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"Herein Is Love"
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, January 19th, 1896,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." 1 John 4:10 .
ARE THERE not scenes and circumstances which now and then transpire before us that prompt an exclamation like that of the apostle, "Herein is love?" When we have seen the devotedness of a mother to her children, when we have marked the affection of friend for friend, and caught a glimpse in different human relationships of the kindness that exists in human hearts, we have said, "Herein is love!" Yesterday, these words seemed to rise up and float upon my tongue, although I did not use them, for they seemed to be consecrated to something higher than creature affection. I had the painful duty of attending the Abney Park Cemetery, to bury a beloved sister in Christ, one of the most useful women we had among us; and as I stood there to commit her body to the grave, I was pleased, I cannot tell you how I was beyond measure pleased, on that dark foggy day, at that distance from town, to find nearly a hundred, mostly poor people, gathered there to show their respect to their friend, who had helped in many cases to feed them and clothe them, and in every instance had tried to point them to Christ. There were thousands of tears shod of the sincerest and most heavenly kind. Whilst conducting the service, I could not help feeling not only a sympathy with her bereaved husband, but with those who had been the objects of our sister's care, men and women, who perhaps had given up a day's work, and walked long dreary miles in the unpropitious weather of yesterday, that they might come and mingle their tears together over the dust of one who, as a Christian woman, had served them well. I could not help thinking, and it suggested the text to me, "Herein is love!" fleeing what love had done, and seeing how love comes back in return, I said within myself, when love has learned its way into one bosom, it scatters its seed and fructifies in the hearts of hundreds more. Love begets love; let it once begin, and none can tell its end. The wonder, he tells us, which astonished him was not that we loved God; for suppose that all men had loved God, what wonder would there have been in it? God created Us. We are wonderful specimens of his power and wisdom. The various devices for securing our comfort and maintaining us in life, the devices within the body and without the body, the way in which the whole world is made to be the servant of man, so that, as George Herbert says,
"Man is one world, and hath another to attend him,"
these tokens of benevolence ought to have made all men love God. If every creature who sprang from the loins of Adam had lived a perfect life of obedience, and had continually reverenced the God who made him and supplied his needs, there would not have been anything so very remarkable in the fact, for God deserves the love of all his creatures. Making his sun to shine upon us, and giving us fruitful seasons, keeping us in life, and preserving us from going down into the pit, we ought to love him; and if we did, it would not be anything to excite astonishment. As we have read Foxe's Book of Martyrs, or some other history of the saints, and conned the story of their confessing Christ before the Inquisitors, singing joyful hymns when their bones were out of joint upon the rack, or standing boldly up upon the blazing faggots while their flesh was being consumed, still testifying to the preciousness of Christ, have we not said, "Herein is love"? Well might we say so as we contrasted our love with theirs; but after all, if you will but think a minute, it is a little thing for a man to be willing to burn to death for one who saved him from everlasting burning. 'Tis sharp work, but it is soon over, and the reward makes up for it all, while grace sustains the sufferer under the fiery trial. There is nothing, even in the love of martyrs, worthy of praise when compared with the exceeding love of Christ. These are stars; let them hide their heads in the presence of the Sun. These are all sweet flowers; yet compare them not with the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valley, whose fragrance fills both earth and heaven. Those whose spiritual senses are qualified to judge forget all else while they stand entranced before this one gathering up of everything, that is lovely, and cry, "Herein is love!" I. The love of God is LOVE TO THOSE WHO DO NOT LOVE HIM. "Not that we loved God, but that he loved us." When God loves those who love him, it seems to be according to the law of nature; but when he loves those who do not love him, this must be above even all laws, it is according, certainly, to the extraordinary rule of grace, and grace alone. There was not a man on earth who loved God. There was none that did good, no, not one; and yet the Lord fixed the eye of his electing love upon sinners in whom there was no thought of loving him. No more love to God is there in an unrenewed heart than there is of life within a piece of granite. No more of love to God is there within the soul that is unsaved than there is of fire within the depths of the ocean's waves; and here forsooth is the wonder, that when we had no love to God he should have loved us. This is a mild way of expressing it, for instead of loving God, my brethren, you and I withheld from him the poorest tribute of homage. We were careless, indifferent. Days and weeks passed over our heads in which we hardly thought of God. If there had not been any God, it would not have made much difference to us as to our thoughts, and habits, and conversation. God was not in all our thoughts; and, perhaps, if somebody could have informed us that God was dead, we should have thought it a fine piece of news, for then we could live as we liked, and need not be under any fear of being judged by him. Instead of loving God, though now we rejoice that he loves us, we rebelled against him. Which of his laws have we not broken? We cannot put our finger upon one command without being compelled to acknowledge that we have violated its claims, or come short of its demands. II. Another part of the wonder lies in this, THAT THIS LOVE SHOULD COME FROM SUCH AN ONE AS GOD IS "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us." What does God want in loving us? You never saw a fly on the dome of St. Paul's; it would have been too small an object for you to see when walking round the Cathedral. Now, a fly on the dome of St. Paul's is a monstrous being, a marvellous individual, compared with you crawling about this world. Why, it bears a much larger proportion to St. Paul's than you do to this globe! What an insignificant little creature you are! Supposing you could love that fly, it would seem a strange thing; or that an angel could love that fly, 'twere stranger still. But that God should love us, is much more a wonder. Lift up your eyes now to the heavens, and count the stars. Listen to the astronomer, as he tells you that those little specks of light are mighty worlds, some of them infinitely superior to this world of ours, and that there are millions upon millions of such worlds glittering in the sky, and that perhaps all these millions that we can see are only like one little corner, one little sand-hill of the worlds that God has made, while throughout boundless space there may be long leagues of worlds, if I may use the expression, innumerable as the sands that belt the there around the great and mighty deep. Now, one man in a world how little! But one man in myriads of worlds, one man in the universe how insignificant! And herein is love, that God should love so insignificant a creature. For what is God, compared with the worlds, their number, and their probable extent of space? God is infinitely greater than all the ideas we suggest by such comparisons. God himself is greater than all space. No conception of greatness that ever crossed a mind of the most enlarged faculties can enable us to apprehend the grandeur of God as he really is. Yet this great and glorious Being, who filleth all things, and sustaineth all things by the word of his power, condescends to rivet upon us not his pity, mark you, not his thoughts, but the very love of his soul, which is the essence of himself, for he is love. "Herein is love!" An insignificant creature, vile, and filthy, and polluted, loved by the august Creator, and loved with all the infinite affection of Jehovah's heart. Stand still and wonder. You cannot fathom this depth, you cannot scale this height, for imagination's utmost stretch dies away at the effort. IV. How, too, may THE THOUGHTFULNESS OF DIVINE LOVE raise our admiration. "Not that we loved God, but that God loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." Now observe the consideration and counsel this implies. We had sinned against God's law, but his law was not an arbitrary despotism; it was the embodiment of a constitution equitably and benevolently adapted for the government of the universe. It was framed in such wisdom that obedience involved happiness, and violation entailed misery. And punishment for breaking God's laws was not in any respect irrelative or unconnected with the harmony of reciprocal interests. Not to punish the guilty were to exact the penalty of suffering from the innocent. Think what an injury and injustice would be inflicted upon all the honest men in London if the thieves were never punished for their roguery. It would be making the innocent suffer if you allowed the guilty to escape. God, therefore, not out of arbitrary choice, but from very necessity of rightness, must punish us for having done wrong. How was this to be avoided? His mighty love suggested the plan. Had it not done so, a parliament of angels could not have devised a