1 John 4:19
We love because He first loved us.
Sermons
Action and Reaction Between God and ManP. H. Steenstra, D. D.1 John 4:19
Creed and LifeC. Clemance, D. D.1 John 4:19
Doctrine and MoralsLuthardt.1 John 4:19
God's LoveC. Clemance, D. D.1 John 4:19
God's Love and OursW. Jones 1 John 4:19
God's Love the Cause of OursJ. R. Illingworth, M. A.1 John 4:19
God's Love to ManE. N. Kirk, D. D.1 John 4:19
God's Love to Us, and Ours to HimE. H. Bradby, M. A.1 John 4:19
Gratitude not a Sordid AffectionT. Chalmers, D. D.1 John 4:19
LoveC. H. Spurgeon.1 John 4:19
LoveC. Clemance, D. D.1 John 4:19
Love for LoveB. D. Johns.1 John 4:19
Love God and HumanityW. Birch.1 John 4:19
Love More Attractive than LightC. H. Spurgeon.1 John 4:19
Love of GodJ. M. Gibbon.1 John 4:19
Love, not Fear, the Animating Principle of a Believer's ConductJ. Morgan, D. D.1 John 4:19
Love's Birth and ParentageC. H. Spurgeon.1 John 4:19
Love's LogicC. H. Spurgeon.1 John 4:19
On Love to GodT. Fernie, M. A.1 John 4:19
Our Love the Reflex of God'sJ. Trapp.1 John 4:19
Paganism and ChristianityC. Clemance, D. D.1 John 4:19
Richard Baxter's PrayerR. Baxter.1 John 4:19
The Christian's LoveG. F. Pentecost, D. D.1 John 4:19
The Genesis of LoveJ. Watson, M. A.1 John 4:19
The Love of God ReciprocatedPulpit Themes1 John 4:19
The Priority of GodBp. Phillips Brooks.1 John 4:19
The Ray and the ReflectionAlexander Maclaren1 John 4:19
The Reciprocal Action of LoveJohn Tesseyman.1 John 4:19
Why We Love HimM. Simpson, D. D.1 John 4:19
Threefold Recommendation of the Duty of Loving One AnotherR. Finlayson 1 John 4:7-21
We love, because he first loved us.

I. GOD LOVES. He is not an impassive, unemotional, passionless Being. From all eternity there was a tender, infinite, ineffable love between the Father and the Son. When the Scriptures represent God as having a heart, as pitying, sorrowing, repenting, loving, hating, there is a true meaning in the representations. If we take the corresponding emotion in ourselves, purge it from evil, elevate and sublime it as much as possible, then we have that which in its character resembles the emotion which is predicated of God. God truly loves.

II. GOD LOVES MAN. He loves not only his equal Son, or the Holy Spirit, or great and good angels, but man - weak, frail, and sinful. Yes, "sinful;" for he loves man as man; not merely the pure and lovable, but the sinful and morally deformed. If God loved only those whose hearts had some love toward him, he would love none; for all are estranged from him by sin. But "he first loved us." "In this was manifested the love of God towards us," etc. (verses 9, 10); "For when we were yet without strength, in due season Christ died for the ungodly," etc. (Romans 5:6-8); "God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses," etc. (Ephesians 2:4, 5); "God so loved the world," etc.

III. GOD'S LOVE TO MAN IS THE ORIGINATING CAUSE OF MAN'S LOVE. "We love, because he first loved us." "The love of God to us is the source of all our love." The flowers that slumber in the earth during winter do not start forth in spring and woo the sun's warm return; but the sun comes bathing their beds with light and warmth until they feel his genial influence and respond thereto. So is it with God's love and ours. "Love begets love;" and so God's love to us begets love in us. It follows from this that our love, in its character, though not in its degree, must resemble that of God. There is something in us which has an affinity to his love, and therefore responds to it. We were made in his image, and thus our love is like unto his. Every form or expression of human love finds its archetype and its perfect expression in God. Take the love of a father for his child. A noble thing is a father's love. It is, however, perfect only in God. "A Father of the fatherless is God in his holy habitation;... Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him;" "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us," etc. A mother's love is one of the most holy and beautiful things in the universe; but it is perfect only in God. "Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?" etc. (Isaiah 49:15, 16); "As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you." A husband's love is perfect only in God. "Thy Maker is thine Husband; the Lord of hosts is his name." His fidelity is steadfast, his protection is constant and adequate, etc. The love of friends is found in perfection only in God. "The Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend;" "Abraham was called the friend of God." Jesus Christ, the Revealer of God, is the "Friend that sticketh closer than a brother." "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." The love of a child for its parents also finds perfect expression in the Divine nature. Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as the Son of Mary is the perfect pattern of such affection. Thus every aspect of true human love is beautiful, sacred, Divine. God has them all in all perfection in himself. He has manifested them, and still manifests them to us. Our Lord Jesus is the completest, brightest manifestation of love. Behold it in him. Condescension, labour, humiliation, patient submission, and uttermost self-sacrifice for sinners. Can you conceive any manifestation of love more complete, more sublime, more Divine? The personal realization of a love such as this must beget love in us. Its nature or ours must be changed ere it can be otherwise. If you love him not, you are really not fully persuaded that he loves you. Behold in Jesus Christ the love of God towards you. Did he not love you? Is he not love? Then, why not love him? Gratitude should constrain you to do so. Some can adopt the language of the text as their own: "We love, because he first loved us." And others have advanced to love him because of what he is in himself. Let us endeavour to love him more and know him more, to know him more and love him more, and so become increasingly like unto him. - W.J.







