Great Texts of the Bible
The Ray and the Reflection
We love, because he first loved us.—1 John 4:19.
Some truths, when we have learned them, are to us like precious jewels which we keep in caskets, hidden most of the time from sight, our great satisfaction regarding them being simply their possession, simply that they are ours. Other truths, when we have learned them, are like new countries into which our lives have entered, and in which they thenceforth constantly live. There is a new sky over our head and a new earth under our feet. They fold themselves about us and touch every thought and action. Everything that we do or think or are is different because of them. Of this second sort is the truth of the priority of God’s love.
I think I might say of this sentence what the poet says of prayer: it is “the simplest form of speech that infant lips can try,” and yet it is one of the “sublimest strains that reach the majesty on high.” Take a little believing child and ask her why she loves the Saviour, and she will reply at once, “Because He loved me and died for me”: then ascend to heaven where the saints are perfect in Christ Jesus and put the same question, and with united breath the whole choir of the redeemed will reply, “He hath loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” When we begin to love Christ we love Him because He first loved us; and when we grow in grace till we are capable of the very highest degree of spiritual understanding and affection, we still have no better reason for loving Him than this, “Because he first loved us.”1 [Note: C. H. Spurgeon.]
God’s Love to us
1. God is first.—Unless God had been first, we—our whole human race in general and each of us in particular—never would have been at all. We are what we are because He is what He is. Everything that we do God has first made it possible for us to do. Every act of ours, as soon as it is done, is grasped into a great world of activity which comes from Him; and there the influence and effect of our action is determined. Everything that we know is true already before our knowledge of it. Our knowing it is only the opening of our intelligence to receive what is and always has been a part of His being who is the universal truth. Every deed or temper or life is good or bad as it is in harmony or out of harmony with Him. Everywhere God is first; and man, coming afterward, enters into Him and finds in God the setting and the background of his life. If we love, He loved first.
It is as when up the morning sky, all coldly beautiful with ordered ranks of cloud on cloud, is poured the glow of sunrise, and every least cloud, still the same in place and shape, burns with the transfiguring splendour of the sun. So is it when the priority of existence is seen to rest in a Person, and the background of life is God. Then every new arrival instantly reports itself to Him, and is described in terms of its relationship to Him. Every activity of ours answers to some previous activity of His. Do we hope? It is because we have caught the sound of some promise of His. Do we fear? It is because we have had some glimpse of the dreadfulness of getting out of harmony with Him. Are we curious and inquiring? It is that we may learn some of His truth. Do we resist evil? We are fighting His enemies. Do we help need? We are relieving His children. Do we love Him? It is an answer of gratitude for His love to us. Do we live? It is a projection and extension of His being. Do we die? It is the going home of our immortal souls to Him.1 [Note: Phillips Brooks, The Light of the World, 45.]
2. The love of God to us precedes our love to God.—From all eternity the Lord looked upon His people with an eye of love, and as nothing can be before eternity, His love was first. He loved us before we had any being, before we had any desire to be loved, before any repentance on our part was possible. Divine love is its own cause, and does not derive its streams from anything in us whatsoever. It flows spontaneously from the heart of God, finding its deep wellsprings within His own bosom. This is a great comfort to us, because, being uncreated, it is unchangeable. If it had been set upon us because of some goodness in us, then when the goodness was diminished the love would diminish too. If God had loved us second and not first, or had the cause of the love been in us, that cause might have altered, and the supposed effect, namely, His love, would have altered too; but now, whatever may be the believer’s condition to-day, however he may have wandered, and however much he may be groaning under a sense of sin, the Lord declares, “I do earnestly remember him still.”
Strictly speaking, the words of the Apostle only declare the priority of the Divine love towards us over ours towards Him. But we may fairly give it a wider meaning, and say—first of all, before creation and time, away back in the abysmal depths of an everlasting and changeless heart, changeless in the sense that its love was eternal, but not changeless in the sense that love could have no place within it—first of all things was God’s love; last to be discovered because most ancient of all. The foundation is disclosed last when you come to dig, and the essence is grasped last in the process of analysis. So one of the old psalms, with wondrous depth of truth, traces up everything to this, “For his mercy endureth for ever.” Therefore, there was time; therefore, there were creatures—“He made great lights, for his mercy endureth for ever.” Therefore, there were judgments—“He smote great kings … for his mercy endureth for ever.” And so we may pass through all the works of the Divine energy, and say, “He first loved us.”
