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8. Their mutual Love and Concord

Antiquities of the Christian Church
XVIII. Domestic and Social Character of the Primitive Christians

8. Their mutual Love and Concord

Among the various features in the character of the primitive Christians, there is none that so eminently claims our admiration as their mutual love. All the details transmitted to us of their social intercourse, and of their public conduct, bespeak the lively operation of this christian spirit. And when we read of the delightful harmony and concord that reigned in their assemblies, their ready disposition to render to every one his due, – the high condescending to those of low degree, – the poor giving the tribute of their respect to those whom Providence had placed in a more exalted station, – and all vying, with amiable rivalry, to promote each other's happiness and welfare, we perceive the strong grounds of the proverbial observation of the heathen, "Behold how these Christians love one another!" Not only when they were small in numbers, and, meeting together almost daily, were well known to each other, did this admirable affection prevail among them, but, how widely soever they might be separated, the ardor of their love suffered no diminution; and, forgetting every other distinction in that of being the followers and friends of the Saviour, they sympathized in each other's joys and sorrows. Whatever blessing one of their number had received, was a subject of lively gratitude to all; and whatever calamity had befallen a single member, spread a gloom over the whole community. Bound to each other by ties infinitely holier and dearer than any that belong to the world, they looked upon themselves as members of the same common family. Every time that they met, either in their own houses or in their public assemblies, they interchanged the kiss, as a badge of fellowship, and token of the warmest affection. Though totally unconnected by ties of consanguinity, they addressed each other, according to their respective age and sex, by the name of father, mother, brother, sister. Though naturally separated by distinction of rank and diversity of color, nothing could cool the ardor or prevent the reciprocities of their mutual love.

The knowledge of the simple fact, that any one was a follower of Jesus, changed him at once from a stranger into a friend; creating a union between them not to be described by the cold selfish friendship of the world; and to them belongs the peculiar distinction of realizing a state of society which many philosophers had often delighted to picture to their fancy, and wished for in vain, – the idea of a community united by no other bond than the golden chain of universal love.

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