We love Him, because He first loved us
Everything which we do God has first made it possible for us to do. Everywhere God is first; and man, coming afterward, enters into Him and finds in God the setting and the background of his life. There is no part of life in which this is not true. We may say a few words first upon the whole subject of the backgrounds of life in general. Man never is sent first into the world and bidden to evolve out of his own being the conditions in which he is to live. Always something is before him; always there is a landscape in which he finds his figure standing when he becomes conscious of himself. The material is background for the spiritual — the earth, which is body, for man, who is soul. A child was born yesterday. How he lies today in his serene, superb unconsciousness! And all the forces and resources of the earth are gathered about his cradle offering themselves to him. He takes what they all bring as if it were his right. Not merely on his senses, but even on his mind and most unconscious soul, the world into which he has come is pressing itself. Its conventionalities and creeds, its prejudices and limitations and precedents, all its discoveries and hopes and fears — they are the scenery in which this new life stands. They are here before him, and he comes into them. Shall we talk about all this as if it were a bondage into which the new child is born? Shall we dream for him of freedom which he might have had if nothing had been before him? Surely that is no true way to think about it. There are men who, if they cannot destroy the world of assured truths, would at least destroy the consciousness of it. They would ignore it. They would seem at least to be trying experiments as if nothing had yet been proved. Far be it from me to deny the exceptional value of such men; but their value is the value of protest and exception. The normal, healthy human life lives in its environments and keeps its backgrounds. It is not their slave, but their child. It fastens itself into them, and realises and fulfils its life by them, and makes in its due time along with them the background for the lives of the years to come. Now all of this is not religious, save in the very largest sense; but all of this becomes distinctly religious the moment that all this background of life gathers itself into a unity of purpose and intention and becomes a Providence, or care of God. When once that truth has opened on us, then all the interest of life centres in and radiates from this — that He, God, is before it all. 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. 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. Oh, the wonderful richness of life when it is all thus backed with the priority of God! It is the great illumination of all living. And the wonder of it is the way in which, in that illumination, the soul of man recognises its right. That is what it was made for. See what the religious world really is in its idea, and shall be when it shall finally be realised. A world everywhere aware of and rejoicing in the priority of God, feeling all power flow out from Him, and sending all action back to report itself to Him for judgment — a world where goodness means obedience to God, and sin means disloyalty to God, and progress means growth in the power to utter God, and knowledge means the understanding of God's thought, and happiness means the peace of God's approval. That is the only world which is religious. And now see how all this truth comes to the full display of its richness in the Christian faith. The Christian faith is the sum and flower of the religious life of man. Whatever has struggled in all other religions comes to its free and full expression there. And so the truth of the priority of God is the first and fundamental truth of Christianity. With Jesus it was always, "God loves you." He went about saying that from house to house, from man to man. He built this background behind every life. 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. How shall you make man know that God loves him? In every way there is no speech nor language in which that voice may not be heard — but most of all by loving the man with a great love yourself. We may think again not of the way in which we shall get our friends to love God, but of the way in which we shall get ourselves to love Him. Oh, the old struggles! How many have said, "I will love God; I ought to, and I will," and so have wrestled to do what they could not do — what in their hearts they knew no real reason for doing — and have miserably failed, and now are satisfying themselves with loveless obedience, or else have left God altogether, and tell their hearts' that they must forego all such beautiful, hopeless ambitions. Ah, what you need is to get away round upon the other side of the whole matter. It is not whether you love God, but whether God loves you. If He does, and if you can know that He does, then give yourself up totally and unquestioningly to the assurance of that love. Rejoice in it by day and night. Sometimes it seems good to sweep aside all the complications of spiritual experience and bring it all to absolute simplicity. Here is God, and here is a child of God. The Father loves the child, not because the child is this or that, or anything but just His child. He says to you, "Go, save My child for me." And you say, "How, my Father?" And He says, "By Me." And you say, "Yes, I see," and go and take the Father's love and press it on that child of His, just as you find him. You know that the fire and the wood belong together: You are sure that if the fire gets at the wood, the wood will burn, and by and by, look! the wood is burning. The wood turns to fire because the fire gave itself to the wood. The wood loves the fire because the fire first loved it. And now I wonder whether in some of your minds there does not come a question regarding all this that I have said. "After all," you may ask yourself, "what does it matter? If the end is gained, if God and man come together, what matter is it from which side the first impulse came? But must it not make a difference? Is there a situation or a fact or a condition anywhere which is absolute and identical, and does not vary with the character of him who occupies it? The man is more than the situation. The situation means little without the soul of the man giving it its meaning. When then I see man reconciled to God and walking with his Lord in the white garment of a new life, it makes vast difference what is the spirit of that reconciled, regenerated man. If it is the first fact of his new existence — that which he never loses for a moment — that the impulse of it came from God; that before he ever thought of the higher life: its halls were made ready for him and its Lord came forth into the wilderness to find him — then the strength of a profound humility is always with him. The paralysis of pride does not creep over him. Besides this, the appeal of the new life to the soul which lives it is largely bound up with the truth of the priority of God. The man is stone whom that does not appeal to. How shall he overtake this love which has so much the start of him? This is what makes his service eager and enthusiastic. Again this truth, that God is first, gives me the right to keep a strong and lively hope for all my fellow men. It gives me also the chance to believe that I can help them. I have only to tell them over and over again how near He is; I have only to beg them to open their eyes and see! Have I talked today too generally of the priority of God? Then make it absolutely special and Concrete. There is some duty which God has made ready for you to do tomorrow; nay, today! He has built it like a house for you to occupy. You have not to build it. He has built it, and He will lead you up to its door and set you with your feet upon its threshold. Will you go in and occupy it? Will you do the duty which He has made ready?

(Bp. Phillips Brooks.)

I. IT IS A PRINCIPLE EXACTLY SUITED TO OUR MENTAL CONSTITUTION. Take the case of our love to the creature, and whence does it arise? Two elements invariably attach, in our apprehension, to the object of it. These are excellence in itself and some advantage arising from it to ourselves. Neither of these alone will produce love. Even in the natural love of the parent for the child or of the child for the parent, it will be found these two elements exist. Relative goodness seems to be essential to love. It may be said, such a view destroys the disinterested nature of love, and introduces an element of selfishness. Even were this true, it would not set aside a fact of which all must be conscious in their mental constitution. But we do not admit that a regard to our own happiness is of the nature of selfishness. It is in itself good. The Creator has implanted it in all His intelligent offspring, and it is therefore not blameworthy. Now this is the very ground on which the love of God is based. Every perfection that can command our approval and admiration belongs to Him. But this excellence is all relative to us. In every feature of it we recognise an advantage to ourselves. That unerring wisdom is our guide, that almighty power is our protection, that boundless goodness is our support. We look upon them with delight, and say, "This God is our God." And so we acquiesce in the apostle's sentiment — "We love Him because He first loved us."

II. THIS PRINCIPLE IS AS SCRIPTURAL AS IT IS REASONABLE. How naturally and properly does David express himself (Psalm 18:1-3). Excellence upon excellence he discovers in God and celebrates with the highest praise, but everyone of them is regarded as a source of benefit to himself. The Scriptures unite the glory of God and our good.

III. THIS PRINCIPLE IS WELL ILLUSTRATED IN THE HISTORY OF REDEMPTION. It began with God. The first movement was on His part. When our first parents fell they fled from God, and discovered no disposition to return to Him. But He followed them with proposals of love. Observe, then, the practical effect of such a revelation on the mind of him who becomes concerned about his own redemption. He sees what the mind of God is. He can have no doubt upon the great truth that "the will of God is his salvation." He has only to acquiesce in an arrangement that has been made already by unerring wisdom and infinite love.

IV. THE PRINCIPLES OF THE TEXT APPLY TO EVERY INDIVIDUAL WHO IS SAVED, AS WELL AS TO THE SCHEME OF REDEMPTION BY WHICH HE IS SAVED. God has not devised redemption, and then left it to men to receive it if they will and reject it if they will. The same grace that provided it applies it.

V. WHEN THE SOUL IS THUS BROUGHT UNDER THE POWER OF GRACE, IT CONTINUES TO BE POWERFULLY INFLUENCED BY ITS APPREHENSION OF THE UNDESERVED AND GRACIOUS LOVE OF GOD.

VI. EVERYTHING IS SO ORDERED IN THE LIFE OF THE BELIEVER AS TO EXERCISE AND ADVANCE THIS DIVINE PRINCIPLE. He is taught to trace up all he enjoys to the gift of God in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). He lives in the midst of continual remembrances of God and His love. He looks upon the world in which he has been placed. The marks of sin are many, but the tokens of the Divine love are many more and greater far.

(J. Morgan, D. D.)

I. 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. From this overflowing fountain of the infinite love of God, all our love to God must spring.

II. Love, after it is Divinely born in our heart, MUST BE DIVINELY NOURISHED. Love is an exotic; it is not a plant that will flourish naturally in human soil. On what, then, does love feed? Why, it feeds on love. That which brought it forth becomes its food. "We love Him because He first loved us." The constant motive and sustaining power of our love to God is His love to us. And here let me remark that there are different kinds of food in this great granary of love. When we are first of all renewed the only food on which we can live is milk, because we are but babes and as yet have not strength to feed on higher truths. The first things, then, that our love feeds upon when it is but an infant, is a sense of favours received. And mark, however much we grow in grace this will always constitute a great part of the food of our love. But when the Christian grows older and has more grace he loves Christ for another reason. He loves Christ because he feels Christ deserves to be loved. But mark at the same time, we must always mingle with this the old motive. We must still feel that we begin with that first stepping stone, loving Christ because of His mercies, and that although we have climbed higher and have come to love Him with a love that is superior to that in motive, yet still we carry the old motive with us. We love Him because of His kindness towards us. This, then, is the food of love; but when love grows sick — 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? 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 then, when thy love is thus recruited, let me bid thee give thy love full exercise; for it shall grow thereby. You say, "Where shall I exercise the contemplation of my love to make it grow?" Oh! Sacred Dove of love, stretch thy wings and play the eagle now. Come I open wide thine eyes and look full in the Sun's face, and soar upward, upward, upward, far above the heights of this world's creation, upwards, till thou art lost in eternity.

