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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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BENEVOLENCE.—The disposition which sets itself to desire steadfastly the welfareand happiness of others. Christian benevolence is this disposition of heart informed by the example and precept of Christ, this informing of the heart being the work of His Holy Spirit. Continual active benevolence is perhaps the most striking feature in the whole of the Gospel records. It is the keynote of the Sermon on the Mount, and merges into the harmony of love in the final discourses recorded in the Fourth Gospel. The sons of the Most High are to do good to their enemies as well as to their friends (Luke 6:35). The sons of the Father which is in heaven are to be kindly disposed and actively beneficent both to the just and to the unjust (Matthew 5:45). And this benevolence, which is to reign in the hearts of His disciples, must have been included in that great last prayer (John 17:26) that ‘the love wherewith thou lovedst me may be in them.’ A simple rule is given to the follower of Christ for securing and testing this attitude of benevolence: ‘All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them’ (Matthew 7:12). The Divine image is not so marred in any man as to destroy the intention and desire to do good to relations and friends (Matthew 5:46; Matthew 7:11, Luke 6:33; Luke 11:13), but the benevolence of the Christian heart is to be a kindly feeling towards all without exception (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27; Luke 6:35). There is to be no single blot on the escutcheon; Christians are to be perfect, as their Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Natural benevolence expresses itself in the exclamation of those who heard of the fate of the wicked husbandmen in the parable, ‘God forbid’ (Luke 20:16). Christian benevolence meets us in the story of the arrest in Gethsemane, when the Lord addressed His betrayer as ‘comrade’ (ἑταῖρε, Matthew 26:50).

Such being the intensive character, the extensive character of benevolence may be observed in Christ’s compassion on the multitudes (Mark 8:2, Matthew 14:14), namely, on each individual; and, again, in His healing every one of those around Him on a well-known occasion at Capernaum (Luke 4:40). By precept as well as by example benevolence is enjoined upon the ministry in the first commission to the Twelve: ‘Freely ye have received, freely give’ (Matthew 10:8). Not least beautiful and consoling is the assurance that it prevails in the angelic spheres, even towards poor sinners (Luke 15:7; Luke 15:10).

Literature.—Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, art. ‘Love’; Butler, Sermons xi. xii.; Newman, Oxford Univ. Sermons, p. 104 ff.; Schulhof, Law of Forgiveness (1901), 121 ff.

W. B. Frankland.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Benevolence'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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