We may say of the silvered sea that it shines because the moon sheds upon it its silvery light. We may say of the full-orbed moon that she shines in soft beauty because she reflects the glory of the far-absent sun. But of the sun we can only say that it shines because it shines. We know of no eternal sources from which it draws its glory. So it is with the great heart of God. He loves, because He loves. “He first loved us.”1 [Note: W. E. Burroughs.]
If you look on the buds on the trees in the spring-time you will see they are all covered over with a gummy hard case, which keeps them from opening out. Well, there was a little bud like this and its little heart was dark and cold and uncomfortable. But one day the sunshine came streaming upon it, and it felt the hard case melt away from round it, and as the light grew brighter and warmer the case all melted away and the bud opened out into a beautiful blossom, and the fine, rich sunbeam found its way right into the little bud’s heart, then, when the bud saw the light it smiled and said, “See! see!—I have made the sun!” “Nay, nay, my child,” said a little sunbeam passing by, “you didn’t make the sun—it was the sun which made you. It was the sun which nourished you and cherished you, and opened your leaves and touched your heart. You should love the sun because the sun first loved you.”1 [Note: J. Reid Howatt, The Children’s Angel, 16.]
3. The love of God begets love in us.—One thing may be first and another second, and yet the first may not be the cause of the second, there may be no actual link between the two: but here we have it unmistakably, “We love, because he first loved us”; which signifies not merely that this is the motive of which we are conscious in our love, but that this is the force, the Divine power, which created love in us.
The meeting-point of God and man is love. Love, in other words, is, for the poet, the supreme principle both of morality and of religion. Love, once for all, solves that contradiction between them which, both in theory and in practice, has embarrassed the world for so many ages. Love is the sublimest conception attainable by man; a life inspired by it is the most perfect form of goodness he can conceive; therefore, love is, at the same moment, man’s moral ideal, and the very essence of Godhood. A life actuated by love is Divine, whatever other limitations it may have … God is Himself the source and fulness of love.
’Tis Thou, God, that givest, ’tis I who receive:
In the first is the last, in Thy will is my power to believe.
All’s one gift.
Would I suffer for him that I love? So wouldst Thou—so wilt Thou!
So shall crown Thee the topmost, ineffablest, uttermost crown—
And Thy love fill infinitude wholly, nor leave up nor down
One spot for the creature to stand in!2 [Note: Henry Jones, Browning as a Philosophical and Religious Teacher, ch. vi.]
It is with love exactly as with life. You know that there has been a controversy in the field of science about the origin of life, which has raged for a considerable part of this century, and has only lately been settled. One school said that life was born of itself; the other that life must come from a Life without. One school, to take an illustration that makes it plainer, took an infusion of air, heated it to a very high temperature, put it into a flask, sealed it hermetically, put it aside. A few weeks after the flask was opened; there was life inside it. Now, you see, they claimed this as spontaneous generation. The other side said, “It is not conclusive. You did not apply enough heat.” They heated it several degrees higher till there could not possibly have been any existing germs of life within the flask. They opened it after a lapse of time; there was no life. And now they accept this truth, life alone can propagate life. Life cannot spring into existence, it must be communicated. It is exactly the same thing with regard to love. You cannot make the black coals on your hearth burst into flame until you apply a light. If you want to love, you must wait till love comes from without. There is just one source of love, and that is God. And there can be no love in the human heart till the love of God comes in and creates it there. It must come by a genesis, not by spontaneous generation. We love because God has first loved us.1 [Note: J. Watson, in The Contemporary Pulpit, ii. 296.]
He seeks for ours as we do seek for His;
Nay, O my soul, ours is far more His bliss
Than His is ours; at least it so doth seem,
Both in His own and our esteem.
His earnest love, His infinite desires,
His living, endless, and devouring fires,
Do rage in thirst, and fervently require
A love ’tis strange it should desire.
We cold and careless are, and scarcely think
Upon the glorious spring whereat we drink.