III. THE WORK OF LOVE. "We love Him." Children of God, if Christ were here on earth, what would you do for Him? "Do for Him!" says one; "do for Him!" "Did He hunger, I would give Him meat though it were my last crust. Did He thirst, I would give Him drink, though my own lips were parched with fire. Was He naked, I would strip myself and shiver in the cold to clothe Him. Did He want a soldier, I would enlist in His army; did He need that some one should die, I would give my body to be burned if He stood by to see the sacrifice and cheer me in the flames." Ah! we think we love Him so much that we should do all that; but there is a grave question about the truth of this matter after all. Do you not know that Christ's family are here? And if ye love Him, would it not follow as a natural inference that you would love His offspring?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Our love to God 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 that 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.

I. THE INDISPENSABLE NECESSITY OF LOVE TO GOD IN THE HEART. You will find in the seventh verse of this chapter, that love to God is set down as being a necessary mark of the new birth. "Everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." 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. Further, the chapter teaches us that love to God is the root of love to others (ver. 11). He, who, being in the Church, is yet not of it heart and soul, is but an intruder in the family. But since love to our brethren springs out of love to our one common Father, it is plain that we must have love to that Father or else we shall fail in one of the indispensable marks of the children of God. 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. Love must cooperate with faith and cast out fear, so that the soul may have boldness before God. We also see, if we turn again to St. John's Epistle and pursue his observations to the next chapter and the third verse, that love is the spring of true obedience. "This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments." Though the fruit be not the root of the tree, yet a well rooted tree will, in its season, bring forth its fruits. 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.

II. THE SOURCE AND SPRING OF TRUE LOVE TO GOD. "We love Him because He first loved us." Observe, then, that love to God does not begin in the heart from any disinterested admiration of the nature of God. Again, our love to God does not spring from the self-determining power of the will. 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." Now, having thus set the text in a negative light let us look at it in a more positive manner. It is certain 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 encouraging truth this is. Your first step is to believe that God loves you, and when that truth is fully fixed in your soul by the Holy 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. Rest assured that in proportion as we are fully persuaded of God's love to us, we shall be affected with love to Him. Do not let the devil tempt you to believe that God does not love you because your love is feeble; for if he can in any way weaken your belief in God's love to you he cuts off or diminishes the flow of the streams which feed the sacred grace of love to God. Oh for a great wave of love to carry us right out into the ocean of love. Observe day by day the deeds of God's love to you in the gift of food and raiment and in the mercies of 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 which 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.

III. THE REVIVAL OF OUR LOVE. Perhaps some of you have become so cold in your affections that it is difficult to be sure that you ever did love God at all. Now note well that the cause which originated your love is the same which must restore it. You went to Christ as a sinner at first, and your first act was to believe the love of God to you when there was nothing in you that: evidenced it. Go the same way again. Think of the Lord's unchanging grace, and you will feel the springtime of love returning to your soul. Many considerations ought to aid you, a backslider, to believe more in the love of God than ever you did. For think what love it must be that can invite you still to return, you, who after knowing so much have sinned against light and knowledge; you, who alter having experienced so much have given the lie to your profession.

IV. THE PERFECTING OF OUR LOVE TO GOD. There are few of us who know much of the deeps of the love of God; our love is 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 top most pinnacle and tread the virgin snow. As fear goes out love comes in at the other door. So the more faith in God the more room there is for soul-filling love. Again, strong faith in God's love brings great enjoyment; our heart is glad. This deep enjoyment creates the flaming love of which I have just now spoken.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. We shall use the text FOR DOCTRINAL INSTRUCTION; and one point of doctrinal instruction is very clear, namely, that God's love to His people is first. 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. 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 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 unmistakeably, "We love Him 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. If you love God it is with no love of yours, but with the love which He has planted in your bosoms. 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 supernatural change of the barren ground into good soil, and then, as a rare plant from another land, love must be planted in our hearts and sustained by power divine or else it will never be found there. There is no love to God in this world that is of the right kind except that which was created and formed by the love of God in the soul.

II. Secondly, we shall use the text FOR EXPERIMENTAL INFORMATION; and here —

1. We learn that all true believers love God. I do not say that they all feel an equal love, or that they all feel as much love as they should. I will not say that they do not sometimes give cause to doubt their love. But there is love in the heart of every true-born child of God; it is as needful to spiritual life as blood is to natural life.

2. Observe carefully the kind of love which is essential to every Christian — "We love Him because He first loved us," Much has been said about disinterested love to God; there may be such a thing, and it may be very admirable, but it is not mentioned here. You may not be able to rise into those heights into which others have ascended because you are as yet only a babe in grace; but you are safe enough if your love be of this simple character, that it loves because it is loved. See whether such a humble, grateful love towards God dwells in your hearts, for it is a vital point.

3. Love to God wherever it is found is a sure evidence of the salvation of its possessor. If you are loving God you must have been loved of God: true love could not have come into your heart in any other conceivable way; and you may rest assured that you are the object of His eternal choice.

III. Thirdly, we shall use the text as a matter OF PRACTICAL DIRECTION. The text tells you how to love God. The text shows us the method of the Holy Spirit. He reveals the love of God to the heart, and then the heart loves God in return. Go thou to the fragrant mystery of redeeming love, and tarry with it till in those beds of spices thine own garments shall be made to smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia. There is no way of sweetening thyself but by tasting the sweetness of Jesus Christ; the honey of His love will make thy whole nature to be as a honeycomb, every cell shorter of thy manhood shall drop sweetness.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The phrase of the revised version has the larger meaning. "We love" includes "We love Him," and it is evident from the rest of the passage that we have here a distinct though not an exclusive reference to the love of God. How can we love Him then, the Invisible, the Infinite, and Omnipotent? Might we not as well try to love illimitable space or embrace the elastic and viewless air? And yet a great multitude which no man can number declare with St. John that they do love God. Yes, and moreover you will find that the love of God will stand all the tests which can be applied to any love known among men. Things widely different in their nature are often much alike in their appearance. Artificial flowers are very like real ones; gilt is very like gold; and paste is made to look like gems. Wise men, therefore, apply tests which only the real articles can stand. They find the real flower by its scent; test gold by acids, and the file tells them at once which is the gem and which is the worthless imitation. What, then, are the marks of true love?

I. TRUE LOVE IS UNSELFISH. False love rushes onwards to its own low ends. It is meanly selfish, and when resisted, cruel as the grave. But true love gives up and goes without. 'Tis finely prodigal, royally extravagant, and divinely liberal. Well, men's love for God has this mark upon it; it teaches men to deny self — to give up and go without. Oh, what sacrifices men have made for God! The sacrifice of God's love for men is indeed, and ever must be, the great fact of all history. But the next great fact is the sacrifice of men's love for God. God's love in Christ gave its "all" to men, and the love of God in Christian hearts gives "all" to God today. It is a constraining power in men's lives.

II. TRUE LOVE HAS PLEASURE IN FELLOWSHIP WITH ITS OBJECT. As the needle turns to the pole, so love, if true, seeks communion with its object and is only there at rest. Sir Henry Taylor, in his autobiography, says that when the affection of a certain couple of friends for each other was spoken of in Wordsworth's hearing, the poet asked, "Are they, so far as circumstances permit, continually together: for that is the test?" Yes; fellowship is the measure of love. "It is good for me to draw near to God," said one psalmist; and sacred history proves that such is the conviction of all saints. Every halting place along the patriarch's line of march became at once a place of worship. These men and their God were continually together. They delighted in God; and all who love Him still live with Him. They go to prayer and worship, not as the "whining schoolboy, with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school," but rather as children run from their tasks to play.