scheme. The assembled senate of all the intellects that God had ever made could not have sketched a plan by which the eternal laws of right and wrong should stand unshaken, and God's honor should be untarnished, and yet he should be able to forgive us. But God's love thought out a plan, a wondrous plan, by which Jesus came to be a Substitute, to stand in our place, that we might go free. But I will not pause over the design, because there is the open manifestation of that kindness and love for us now to look at. Instead of attempting what I must certainly fail to accomplish, I do but ask you to let your mental vision look for a minute at the spectacle itself. He who is the Lord of glory is mocked by rough soldiers. They spit into his face; they pluck his hair; they call him king, and they bow with mimic homage before him. He is scourged, and the scourging is no child's play. He is made to carry his cross upon his shoulders through the streets of Jerusalem. He is brought to a rising knoll outside the city gates, the Old Bailey, the Tyburn of Jerusalem. He is thrown upon his back; the iron is driven through his hands and feet; he is lifted up; the cross is fixed into its place with a jar to dislocate his bones. He cries, "I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint!" He suffers fever through the irritation of the nerves of the hands and feet, till his mouth is dried up like an oven, and his tongue cleaves to his jaws. He cries, "I thirst!" and they give him vinegar mingled with gall. Meanwhile, his soul is in tortures such as no man has ever felt. His spirit, lashed by a hurricane of divine wrath, is like a sea when it boils as a pot, seething and tossing to and fro. Oh, the unknown depths of Jesu's griefs! and all this for his enemies; for us who loved him not; for us who never asked it at his hands; for us who refused to have it; for us who, when we are brought to accept the mercy, do not understand it; for us who, even when we somewhat understand it, do not feel anything like a corresponding gratitude; for us who, even if we feel the gratitude, do not show it, but go our way and forget it; for us who are utterly unworthy of anything like such affection!" Herein is love!" Oh, stand and wonder! I can do no more than ask you to wonder with me; and God grant that our wondering may end in something reciprocal by way of love to him, and something practical by means of love put into action! As the apostle tells us in the next verse: "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." Christian, by the love which God has manifested to you, you are bound to love your fellow-Christians. You are to love them though they have many infirmities. You have some yourself; and if you cannot love one because he has a crusty temper, perhaps he may reply that he cannot love you because you have a lethargic spirit. Jesus loved you with all your infirmities; then love your infirm brethren. You tell me you cannot love because you have been offended by such a brother; but you also offended Christ. What! shall Christ forgive you all your myriad offenses, and you not forgive your brother? What was it, after all? "Well, he did not treat me respectfully." Ah! that is it, a poor worm wants to be treated respectfully! "But he spoke disparagingly of me; and there is a sister here, she may be a Christian woman, but she said a very unkind thing of me." Well, yes; but what does it matter? I have often thought, when people have spoken ill of me, and they have been very, very false in it, perhaps, if they had known me better, they might have found something true to say, and so I must be like we sometimes say of a boy when he is beaten and does not deserve it, "Well, he did deserve it, some time or other, for something else." Rather than get angry, smile over the offense. Who are we, that we should expect everybody to honor us when nobody honored our Lord? Oh, let us be ready at once to forgive even to seventy times seven. A beautiful spirit worthy of a Christian was that of a man who found his horse in the pound one day, and the farmer who put it in said, "I found your horse in my field, and I put it in the pound; and if ever I catch it there again, I'll put it in again." "Well," replied the other, "I found six of your cows in my farm-yard the other night eating my hay; I just drove them out, and put them into your farm-yard; I didn't pound them; and if ever I catch them in my yard again, I'll do the same." "Ah!" the farmer said, "you are a better man than I am;" and forthwith he went and paid the fees, and let his neighbour's horse out of the pound, ashamed of himself. Such a generosity of disposition becomes you, especially to your brother-Christians. If God has such wonderful love to us, do let us love those who offend us, and show bowels of compassion towards the Lord's poor people. It is easy to be courteous to those who are better off than ourselves, and show deference to those that wear respectable attire; but the thing is to love the Lord's people who are poor, ay, and to love them all the more tenderly for their poverty, for they have in some respects more of the image of Christ than we have. Christ was poor, and so are they. And let us cleave close to God's persecuted ones. Some people always run away from a man as soon as anybody flings a handful of dirt at him; but if God so loved us when we were sinners, we ought to love our fellow-Christians when they are under a cloud. Are they persecuted for righteousness' sake? Then every brave spirit ought to say, "I am for that man, I am for that man." I was pleased with the remark of a brother I met, the other day. Alluding to the love he felt for his minister, he said, "The first reason why I came to hear him and love him was that I saw him abused in all the newspapers," and I said, 'There is something good in that man, I am sure of it, and as he is the weaker one, and all are against him, I am on his side till I find something against him.'" Oh, take care to rally round the persecuted Christian! Whenever the child of God is evil spoken of, say, "My place shall be at his side; I will share in such an honor as that, that I may share in the honor which awaits the saints hereafter."
Verse 1. The LORD is my shepherd; "The Lord is my shepherd." Is it so? Canst thou look up, poor defenceless sheep, and say, "The Lord is my shepherd"? Then comes the blessed inference: I do not want, I cannot want; I never shall want with such a Shepherd as I have. He will provide for me; nay, more, God himself is my provision. All I need I have, for "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." I cannot provide for myself, but I shall not want. Famine may come, and others who have no God to go to, may pine and perish, but in the worst season I shall not want, for "The Lord is my shepherd." I am so weak that I even need God's help to enable me to lie down, but "He maketh me to lie down." Yes, the rest of the soul is so hard to attain that nobody ever does reach it except by the power of God. He who made the heavens must make us to lie down if we are really to rest. What delightful rest it is when we lie down in his pastures, which are always green! Did you ever find them dry? Our Shepherd makes us not only to feed, but so to feed that we lie down in the midst of the pastures. There is more than we can eat, so the Lord makes a couch of it for us: "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:" There is, first, contemplation: "He maketh me to lie down." Then there is activity. "He leadeth me." There is also progress, and there is provision for our advance in the heavenly way: "He leadeth me." "He leadeth me beside the still waters." Not, he drives, or drags; but he himself leads, going first to show the way. It is for me to follow, happily to follow, where "He leadeth me beside the still waters." He can do it at once. He restoreth now. He is a restoring God. "He restoreth my soul." He brings my wandering spirit back when I forsake his ways; and having done that, he leads me, even more carefully than before, for a second time we have the psalmist's declaration, "He leadeth me." Though death's shadow hovers all around me, and damps my spirit, though I feel as though I must die, and cannot bear up under present trial any longer, "Yea, though I walk," for I do walk I will not quicken my pace, I will not be in a flurry, I will not run for it. Though death itself shall overshadow me, I will keep up my walk with God. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." There is none, therefore I will not fear any. We often feel more afraid through our fear itself than through any real cause for fear. Some people seem to be ever on the lookout for fear where there is none. Do not you see any, nor let any enter your heart; gay with the psalmist, "I will fear no evil:" Should a sheep fear when the shepherd is with it? What cause has it to fear if that Shepherd is omniscient, omnipotent, and full of tenderness? Thy rule and thy correction: thy rod, with which I sometimes am made to smart; thy staff, with which I am supported. These are my comforts; why should I fear? 5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: 5. Thou anointest my head with oil; 5. My cup runneth over. 6. Surely 6. Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: 6. And I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. I always compare this Psalm to a lark. It begins on the ground among the sheep, but up it goes till you may hear its blessed notes echoing among the stars: "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." It has its nest in the grass of the green pastures; but it flies up like the strains of sweetest music rising even to the skies: "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." God grant that this may be the portion of every one of us, for his great name's sake! Amen.
