Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Ephesians 3:15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
The Mystical Brotherhood of man has been the dream of old philosophers, and its attainment the endeavour of modern reformers. Like a memory of some lost Paradise it has floated down the ages, and, failing in one generation, it has ever been revived by its successors. And if we inquire into the meaning of this deep conviction, we shall find that, like all such beliefs, it is founded on a great truth — the truth that man can only reach his highest life when he forms part of a society bound together by common sympathies and common aims; for, by a great law of our nature, it is true that he who lives utterly apart from his fellows must lose all true nobleness in selfish degradation. There is no real progress for the individual but through social sympathy. There is no strong and enduring aspiration but in the fellowship of aspiring souls. Thus the belief in brotherhood, and the yearning after its attainment, spring from the image of God in which humanity was made. But strong as that conviction has been, all human endeavours to reach it have failed. It can be found only in Christ.
I. The Mystical Brotherhood of man in Christ. You can scarcely fail to observe that Paul speaks of this as an actually existing fact. He does not say that there shall be, he asserts that there is a family named in the one name of the Father and the Son. It is the unity of spirit and life underneath the external differences which constitutes the Mystical Brotherhood of man. Paul’s words imply a three-fold unity: the Fatherhood of God: the Brotherhood of Christ: the union between the seen and the unseen worlds.
1. The fellowship of devotion to a common Father. This, at first sight, may seem to be a very feeble bond of union between men. We all join in this devotion; we all join in saying “Our Father, which art in heaven”; and yet are we any nearer our fellows? But in reality, it destroys the grandest source of disunion, for the absence of fellowship with God is the great cause of separation between man and man. If you consider it, you will find that all the strong bars of disunion have here the secret of their power. All forms of selfishness rise from separation from God. On the other hand, by devotion to a common Father, all separating walls are broken down, and a real Mystical Brotherhood arises. Through the earnest consecration to our Father in heaven, pride and selfishness dissolve, for we are our own gods no more. No man can live in the love of God, because God first loved him, and then yield to bigotry, for bigotry is the love of an opinion, not the love of the Father. Here, then, is a real and actual ground of unity.
2. The fellowship with Christ, our common Brother. In the words, “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul implies this second ground of unity as an existing fact. What does he mean by it? What power is there in that? Evidently, in one broad and true sense, the humanity of Christ makes all men brethren. The fellowship of the Saviour’s obedience and conflict is the great bond of unity. Distinctions vanish here. Varieties of creed and culture become of little consequence. The poor man in his ignorance, and the rich man in his temptations; the preacher and the hearer; the student and the man engaged in the toils of commerce — are all one. Again I say, this unity is real and actual. Men are nearer to each other than they seem to be; and the more they realize this life, the more they struggle to reach the Christ-like life, the more will they feel this essential unity amid all diversities.
3. That fellowship unbroken by the change of worlds. “In heaven and earth.” In conclusion, glance at the results of realizing this fact of Mystical Brotherhood.
(1) The earnestness of life. If we are isolated, it seems sometimes as if it were impossible to live always earnestly. We say we have to bear the responsibility of our own acts. We shall bear the penalty and suffering of failure. Realize the fact of Mystical Brotherhood — and an awful fact it is. If one member suffers, others suffer with it; for we are linked by chains of influence to each other — we are one body. Complain not that your task is low and poor; it is as needful in its place as the task of the great thinker.
(2) Power and grandeur of hope. Some men complain that their ideas of heaven are vague and ineffective. Only realize the Mystical Brotherhood of man, and then the hope of the future will become a power in life. Realize that you come to the “general assembly and church of The Mystical Brotherhood, which is written in heaven,” and hope will glow with the radiance of reality. You will feel that the veil is rent and that the family is one.