III. TRUE LOVE IS ENNOBLING IN ITS INFLUENCE. Passion degrades, and lust dehumanises man; but love makes all men better and nobler. Sir Richard Steele said of Lady Hastings that "to love her was a liberal education." But all true love educates. You cannot tend in love a wounded bird, or pity a hungry dog without thereby being taught something of the lore of angels. A mother cannot love her helpless babe without thereby being lifted nearer God. Love, like mercy, is twice blessed, "it blesseth him that gives and him that takes." Well, men's love to God does this. It cleanses speech of all impurities and gruffness. It refines manners and educates the taste. It expands sentiment and deepens sympathy. It makes the clown gentle and the coward brave.

IV. TRUE LOVE IS FAITHFUL UNTO THE END.

"Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove.

Oh, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering barque,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken."It is no fickle fancy, no passing mood, no fair-weather affection.

(J. M. Gibbon.)

I. LOVE TO GOD IS ESSENTIAL TO THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.

1. The Lord is not satisfied unless He obtains our love.

2. Unless we love the Lord there cannot be complete personal union.

3. Love to Him makes our obedience sweet.

4. Love to God acts as an irresistible magnet to draw us from sin.

5. The mutual love between the Christian and his Lord is the heart music of life.

II. THE LOVE OF GOD IS THE GRAND MOTIVE POWER OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE.

1. The love of God is the fountain of our love to each other. To do good to those who need our active sympathy merely because it is our duty to do so is pulling up stream, and the best of us would soon tire of it, but to bless men because we love them constrains us to be faithful in active goodness unto death.

2. The love of God is needful to inspire us to noble deeds. In olden times the maiden promised her hand to the knight if he did some valiant deed of warfare; but in our case the Lord loves us first of all, and that love is the impulse of a noble life.

3. The love of God to us is a sure foundation for our faith.

4. The love of God to the world is an ever present rainbow of hope to the Christian. Why? Because God will second your efforts. He loves them, and therefore let us hope for the worst of men.

III. WE ARE COMMANDED TO LOVE OUR BROTHER MAN.

1. This love oils the wheels of service.

2. Love to our brother man is the motive of self-denial for his sake. Pure love is its own exceeding great reward.

IV. I would now remind you WHY YOU LOVE GOD.

1. We love Him because He first loved us.

2. We also love Him because He laid down His life for us.

3. We love Him because His love is unchangeable.

(W. Birch.)

Our nature is so constituted that we are never really happy until we love God. A bold assertion this; but does not our experience prove that it is a true one? We can love Him. Millions have done so already. And having the capacity within us, which we must admit to be the highest of all our capacities, when we consider the object on which it may be exercised, we are never quite at ease till it has fastened itself on its proper object. Till then there is uneasiness, insecurity, a sense of disproportion between the promise of our nature and its performance. We are like guests at a banquet who cannot find their place, and go hunting up and down bewildered. But when once we have got to love God there is tranquillity. But if it be true that .man is so constituted that he cannot be really happy unless he love God, it is also true that he cannot love God unless he knows Him. Not till an object is brought in some way or other into contact with our experience can we have any emotion about it, much less that highest and most appreciative of all emotions — love. And therefore man, with that inborn capacity of his for loving God, has at all times, however imperfectly, sought to know Him. He has "felt after God." But here an obstacle rises up, before which some, who may have so far gone with us, turn back in despair. They grant that it were man's happiness to love God if he could, and that to love Him he must know Him; but who, they ask, can know the Unknowable? We can but enumerate the things He is not, but that is far from discerning what He is. In reply, we grant the difficulty, but remain undiscouraged by its existence. It only shows that if a man is to know God, God must take the initiative; God must reveal Himself to man. And to reveal Himself means not to disclose His whole essence, but so much of His being, and so much of man's relation to Him, as it may be well or possible for man to know. Now this, if revelation be true, is what God in His wisdom and His goodness has seen fit to do; and we might as well refuse the aid of a lamp in the darkness because it is not the sun as decline to be guided by such knowledge of Himself as He has given us because it is not and cannot be complete knowledge. But God's revelation is manifold, and they do ill, and lose much of it that is precious, who confine it within the four corners of a book, which does but contain the imperfect record of a part, though it be far the most important part, of it. God reveals Himself in nature as the sustaining power, by which all things exist and have their being, and as a power working through fixed laws, which reach from the minutest particles of matter on earth to the most distant star, not one of which laws varies one hair's breadth, not one of which ever fails. God reveals Himself in history as the moral governor of the world; and here also He works by fixed, unalterable laws. He shows us that He loves good and hates evil, and that evil shall in the end be overcome by good. God reveals Himself in conscience to each individual man with that inevitable, unimpeachable verdict on our past actions as they proceed from us one by one, and those promptings and monitions as to future actions, which we may neglect, because we are free, but which, "whether we hear or whether we forbear," have still been given us. These are some of the revelations by which God imparts, or is ready to impart, to all men some knowledge of Himself. But as yet we touch but the hem of His garment, we do not see His face. God is on His throne in heaven, and we are poor mortals upon the distant earth. But what if God, in His infinite goodness, sees fit to bridge over from His side the chasm which we cannot pass, to satisfy the longing which, if He has made us, He has Himself imparted in our souls, and to reveal Himself to man, not now in a cold immutable law, but in a living breathing person like ourselves, who can gather up all our God-ward affections as in a focus, and transmit them in concentrated fulness to the awful throne on high? Shall we not know Him then as we never knew Him before? And shall we not be able to love Him then as we never loved Him before? But this is the revelation which He has actually vouchsafed to give us in His Son Jesus Christ. And this manifestation of God was not opened on us unexpectedly, in which case we might have missed its full significance, but prepared for and led up to by a long course of discipline and aroused anticipation. The record of this preparation we have in the pages of the Old Testament and the record of its fulfilment in the New. What if those to whom it was first tendered misunderstood it in part, as we can now see, mixed up much that was local and temporary with it, and failed to come at the whole truth? Their knowledge of God was coloured knowledge, but it was not therefore unreal; their expectations of a further revelation of Him were coloured expectations, but they were none the less inspired from a Divine source. In this as in other things connected with the education of our race the same order prevails: "That is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, then that which is spiritual." And when that fuller revelation was made, did not illusion cease, and did men see nothing but the pure absolute light? By no means. They saw as much as they were capable of seeing; they understood as much as they had capacities for understanding. Now, if we turn from the manner of the revelation of Himself which God has made in Christ Jesus to the matter of it, we find that it conveys to us precisely that which we most need to know. I admit that God is my Creator, but does He regard me as the workman regards the machine that he has made? There is no sympathy between them. He can make it and break it, so far as the machine is concerned, with equal indifference. I admit that God controls the affairs of men by fixed moral laws, but so far men may be to Him but as pawns are in the hand of the chess player. The player cares not for the pawns in themselves, he moves them this way or that, according to the requirements of the game. I admit further that the working of these laws, when considered through a long period of time, convinces me that God approves of good and punishes evil, and so far I may recognise a kind of moral similarity between my own imperfect character and what I may reverently style the character of God; but does this warrant me in hoping for any closer union with Him? If I desire to draw nearer to Him, will He suffer it? The unlikeness is greater than the likeness, and, besides, sin bars the way. Yes, answers Jesus of Nazareth to all these questionings, God is not your Maker and Governor only, but your Father. He loves you and desires your love. I know it and reveal it to you. My life itself is the manifestation of His love. I am His Son, He sent Me to you. Behold in Me, so far as human eyes can see, the character of God. But beautiful, winning, soul-satisfying as this revelation is, there are difficulties in the way which make some men hesitate to accept it. Doubtless there are such difficulties, but do they lie in our path here only, or are they not greater for him who rejects it? Our life is hemmed in with difficulties on every side, they are the necessary accompaniment of our limited faculties, and we may sit reckoning them up for ever, till they paralyse every thought and every action. To complain of them is to complain that God has made us men, and not a creature quite different from man. He is wisest and most loyal to his Master who bears the burden laid upon his back and moves on in spite of it as best he can. And further, whilst we admit the existence of these difficulties, we must be careful not to exaggerate their number or their importance. We may divide them into two classes: those which are inherent in the subject itself, and those which we create for ourselves or others have created for us. The former we shall never abolish, there is nothing for it but to put up with them; the latter we may, in some cases, extenuate or remove. Is it possible, we ask, for God to reveal His very self in a man? That is an inherent difficulty, and the only answer we can make is that we cannot fully understand it, neither can we expect to understand it, because we do not know the limits of possibility with God, but we can believe and act on the belief, as we do in a score of other instances every day, and when we do so we find rest for our souls. He gave us a person and a life to imitate, to trust in and to love; let us beware lest we substitute for Him in our hearts a theory and a scheme of salvation. Let us observe further, for our comfort, how many of the difficulties which so perplex us are merely intellectual difficulties, not moral. That shows us, perhaps, that they are somehow of our own creating. It is much learning that doth make us mad. The poor and the ignorant do not feel them. It is with the heart they believe, not the head; and we must humbly imitate them. Let us then be encouraged to east away the thought of difficulties, and open our hearts to receive in simple faith, and respond to, the full stream of Divine love. "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." That may suffice us. God loves us — stupendous thought!— and therefore we may love Him. When a little child has done wrong and offended his father he goes about uneasy and with an aching heart. He tries to distract himself with other things; he turns to this amusement or to that — innocent amusements, it may be, in themselves — but they have all lost their interest. There is something amiss in the relation of perfect love between him and his parent, and the consciousness of this goes with him wherever he goes. He fortifies himself in his pride, dwells on the fancied wrong that he has suffered by being rebuked, not on the real wrong that he has wrought by disobedience, and resolves to be self-sufficient and do without the love which seems withheld; but the aching heart is still there, the dull sense of unhappiness. At last his father calls to him with a father's voice, full of pity and of love, and at the sound of that voice his heart is melted like wax within him, not with fear, but with penitent, trustful love; all the barriers which pride had raised are broken down, and he rushes to his father's arms and is folded once more in a loving embrace.