Did He not love us we could be content:
We wretches are indifferent!
’Tis death, my soul, to be indifferent;
Set forth thyself unto thy whole extent,
And all the glory of His passion prize,
Who for thee lives, who for thee dies.2 [Note: Thomas Traherne.]
(1) But in order that the love of God may beget love in us there must be sufficient evidence of His love. What evidence have we? We have evidence enough of God’s love—at least for the ordinary experience of life—in the beauty of the world, the beneficence of nature, and all the joy of human intercourse.
Mazzini crossed the St. Gotthard with some danger. “The scene,” he wrote back to England, “was sublime, Godlike. No one knows what poetry is, who has not found himself there, at the highest point of the route, on the plateau, surrounded by the peaks of the Alps in the everlasting silence that speaks of God. There is no atheism possible on the Alps.”1 [Note: Bolton King, Mazzini, 116.]
One who went with Dr. McLaren to the Isle of Wight writes: “I saw during our walks on one or two lovely mornings that wonderful light in his eyes, his lips slightly parted, his face almost transfigured, a look of ecstasy as he gazed lovingly (no other word will do) at the minute flowers covering the merest cranny in the moss-grown walls by the roadside. He said no word, but one could see that he was worshipping at the ‘Temple’s inner shrine.’ ”2 [Note: Dr. McLaren of Manchester, 46.]
Wilberforce did not do things by halves. What he did, he did with all his might. His likes and dislikes were strong. He felt strongly, and so he spoke and acted strongly. There were three things for which he evidently had an intense love: the Truth, Nature, Home. And if we were permitted to look for the underlying cause we should probably find it in a perfectly simple belief in the Fatherhood of God as revealed to us by our Lord. The truth was God’s truth. The world was God’s world. The home was God’s home.3 [Note: J. B. Atlay, Bishop Ernest Wilberforce, 234.]
(2) It is only when we come to the dark sad side of life that our faith begins to fail. And here the Incarnation takes up the thread of proof, not by removing the problem of the mystery of sorrow from our minds, but by revealing God Himself as willing to bear it with and for us, and so enabling our hearts to feel it the crowning testimony of His love. The soul that has reached this certitude needs no other motive to ensure its obeying the commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” But there are many who have not attained it, from fearing to make the initial venture of taking up their cross. With all their disbelief in miracles, they still seek after a sign. A sign, they must remember, cannot produce conviction; for conviction comes by obedience, and by that alone. But a sign may arrest attention, and lead to obedience in the end. And there is a sign which outsoars all other miracles, and grows only more wonderful as the ages pass along, and that is the empire of Jesus Christ over human hearts. He claimed it, and history has justified the claim. No other founder of religions, patriot, martyr, king, or saint, has ever claimed it or received it. In all history it is unique. Critics tell us that the sayings of the Sermon on the Mount were not original, and the suffering of Calvary no greater than what other men have borne, and even that the Gospel narratives are in many points inaccurate. But all these things, if granted, only force into stronger relief the wonder of the fact that Jesus Christ, crucified, dead, and buried, more than eighteen centuries ago, has inspired in every age, and among wholly diverse nations, in thousands after thousands of sinful and saintly hearts alike, not merely reverence for His memory, or sympathy for His sufferings, or enthusiasm for His cause, but a personal, passionate, living adoration, passing the love of woman; and characterized by a finality, a restfulness, a peace, which finite objects of affection never can afford. That this is so is a fact beyond the reach of controversy, and a fact which defies explanation on any other view than that Jesus Christ is God—the Infinite and therefore adequate Object of human love, the desire of all nations, who alone could say, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.”
Like the skilfully painted portrait which seems to look at each individual in a crowded room, the Saviour on the Cross appears to gaze on me. I listen in the silence, and He, as it were, addresses me, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love,” and as I look I reply in wonder, “He loved me, and gave himself for me!” And this love becomes a double bond, uniting with his Lord and Master the Christian’s heart and life.
Love has a hem to its garment
That touches the very dust,
It can reach the stains of the streets and lanes,
And because it can, it must.