A Psalm of Remembrance A Sermon
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, May 22nd, 1859, by the REV. C. H. Spurgeon At the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"We have known and believed the love that God hath to us." 1 John 4:16 .
IT IS VERY pleasant to read descriptions of the Holy Land from observant travellers, who, in glowing language, have depicted its interesting scenes. I must confess, that all books which speak of the land where Jesus lived and died have an attraction for me; but how much more delightful must it be, to journey there one's-self, to stand on the very spot where Jesus preached and prayed, and to kneel upon that blood-stained garden of Gethsemane, in which he sweat that sacred sweat of blood. I can scarely imagine what must be the sensation of a true Christian, when he stands on Calvary, that spot of all others most dear to the believer's soul. All the descriptions that the traveller can possibly give, can never awaken the emotions which would be felt if we were really there ourselves. Now, this law of nature I would transfer to matters of grace. Let me tell you this day what I may concerning the acts of God's goodness in the souls of his people, my description will be dullness itself compared with the glorious reality. If God should lend me help, so that I could, in glowing pictures, pourtray the amazing love of Christ Jesus to those who believe in him; if I could tell you of their matchless experience, their divine drinkings at the fountain of life and bliss, their heavenly feastings in the banquetting-house, all this would be nothing, compared with what you would feel, if you yourself could taste, and handle, and see, and know, and believe. Now, do you not see that John could specially speak with power, for he spake from his own experience. And do you not perceive that his language cannot be understood, except we put ourselves in his position, and are able to echo his words, when he said, "We have known and believed the love that God hath to us?" There are many here, I doubt not, who can join in this declaration of the apostle. And may the Holy Spirit help me, while I endeavour to draw out an expression of grateful thanks from those who have believed and known the love which God hath to them. I. First of all, we have before us here, THE ABSTRACT OF CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE: Some will demur to this. If you should bring some Christians up and say, "Come now, just tell us in a few words what you think of the Christian life;" they would begin with a deep fetched groan, and then with the slightest possible allusion to mercy they would pass on to describe their continual exercises of soul, their deep afflictions, their desperate adversities, and their tremendous corruptions, and then they would end with another groan. But I think the healthy Christian, if he is asked this question, "Now can you possibly give in one short sentence a statement of your Christian experience?" would come forward joyously, and say "I will say nothing about myself, but I will speak to the honour of my God, and I am sweetly constrained to affirm, that 'I have known and have believed the love that God hath to me,'" That would be his abstract of experience, and the very best I am sure that any child of God can present. It is true that we have our trials, but it is just as true that we are delivered out of them. It is true that we have our corruptions, and mournfully do we know this to be the fact; but it is just as true that we have an all-sufficient Saviour, who overcomes these corruptions, and enables us to tread the dragon beneath our feet. In looking back we dare not say that we have not passed the den of leopards. It would be wrong if we were to deny that we have floundered through the slough of despond, and have crept along the valley of humiliation, but we can say we have been through them; we have not remained in them; we have not left our bones bleaching in the burning sun, nor our bodies to be the prey of the lion. Our sorrows have been the heralds of mercies. Our griefs cannot mar the melody of our praise, for we reckon them to be the deep bass notes of our song. The deeper our troubles the louder our thanks to God, who has assuredly led his servants through all and hath preserved us until now. Our past troubles are no disturbers of our happy worship; they do but swell the stream of oar grateful affection. We put down all our trials into the account, but still we declare our one uncontradicted avowal, that "we have known and believed the love that God hath to us." 1. Sometimes the Christian knows the love of God to him, I will mention two or three particular ways in which he knows it. Another time in which he knows his Father's love is, when he sees it after coming out of affliction. He hath been sore sick, and while he has been on his bed he has been vexed with anxious thoughts concerning those he might leave behind, or even about himself. In the hour of languishing he cried to the Lord for deliverance; and at last he felt the young blood leaping through his veins anew. New health was restored to him, and he trod the green sward again with light, elastic steps, singing, "The Lord hath heard my cry, like Hezekiah, and has lengthened my days. Now I know the love which God hath to me." Or else he has incurred great losses in business. One after another the curtains of his habitation were rent, the cords were cut in twain, and all the tent pins pulled up by the invading enemy; he thought at last that nothing would be left him, "Surely I shall die in poverty," says he, for bankruptcy stares him in the face. But anon the tide is changed, the keel of his ship almost grated on the gravel, but now it begins to float, and boldly he spreads his sails, and gallantly he rides the billows; now can he exclaim, "I know the love that God hath to me." He has brought his servant out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and hath again appeared to me in mercy and chased away my doubts and fears. There are other ways in which God's children know their Father's love. Besides what they see there is something which they feel. There are times when the father takes his child into his arms, presses him to his bosom, and kisses him with the kisses of his lips. These are the fond expressions to set forth the tender communings which God hath with his children. John could say, "We have known," for he had laid his head on Jesus's bosom. He had been with him in the garden of Gethsemane, he had been with him on the mount of transfiguration, he had been with him, too, when he worked his special miracles, and therefore, from the fact that he had communion with Christ at the supper, and in his sufferings and his miracles, John might say, "We know the love that he hath to us." And have not you and I let us now speak from personal experience have not we had fellowship with Christ? There have been times when we were not nearer to ourselves than we were to God, when we were as assured that we were having fellowship with him as a man talketh with his friend; as sure, I say, as we were of our own existence. Bitter though we sometimes think that our lives have been, yet have there been periods in them akin to heaven, when we could say, "If this is not glory it is next door to it. If I am not on the other side Jordan, at least my Master is on this side of it. If I