Sermon 1299. Love's Birth and Parentage
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, JUNE 11, 1876,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"We love Him, because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19.
VERY simple words, but very full of meaning. I think I might say of this sentence what the poet says of prayer-it is "thesimplest form of speech that infant lips can try"-and yet it is one of the "most sublime strains that reach the Majesty onhigh." Take a little believing child and ask her why she loves the Savior, and she will reply at once, "Because He loved meand died for me." Then ascend to Heaven where the saints are perfect in Christ Jesus and put the same question and with unitedbreath the whole choir of the redeemed will reply, "He has loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." When webegin to love Christ, we love Him because He first loved us. And when we grow in Grace till we are capable of the very highestdegree of spiritual understanding and affection, we still have no better reason for loving Him than this, "Because He firstloved us."
This morning, in trying to preach from the text, I would pray the Holy Spirit that every person here may first feel it. Itis wonderful, the difference between a text read and heard and a text felt within the soul. Oh, that you, this morning, maybe able to say from your hearts because you cannot help saying it, "We love Him." If I were to say no more, but sit down insilence-and if you were all to spend the next three quarters of an hour in exercising the emotion of love to God-it wouldbe time most profitably spent! It is, beyond measure, beneficial to the soul to take her fill of love with the Lord Jesus.It is the sweet cure for an her ailments for her to have leisure to delight herself in the Lord and faith enough to dwellat ease in His perfections. Be sure, then, to let your hearts have room, scope and opportunity for indulging and inflamingthe sacred passion of love to God.
If the second part of the text shall also be made equally vivid to you by the power of faith-"He first loved us"- your heartswill be satisfied as with marrow and fatness! If the exceeding love of God in Christ Jesus shall be shed abroad in your heartsby the Holy Spirit, you will need no sermon from me-your inward experience will be better than any discourse! May your love,like a drop of dew, be exhaled and carried up into the boundless Heaven of God's love. May your heart ascend to the placewhere your treasure is and rest itself upon the heart of God! Blessed shall you be if, in your hearts, Christ's love and yoursshall both be fully known and felt at this moment! O, blessed Spirit, cause it to be so!
Thus should we have the text in action-and that is a thousand times better than the mere quiet letter. If you have visitedthe picture galleries at Versailles, where you see the wars of France from the earliest ages set forth in glowing colors uponthe canvas, you cannot but have been struck with the pictures and interested in the terrible scenes. Upstairs in the samepalace there is a vast collection of portraits. I have traversed those galleries of portraits without much interest, onlyhere and there pausing to notice a remarkable countenance. Very few persons linger there-everybody seems to walk on as quicklyas the polished floors allow.
Now, why is it that you are interested in the portraits downstairs and not by those upstairs? They are the same people. Verymany of them are in the same dress. Why do you not gaze upon them with interest? The reason lies here-the portrait in stilllife, as a rule, can never have the attraction which surrounds a scene of stirring action. There you see the warrior dealinga terrible blow with his battle-ax, or the senator delivering an oration in the assembly, and you think more of them thanof the same bodies and faces in repose. Life is impressive! Action awakens thought! It is just so with the text. Look at itas a matter of doctrinal statement-"We love Him, because He first loved us"-and if you are a thoughtful person you will considerit well. But feel the fact itself, feel the love of God-know it within your own soul and manifest it in your life-and howengrossing it becomes!
May it be so by the power of the Holy Spirit this morning! May you be loving God while you are hearing and may I be lovingHim intensely while I am preaching! With this as an introduction, I shall use the text for four purposes. First,
for doctrinal instruction. Secondly, for experimental information. Thirdly, for practical direction. And fourthly, for argumentativedefense.
I. We shall use the text, briefly, for DOCTRINAL INSTRUCTION-and one point of doctrinal instruction is very clear, namely,that God's love to His people is first. "He first loved us." Now, be sure of this point of doctrine, because forgetfulnessabout it is connected with much error and with more ignorance. The love of God to us precedes our love to God. According toScripture it must be first in the most eminent sense because it is eternal. The Lord chose His people in Christ Jesus frombefore the foundations of the world. And to each one of His people that text may be applied-"Yes, I have loved you with aneverlasting love."