(3) But if the highest manifestation of the love of God is seen in the cross of Christ, then God loves us not because of our deserving but of His grace. In our natural desire to ascertain the cause of things, we can generally give a good reason why we love this person or that. A relationship—husband and wife, parent and child, friend and friend—is quite enough to account for it; or it may be in his nature or conduct that we see what causes our love to go out to another. These reasons may be often inadequate, sometimes even unworthy, but they satisfy our desire to trace the emotion to its originating cause. And when we are asked to believe that God loves us, even us, we are led at once to ask, Why? Why should God love me? And if we know even a little of Him or of ourselves—His greatness and our littleness, His glory and our poor estate, His holiness and our sinfulness—we have ample ground for doubting the fact. We fail entirely to account for it, and so we disbelieve it. If we were good, we say, the good God would love us. If we were holy, the Holy One would love us. Perhaps this is the earliest theology most children learn: “If you are not good God will not love you!” “If you do that God will not love you!” As if sin, the child’s or the man’s, placed the sinner outside the sphere of the love of God. This heresy lies at the root of all false religions, and of all hypocrisies, that we must by our goodness win the love and favour of God; till we are “good” God will have nothing to say to us!
We are amongst savages of the very lowest type, caring for nothing but what satisfies the cravings of their fleshly lusts. Nevertheless, I love them, not because of any virtue in them, but for the sake of Him who died for them, as well as for us. And although it is not my lot to preach, and a thing I cannot do, yet I hope, while working with and among them, that my life and example will help to mould them to the likeness of our Lord and. Master.1 [Note: J. MacConnachie, An Artisan Missionary on the Zambesi, 77.]
“I love poverty,” says Pascal, “because He loved it. I love goods, because they enable me to succour the needy. I keep faith with all the world, I do not return evil for evil; and I would that those who wish me harm had reached a state like mine beyond the power of men to make or mar. I try to be true and just to all, and I feel peculiar tenderness for those to whom God has more closely bound me. In all my actions, public and private, I keep in view Him who will one day judge them, and to whom they are all offered up beforehand. Such are my feelings. Every day of my life I bless my Redeemer, who has implanted them within me. Out of a mass of weakness and misery, pride, ambition, and ill-will He has made a man freed from all these evils by the power of grace.”2 [Note: Viscount St. Cyres, Pascal, 229.]
Our Love to God
The Revised Version omits “him” in the first clause, and simply says “we love,” without specifying the object. That is to say, for the moment John’s thought is fixed rather on the inward transformation effected, from self-regard to love, than on considering the object on which the love is expended. When the heart is melted, the streams flow wherever there is a channel. The river, as he goes on to show us, parts into two heads, and love to God and love to man are, in their essence and root-principle, one thing.
1. Our love is the heart’s response to God’s love.—We love, because He first loved us. Our love is secondary, His is primary; ours is reflection, His the original beam; ours is echo, His the mother-tone. Heaven must bend to earth before earth can rise to heaven. The skies must open and drop down love, before love can spring in the fruitful fields. And it is only when we look with true trust to that great unveiling of the heart of God which is in Jesus Christ, only when we can say, “Herein is love—that he sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” that our hearts are melted, and all their snows are dissolved into sweet waters, which, freed from their icy chains, can flow with music in their ripple, and fruitfulness along their course, through our otherwise silent and barren lives.
As the sun holds our planet in the strong grasp of its attraction, while the earth by its own very weak gravitation is also held in its place, so does the consciousness of God’s great love grasp and sustain my soul and my life; and then my own weak and feeble love to Him (itself the “first-fruits of the Spirit”) serves to “bind my wandering heart” to Him. I apprehend, though with poor and trembling hand, Him by whom I am apprehended with a hold which no other power can destroy. It is to this love that our Lord appeals as the motive of all obedience. Hence the tender, anxious, repeated inquiry, “Lovest thou me?” This love will account sufficiently for single actions and for whole lives. The perfumes which the woman poured upon the Saviour’s feet, and the “spikenard very precious” which the sister of Bethany lavished on her Divine Master, were prompted by a like love. The grandest human life of service and of suffering ever lived on earth is explained and accounted for in the words, “the love of Christ constraineth us.” “We love, because he first loved us.”