have not yet been permitted to walk the golden streets, yet these very streets on earth have been trodden by heavenly footsteps while I have walked with God." Times there have been when a Christian would not have changed his blest estate for an angel's wing of fire. He has felt that he was with Christ, and was as certain of it as if he had seen his pierced hands and his feet. Then could he say, "Now I know the love that God hath towards me." 2. But times there are of thick darkness, when neither sun nor moon appear for many days; when the tempest rages exceedingly, and two seas meet in dread collision. There are seasons when the Christian, dismasted and dismantled, drifts before the storm a miserable hulk, unable to grasp the rudder or to man the yards. All strength and hope are gone. He looks upward, but he sees no helper; downward, and he beholds nothing but the uttermost depths of despair; around him there is nought but terror, and all about him everything frowneth dismay. At such a time, noble is the Christian who can say, "Now it may be I do not know the love that God hath to me, but I believe it. Now I believe it," saith he: "Yes, roll on ye waves; tell me that ye shall engulph me, but I believe not you. He who hath promised to preserve me him I believe, and on his love will I rely, even though now I see no proof of it. Now, poor vessel, drift before the storm; and you, ye rocks, roar yonder with your sounding breakers; but I fear not you, for I believe the love of God towards me. I cannot be wrecked completely. Driven before the storm I may be; half a wreck and tempest-tossed I am, but wholly lost I never can be; and now this day, in the teeth of evidence, in opposition to everything which goes against it, now I believe the love which God hath for me." And now, do not these two states make up a summary of Christian experience? "We know and believe the love that God hath to us." "Ah," says one "we have sometimes doubted it." No, I will leave that. You may insert it in your confession, but I will not put it into my song. Confess your doubts, but write them not in this our psalm of praise. I am sure, in looking back, you will say, "Oh how foolish I was ever to doubt a faithful and unchanging God." Bring all your doubts and fears this day; hew them in pieces like Agag before the Lord, let not one escape; take them and hang them up upon a tree till evening, and then take a great stone and set it at the mouth of their sepulchre that they may rise no more. Oh for grace from this day forward to say, "When I know not my Father's love, I will believe it, and when I have his presence, then will I sing aloud 'I know that love which he hath towards me.'" This, then, is my first head. Let me enlarge, however, upon this testimony; and in the presence of many who know nothing of God, let me give an outline of the full testimony of every believer. Another thing we can bear testimony to, is this that the love of God is unconquerable. This is my witness, and the witness of all the thousands here to-day. We strove against God's love at first; Jesus knocked at the door, but we would not open to him; he invited, but we would not come; he called, but we would not hearken. We can say with deepest grief we treated our best friend most shamefully. He knocked at our door in the night with his hair wet with dew and his locks filled with the drops of the night, but we regarded him not. In sloth and pride we still kept the bed of indolence and self confidence, and we would not rise to let him in. And we can testify, that if his love could have been conquered, we should have conquered it; for we shot out the envenomed shafts of ingratitude, we held up against him perpetually the shield of our hard-heartedness, and if he could have been overcome, if he were not an Almighty Saviour, we should have defeated him, and have been still his enemies. Ye sinners, we can affirm that love divine is a love which many waters cannot quench, and which the floods cannot drown. And yet another thing we may say. We have known and we have believed the love of God to us to be perfectly immutable. We have changed, but he has changed never. We have doubted him; but when we believed not he has remained faithful. We have sometimes been in the greatest depths, but never too low for his long arm to reach. We have sometimes, it is true, run so far from him that we could not see him, but he could always see us. We have never found an end to his all-sufficiency, or, a limit to his omnipotence. We have never found a change in his love,
"Immutable his will, Though dark may be my grave; His loving heart is still Unchangably the same. My soul through many changes goes; His love no variation knows."
We have known this. We have tasted and handled this. We are not to be argued out of it. We are sure it is true. God is immutable. Because he has been immutable; to us, so far, "we have known and believed the love that God hath to us." III. And now the last point is the practical use of this great truth. It is the ground work of christian encouragement. Will you just think that I am coming down out of the pulpit now to you. I cannot perform much pastoral visitation in going from house to house, and so let us do it wholesale this morning, and may the Spirit of God make it a reality. The Lord is always pleased with his children when they can stand up for him when circumstances seem to belie him. Here come the witnesses into court. The devil says, "Soul, God has forgotten thee, I will bring in my witness." First he summons your debts a long bill of losses. "There," says he, "would God suffer you to fall thus, if he loved you?" Then he brings in your children either their death, or their disobedience, or something worse, and says, "Would the Lord suffer these things to come upon you, if he loved you?" At last he brings in your poor tottering body, and all your doubts and fears, and the hidings of Jehovah's face. "Ah," says the devil, "do you believe that God loves you now?" Oh, it is noble, if you are able to stand forth and say to all these witnesses, "I hear what you have to say, let God be true, and every man and everything be a liar; I believe none of you. You all say, God does not love me; but he does, and if the witnesses against his love were multiplied a hundredfold, yet still would I say, "I know whom I have believed."
"I know that safe with him remains, Protected by his power, What I've committed to his hands, 'Till the decisive hour;"
He will bring me safe to heaven at last, unhurt by the way. Now, my dear friend I take your hand, and I say, "We have known and have believed the love that God hath to us," and we are the very chief of sinners ourselves. Will you honour God by believing that he is able to save you through the blood of Christ, for if the Lord now enables you to honour him in believing, depend upon it, he has begun a good work in you and has set his heart upon you. Sinners, believe that God is love. O trust him who gave his Son to die. He will deny you nothing. If you ask with humble faith, you shall assuredly receive. Our witness is given; reject it not. "We have known, we have believed the love that God hath to us."
'Love' and 'Love's Logic'
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, August 27th, 1871, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"We love him because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19 .