His mercy is from everlasting to them that fear Him. From all eternity the Lord looked upon His people with an eye of loveand, as nothing can be before eternity, His love was first. Certainly He loved us before we had a being, for did He not giveHis Son to die for us nearly 1900 years ago, long before our infant cries had saluted our mother's ears? He loved us beforewe had any desire to be loved by Him, yes, when we were provoking Him to His face and displaying the fierce enmity of ourunrenewed hearts! Remember "His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sin." "God commends His lovetoward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." When we had not as yet one throb of spiritual feeling,one pulse of hope, or one breath of desire, the Lord loved us even then!
The love of God is before our seeking. He draws us before we run after Him. We do not seek that love-that love seeks us. Wewander further and further from it, resist it and prove ourselves unworthy of it. Our nature and our practice are such thatthey offer nothing congenial to Divine love. But the love of God arises in its freeness and stops our mad career by its powerover the conscience and the will. "You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you," is the voice of Sovereign Grace! Let ourresponse be, "By the Grace of God we are what we are!"
The Lord's love is before any repentance on our part. Impenitent sinners never would repent if God did not love them first.The Lord hates sin, but yet He loves sinners. He compassionately loved us when sin was pleasant to us, when we rolled it underour tongue as a sweet morsel, when neither the thunders of His Law nor the wooing of His Gospel could persuade us to turnfrom it. When in our bosoms there were no convictions of sin, when there were no evangelical lamentations because of offensesagainst a gracious God, He loved us!
Today, Brothers and Sisters, we are possessors of faith in Jesus Christ, but our faith in Jesus Christ did not come beforeHis love. On the contrary, our faith rests in what that love has done for us of old. When we were unbelieving and hard ofheart. When we resisted the testimony of the Holy Spirit and put from us the Word of eternal life, even then the Lord pitiedus and had mercy upon us-and continued, still, to invite, to entreat, to persuade-until, at last, the happy hour came whenwe believed and entered into a sense of His love.
There are many things about you now, Beloved of the Lord, which are the objects of Divine approbation, but they were not thereat first. They did not precede Divine love, but are the fruits of it. To use an old English word which has somewhat lost itsmeaning, the love of God is preventing love-it goes before any right motions of the soul-and in order of time it is first,before any desires, wishes, aspirations, or prayers on our part. Are you devout today? Yet He loved you not at the first becauseyou were devout, for originally you were not so! His love was before your devotion. Are you holy today? Blessed be His namefor it! But He loved you when you were unholy. Your holiness follows His love-He chose you that you might be holy.
You are becoming like He by the sanctifying influences of His blessed Spirit and He loves His image in you, but He loved youwhen that image was not there. Yes, He looked on you with infinite compassion when you were heirs of wrath even as others-andthe image of the devil was conspicuous, both upon your character and your nature. However early in life you began to lovethe Lord, His love was first. This is very amazing, but, blessed be His name, we know that it is true and we rejoice in it!The fact is that the love of God, as far as we know anything about it, had no reason derived from us upon which to grounditself. He loved us because He would love us, or, as our Lord put it, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight."
He had reasons in His own Nature. Good reasons fetched from the best conceivable place, namely from His own perfections. Butthose reasons He has not been pleased to communicate to us. He bids us know that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercyand will have compassion on whom He will have compassion. Thus He tries the loyal submis-siveness of our hearts and I trustwe are able to bow in reverent silence to His righteous will. Divine love is its own cause
and does not derive its streams from anything in us. It flows spontaneously from the heart of God, finding its deep well-springswithin His own bosom. This is a great comfort to us, because, being uncreated, it is unchangeable! If it had been upon usbecause of some goodness in us, then when the goodness was diminished the love would diminish, too. If God had loved us secondand not first, or had the cause of the love been in us, that cause might have altered and the supposed effect, namely, Hislove, would have altered, too.
But now, whatever may be the Believer's condition today-however he may have wandered and however much he may be groaning undera sense of sin-the Lord declares, "I do earnestly remember him, still." The Lord did not love you at first because you hadno sin-He foreknow all the sin you would ever have-it was all present before His sacred mind and yet He loved you, and Heloves you, still. "I am God. I change not, therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed." O blessed love of God, since Youare first, we will give you the first place in our thoughts, the highest throne in our hearts, the royal position in our souls!We glorify You, for You are first!
