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Bible Dictionaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary


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Holy Scripture hath several distinct meanings for this term, and of very different significations from each other. To be of the same nature, or disposition, to be of the same town, or country, or occupation in trade, is sometimes made the cause for calling men brethren. And in Scripture to be of the same stock, or family, though not of the same parents, constitutes a brother. Thus, as in the instance of our Lord Jesus Christ after the flesh, James and Joses were called the brethren of Christ, but in fact, were not so, but only relations of that tribe to which Jesus belonged. For Mary, the mother of James and Joses, was the wife of Cleophas, and not the Virgin Mary. (Matthew 27:56; John 19:25) And sometimes the name of brother is used to describe men of like character, in idleness, or iniquity. Thus Solomon saith, "He that is slothful in his work, is brother to him that is a great waster." (Proverbs 18:9)

But when the reader hath carefully marked the application of the name brother to these and the like characters, there is a view of the subject perfectly foreign to every other, and above all, in which when the name of brother is considered as applied to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our relationship in him, it forms the sweetest of all thoughts. Hence the church, before Christ's open manifestation in the flesh, so passionately longed for his coming. "O (said she) that thou wert as my brother that sucked the breasts of my mother! when I should find thee without I would kiss thee; yea, I should not be despised." (Song of Song of Solomon 8:1) And, indeed, Jesus in his human nature is the nearest and dearest of all brothers; and in his person is centered a comprehension of all relations. Brethren in Christ are all brethren by the Father's side, for they have all one father, "even the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named." (Ephesians 3:14-15) And they are all brethren by the mother's side, for they have all lain together in the same womb of the divine counsels and purposes of JEHOVAH, and that from all eternity. (Isaiah 49:1; Titus 1:2) And they are all brethren by Jesus's side himself, for he is their elder brother, and the "first born among many brethren." (Romans 8:29) And they are "bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh." (Ephesians 5:20)

I must beg the reader's attention a little farther to a subject so infinitely interesting. Evident it is, that from all eternity this relationship of Jesus with our nature began, even before that nature of ours was called into being. And hence, what we read in the Old Testament Scripture of the Jewish brother, and the precepts so frequently given of regarding him, had a special reference to Jesus. We lose the whole beauty of the Scripture if Christ be not first beheld in this subject. As for example.—When the law enjoined tenderness, and the relief to the brother waxen poor, here we behold the law of JEHOVAH, and Jesus the law fulfiller blessedly obeying it among his brethren, "If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold." So again, "If thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen into decay with thee, then thou shalt relieve him; yea, though he be a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with thee." (Leviticus 25:25-35)

Who is the brother waxen poor, having fallen into decay, and sold away some of his possession, but our poor ruined nature; ruined by the fall, and by sin, having sold away our possession? And who is the brother to whom the precept is given, and by whom it hath been fulfilled, and is fulfilling, but the Lord Jesus Christ? Who but him could redeem our mortgaged inheritance? Who but him had a right so to do, as the nearest of all kin, and the most compassionate of all relations? And do observe in those gracious precepts how blessedly provision is made, in this almighty Brother's obedience to this precept, for all the relations of Jesus, both Jew and Gentile; "Yea, (saith the command of JEHOVAH,) though he be a stranger, or a sojourner, that he may live with thee." Live with Jesus! what a precious consideration to my poor heart in the moment of writing, who am by nature a Gentile born, and at that time "an alien to the commonwealth of Israel." (Ephesians 2:11-12) Blessed for ever be the almighty Lawgiver for enjoining those precepts! And, blessed for ever be the almighty Law fulfiller for his complete obedience to them! And blessed for ever be the almighty Author of Scripture for recording these things, and both bringing my soul acquainted with them, and causing me to believe them, to the divine glory and my soul's joy! And ought it not to be added, by way of rich consolation to every believer's heart, that Jesus our Brother is still carrying on the same blessed purposes, and fulfilling the precept even now in heaven? Jesus is still the Brother; for though his state is changed, yet not his nature. And amidst all the decays and poverty of his poor brethren on earth, Jesus is looking with the same compassion as ever on them; and they are authorized to look up for every needed relief unto him. He must redeem, yea, he hath in every individual instance of his people redeemed their lost possession. He must "open his hand wide to his poor and to his needy in the land." (Deuteronomy 15:7-8) He must bring every one of them home to live with him; for so the precept is. All the poor brethren of Jesus form one great body, of which Jesus is the Head. And surely, the Head and members being one, ought to be, and certainly will be, eternally united.

I cannot forego adding one sweet and interesting thought more, by way of finishing our present view of Jesus as our Brother; namely, that as Jesus hath thus condescended to become our brother, we ought to take great delight in looking up to him in this tender character. Is it said, that he is not ashamed to call us brethren; and shall we be ashamed of the relationship? Are the great ones of the earth in their carnal alliances, so proud to have their connections known, which are but for a day, and that a day of sin and vanity; and shall we, that are brethren to the Prince of the kings of the earth, and the almighty Lord of heaven, feel no joy in such an union, and which is to last for ever?

I do beg the reader to ponder well the soul-comforting subject, and to be more glad of it than of all the riches and grandeur of the world. And I mention this, the rather, because it is to be feared that some of the Lord's hidden ones are not sensible of their high birth, and relationship in Jesus; or at least, do not make that use of it which they ought. Would any man be shy of going to an earthly court if the king of that court was his brother? Nay, would he not be often going there; often telling of it to ever one around him; and delighting to have it known that he had access, at all times, to the person of the king his brother, and might have whatever he asked of him? But what are these privileges, or what great cause for taking pride and consequence in these transitory dignities, compared to that real unfading honour in a consciousness of not only coming to Jesus, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, as to a brother, but who hath made all his redeemed kings and priests to God and the Father, and "they shall reign with him for ever and ever!" (Revelation 1:6; Rev 22:5)

Suffer me yet farther to add, that the Scriptures of our God have made this subject of Christ's brotherhood, so peculiarly endearing to the church, that the gracious design of our Lord Jesus, in the assuming of our manhood, is not answered when his church "makes no use of it. Let the reader recollect that this astonishing condescension of Christ is altogether personal. It was the Son of God alone, and not either of the other persons of the GODHEAD which be came our Brother. For, although, all the glorious persons of JEHOVAH took part in our redemption, yet to neither can we look up as brother but to the Lord Jesus Christ. And is not this personal love and grace of Jesus intended to excite and call up personal affections towards him? Doth he not seem thereby as if to bid us approach him, in a peculiar manner, under this sweet character? Yea, doth he not say in language similar to his illustrious type, the patriarch"Joseph, to his brethren, when under a conscious sense of their crimes in having sold him for a slave they feared to approach him; doth not our Almighty Joseph say to us, under all our tremblings, and fears, and misgivings, in having nailed him to the cross by our sins: "Come near to me I pray you, I am Jesus your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt?" (Genesis 45:3-4) Oh! thou glorious, gracious, all-lovely, and all-loving Brother! thou art a brother indeed, born for adversity; a friend that loveth at a11 times; one that sticketh closer than a brother. Thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise; thine hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; and all thy Father's children shall bow down before thee. (Genesis 49:8)

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hawker, Robert D.D. Entry for 'Brother'. Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance and Dictionary. London. 1828.

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