THIS is a great doctrinal truth, and I might with much propriety preach a doctrinal sermon from it, of which the sum and substance would be the sovereign grace of God. God's love is evidently prior to ours: "He first loved us." It is also clear enough from the text that God's love is the cause of ours, for "We love him because he first loved us." Therefore, going back to old time, or rather before all time, when we find God loving us with an everlasting love, we gather that the reason of his choice is not because we loved him, but because he willed to love us. His reasons, and he had reasons (for we read of the counsel of his will), are known to himself, but they are not to be found in any inherent goodness in us, or which was foreseen to be in us. We were chosen simply because he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. He loved us because he would love us. The gift of his dear Son, which was a close consequent upon his choice of his people, was too great a sacrifice on God's part to have been drawn from him by any goodness in the creature. It was not possible for the highest piety to have deserved so vast a boon as the gift of the Only-begotten; it was not possible for any thing in man to have merited the incarnation and the passion of the Redeemer. Our redemption, like our election, springs from the spontaneous self-originating love of God. And our regeneration, in which we are made actual partakers of the divine blessings in Jesus Christ, was not of us, nor by us. We were not converted because we were already inclined that way, neither were we regenerated because some good thing was in us by nature; but we owe our new birth entirely to his potent love, which dealt with us effectually turning us from death to life, from darkness to light and from the alienation of our mind and the enmity of our spirit into that delightful path of love, in which we are now travelling to the skies. As believers on Christ's name we "were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." The sum and substance of the text is that God's uncaused love, springing up within himself, has been the sole means of bringing us into the condition of loving him. Our love to him is like a trickling rill, speeding its way to the ocean because it first came from the Ocean. All the rivers run into the sea, but their floods first arose from it: the clouds that were exhaled from the mighty main distilled in showers and filled the water-brooks. Here was their first cause and prime origin; and, as if they recognised the obligation, they pay tribute in return to the parent source. The ocean love of God, so broad that even the wing of imagination could not traverse it, sends forth its treasures of the rain of grace, which drop upon our hearts, which are as the pastures of the wilderness; they make our hearts to overflow, and in streams of gratitude the life imparted flows back again to God. All good things are of thee, Great God; thy goodness creates our good; thine infinite love to us draws forth our love to thee. I. At the outset we will consider THE INDISPENSABLE NECESSITY OF LOVE TO GOD IN THE HEART. In the eighth verse we are told also that love to God is a mark of our knowing God. True knowledge is essential to salvation. God does not save us in the dark. He is our "light and our salvation." We are renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created us. Now, "he that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love." All you have ever been taught from the pulpit, all you have ever studied from the Scriptures, all you hove ever gathered from the learned, all you have collected from the libraries, all this is no knowledge of God at all unless you love God; for in true religion, to love and to know God are synonymous terms. Without love you remain in ignorance still, ignorance of the most unhappy and ruinous kind. All attainments are transitory, if love be not as a salt to preserve them; tongues must cease and knowledge most vanish away; love alone abides for ever. This love you must have or be a fool for ever. All the children of the true Zion are taught of the Lord, but you are not taught of God unless you love God. See then that to be devoid of love to God is to be devoid of all true knowledge of God, and so of all salvation. Again, keeping to the run of the passage, you will find by the eighteenth verse, that love to God is a chief means of that holy peace which is an essential mark of a Christian. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord," but where there is no love there is no such peace, for fear, which hath torment, distresses the soul; hence love is the indispensable companion of faith, and when they come together, peace is the result. Where there is fervent love to God there is set up a holy familiarity with God, and from this flow satisfaction, delight, and rest. Love must co-operate with faith and cast out fear, so that the soul may have boldness before God. Oh! Christian, thou canst not have the nature of God implanted within thee by regeneration, it cannot reveal itself in love to the brotherhood, it cannot blossom with the fair flowers of peace and joy, except thine affection be set upon God. Let him then be thine exceeding joy. Delight thyself also in the Lord. O love the Lord ye his saints. I hope it is not necessary for me to pursue this argument any further. Love to God is as natural to the renewed heart as love to its mother is to a babe. Who needs to reason a child into love? As certainly as you have the life and nature of God in you, you will seek after the Lord. As the spark, because it has in it the nature of fire, ascends aloft to seek the sun, so will your new-born spirit seek her God, from whom she has derived her life. Search yourselves, then, and see whether you love God or no. Put your hands on your hearts, and as in the sight of him, whose eyes are us a flame of fire, answer to him; make him your confessor at this hour; answer this one question: "Lovest thou me?" I trust very many of you will be able to say
"Yes, we love thee and adore; Oh, for grace to love thee more."
II. You see the indispensable importance of love to God: let us now learn THE SOURCE AND SPRING OF TRUE LOVE TO GOD. "We love him because he first loved us." Love to God, wherever it really exists, has been created in the bosom by a belief of God's love to us. No man loves God till he knows that God loves him; and every believer loves God for this reason first and chiefly, that God loves him. He has seen himself to be unworthy of divine favour, yet he has believed God's love in the gift of his dear Son, and he has accepted the atonement that Christ has made as a proof of God's love, and now being satisfied of the divine affection towards him, he of necessity loves his God. Again, our love to God does not spring from the self-determining power of the will. I greatly, question whether anything does in the world, good or bad. There are some who set up the will as a kind of deity, it doeth as it wills with earth and heaven; but in truth the will is not a master but a servant. To the sinner his will is a slave; and in the saint, although the will is set free, it is still blessedly under bonds to God. Men do not will a thing because they will it, but because their affections, their passions, or their judgments influence their wills in that direction. No man can stand up and truly say, "I, unbiassed and unaided, will to love God and I will not to love Satan." Such proud self-assuming language would prove him a liar; the man would be clearly a worshipper of himself. A man can only love God when he has perceived some reasons for so doing; and the first argument for loving God, which influences the intellect so as to turn the affections, is the reason mentioned in the text, "We love him because he first loved us." It is certain, beloved brethren, that faith in the heart always precedes love. We first believe the love of God to us before we love God in return. And, Oh what an eneouraging truth this is. I, a sinner, do not believe that God loves me because I feel I love him; but I first believe that he loves me, sinner as I am, and then having believed that gracious fact, I come to love my Benefactor in return. Perhaps some of you seekers are saying to yourselves, "Oh, that we could love God, for then we could hope for mercy." That is not the first step. Your first step is to believe that God loves you, and when that truth is fully fixed in your soul by the Spirit, a fervent love to God will spontaneously issue from your soul, even as flowers willingly pour forth their fragrance under the influence of the dew and the sun. Every man that ever was saved had to come to God not as a lover of God, but as a sinner, and to believe in God's love to him as a sinner. We all wish to take money in our sacks when we go down hungry to this Egypt to buy the bread of life; but it must not be, heaven's bread is given to us freely, and we must accept it freely without money and without price. Do you say, "I do not feel in my heart one good emotion; I do not appear to possess one good thought; I fear I have no love to God at all." Do not remain in unbelief until you feel this love, for if you do, you will never believe at all. You ought to love God, it is true, but you never will till you believe him, and especially believe in his love as revealed in his only begotten Son. If you come to God in Christ, and believe this simple message. "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them," you shall find your heart going out after God. "Whosoever believeth in Jesus Christ shall not perish, but have everlasting life;" believest thou this? Canst thou now believe in Jesus; that is, trust him? Then, Christ died for thee; Christ the Son of God, in thy stead, suffered for thy guilt. God gave his only Son to die for thee. "Oh," saith one, "if I believed that, how I would love God !" Yes, indeed, thou wouldst, and that is the only consideration which can make thee do so. Thou, a sinner, must take Christ to be thy Saviour, and then love to God shall spring up spontaneously in thy soul, as the grass after showers. Love believed is the mother of love returned. The planet reflects light, but first of all it receives it from the sun; the heliotrope turns its face to the orb of day, but first the sunbeams warm and woo it. You shall turn to God, and delight in God, and rejoice in God; but it must be because you first of all believe, and know, and confide in the love of God to you. "Oh," saith one, "it cannot be that God should love an unloving sinner, that the pure One should love the impure, that the Ruler of all should love his enemy." Hear what God saith: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, for the heavens are higher than the earth; so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." You think that God loves men because they are godly, but listen to this: "God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." "He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." "While we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." Think of his "great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins." God has love in his heart towards those who have nothing in them to love. He loves you, poor soul, who feel that you are most unloveable; loves you who mourn over a stony heart, which