Another part of the doctrine of the text is this, that the love of God is the cause of our love to God. A thing may be firstand another second, and yet the first may not be the cause of the second. There may be no actual link between the two- buthere we have it unmistakably-"We love Him because He first loved us," which signifies not merely that this is the motive ofwhich we are conscious in our love, but that this is the force, the Divine power, which created love in us. I put it to you,should we have loved God had He not first given His Son to die for us? Had there been no redeeming Sacrifice should we havehad any love to God? Unredeemed men, left to go on like fallen angels in their sin, would have had no more love of God thanfallen angels have. How could they?
The great foundation of love is the Son given to redeem. God gives His Son and so reveals His own love and creates ours. Isnot His love seen to be the cause of ours when we remember Calvary? But He might have given His Son to die for men, Beloved,and yet you and I might not have loved Him because we might not have been aware of the great fact. It is no small Grace onGod's part that, "to you is the Word of this salvation sent." While the heathen have never heard it, by the arrangement ofHis gracious Providence you have been favored with the good news! You have it in your homes in the form of the Holy Scriptures!You hear it every Sunday from the pulpit. How would you have ever come to love Him if He had not sent His Gospel to you?
The gift of His Son, Jesus, and the Providence which leads the herald of mercy to the saved one's door, are evident causesof man's love to God. But more than this, Christ died and the Gospel is preached-and yet some men do not love Him. Why not?Because of the hardness of their hearts. But others do love Him-shall I trace this to the natural better-ness of their hearts?I dare not and much less do they! There is no Believer who would ask me to do so in his own case. I must trace it to the influenceof the Holy Spirit, going with the Revelation of the love of God in Christ Jesus, affecting the heart and creating faith andlove and every Grace in the soul! Beloved, if you love God, it is with no love of yours, but with the love which He has plantedin your bosom!
Unrenewed human nature is a soil in which love to God will not grow. There must be a taking away of the rock and a supernaturalchange of the barren ground into good soil. And then, as a rare plant from another land, love must be planted in our heartsand sustained by Divine power or else it never will be found there. There is no love to God in this world that is of the rightkind except that which was created and formed by the love of God in the soul! Put the two Truths of God together-that thelove of God is first, and that the love of God is the cause of our love-and I think you will be inclined, from now on, tobe Believers in what are commonly called the Doctrines of Grace.
To me it is very wonderful that they are not received by all Churches because they are practically acknowledged by all Christianswhen on their knees! They may preach as they like, but they all pray according to the Doctrines of Grace and those doctrinesare so consistent with the Christian's experience that it is notable that the older a Believer becomes- and the more deeplyhe searches into Divine Truths, the more inclined he is to give the whole of the praise of his salvation to the Grace of God-andto believe in those precious Truths which magnify, not the free will of man, but the free Grace of the Ever Blessed! I needno better statement of my own doctrinal belief than this, "We love Him, because He first loved
I know it has been said that He loved us on the foresight of our faith and love and holiness. Of course the Lord had a clearforesight of all these-but remember that He also had the foresight of our absence of love, and our lack of faith, and ourwandering, and our sins! And surely His foresight in one direction must be supposed to operate as well as His
foresight in the other direction! Remember, also, that God Himself did not foresee that there would be any love to Him inus arising out of ourselves, for there never has been any and there never will be! He only foresaw that we should believebecause He gave us faith. He foresaw that we would repent because His Spirit would work repentance in us. He foresaw thatwe should love because He worked that love within us!
Is there anything in the foresight that He means to give us such things that can account for His giving us such things? Thecase is self-evident-His foresight of what He means to do cannot be His reason for doing it! His own eternal purpose has madethe gracious difference between the saved and those who willfully perish in sin. Let us give all the glory to His holy name,for to Him all the glory belongs. His preventing Grace must have all the honor.
II. Secondly, we shall use the text FOR EXPERIMENTAL INFORMATION. First, we learn that all true Believers love God. "We loveHim," and we all love Him for one reason, "because He first loved us." All the children of God love their Father. I do notsay that they all feel an equal love, or that they all feel as much love as they should. Who among us does? I will not saythat they do not, sometimes, give cause to doubt their love. No, I will urge that it is well for them to examine, even asChrist examined Peter, and said, "Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me?" But there is love in the heart of every true-bornchild of God-it is as necessary to spiritual life as blood is to natural life.