(E. H. Bradby, M. A.)

To many it seems that perfect amiableness and goodness in our Creator requires Him to look with entire approbation and indulgence upon men, without regard to the principles upon which they are acting, whether holy or unholy. And yet some of this very class of persons, when brought to a more intimate acquaintance with themselves and to a higher conception of what they ought to be, see that a holy God must hate them; and if He hates them they cannot imagine that He loves them at the same time. Here are the two extremes of error, one of which, probably, mankind generally regard as truth.

I. GOD CAN HATE AND LOVE THE SAME PERSON AT THE SAME MOMENT. It is shown in —

1. The very nature of benevolence. What is a good man? Try him by a case of this kind. He knows a man who is addicted to drunkenness, and who in his paroxysms abuses his family. How does this good man regard the case? He abhors the drunkard's character and conduct, yet he loves and pities the man. And thus God exhibits Himself to us as a holy God. He abhors all our sins. He threatens us with eternal destruction, and yet, while we were still enemies, He gave His Son to die for us.

2. Scriptural representation of God's feelings towards the children of men. Notice the case of those who murdered Christ. None can doubt that they were most hateful to God. And yet the dying Son, who fully represented His Father's feelings, regarded them as deserving the wrath of God at the same time He prayed for their forgiveness. And was that prayer ineffectual? No; for on the day of Pentecost, a servant of Christ is commissioned to go and charge upon them their crime, not to condemn them, but to bring them to repentance. And then the Holy Spirit descends to bring them to exercise repentance, and some of them, at least, are forgiven. Then look abroad upon a world lying in wickedness, sometimes as great as that which brought the deluge of water on the world or that of fire on Sodom. But He sendeth His rain upon the thankful and the unthankful.

II. GOD DOES LOVE ALL MEN. It is seen in —

1. The very act of creation. What endowments has He bestowed on man!

2. Forming a moral government for man. The laws under which He has placed us all aim at our personal perfection and the highest degree and form of happiness of which we are capable. But the crowning proof of God's love —

3. Is in Christ and redemption.

III. EVERY HUMAN BEING SHOULD LOVE HIM. The benevolence of God claims our admiration, complacency, and gratitude.

(E. N. Kirk, D. D.)

Some theologians have exacted from an inquirer, at the very outset of his conversion, that he should carry in his heart what they call the disinterested love of God. They have set him on the most painful efforts to acquire this affection. They have led him to view with suspicion the love of gratitude, as having in it a taint of selfishness. The effect of all this on many an anxious seeker after rest has been most discouraging. With the stigma that has been affixed to the love of gratitude, they have been positively apprehensive of the inroads of this affection, and have studiously averted the eye of their contemplation from the objects which are fitted to inspire it.

1. The proper object of the love of gratitude is the Being who has exercised towards me the love of kindness; and this is more correct than to say that the proper object of this affection is the Being who has conferred benefits upon me. Just let the naked principle of kindness discover itself, and through it have neither the power nor the opportunity of coming forth with the dispensation of any service, it is striking to observe how, upon the bare existence of this affection being known, it is met by a grateful feeling on the part of him to whom it is directed; and what mighty argumentations may be given in this way to the stock of enjoyment, and that by the mere reciprocation of kindness begetting kindness. For to send the expression of this kindness into another's bosom it is not always necessary to do it on the vehicle of a positive donation. It may be conveyed by a look of benevolence; and thus it is that by the mere feeling of cordiality a tide of happiness may be made to circulate throughout all the individuals of an assembled company. Now this is the very principle which is brought into action in the dealings of God with a whole world of malefactors. It looks as if He confided the whole cause of our recovery to the influence of a demonstration of goodwill. It is truly interesting to mark what, in the devisings of His unsearchable wisdom, is the character which He has made to stand most visibly out in the great scheme and history of our redemption; and surely if there be one feature of prominency more visible than another it is the love of kindness. As soon as His love of kindness is believed, so soon does the love of gratitude spring up in the heart of the believer. As soon as man gives up his fear and his suspicion of God and discerns Him to be his friend, so soon does he render Him the homage of a willing and affectionate loyalty. There is not a man who can say, I have known and believed the love which God hath to us, who cannot say also, I have loved God because He first loved me. The law of love begetting love will obtain in eternity. Like the law of reciprocal attraction in the material world, it will cement the immutable and everlasting order of that moral system, which is to emerge with the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Now, by looking more closely to this affection, both in its origin and in its exercises, we shall perceive in it more clearly all the characteristics of virtue. Let it be remarked, then, that an affection may simply exist, and yet be no evidence of any virtue or of any moral worth in the holder of it. I may enter the house of an individual who is an utter stranger to the habit of acting under a sense of duty; who is just as much the creature of mere impulse as the animals beneath him; and who therefore, though some of these impulses are more characteristic of his condition as a man and most subservient to the good of his fellows, may be considered as possessing no virtue whatever, in the strict and proper sense of the term. But he has the property of being affected by external causes. And I, by some ministration of friendship, may flash upon his mind such an overpowering conviction of the goodwill that I bear him as to affect him with a sense of gratitude, even unto tears. The moral obligation of gratitude may not be present to his mind at all. But the emotion of gratitude comes into his heart unbidden, and finds its vent in acknowledgments and blessings on the person of his benefactor. We would say of such a person that he possesses a happier original constitution than another who, in the same circumstances, would not be so powerfully or so tenderly affected. And yet he may have hitherto evinced nothing more than the workings of a mere instinct, which springs spontaneously within him and gives its own impulse to his words and his performances, without a sense of duty having any share in the matter, or without the will prompting the individual by any such consideration as, Let me do this thing because I ought to do it. The first way, then, in which the will may have to do with the love of gratitude is by the putting forth of a desire for the possession of it. It may long to realise this moral accomplishment. It may hunger and thirst after this branch of righteousness. Even though it has not any such power under its command as would enable it to fulfil such a volition, the volition itself has upon it the stamp and the character of virtue. But, again, there are certain doings of the mind over which the will has a control, and by which the affection of gratitude may either be brought into being or be sustained in lively and persevering exercise. At the bidding of the will I can think of one topic rather than another. I can transfer my mind to any given object of contemplation. I can keep that object steadily in view, and make an effort to do so, when placed in such circumstances as might lead me to distraction or forgetfulness. And it is in this way that moral praise or moral responsibility may be attached to the love of gratitude. Ere the heart can be moved by this affection to another there must be in the mind a certain appropriate object that is fitted to call it and to keep it in existence — and that object is the love of kindness which the other bears me. It is this which arms with such a moral and condemnatory force the expostulation which He holds with Israel, "that Israel doth not know, that My people do not consider." It is because we like not to retain God in our knowledge that our minds become reprobate; and, on the other hand, it is by a continuous effort of my will towards the thought of Him that I forget not His benefits. It is by the strenuousness of a voluntary act that I connect the idea of an unseen benefactor with all the blessings of my present lot and all the anticipations of my futurity. It is by a combat with the most urgent propensities of nature that I am ever looking beyond this surrounding materialism and setting God and His love before me all the day long. There is no virtue, it is allowed, without voluntary exertion; but this is the very character which runs throughout the whole work and exercise of faith. To keep himself in the love of God is a habit, with the maintenance of which the will of man has most essentially to do, because it is at his will that he keeps himself in the thought of God's love towards him.