How all reasoning and arguing fails where one word of love softens, and influences, and does the work! and it is, as ever, by dwelling on the good rather than driving out the evil that the right thing is brought about.1 [Note: A. P. Stanley, Memoirs of Edward and Catherine Stanley, 308.]
The Holy Spirit cries in us with a loud voice and without words, “Love the love which loves you everlastingly.” His crying is an inward contact with our spirit. This voice is more terrifying than the storm. The flashes which it darts forth open the sky to us and show us the light of eternal truth. The heat of its contact and of its love is so great that it well-nigh consumes us altogether. In its contact with our spirit it cries without interruption, “Pay your debt; love the love which has loved you from all eternity.” Hence there arises a great inward impatience and also an unlimited resignation. For the more we love, the more we desire to love; and the more we pay of that which love demands, the greater becomes our debt to love. Love is not silent, but cries continually, “Love thou love.” This conflict is unknown to alien senses. To love and to enjoy, that is to labour and to suffer. God lives in us by His grace. He teaches us, He counsels us, He commands us to love. We live in Him above all grace and above our own works, by suffering and enjoying. In us dwell love, knowledge, contemplation, and possession, and, above them, enjoyment. Our work is to love God; our enjoyment is to receive the embrace of love.2 [Note: M. Maeterlinck, Ruysbroeck and the Mystics, 95.]
O eyes that strip the souls of men!
There came to me the Magdalen.
Her blue robe with a cord was bound,
Her hair with Lenten lilies crowned.
“Arise,” she said, “God calls for thee,
Turned to new paths thy feet must be.
Leave the fever and the feast,
Leave the friend thou lovest best:
For thou must walk in barefoot ways,
To give my dear Lord Jesus praise.”
Then answered I—“Sweet Magdalen,
God’s servant, once beloved of men,
Why didst thou change old ways for new,
That trailing red for corded blue,
Roses for lilies on thy brow,
Rich splendour for a barren vow?”
Gentle of speech she answered me:—
“Sir, I was sick with revelry.
True, I have scarred the night with sin,
A pale and tawdry heroine;
But once I heard a voice that said
‘Who lives in sin is surely dead,
But whoso turns to follow me
Hath joy and immortality.’ ”
“O Mary, not for this,” I cried,
“Didst thou renounce thy scented pride.
Not for a taste of endless years
Or barren joy apart from tears
Didst thou desert the courts of men,
Tell me thy truth, sweet Magdalen!”
She trembled, and her eyes grew dim:—
“For love of Him, for love of Him.”1 [Note: J. E. Flecker, Forty-Two Poems, 58.]
2. Our love is the necessary and moral result of our persuasion of God’s love to us.—It is a part of the ordinary constitution of our nature that we should love those who, we believe, love us. Sometimes far out at sea the sailor sees the sky grow tremulous and troubled. The cloud seems to be all unable to contain itself; its under surface wavers and stretches downwards toward the ocean. It is as if it yearned and thirsted for the kindred water. A great grasping hand is reached downward and feels after the waves. And then the sailor looks beneath, and lo, the surface of the waves is troubled too; and out from the water comes first a mere tremble and confusion, and then by and by a column of water builds itself, growing steadier and steadier, until at last it grasps the hand out of the cloud, and one strong pillar reaches from the sea into the heavens, from the heavens to the sea, and the heavens and the sea are one. So you must make man know that God loves him, and then look to see man love God.
What will you do if you are sent to carry the Gospel to your friend, your child? Will you stand over him and say, “You must love God; you will suffer for it if you do not”? When was ever love begotten so? “Who is God?” “Why should I love Him?” “How can I love Him?” answers back the poor, bewildered heart, and turns to the things of earth which with their earthly affections seem to love it, and satisfies itself in loving them. Or perhaps it grows defiant, and says, “I will not,” flinging back your exhortation as the cold stone flings back the sunlight. But you say to your friend, your child, “God loves you,” say it in every language of yours, in every vernacular of his, which you can command, and his love is taken by surprise, and he wakes to the knowledge that he does love God without a resolution that he will.1 [Note: Phillips Brooks, The Light of the World, 49.]