Rest assured there has never been born into the kingdom of God one solitary individual destitute of love for God. You maybe deficient in some virtues, (you should not be), but yet the root of the matter may be in you. But if you are without love,you are as a sounding brass and as a tinkling cymbal. Whatever your outer works, though you give your body to be burned andall your goods to feed the poor, yet, if there is no love to God in your soul, the mark of God's sheep is not upon you andyour lot is not the lot of His children. Rest assured that whoever is born of God loves God!
Observe carefully the kind of love which is essential to every Christian-"We love Him, because He first loved us." Much hasbeen said about disinterested love to God. There may be such a thing and it may be very admirable, but it is not mentionedhere. I trust, Beloved, we know what it is to love God because of His superlative excellence and goodness. Surely the morewe know Him the more we shall love Him for what He is. But unless we love Him because He first loved us, whatever other sortof love we may have or think we have, it does not prove us to be children of God. This is the love we must have! The otherform of love, if it is true, will grow up in us afterwards. That, however, is not essential nor need we unduly exalt it-lovingGod because He first loved us is sufficient evidence of Grace in the soul.
Gratitude has been vilified as a mean virtue, but, indeed it is a noble emotion and is one of the most forcible of spiritualmotives! Let a man love God admiringly because of what He is, but yet there must run, side by side with it, this gratefullove of God because He first loved him, or else he lacks that which John says is to be found in all the saints! Beloved, donot vex yourselves about any supposedly higher degrees, but see to it that you love Him because He first loved you. You maynot be able to rise into those heights into which others of your Brethren have ascended because you are as yet only a babein Grace, but you are safe enough if your love is of this simple character-that it loves because it is loved.
Within this humble form of love, which is so essential, there dwells a gracious sense of unworthiness necessary to a trueChristian. We feel that we did not deserve the love which God sheds upon us. This humility we must have or we lack one markof a child of God. There is, also, in this lowly form of gracious affection, a clear recognition of the fact that the Lord'slove is graciously bestowed-and this, also, is essential to a Christian and becomes to him the main source of his obedienceand affection. If a man only loves me as much as I deserve to be loved, I do not feel under any very strong obligations and,consequently, do not feel any very intense gratitude. But because the Lord's love is all of pure Grace and comes to us asutterly undeserving, therefore we love Him in return. See whether such a humble, grateful love towards God dwells in yourhearts, for it is a vital point.
Love to God, wherever it is found, is a sure evidence of the salvation of its possessor. If you love the Lord in the sensedescribed, then He loved you first and loves you now. You need no other evidence but this to assure yourself that you abidein the love of God-that you love Him. I was told by a venerable Brother some little time ago a story of our famous preacher,Robert Hall. He charmed the most learned by the majesty of his eloquence, but he was as simple as he was great-and he wasnever happier than when conversing with poor Believers upon experimental godliness. He was accustomed to make his journeyson horseback and having been preaching at Clipstone he was on his way home when he was stopped by a heavy snowfall at thelittle village of Sibbertoft.
The good man who kept the "Black Swan," a little village hostelry, came to him and besought the preacher to take refuge beneathhis roof, assuring him that it would give him great joy to welcome him. Mr. Hall knew him to be one of the most sincere Christiansin the neighborhood and, therefore, got off his horse and went into the little inn. The good man was delighted to providehim a bed, a stool and a candlestick in the prophet's chamber, for that rustic inn contained such an apartment. After Mr.Hall had rested awhile by the fire, the landlord said. "You must stay here all night, Sir, and if you do not mind I will callin a few of my neighbors, and if you feel that you could give us a sermon in my taproom they will all be glad to hear you."