will not warm or melt with love to him. Thus saith the Lord: "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins; return unto me; for I have redeemed thee." O that God's gracious voice this morning might so call some of his poor wandering ones that they may come and believe his love to them, and then cast themselves at his feet to be his servants for ever. Observe, beloved brethren, day by day the deeds of God's love to you in the gift of food and raiment, and in the mercies of this life, and especially in the covenant blessings which God gives you, the peace which he sheds abroad in your hearts, the communion which he vouchsafes to you with himself and his blessed Son, and the answers to prayer whieh he grants you. Note well these things, and if you consider them carefully, and weigh their value, you will be accumulating the fuel on which love feeds its consecrated flame. In proportion as you see in every good gift a new token of your Father's love, in that proportion will you make progress in the sweet school of love. Oh, it is heavenly living to taste God's love in every morsel of bread we eat; it is blessed living to know that we breathe an atmosphere purified and made fragrant with divine love, that love protects us while we sleep, changing like a silken curtain all around our bed, and love opens the eyelids of the morning to smile upon us when we wake. Ah, even when we are sick, it is love that chastens us; when we are impoverished, love relieves us of a burden; love gives and love takes; love cheers and love smites. We are compassed about with love, above, beneath, around, within, without. If we could but recognise this, we should become as flames of fire, ardent and fervent towards our God. Knowledge and observation are admirable nurses of ourn infant love. And in proportion as I am thus scripturally confident, and rest in my Lord, will my love to him engross all my heart, and, consecrate my life to the Redeemer's glory. Remember wherever there is love to God in the soul it is an argument that God loves that soul. I recollect meeting once with a Christian woman who said she knew she loved God, but, she was afraid God did not love her. That is a fear so preposterous that it ought never to occur to anybody. You would not love God in deed and in truth unless he had shed abroad his love in your heart in a measure. But on the other hand, our not loving God is not a conclusive argument that God does not love us; else might the sinner be afraid to come to God. O loveless sinner, with heart unquickened and chill, the voice of God calls even thee to Christ. Even to the dead in sin, his voice saith "Live." Whilst thou art yet polluted in thy blood, cast out in the open field, to the loathing of thy person, the Lord of mercy passes by, and says "live." His mighty sovereignty comes forth dressed in robes of love, and he touches thee the unloveable, the loveless, the depraved, degraded sinner, at enmity with God, he touches thee in all thine alienation and he lifts thee out of it and makes thee to love him, not for thine own sake, but for his name sake and for his mercy sake. Thou hadst no love at all to him, but all the love lay in him alone; and therefore he began to bless thee, and will continue to bless thee world without end, if thou art a believer in Jesus. In the bosom of the Eternal are the deep springs of all love. It shall be so. Does he not declare that he is God and changes not, and therefore you are not consumed? Rekindled are the flames of love in the backslider's bosom when he feels all this to be true; he cries, "Behold, we come to thee for thou art the Lord our God." I pray you, then, any of you who are conscious of gross derelictions of duty, and wanderings of heart, do not ask Moses to lead you back to Christ, he knows the way to Sinai's flames, but not to Calvary's pardoning blood. Go to Christ himself at once. If you go to the law and begin to judge yourself, if you get the notion that you are to undergo a sort of spiritual quarantine, that you must pass through a mental purgatory before you may renew your faith in the Saviour, you are mistaken. Come just as you are, bad as you are, hardened, cold, dead as you feel yourselves to be, come even so, and believe in the boundless love of God in Christ Jesus. Then shall come the deep repentance; then shall come the brokenness of heart; then shall come the holy jealousy, the sacred hatred of sin, and the refining of the soul from all her dross; then, indeed, all good things shall come to restore your soul, and lead you in the paths of righteousuess. Do not look for these first; that would be looking for the effects before the cause. The great cause of love in the restored backs1ider must still be the love of God to him, to whom he clings with a faith that dares not let go its hold. Remember here that the motive power which draws back the backslider again, is the cord of love, the band of a man, which makes him feel he must go back to God with weeping and repentance, because God loves him still. What man among you this morning hath a son who has disobeyed him and gone from him, and is living in drunkenness, and in all manner of lust? If you have in anger told him, so that he doubts it not, that you have struck his name out of your family, and will not regard him as a child any longer, do you think that your severity will induce him to return to you in love? Far from it. But suppose instead thereof, you still assure him that you love him; that there is always a place at your table for him, and a bed in your house for him, ay, and better still, a warm place in your heart for him; suppose he sees your tears and hears your prayers for him, will not this draw him? Yes, indeed, if be be a son. It is even thus between thy God and thee, O backslider. Hear ye the Lord as he argues thy case within his own heart. "My people are bent to backsliding from me; though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man." Surely, if anything will draw you back, this will. "Ah !' saith the wandering son, "my dear father loves me still. I will arise and go to him. I will not vex so tender a heart. I will be his loving son again. God does not say to you prodigals, who once professed his name, "I have unchilded you, I have cast you away," but he says, "I love you still; and for my name's sake will I restrain my wrath that I cut you not off." Come to your offended Father, and you shall find that he has not repented of his love, but will embrace you still. Beloved, there are few of us who know much of the deeps of the love of God; our love is shallow; ah, how shallow! Love to God is like a great mountain. The majority of travellers view it from afar, or traverse the valley at its base: a few climb to a halting place on one of its elevated spurs, whence they see a portion of its sublimities: here and there an adventurous traveller climbs a minor peak, and views glacier and alp at closer range; fewest of all are those who scale the topmost pinnacle and tread the virgin snow. So in the Church of God. Every Christian abides under the shadow of divine love: a few enjoy and return that love to a remarkable degree: but there are few in this age sadly few, who reach to seraphic love, who ascend into the hill of the Lord, to stand where the eagle's eye hath not seen, and walk the path which the lion's welp hath never trodden, the high places of complete consecration and ardent self-consuming love. Now, mark you, it may be difficult to ascend so high, but there is one sure route, and only one, which the man must follow who would gain the sacred elevation. It is not the track of his works, nor the path of his own actions, but this, "We love him because he first loved us." John and the apostles confessed that thus they attained their love. For the highest love that ever glowed in human bosom there was no source but this God first loved that man. Do you not see how this is? The knowledge that God loves me casts out my tormenting dread of God: and when this is expelled, there is room for abounding love to God. As fear goes out, love comes in at the other door. So the more faith in God the more room there is for soul-fllling love. If the ardent love of some saints often takes the shape of admiration of God, this arises from their familiarity with God, and this familiarity they never would have indulged in, unless they had know that he was their friend. A man could not speak to God as to a friend, unless he knew the love that God hath toward him. The more true his knowledge and the more sure, the more close his fellowship. And now I must spend a minute in putting the truth of my text to the test. I want you not to listen to me so much as to listen to your own hearts, and to God's word, a minute, if you are believers. What is it we have been talking about? It is God's love to us. Get the thought into your head a minute: "God loves me not merely bears with me, thinks of me, feeds me, but loves me. Oh, it is a very sweet thing to feel that we have the love of a dear wife, or a kind husband; and there is much sweetness in the love of a fond child, or a tender mother; but to think that God loves me, this is infinitely better! Who is it that loves you? God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Almighty, All in all, does he love me? Even he? If all men, and all angels, and all the living creatures that are before the throne loved me, it were nothing to this the Infinite loves me! And who is it that he loves? Me. The text saith, "us." "We love him because he first loved us." But this is the personal point he loves me, an insignificant nobody, full of sin who deserved to be in hell; who loves him so little in return God loves me. Beloved believer, does not this melt you? Does not this fire your soul? I know it does if it is really believed. It must. And how did he love me? He loved me so that he gave up his only begotten Son for me, to be nailed to the tree, and made to bleed and die. And what will come of it? Why, because he loved me and forgave me, I am on the way to heaven, and within a few months, perhaps days, I shall see his face and sing his praises. He loved me before I was born; before a star begun to shine he loved me, and he has never ceased to do so all these years. When I have sinned he has loved me; when I have forgotten him he has loved me; and when in the days of my sin I cursed him, yet still he loved me; and he will love me when my knees tremble, and my hair is grey with age, "even to hoar hairs" he will bear and carry his servant; and he will love me when the world is on a blaze, and love me for ever, and for ever. Oh, chew the cud of this blessed thought; roll it under your tongue as a dainty morsel; sit down this afternoon, if you have leisure, and think of nothing but this his great love wherewith he loves you; and if you do not feel your heart bubbling with a good matter, if you do not feel your soul yearning towards God, and heaving big with strong emotions of love to God, then I am much mistaken. This is so powerful a truth, and you are so constituted as a Christian as to be wrought upon by this truth, that if it be believed and felt, the consequence must be that you will love him because he first loved you. God bless you, brethren and sisters, for Christ's sake. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON John 4:1-43.4.5 .