2. We now feel ourselves in a condition to speak of the gospel in its free and gratuitous character — to propose its blessings as a gift — to hold out the pardon and the strength and all the other privileges which it proclaims to believers as so many articles for their immediate acceptance — to make it known to men that they are not to delay their compliance with the overtures of mercy till the disinterested love of God arises in their hearts, but that they have a warrant for entering even now into instant reconciliation with God. Nor are we to dread the approach of any moral contamination, because when, after their eyes are opened to the marvellous spectacle of a pleading and offering and beseeching God, holding out eternal life unto the guilty, through the propitiation which His own Son hath made for them, they must from that moment open their whole souls to the influences of gratitude and love the God who thus hath first loved them. We conclude, then, with remarking that the whole of this argument gives us another view of the importance of faith. It brings the heart into contact with that influence by which the love of gratitude is awakened. The reason why man is not excited to the love of God by the revelation of God's love to him is just because he does not believe that revelation. This is the barrier which lies between the guilty and their offended Lawgiver. Could the kindness of God in Christ Jesus be seen by him, the softening of a kindness back again would be felt by him. This also suggests a practical direction to Christians for keeping themselves in the love of God. They must keep themselves in the habit and in the exercise of faith. They must hold fast that conviction in their minds, the presence of which is indispensable to the keeping of that affection in their hearts.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

I.DIVINE LOVE IN ITS MANIFESTATION TO THE CREATURE.

II.THE RECIPROCAL INFLUENCE OF THAT LOVE.

III.THE PRIORITY OF THE DIVINE LOVE TO THE HUMAN.

IV.THE DIVINE LOVE CAUSATIVE OF THE HUMAN.

(John Tesseyman.)

I. THE NATURE AND ACTINGS OF OUR LOVE TO GOD.

1. Love to God supposes or springs from the knowledge of Him and faith in Him.

2. Love to God includes the highest esteem of Him.

3. Love to God includes earnest desires after His grace and favour, communion with Him, and the enjoyment of Him.

4. Love to God includes or produces complacency, joy, and delight in Him.

5. Love to God includes or springs from a thankful sense of His benefits.

6. Love to God may also include goodwill to, and zeal for, His honour and glory in the world.

II. REASONS AND MOTIVES TO IT.

1. How unjust and how unhappy the disposition opposite to this love is.

2. Consider that love to God is the true honour and happiness of your souls.

3. To excite your love to God consider what a transcendently glorious, excellent, and amiable Being He is in Himself.

4. Consider that God, and He alone, can be a suitable and satisfying portion to your souls.

5. Consider the goodness and mercy, love and grace of God, and the blessed fruits of it, to you and others.

(T. Fernie, M. A.)

Love is said to be the fulfilling of the law; and, in its highest conditions, it casts out all fear. A soul that is filled with love to God has no anxieties in reference to the future. A man so filled with love is elevated; and while he walks on earth, his conversation is in heaven, his associations with the invisible. But how shall this love be developed in our hearts? What is the law of its development and of its manifestations? How shall we love God with that perfect love which thus associates us with the redeemed, and makes us confident in the midst of all dangers? Love Divine has the same law of origin and of development as love human. We love a mother because she first loved us. We love God because He first loved us. And that long tutelage and care which the child receives fixes on its heart this sentiment of love. It grows with its growth, it strengthens with its strength; and were there no depravity, no stains on human nature, that love would grow up in all its beauty, strengthening from year to year. But let us look at some of the manifestations that God has given of Himself to develop this emotion of love in our hearts. And, first, in the works of creation around us, God has manifested Himself as the loving Creator. He hath placed us in a world framed for our enjoyment. Not only have we indications of God's love around us in this creation, but we can rise higher as we come to the realm of mind. If I compare, step by step, as I advance: A child's affection for a parent is increased by beautiful material arrangements made for the comfort of the child. The chamber, the furniture, the clothing, everything prepared by a father's affection or a mother's love, indicate to the child that affection. So, in these material arrangements, God tells us He loves us; and as we gaze on these arrangements, we ought to love God; but as the book of the mind opens up before us, how this care is multiplied! The thought of God strangely drops into our bosom. There is thought in animate beings. We take those animals that serve our comfort, that labour for us, that watch for us, and there are indications of thought evidently in them. They are made to serve, and their range of thought is exceedingly small. We are made to rule, and our thought seems to be almost limitless. How ought we to love God, in that He loved us so much as to give us this power! And then could He call us up while the great mass of us are all the time disposed to look downward! Man not loving God, not looking upward and outward, becomes sensual. He spends his time in feeding his body, in satisfying his appetites, and he forgets the realm of empire over nature, and over ideas, and over thoughts, that God opens out before him; and hence, without love of God, man is the animal; with love to God, he is the seraph; with love to God, he lives in His affections and rises toward glory; without love to God, he crawls like the worm; without love to God, he goes downward until he is ready to make his bed with demons; with love to God, he rises above angels and archangels, and is preparing for the throne of God. What a glorious provision, and how ought we to love God in that He loved us, and gave to us such prerogatives! But then, again, God hath not only given this mental power, this dominion of thought, this government of the lower world, but He hath given unto us an exalted spiritual nature. Now, this spiritual nature has in it this power: First, in looking at the objects of admiration, in seeing what God has done, reflecting toward Him gratitude; and, secondly, in reflecting that gratitude, growing into His image, and when that image is formed, becoming like God Himself in radiating light, and giving satisfaction to all around us, just as the eyes develop love. Now, as God develops in us this love from our first growing up into the likeness of God, as our hearts are grateful, we recognise Him to be the grand idea, the perfect pattern; our souls long for His image, we want to be like God in the development of this love, we long to be changed into His image, and we are changed from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Oh, as we grow up into the image of the Master, then we would be like Him in action, imitating Him; and this brings up in our hearts the desire to do good to others. Oh, were all men filled with love to God, this earth would be quite on the verge of heaven; tears would be wiped away by some soft hand; darkness would be illuminated by the smile of love; wants would be provided for by the supply of affectionate charity; and this earth would bear the impress of being the footstool of God. We love Him in the origin of our love; we love Him in the law of the development of our love; we love Him in the manifestation of love as we grow into His likeness. But this law of Divine love is not like that of human love, merely in its origin; it is like it in the means of its growth. Human love increases, as we know, most perfectly the object of that love, if the being be entirely lovable. In God there is no blemish. The more we can know of Him, not only do we love Him better, as we love our friends, but there is no drawback to that love. In Him is love without blemish — no selfishness, no defect; and hence the more we know of God, the better we must love Him.