"So let it be, Sir," said Mr. Hall, and so it was! The taproom became his cathedral and the, "Black Swan," the sign of theGospel banner! The peasants came together and the man of God poured out his soul before them wondrously. They would neverforget it, for to hear Mr. Hall was an event in any man's life! After all were gone, Mr. Hall sat down and there came overhim a fit of depression out of which he strove to rise by conversation with his host. "Ah, Sir," said the great preacher,"I am much burdened and am led to question my own condition before God. Tell me now, what do you think is a sure evidencethat a man is a child of God." "Well, Mr. Hall," said the plain man, "I am sorry to see you so tried. You doubt yourself,but nobody else has any doubt about you. I hope the Lord will cheer and comfort you, but I am afraid I am not qualified todo it."
"Never mind, Friend, never mind, tell me what you think is the best evidence of a child of God?" "Well, I should say, Sir,"said he, "if a man loves God, he must be one of God's children." "Say you so," said the mighty preacher, "then it is wellwith me!" And at that signal he began to magnify the Lord at such a rate that his hearer afterwards said that it was wonderfulto hear him, as for about an hour he went on with glowing earnestness, declaring the loveliness of God! "O Sir," said he whotold the tale, "you should have heard him! He said, 'Love God, Sir? Why I cannot help loving Him! How could I do otherwise?'
"And then he went on to speak about the Almighty and His love and Grace, extolling the Lord's greatness, goodness and gloryin redemption, and all that He did for His people, till he said, 'Thank you, thank you, my Friend. If love to Him is an evidenceof being God's child, I know I have it, for I cannot help loving Him! I take no credit to myself. He is such a lovely Beingand has done so much for us that I should be more brutish than any man if I did not love and adore Him.'" That which cheeredthat good and great man's heart may, perhaps, cheer yours. If you are loving God, you must have been loved of God! True lovecould not have come into your heart in any other conceivable way! And you may rest assured that you are the object of Hiseternal choice!
But oh, if you do not love God, dear Hearer, I invite you to think, for a minute, upon your state! Hear of God and not loveHim? You must be blind! Know anything about His Character and not adore Him? Your heart must be like the heart of Nabal whenit was turned into stone! See God in Christ, bleeding on the Cross, for His enemies and not love Him? O Hell, you cannot beguilty of a worst offense than this! Here is love, shall it have no acknowledgment? It is said that a man cannot feel thathe is loved without, in some measure, returning the flame. But what shall I say of a mind which beholds Christ's love butfeels no love in return? It is brutish! It is devilish! God have mercy upon it! Breathe the same prayer, O unloving heart,and say, "Lord, forgive me and by Your Holy Spirit renew me and give me, from now on, to be able to say, 'I, also, in my humblefashion, love God because He first loved me.'"
III. Thirdly, we shall use the text as a matter OF PRACTICAL DIRECTION. I earnestly trust that there are some here who, althoughthey do not love God at present, yet desire to do so. Well, dear Friend, the text tells you how to love God. You say, perhaps,"Oh, I shall love God when I have improved my character and when I have attended to the external duties of religion." Butare you going to get love to God out ofyourself? Is it there, then? "No," you say. How, then, will you get it from where itis not? You may go often to an empty iron safe before you will bring a thousand pound note out of it! And you may look a longtime to your own heart before you will bring out of it a love to God which is not there!
What is the way by which a heart may be made to love God? The text shows us the method of the Holy Spirit. He reveals thelove of God to the heart and then the heart loves God in return. If, then, you are awakened, this morning, to desire to loveGod, use the method which the text suggests-meditate upon the great love of God to man, especially upon this, "God so lovedthe world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Seeclearly that you, by faith, trust your soul with Christ, and perceive that it is vast love
which sets before you such a way of salvation in which the only thing required of you is that you be nothing and trust Christto be everything-and even that faith He gives you as a gift of His Spirit, so that the plan of salvation is all of love.
If you want to repent, do not so much consider your sin as the love of Jesus in suffering for your sin! If you desire to believe,do not so much study the doctrine as study the Person of Jesus Christ upon the Cross! And if you desire to love, think overperpetually, till it breaks your heart, the great love of Jesus Christ in laying down His life for His worthless foes! Thelove of God is the birthplace of holy love! Not there in your hearts where you are attempting an absurdly impossible feat,namely, to create love in the carnal mind which cannot be reconciled to God! But there in the heart of Jesus must love beborn and then it shall come down to you. You cannot force your mind into the condition of believing even a common thing, norcan you sit there and say, "I will love So-and-So," of whom you know nothing.