It was early in his career that he happened one day to be alone for a few minutes with a young lady, who afterwards became the wife and active helpmate of a devoted minister of Christ in Edinburgh. In early life she had felt her need of a Saviour, and tried to become a Christian, but failed in finding the sinner’s Saviour. She looked too much into her own heart, and sought there, and sought in vain, for that kind and degree of conviction of sin which she thought to be necessary to fit her for coming to Jesus. As a natural result, she was almost reduced to despair. Mr. North, guided by the Spirit, on whose direction he constantly relied, and with that aptitude to understand the exact position of an anxious soul with which he was gifted, asked her if she was saved, and on her replying that she was not, he asked her, Why? and she answered, “Because I do not feel that I love Jesus.” He then said simply, “That does not matter, He loves you.” No other word was spoken, but this was enough, and was the means of leading her to trust in the Saviour’s dying love to sinners. She was enabled henceforth to rest in that love, and to follow Christ, and after a useful and happy life, closed it, in the beginning of 1877, by a very triumphant death.2 [Note: K. Moody-Stuart, Brownlow North, 406.]
3. And our love to God is the best evidence to ourselves that we are passed from death into life.
Robert Hall charmed the most learned by the majesty of his eloquence, but he was as simple as he was great, and he was never happier than when conversing with poor believers upon experimental godliness. He was accustomed to make his journeys on horseback, and having been preaching at Clipstone he was on his way home, when he was stopped by a heavy fall of snow at the little village of Sibbertoft. The good man who kept the “Black Swan,” a little village hostelry, came to his door and besought the preacher to take refuge beneath his roof, assuring him that it would give him great joy to welcome him. Mr. Hall knew him to be one of the most sincere Christians in the neighbourhood, and therefore got off his horse and went into the little inn. The good man was delighted to provide for him a bed, and 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 needs stop here all night, sir; and if you do not mind I will call in a few of my neighbours, 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 the gospel banner. The peasants came together, and the man of God poured out his soul before them wondrously. They would never forget 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 over him 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 you think is a sure evidence that 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 to do it.” “Never mind, friend, never mind, tell me what you think 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 well with me; I do love Him.”1 [Note: C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1876, p. 343.]
The opening paragraphs of Wesley’s Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion are perhaps the finest epitome of the ruling purpose of the Great Revival. The lifeless, formal religion of the time was a sad contrast to that religion of love which they had found. The love of God and of all mankind “we believe to be the medicine of life, the never-failing remedy for all the evils of a disordered world, for all the miseries and vices of men. Wherever this is, there are virtue and happiness going hand in hand. There is humbleness of mind, gentleness, long-suffering, the whole image of God, and at the same time a peace that passeth all understanding, and joy unspeakable and full of glory.”2 [Note: J. Telford, The Life of John Wesley, 112.]
Our Love to Man
1. Man’s life expands when God’s love possesses it. It becomes as the universe. God is everywhere its occupant, and yet excludes not one particle of His infinite productions. We are not bidden to abstract all affections from the creature when bidden to love God “with all the heart, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and with all the mind.” It is a principle laid down by St. John—“Every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.” And therefore the way to increase in that love which alone deserves the name as being anything better than a development of selfishness, is to increase in love to God. Piety will produce charity. The more we love God the more will we love man.
Those thinkers who cannot believe in any gods often assert that the love of humanity would be in itself sufficient for them; and so, perhaps, it would, if they had it.1 [Note: G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles.]
2. We can show our love by loving service. Where the love of the Almighty has been excited, it will become a ruling principle, and manifest itself in every department of conduct. If we love God, it will necessarily follow that we will desire to please Him; that we will delight in contemplating His glories; that the sense of His favour will be our choicest treasure; and that, consequently, obedience to His will, and earnestness in winning others from their enmity, will be evident in our actions.
I think that it was at this time of his life that he used to go down every night of the week to the Grassmarket and convoy a man home past the public-houses.2 [Note: G. A. Smith, The Life of Henry Drummond, 114.]
But still, the main lesson which her lady-pupils carried away from Walsall was not how to dress wounds or how to bandage, or even how to manage a hospital on the most popular as well as the most economical method, but rather the mighty results which the motive-power of love towards God, and, for His sake, towards mankind, might enable one single woman to effect. Sister Dora said to a friend who was engaging a servant for the hospital, “Tell her this is not an ordinary house, or even hospital; I want her to understand that all who serve here, in whatever capacity, ought to have one rule, love for God, and then I need not say love for their work. I wish we could use, and really mean, the word Maison-Dieu.”1 [Note: M. Lonsdale, Sister Dora, 102.]