(M. Simpson, D. D.)

When we read one of the writings of St. John the Divine it is as if one heard strange and beautiful music, and for the moment our mind is filled with the sound of composed emotions. First, we are lifted above this earth, and taken, with that eagle eye, into the blue above where old things have passed away and all things have become new. We next become conscious of the things that have before haunted us, the vague thoughts that have entered into our minds, the unfulfilled desires that were ever eluding our grasps, and the ideals which have floated before our imaginations; and we see for the first time what before we had only imagined — the perfect shape of heavenly and spiritual beauty. And then, after that, we become conscious of something else, and that is our own unloveliness and our own imperfection. But I find that the last feeling left upon one's mind, if one is in a healthy state, is this: a great longing to be rid of one's own self, and to be lifted up and made like God. You see, St. John is the master of the philosophy of love, and there is one question I should like to ask you. How can a person create love if love does not exist? And if it does, how can a person increase it? If there be no fire at all upon my cold hearth, how shall I light it? And if there be a flicker of flame upon the cold ashes, how shall I bring it to a blaze? It is a very difficult question. No person, for instance, can love by an act of will. I can, by an act of will, lift my arm, because my arm is moved by voluntary muscles. I cannot, by an act of will, make my heart beat. And neither I, nor any other man, nor all men together, shall be able to make it give one beat more on some future day fixed upon by the Divine will. I will to love, but what follows? I find I cannot love. "Love is not a duty, but a virtue." That is why love can never be commanded. Before you can obey, you must have love. Now I turn to St. John, and he just meets my question about how love can be created. It is with love exactly as with 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. Ii must come by a genesis, not by spontaneous generation. We love because God has first loved us. What He means is this: there may be a great many secondary and important reasons and causes for love, but there is only one Source of love in the whole universe, just as to this world there is only one source of heat. Remove any human soul from the perpetual consciousness of the Divine and Fatherly love, you have got no love in that soul. Now let me illustrate this spiritual truth, first from the reverse side. Take a street arab. How do you expect he can be approached? Leave him alone. He will then become an outcast, a vagabond, perhaps a murderer. Now ask yourselves this question, How is it that this man is a curse to himself and a danger to society? Ask yourselves another question, Was he ever loved? His father — why his father kicked him when he came across him, and swore at him as a nuisance! His mother sent him out to beg as soon as he could stand. His companions, in Court No. 6, off Street So-and-so, why they were just young savages, and they treated him like a savage! Depend upon it, if you deny a human being his natural rights, if you treat him with injustice, and disregard all his feelings, you will turn him into a fiend. Why should he not? He cannot help it; it is the constitution of human nature, he hates because he is hated. Now there is the other side. Take the opposite product of our civilisation. Nothing, I suppose, is more beautiful than the way in which some boys are trained. They are then natural boys; ay, spiritual boys too! A boy comes home from school after morning lessons; the first thing he asks is, "Where is mother?" Not because he wants her, but just to take her hand to tell her what has happened at school. If she is not at home he is miserable. And if she goes away for a little he is never happy till she returns. What is the reason? "It is natural," you say, "because he loves her." What do you mean by "natural"? Do you mean that there is a little germ of love in every human heart? I believe that, too, whether it is nurtured or not. Do you believe it still lives? In some homes the boys are happier when they are away at school. "How that boy does love his mother!" Well, what do you argue from that? I argue that his mother first loved him. The mother shone on him, now he shines on her. The sun gave out its heat, now the earth gives out its heat. "A capital son that to his mother!" He does not think so. She is getting in her old age what she gave before. Again, if you see a man that is pleasant and kind to everybody, men like that man. He never says a mean thing about anyone. Do not praise him too much. Pass it back! He has had a good mother, a good father. Do not praise the tropics because the fruit is there. The arctic regions might have done as well if they had had as much sun. We will "love Him because He first loved us." Let us see how this applies in the sphere of religion. If a man believes that God is, but never has got the length of believing that God is love, then I do not expect much from that man. I expect him to be uncharitable, narrow, not particularly generous in his feelings. The Pharisee did not believe that God was love, so he did not love. He could not help it any more than the arctic regions can help being frozen. Now you turn to the other side. Why, how the children loved Jesus! Why, how all kinds of people followed Jesus! Because He was lovable; because He loved. We are getting on now. Why did Jesus love as no person has ever loved yet, or ever can love again? Because He could not help it. St. John tells us that He "lay in the bosom of the Father," where all is love. Now this law of St. John throws a marvellous light upon many events. The devotion of some people in the history of the world is quite beyond explanation unless you understand St. John's principle. There is one of the saints whose life was so beautiful that the story of it is one of the most wonderful that ever was written. The beasts of the field all loved him; all living things loved him. You may call it legend, but I do not see any limit to the possibilities of human love. I cannot tell what might have followed if that man had lived. When all creation is reconciled it will be through the reconciliation of love. Francis Xavier was ordained for the salvation of the East, and he used to cry out in his prayers, "Give me more suffering that men may be saved." It seems marvellous; but it is not marvellous when you know that the love of God burned inside that man's heart just like a flame from the day of his conversion to the day of his death.

(J. Watson, M. A.)

Pulpit Themes.
I. THE LOVE OF GOD.

1. Its antiquity.

2. Its sovereignty.

3. It is displayed in Christ.

4. It has ever been a love of complacency and delight.

5. It is unchangeable and everlasting.

II. THE CHARACTER OF THE CHRISTIAN'S LOVE TO GOD.

1. It is not natural to man.

2. It is caused or produced by the love of God.

3. It is influenced by the love of God.

4. It is manifested in various ways.

(1)It boldly professes Christ before the world.

(2)It manifests anxious solicitude and suitable exertions to advance Christ's kingdom in the world.

(3)It constrains to the consecration of our talents to God's service.

(4)It readily makes sacrifices when necessary.

(5)It is manifested by loving that which God loves.

5. Love to God is necessary.

(Pulpit Themes.)

I. CHRISTIANS CHERISH GREAT AFFECTION FOR CHRIST. "We love Him."

1. It is implied that they are an exception to others. The majority of the human race either ignore or oppose Christ.

2. It is implied that there was a time when they did not. Religion is not inherent. It is an after production.

3. It is implied that they are fully conscious of their love.

4. It is implied that it is personal. "We love Him" — not His gifts, but Himself.

II. CHRISTIANS CHERISH GREAT AFFECTION FOR CHRIST BECAUSE OF HIS GREATER AFFECTION FOR THEM. "Because He first loved us." Natural if we consider —

1. The greatness of the Lover.

2. The wretchedness of the loved.

3. The wonderfulness of the love.

(1)Gracious in its source.

(2)Sovereign in its initiation.

(3)Infinite in its sacrifice.

(4)Unchangeable in its power.

(5)Unspeakable in its benefits.CONCLUSION:

1. Jesus continues to love.

2. He loves all.

3. All should love Him.

(B. D. Johns.)