Love A Sermon
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 19th, 1858, by the REV. C. H. Spurgeon At the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"We love him, because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19 .
DURING the last two Sabbath days I have been preaching the gospel to the unconverted. I have earnestly exhorted the very chief of sinners to look to Jesus Christ, and have assured them that as a preparation for coming to Christ, they need no good works, or good dispositions, but that they may come, just as they are, to the foot of the cross, and receive the pardoning blood and all-sufficient merits of the Lord Jesus Christ. The thought has since occurred to me, that some who were ignorant of the gospel might, perhaps, put this query: Is this likely to promote morality? If the gospel be a proclamation of pardon to the very chief of sinners, will not this be a license to sin? In what respects can the gospel be said to be a gospel according to holiness? How will such preaching operate? Will it make men better? Will they be more attentive to the laws which relate to man and man? Will they be more obedient to the statutes which relate to man and God? I thought, therefore, that we would advance a step further, and endeavour to show, this morning, how the proclamation of the gospel of God, though in the commencement it addresses itself to men who are utterly destitute of any good, is, nevertheless, designed to lead these very men to the noblest heights of virtue, yea, to ultimate perfection in holiness. The text tells us, that the effect of the gospel received in the heart is, that it compels and constrains such a heart to love God. "We love him, because he first loved us." When the gospel comes to us it does not find us loving God, it does not expect anything of us, but coming with the divine application of the Holy Ghost, it simply assures us that God loves us, be we never so deeply immersed in sin; and then, the after effect of this proclamation of love is, that "we love him because he first loved us." But how is this to be? How is the world to be brought back? How is it to be restored? We answer, the reason why there was this original harmony between earth and heaven was, because there was love between them twain, and our great reason for hoping that there shall be at last re-established an undiscordant harmony between heaven and earth is simply this, that God hath already manifested his love towards us, and that in return, hearts touched by his grace do even now love him; and when they shall be multiplied, and love re-established, then shall the harmony be complete. 1. In the first place, THE PARENTAGE OF TRUE LOVE TO GOD . There is no light in the planet but that which cometh from the sun; there is no light in the moon but that which is borrowed, and there is no true love in the heart but that which cometh from God. Love is the light, the life, and way of the universe. Now, God is both life, and light, and way, and, to crown all, God is love . From this overflowing fountain of the infinite love of God, all our love to God must spring. This must ever be a great and certain truth, that we love him, for no other reason than because he first loved us. There are some that think that God might be loved by simple contemplation of his works. We do not believe it. We have heard a great deal about admiring philosophers, and we have felt that admiration was more than possible when studying the works of God. We have heard a great deal about wondering discoverers, and we have acknowledged that the mind must be base indeed which does not wonder when it looks upon the works of God; and we have sometimes heard about a love to God which has been engendered by the beauties of scenery, but we have never believed in its existence. We do believe that where love is already born in the heart of man, all the wonders of God's providence and creation may excite that love again, it being there already; but we do not and we cannot believe, because we never saw such an instance, that the mere contemplation of God's works could ever raise any man to the height of love. In fact, the great problem has been tried, and it has been solved in the negative. What saith the poet,
"What though the spicy breezes blow soft o'er Java's isle; Where every prospect pleases, and only man is vile."
Where God is most resplendent in his works, and most lavish in his gifts, there man has been the vilest and God is the most forgotten. But without disputing any longer, do we not all admit that our love to God is the sweet offspring of God's love to us? Ah! beloved, cold admiration every man may have; but the warmth of love can only be kindled by the fires of God's Spirit. Let each Christian speak for himself, we shall all hold this great and cardinal truth, that the reason of our love to God is, the sweet influence of his grace. Sometimes I wonder that such as we should have been brought to love God at all. Is our love so precious that God should court our love, dressed in the crimson robes of a dying Redeemer? If we had loved God, it would have been no more than he deserved. But when we rebelled, and yet he sought our love, it was surprising indeed. It was a wonder when he disrobed himself of all his splendours, and came down and wrapt himself in a mantle of clay; but methinks the wonder is excelled yet, for after he had died for us, still we did not love him; we rebelled against him; we rejected the proclamation of the gospel; we resisted his Spirit; but he said, I will have their hearts; and he followed us day after day, hour after hour. Sometimes he laid us low, and he said, "Surely they will love me if I restore them!" At another time he filled us with corn and with wine, and he said "Surely they will love me now," but we still revolted, still rebelled. At last he said, "I will strive no longer, I am Almighty, and I will not have it that a human heart is stronger than I am. I turn the will of man as the rivers of water are turned," and lo! he put forth his strength, and in an instant the current changed, and we loved him, because we then could see the love of God, in that he sent his Son to be our Redeemer. But we must confess, beloved, going back to the truth with which we started, that never should we have had any love towards God, unless that love had been sown in us by the sweet seed of his love to us. If there be any one here that hath a love to Christ, let him differ from this doctrine here, but let him know that he shall not differ hereafter; for in heaven they all sing, praise to free grace. They all sing, "Salvation to our God and to the Lamb." The first thing, then, that our love feeds upon, when it is but an infant, is a sense of favours received. Ask a young Christian why he loves Christ, and he will tell you, I love Christ because he has bought me with his blood! Why do you love God the Father? I love God the Father because he gave his Son for me. And why do you love God the Spirit? I love him because he has renewed my heart. That is to say we love God for what he has given to us. Our first love feeds just on the simple food of a grateful recollection of mercies received. And mark, however much we grow in grace this will always constitute a great part of the food of our love. This, then, is the food of love; but when love grows rich and it does sometimes the most loving heart grows cold towards Christ. Do you know that the only food that ever suits sick love, is the food on which it fed at first. I have heard say by the physicians, that if a man be sick there is no place so well adapted for him as the place where he was born; and if love grow sick and cold, there is no place so fit for it to go to as the place where it was born, namely, the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Where was love born? Was she born in the midst of romantic scenery, and was she nursed with wondrous contemplations upon the lap of beauty? Ah! no. Was she born on the steeps of Sinai, when God came from Sinai and the holy one from mount Paran, and melted the mountains with the touch of his foot, and made the rocks flow down like wax before his terrible presence? Ah! no. Was love born on Tabor, when the Saviour was transfigured, and his garment became whiter than wool, whiter than any fuller could make it? Ah! no; darkness rushed o'er the sight of those that looked