One night she was sent for by a poor man who was much attached to her, and who was dying of what she called “black-pox,” a violent form of small-pox. She went at once and found him almost in the last extremity. All his relations had fled, and a neighbour alone was with him, doing what she could for him. When Sister Dora found that only one small piece of candle was left in the house, she gave the woman some money, begging her to go and buy some means of light, while she stayed with the man. She sat on by his bed, but the woman, who had probably spent the money at the public-house, never returned; and after some little while the dying man raised himself up in bed with a last effort, saying, “Sister, kiss me before I die.” She took him, all covered as he was with the loathsome disease, into her arms, and kissed him, the candle going out almost as she did so, leaving them in total darkness. He implored her not to leave him while he lived, although he might have known she would never do that. It was then past midnight, and she sat on, for how long she knew not, until he died. Even then she waited, fancying, as she could not see him, that he might be still alive, till in the early dawn she groped her way to the door, and went to find some neighbours.2 [Note: Ibid. 52.]
3. The more we love others and make our love manifest in our life, the more will we persuade them of the reality of love and therefore of the love of God. Our age is remarkable for triumphs of mercy, and not the least of the blessings which the merciful have rendered to us is that they have shown disinterested virtue to be possible. He who ennobles himself ennobles his race, draws away many a wavering recruit from the seat of the scorner, giving him an ideal and a hope in life. Ask those who have thus elevated their generation whence they drew their inspiration, and they will one and all reply: “We love, because he first loved us.” They will say: If we have taught our soldiers and sailors to keep their bodies in temperance, soberness, and chastity; if we have cleansed and clothed the waifs and strays of our modern Babylons and sent them forth as welcome colonists to subdue the virgin lands of our empire; if we have rescued woman from corruption and slavery; if we have carried thrift and peace and purity into the lowest dens of misery—we were but following Him who promised rest to the weary and heavy-laden. If our light shines before men, if they see any good works in us, let them glorify not us, but our Father which is in heaven, the Sun of all our day, from whom every good and perfect gift descends. We are unprofitable servants: we have done but a scantling of our duty. We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves. If He, the Lord and Master, washed our feet, we also ought to wash one another’s feet. It is the part payment of a debt.
To many a man the strongest force for good has come by his finding out that some one loves him and trusts him far more than he has ever deserved. He discovers or slowly realizes that some one better, purer, nobler than himself cares for him, believes in him, loves him; and the discovery makes him ashamed of his unworthiness and ingratitude: it gives him a new hope, a higher standard for life. He has been content, perhaps, to be no better than the most easy-going, the least particular of his set; and then he finds out that a pure, true heart—his mother’s, it may be, or his wife’s, or his child’s, or his friend’s—is pouring out on him its wealth of love and trust, thinking him good, expecting great things of him, ready to wait or toil or suffer for his sake: some special occasion, it may be, or some side-light lets him see how deeply and generously he is cared for; and he begins to say to himself that it’s rather a shame to go on as he does. There must be some hope for him, some power or way for him to grow better, if people care for him, believe in him like that; anyhow, it’s a shame not to try to be a bit more like what their love makes them think he is. And so he tries; and, because they first loved him, he learns to love; he begins to live a steadier, purer, more unselfish and dutiful life: a life in which love springs up higher, stronger, happier, like a tree growing in the soil that suits it.1 [Note: F. Paget, The Redemption of War, 58.]
It was in the fall of 1859 that my future husband, then a young man of about twenty-one years, came to our section to teach school, where he used his talents and influence for the good of all with whom he came in contact. He was an excellent teacher, loved and respected by parents and pupils alike. He soon found his way to my father’s and mother’s home, for the former teachers had not been strangers there. He said afterwards that when he saw me for the first time that day in my own home, he determined that I should be his. The task proved to be not as easy as may have seemed; but he had made up his mind, and, as in after-years in more important matters, when he won in spite of difficulties, so it was then. He poured forth his wealth of love and affection and compelled me to love him in return as I had never loved before. Of course we had to wait, but the time did not seem long. It was unalloyed bliss. Three years of school, of walks and talks, and when he left for college there were the letters, the visits, the hopes and aspirations and preparations, and with all at times a tinge of sadness lest I was not quite worthy of it all.1 [Note: Mrs. Robertson, in The Life of James Robertson, 25.]