Faith and love are second steps arising out of former steps. "Faith comes by hearing," and love comes by contemplation. Itflows out of a sense of the love of Christ in the soul even as wine flows from the clusters in the winepress. Go to the fragrantmystery of redeeming love and tarry with it till in those beds of spices your own garments shall be made to smell of myrrhand aloes and cassia! There is no way of sweetening yourself but by tasting the sweetness of Jesus Christ! The honey of Hislove will make your whole nature to be as a honeycomb-every cell of your manhood shall drop sweetness.
Brothers and Sisters, if we wish to sustain the love we have received, we must do the same thing. At the present moment youare loving God and desire, still, to love Him. Be wise, then, and feed love on love-it is its best food. This is the honeywhich will keep your sweetness sweet. This is the fire which will keep your flame flaming. Could we be separated from thelove of Christ, our love would die out like a lamp in yonder streets when cut off from the main. He who quickened us intothe life of love must keep us alive or we shall become loveless and lifeless. And if, perhaps, your love has grown somewhatcold. If you long to revive it, do not begin by doubting God's love to you-that is not the way of reviving, but of weakeninglove!
Believe in Divine love, my Brothers and Sisters, over the head of the coldness of your heart! Trust in Jesus Christ as a sinnerif you cannot rejoice in Him as a saint, and you will get your love back. You see the flowing fountain, how it gushes witha constant stream? And here I bring a pitcher and set it down so that the stream rushes into it and fills it till it overflows.In this manner our souls ought to be filled with the love of Christ. But you have taken away your pitcher and it has becomeempty. And now you say to yourself, "Alas, alas, there is nothing here! What shall I do? This pitcher is empty." Do? Why dowhat you did at first-go and set it under the flowing stream and it will soon be full again! It will never get full by yourremoving it into a dry place.
Doubting is the death of love. Only by the hand of faith can love be fed with the Bread of Heaven. Your tears will not fillit. You may groan into it, but sighs and moans will not fill it. Only the flowing fountain can fill the vacuum. Believe thatGod still loves you, even if you are not a saint. Believe in the mighty love of Christ towards sinners and trust yourselfwith Him! And then His love will come pouring in till your heart is again full to overflowing. If you want to rise to thevery highest state of love to Christ. If you desire ecstatic joy, or to be perfectly consecrated. If you aim at an Apostle'sself-denial, or at a martyr's heroism, or if you would be as like to Christ as the spirits are in Heaven-no tool can engraveyou to this image but love! No force can fashion you to the model of Christ Jesus but the love of Jesus Christ shed abroadin your soul by the Holy Spirit. Keep to this, then, as a matter of practical direction. Dwell in the love of God to you thatyou may feel intense love to God.
Once more, as a practical direction, if you love God show it as God showed His love to you. You cannot do so in the same degree,but you may in the same manner. God loved the worthless. You love the worthless. God loved His enemies. You love your enemies.The Lord loved them practically. Love not in word, only, but in deed and in truth. He loved them to self-sacrifice, so thatJesus gave Himself for us. You love to self-sacrifice, also. Love God so that you could die a thousand deaths for Him. LoveHim till you make no provision for the flesh, but live only for His Glory. Let your heart burn with a flame that shall consumeyou till the zeal of God's house shall have eaten you up. "We love Him, because He first loved us," therefore let us loveHim as He loved us! Let His love be both motive and model to us-
"Loved of my God, for Him again, With love intense I burn. Chosen of Him before time began I choose Him in return."
IV. Our text suggests to us AN ARGUMENTATIVE DEFENSE. You will see what I mean when I observe, first, that our love to Godseems to need an apology. We have heard of an emperor casting eyes of love upon a peasant girl. It would have been monstrousfor her to have first looked up to him as likely to be her husband! Everybody would have thought her to be bereft of her senseshad she done so. But when the monarch looked down upon her and asked her to be his queen, that was another thing. She mighttake leave to love from his love!