upon him then, and they fell asleep, for the glory overpowered them. Let me tell you where love was born. Love was born in the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus sweat great drops of blood, it was nurtured in Pilate's hall, where Jesus bared his back to the ploughing of the lash, and gave his body to be spit upon and scourged. Love was nurtured at the cross, amid the groans of an expiring God, beneath the droppings of his blood it was there that love was nurtured. Bear me witness, children of God. Where did your love spring from, but from the foot of the cross? Did you ever see that sweet flower growing anywhere but at the foot of Calvary? No; it was when ye saw "love divine, all loves excelling," outdoing its own self; it was when you saw love in bondage to itself, dying by its own stroke, laying down its life, though it had power to retain it and to take it up again; it was there your love was born; and if you wish your love, when it is sick, to be recovered, take it to some of those sweet places; make it sit in the shade of the olive trees, and make it stand on the pavement and gaze, while the blood is still gushing down. Take it to the cross, and bid it look and see afresh the bleeding lamb; and surely this shall make thy love spring from a dwarf into a giant, and this shall fan it from a spark into a flame. And when thou hast soared backward into the past eternity, I have yet another flight for thee. Soar back through all thine own experience, and think of the way whereby the Lord thy God has led thee in the wilderness, and how he hath fed and clothed thee every day how he hath borne with thine ill manners how he hath put up with all thy murmurings, and all thy longings after the flesh-pots of Egypt how he has opened the rock to supply thee, and fed thee with manna that came down from heaven. Think of how his grace has been sufficient for thee in all thy troubles how his blood has been a pardon to thee in all thy sins how his rod and his staff have comforted thee. And when thou hast flown over this sweet field of love, thou mayest fly further on, and remember that the oath, the covenant, the blood, have something more in them than the past, for though "he first loved us," yet this doth not mean that he shall ever cease to, love, for he is Alpha and he shall be Omega, he is first, and he shall be last ; and therefore bethink thee, when thou shalt pass through the valley of the shadow of death, thou needest fear no evil, for he is with thee. When thou shalt stand in the cold floods of Jordan, thou needest not fear, for death cannot separate thee from his love; and when thou shalt come into the mysteries of eternity thou needest not tremble, for "I am persuaded that neither principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." And now, soul is not thy love refreshed? Does not this make thee love him? Doth not a flight over those illimitable plains of the ether of love, inflame they heart, and compel thee to delight thyself in the Lord thy God? Here is the food of love. "We love him, because he first loved us," and because in that first love there is the pledge and promise that he will love us even to the end. When we are on our knees in prayer, I fear that when we are praying for the church we do not mean all that we say. We are praying for our church, our section of it. Now, he that loves Christ, if he be a Baptist, he loves the doctrine of baptism, because he knows it to be Scriptural; but, at the same time wherever he sees the grace of God to be in any man's heart, he loves him because he is a part of the living church, and he does not withhold his heart, his hand, or his house from him, because he happens to differ on some one point. I pray that the church in these days may have a more loving spirit towards herself. We ought to delight in the advance of every denomination. Is the Church of England rousing from its sleep? Is she springing like a phoenix, from her ashes? God be with her, and God bless her! Is another denomination leading the van, and seeking by its ministers to entice the wanderer into the house of God? God be with it! Is the Primitive Methodist labouring in the hedge and ditch, toiling for his Master? God help Him! Is the Calvinist seeking to uphold Christ crucified in all his splendours? God be with him! And does another man with far less knowledge preach much error, but still hold that "by grace are ye saved through faith," then God bless him, and may success be with him evermore. If ye loved Christ better ye would love all Christ's church, and all Christ's people. Finally, to stimulate your love, let me remind you that Christ Jesus had two trials of his love, which he endured with firmness, but which are often too much for us. When Christ was high, and glorious, I marvel that he loved us . I have known many a man who loved his friend when he was in the same low estate; but he has risen, and he has disdained to know the man at whose table he had fed. A lofty elevation tries the love which we bear to those who are inferior to us in rank. Now, Christ Jesus, the Lord of heaven and the King of angels, condescended to notice us before he came on earth, and always called us brethren: and since he has ascended up to heaven, and has re-assumed the diadem. and once more sits down at the right hand of God, he never has forgotten us. His high estate has never made him slight a disciple. When he rode into Jerusalem in triumph, we do not read that he disdained to confess that the humble fishermen were his followers. And "now, though he reigns exalted high, his love is still as great;" still he calls us brethren, friends; still he recognizes the kinship of the one blood. And yet, strange to say, we have known many Christians who have forgotten much of their love to Christ when they have risen in the world. "Ah!" said a woman, who had been wont to do much for Christ in poverty, and who had had a great sum left her, "I cannot do as much as I used to do." "But how is that?" said one. Said she, "When I had a shilling purse I had a guinea heart, and now I have a guinea purse I have only a shilling heart." It is a sad temptation to some men to get rich. They were content to go to the meeting-house and mix with the ignoble congregation, while they had but little; they have grown rich, there is a Turkey carpet in the drawing-room, they have arrangements now too splendid to permit them to invite the poor of the flock, as once they did, and Christ Jesus is not so fashionable as to allow them to introduce any religious topic when they meet with their new friends. Besides this, they say they are now obliged to pay this visit and that visit, and they must spend so much time upon attire, and in maintaining their station and respectability, they cannot find time to pray as they did. The houae of God has to be neglected for the party, and Christ has less of their heart than ever he had. "Is this thy kindness to thy friend?" And hast thou risen so high that thou art ashamed of Christ? and art thou grown so rich, that Christ in his poverty is despised? Alas! poor wealth! alas! base wealth! vile wealth! 'Twere well for thee if it should be all swept away, if a descent to poverty should be a restoration to the ardency of thine affection. Now, what say we to this? We who live in these gentler times, are we about to give up our Master, when we are tried and tempted for him? Young man in the workshop! it is your lot to be jeered at because you are a follower of the Saviour; and will you turn back from Christ because of a jeer? Young woman! you are laughed at because you profess the religion of Christ, shall a laugh dissolve the link of love that knits your heart to him, when all the roar of hell could not divert his love from you. And you who are suffering because you maintain a religious principle, are you cast out from men; will you not bear that the house should be stripped, and that you shall eat the bread of poverty, rather than dishonour such a Lord? Will you not go forth from this place, by the help of God's Spirit, vowing and declaring that in life, come poverty, come wealth in death, come pain, or come what may, you are and ever must be the Lord's; for this is written on your heart, "We love him, because he first loved us."
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 John 4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent