of God as dear children, and walk in love,’ Eph. v. 1, 2. This is the great virtue and property which we should imitate our Father in. As God hath a general love to all the creatures, from whence the river of his goodness flows out through the earth, and in that, is like the sun conveying his light and benign influence, without partiality or restraint, to the whole world, but his special favor runs in a more narrow channel towards these whom he hath chosen in Christ; so in this a Christian should be like his Father, and there is nothing in which he resembles him more than in this, to walk in love towards all men, even our enemies. For in this he gives us a pattern, Matt. v. 44, 45. ‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.’ To do good to all, and to be ready to forgive all, is the glory of God; and certainly it is the glory of a child of God to be merciful as his Father is merciful, and good to all, and kind to the unthankful. And this is to be perfect as he is perfect. This perfection is charity and love to all. But the particular and special current of affection will run toward the household of faith, those who are of the same descent, and family, and love. This drawn into such a compass, is the badge and livery of his disciples. These two in a Christian are nothing but the reflex of the love of God, and streams issuing out from it. A Christian walking in love to all, blessing his enemies, praying for them, not reviling or cursing again, but blessing for cursing, and praying for reviling, forgiving all, and ready to give to the necessities of all, and more especially, uniting the force of his love and delight, to bestow it upon these who are the excellent ones, and delight of God, such a one is his Father’s picture, so to speak. He is partaker of that divine nature, and royal spirit of love. Gal. vi. 10. ‘As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.’ 1 Thess. iii. 12, 13. ‘ And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one towards another, and towards all men, even as we do towards you: to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, with all his saints.’ Hugh Binning, “A Treatise on Christian Love,” in The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning, 3rd edition, (Edinburgh: A Fullarton and Co., 1851), 524-525. [Pagination the same as in the Soli Deo Gloria edition; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]
2) 1. THEN, it might endear this Christian virtue unto us, that God propones himself as the pattern of it, that Christ holds out himself as the rare example of it for our imitation. It is what doth most endear God to creatures, and certainly it must likewise appreciate them one to another. 1 John iv. 7, 8 ‘Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loves, is born of God, and knows God. He that loves not knows not God; for God is love.’ Matt. v. 44, 45, ‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that Curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.‘ Eph. v. i, 2, ‘Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savor.’ John xiii. 35. ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another.’ Now the following of so rare an example, and imitating of so noble and high a pattern, doth exalt the soul into a royalty and dignity, that it dwells in God and God in it, 1 John iv. 16. This is the highest point of conformity with God, and the nearest resemblance of our Father. To be like him in wisdom, that wretched aim, did cast men as low as hell; but to aspire unto a likeness in love, lifts up the soul as high as heaven, even to a mutual inhabitation. Hugh Binning, “A Treatise on Christian Love,” in The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning, 3rd edition, (Edinburgh: A Fullarton and Co., 1851), 525-526. [Pagination the same as in the Soli Deo Gloria edition; some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]