So they began to show him every possible kindness, and one after another helped him in his daily tasks, embracing every opportunity of pleading with him to yield to Jesus and take the new path of life. At first he repelled them, and sullenly held aloof. But their prayers never ceased, and their patient affections continued to grow. At last, after long waiting, Nasi broke down, and cried to one of the Teachers,—“I can oppose your Jesus no longer. If He can make you treat me like that, I yield myself to Him and to you. I want Him to change me too. I want a heart like that of Jesus.”2 [Note: John G. Paton, ii. 278.]
There was one case of awful despair in a poor dying woman who refused to listen to any words of the mercy of God, saying only “too late, too late.” To her, Mr. Marriott devoted much care and many prayers. It seemed as though no impression could be made upon her. The cry went on—“too late, too late, too late for me.” But Mr. Marriott’s tender fervour to bring her to faith and trust in her Saviour prevailed at last. He said,—“But you do believe in the love of those around you, now that Jesus sends it to you?” With what seemed the last effort of life, she raised herself,—clasped her arms round the neck of the sister who was attending to her,—and kissing her answered,—“Yes, it is love.” The last struggle followed almost immediately and we heard her say, “Jesus, save me,”—the words he had entreated her to use. So his prayers had been heard. She died in hope and faith.3 [Note: J. W. Burgon, Lives of Twelve Good Men, i. 327.]
Upon the marsh mud, dank and foul,
A golden sunbeam softly fell,
And from the noisome depths arose
A lily miracle.
Upon a dark, bemired life
A gleam of human love was flung,
And lo, from that ungenial soil
A noble deed upsprung.1 [Note: L. M. Montgomery.]
The Ray and the Reflection
Banks (L. A.), John and his Friends, 152.
Brooks (P.), The Light of the World, 40.
Campbell (R. J.), City Temple Sermons, 122.
Davies (D.), Talks with Men, Women and Children, v. 342.
Davies (J. Ll.), The Work of Christ, 205.
Gibbon (J. M.), The Gospel of Fatherhood, 54.
Girdlestone (A. G.), The Way, the Truth, the Life, No. 6.
Gregory (B.), Perfect in Christ Jesus, 104.
Gregory (J. R.), Scripture Truths made Simple, 64.
Howatt (J. R.), The Children’s Angel, 14.
Illingworth (J. R.), University and Cathedral Sermons, 87.
Jeffrey (R. T.), Visits to Calvary, 347.
Jones (T.), The Divine Order, 226.
Kingsley (C.), All Saints Day Sermons, 151.
Lewis (F. W.), The Unseen Life, 51.
Maclaren (A.), Sermons, ii. 216.
Maclaren (A.), Triumphant Certainties, 305.
Mayor (J. E. B.), Twelve Cambridge Sermons, 117.
Paget (F.), The Redemption of War, 58.
Pusey (E. B.), Parochial and Cathedral Sermons, 439.
Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xvii. (1871) 481; xxii. (1876) 337; xlvii. (1901) 265.
Stockdale (F. B.), Divine Opportunity, 40.
Temple (F.), Sermons Preached in Rugby School Chapel, iii. 57.
Thomas (J.), The Dynamic of the Cross, 52.
Vaughan (J.), Sermons, 1st Ser. (1869), 227.
Voysey (C.), Sermons (1876), No. 36; (1884) No. 34; (1907) No. 10.
Walpole (G. H. S.), Life’s Chance, 81.
Christian World Pulpit, liv. 168 (Scott Holland).
Churchman’s Pulpit: 1st Sunday after Trinity: xxi. 481 (Grimley), 483 Moore; 18th Sunday after Trinity, xxxviii. 402 (Melvill).
Church of England Magazine, li. 80 (Burland).
Contemporary Pulpit, 2nd Ser., ii. 294 (Watson).