Often does my soul say, "O God, I cannot help loving You, but may I? Can this poor heart of mine be allowed to send up itslove to You? I-polluted and defiled, nothingness and emptiness and sinfulness-may I say, 'Yet do I love You, O my God, almightyas You are'? 'Holy, holy, holy,' is the salutation of the seraphim, but may I say, 'I love You, O my God'?" Yes, I may, becauseHe first loved me! There is love's license to soar so high-
"YetI may love You, too, OLord, Almighty as You are, For you have stooped to ask of me The love of my poor heart!"
Then, again, if any should enquire of us as they did of the spouse, "What is your Beloved more than another beloved, O youfairest among women? What is your Beloved more than another beloved, that you do so charge us? What is this passion that youhave for God, this love you bear to His Incarnate Son?" We have a conclusive argument as against them, even as we had a quietusfor our own fears. We reply, "We love Him, because He first loved us. And if you did but know that He loved you. If you didbut know that He had done for you what He has done for us, you would love Him, too. You would not need to ask us why-you wouldwonder why you do not love Him, too."-
"His love, if all the nations knew, Surely the whole world would love Him, too." We shall not need, to all eternity, any otherdefense for loving God than this, "Because He first loved us."
Here is, also, an argument for the lover of the old orthodox faith. It has been said by some that the Doctrines of Grace leadto licentiousness, but our text is a most excellent shield against that attack. Brothers and Sisters, we believe that theLord loved us, first, and most freely-not because of our tears or prayers, nor because of our foreseen faith, nor becauseof anything in us-but first! Well, what comes out of that? Do we, therefore, say, "If He loved us when we were in sin, letus continue in sin that Grace may abound," as some have wickedly said? God forbid! The inference we draw is, "We love Him,because He first loved us."
Some can be swayed to morality by fear, but the Christian is sweetly drawn to holiness by love. We love Him, not because weare afraid of being cast into Hell if we do not-that fear is gone-we who are justified by God can never be condemned! Norbecause we are afraid of missing Heaven, for the inheritance is upon as many of us as are joint heirs with Jesus Christ. Doesthis blessed security lead us to carelessness? No, but in proportion as we see the greatness and the infinity of the loveof God, we love Him in return! And that love is the basis of all holiness and the groundwork of a godly character. The Doctrinesof Grace, though often maligned, have proved in the hearts of those who have believed them, the grandest stimulus to heroicvirtue! And he who affirms otherwise knows not what he says!
Last of all, here is a noble argument to silence a gainsaying world. Do you see what a wonderful text we have here? It isa description of Christianity! Men say they are weary of the old faith and beg us to advance with the times-how shall we replyto them? They need something better, do they? The philosophers who pander to the age are going to give it a better religionthan Christianity? Are they? Let us see. We shall, however, wait very long before their false promises will approximate tofulfillment. Let us rather look at what we have already.
Our text is a circle. Here is love descending from Heaven down to man-and here is love ascending from man to God-and so thecircle is completed. The text treats only of love. We love the Lord and He loves us. The text resembles Anacreon's harp whichresounded love. Here is no word of strife, selfishness, anger, or envy! All is love and love alone. Now, it comes to passthat out of this love between God and His people there grows, (see the context of my text), love to men, for, "he that lovesGod loves his brother, also." The ethical essence of Christianity is love and the great master doctrine that we preach whenwe preach Jesus Christ is this-"God has loved us, we love God-and now we must love one another."
O you nations, what Gospel do you desire better than this? This it is that will put aside your drums, your cannons and yourswords! When men love God and love each other, what need for all the bloodstained pageantry of war? And this
will end your slavery, for who will call his brother his slave when he has learned to love the image of God in every man?Who is he that will oppress and domineer when he has learned to love his God and love the creatures God has made? Behold!Christianity is the Magna Charta of the universe! Here is the true, "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," which men will seekfor in vain in politics! Here is the sacred Communism which will injure no man's rights, but will respect every man's griefsand succor every man's needs! Here is, indeed, the birth principle of the golden age of peace and joy, when the lion shalleat straw like the ox and the weaned child shall play on the cockatrice's den!
Spread it, then, and let it circulate throughout the whole earth-God's love first, our love to Him, next! And then the universallove which shuts not out a man of any color, of any class, or of any name-but calls upon itself to love both God and man becauseGod is loved! The Lord bless this meditation to you, by His Spirit, for Christ's sake. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-1 John 4. HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-19, 248, 810.