Reciprocity is the crown of love. And although it may be absent in one case or another, we cannot use the word "love," except metaphorically, in any field which does not admit of its possible reciprocation. Any injunction to love God, therefore, will sound abstract and unreal, till we remember that its cause and condition is that "He first loved us." God's condescension, not man's aspiration, is the beginning of religious life. There have been times when the sense of the Divine oppressed men, and led to superstition. But such times are not ours. The world of the present day believes, but does not tremble. It thinks, and speaks, and acts, and goes about its business as if our race were, for practical purposes, self centred and alone. Many causes have contributed to this. The psychological character of our philosophy, leading to agnosticism; our overestimate of liberty, with its attendant shadow self-assertion, to the comparative neglect of obedience, humility, reverence and awe; the splendid spectacle of our vast achievements in mechanism and science — have all tended to reinforce the natural pride of the human heart. It needs, therefore, a very real effort to bear constantly in mind the fact that we are creatures, and that our nearest relation is our Creator. If we turn, then, to the Divine share in the development of our faculties, we shall see that what we call our action may be better described as God's attraction, and that we advance in exact proportion as we let ourselves be led by Him. We are the creatures, science tells us, of our environment. Yes; but the reason why we are so is that our true environment is God. Take the instance of the will. The denial of its freedom is only a parody of the truth that it must be developed by external law. The laws of nature, the laws of society, the laws of conscience, if we obey them, slowly determine our wills towards that uniform course of conduct which constitutes our character. The character of the scientific, the civilised, the moral man is formed by successive acts of more or less difficult obedience to a particular class of laws. We do not form ourselves, we are conformed to the law; and by every step in that conformity our true freedom is enlarged. And what is this but saying that God, the Source of all law, is for ever at work, attracting our wills into harmony with His will, increasing our liberty, and expanding our capacities, in proportion as that harmony grows more complete; teaching us to see, in what once seemed relentless forces, tokens of His truthfulness, His holiness, His love. The same is the case with our minds. We study a great author, and in doing so, as the phrase goes, make his thoughts our own. But in reality it is he who throws the spell of his personality upon us, and makes our thoughts his. So with all other mental objects, the course of the stars, the laws of mathematics, chemical properties, mechanical forces — they are there, they exist before us; we do not create, we only discover them. Our intellect grows with nourishment, but the nourishment must be given from without. Knowledge, therefore, rightly viewed, is the progressive acceptance of revelation; and thence the moral qualities which we see that it involves. So, too, our power of loving is drawn into activity from without. The tenderness of our mother, our father's protecting pride, the warmhearted affections of the companions of our youth, bodily beauty, nobleness of life, sanctity of soul — all these draw the heart out of us, and teach us what it is to love. But who created them all, and endowed them with their loveliness? God, that He might draw us with the cords of a man, with bands of love. The love of God for us once realised has a constraining power that compels us to return it with all our heart, and soul, and mind. But such realisation never can be ours till our faculties are duly disciplined. Only the heart that knows what true love is can read the indications of God's love for us aright. Only the mind that is directed upward can teach the heart that heavenly knowledge. Only the will that has learned obedience can give the mind its true direction. We must will in order to know, and know in order to love, before we can consciously enter within the sphere of the Divine attraction. There remains the crowning evidence that He first loved us. He gave Himself for us. The Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ is the supreme appeal to our love, because it is the supreme proof of His. And yet there are many earnest theists in the present day willing enough to trace the signs of a Divine presence in the universe, but inconsistently stopping short of a belief in the Incarnation. For it is an inconsistent stoppage on the part of any real theist, since God, who is conceived of as caring for His creatures, must be supposed to reveal Himself in ways suiting their capacity; and an Incarnation, as many a pre-Christian thinker saw, would be the reasonable culmination of such ways of self-revealing. There is evidence enough of God's love for us in the beauty of the world, the beneficence of nature, and all the joy of human intercourse. 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."

(J. R. Illingworth, M. A.)

What is the force that draws men? Somebody says it is light. But men are not all drawn to Christ by light; they are sometimes driven from Him by it. By all means let people have their board schools and so on, but do not imagine that that will ever do the work of the Church. No, Christ must do that. Have you noticed that, in this brush we are having with the Egyptians, Arabi Pasha promised not to go on with the earth works? But when the sun went down, there were the fellows with their barrows hard at work. Admiral Seymour one night turned the electric light on the gentle men, and there they were. But they did not at once put down their barrows and their spades and go away home, feeling very much ashamed at being detected. They rather kept on working day and night. Sometimes when men get light, they rebel against it, and use the truth they have learned as an instrument to their detriment. That has often happened. I would, if I could, turn the electric light on some men's minds and let them see themselves; but I know that in many cases it would increase responsibility and increase hostility, and it would not win the soul. How, then, are men won to Christ? It is by the force of love.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

"Religion is not a creed, but a life." We will venture to put two little words into that sentence, "Religion is not only a creed, but also a life." Is not this nearer the truth?

1. In religion there is a creed. "He first loved us."

2. In religion there is a life. "We love Him."

3. In religion there is a life because there is a creed. "We love because He loved."

(C. Clemance, D. D.)

If we want to know just what the apostle meant when he used these words we must refer to other verses in this Epistle.

1. One of these gives us love's expression. "He sent His Son, the propitiation for our sins."

2. We have love's object. "He first loved us."

3. We have love's intensity. "Herein is love."

4. We have love's achievements. "Behold, what manner of love," etc. (1 John 3:1).

5. We have love's ultimate intentions. "It doth not yet appear," etc. (1 John 3:2).

(C. Clemance, D. D.)

Every Christian grace is some form or other of love. Repentance is love — grieving. Faith is love — leaning. Hope is love — expecting. Courage is love — daring. Patience is love — waiting. And so on through all the list of Christian virtues. And thus we see how it is that a man has just as much religion as he has love and no more.

(C. Clemance, D. D.)

We find indications of the Pagans fearing their gods, dreading them, trying to appease their wrath by sacrifices and offerings, being very much obliged to their gods if they gave them a good harvest, and so on; but nowhere can we recall any indications of a Pagan loving his god! And why? Because the Pagans never knew of God loving them!

(C. Clemance, D. D.)

And as the reflected beams of the sun are weaker than the direct, so are our affections weaker than God's.

(J. Trapp.)

Draw my soul to Thyself by the secret power of Thy love, as the sunshine in the spring draws forth the creatures from their winter cells; meet it half way, and entice it to Thee, as the loadstone doth the iron, and as the greater flame attracts the less.

(R. Baxter.)

God first loved us is the summary of Christian doctrine; we love Him is the summary of Christian morality.

(Luthardt.)

I can think of no better illustration of the relation of the Christian's love to the love of God, than that which is afforded by the contemplation of the rising spray from the Falls of Niagara. Who that has stood beside that mighty cataract, and looked upon the water pouring in a thundering torrent over that stupendous precipice, and watched the mist as it floats upward and backward over the Falls, and outward over the river and land, has not been charmed and filled with holy admiration as he has contemplated this parable in nature? That mighty torrent, pouring itself with ceaseless and exhaustless energy, day and night, into the river below, is what the love of God is to sinners. Who can measure it? Who can estimate it? The thin, and yet beautiful spray, arising from the foot of the Falls, is just a little of these same waters going back in grateful acknowledgment to the source whence they came. So is the believers' love to God. It is the rebound of His own love — only a little, yea, only an infinitesimal portion given back to Him who so loved us. As the spray does not rise by any forced effort of its own, so the believer, who stands under the Niagara of God's love poured out through Christ, will not have to make an effort to love God; his love will ascend without effort.

(G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

You have seen a flowering plant unfold itself under the kindly rays of the morning sun. It eagerly drank in the heat and life that came to it in each rill of celestial fire, and opened itself more and more fully as the beams grew in strength, until at length its whole being seemed to go forth in a glad return of fragrance and beauty. That plant, in its relation to the sun, was a type or symbol, in the material world, of the action and reaction that pass between God and man in the spiritual realm. Analyse the symbol and you observe —

1. That in the nature of the plant there must be a certain affinity with the sun and his rays. But for that the sun might shine for ever, and produce no more vital effect on the plant than he does on a stone.

2. That the plant does not find the sun, but the sun the plant. Initial action proceeds from the sun — the plant at first is only passive and receptive.

3. That what the sun sends down is energy, not instruction how or where to get it, but energy, life, direct and simple.

4. That the life thus radiated evokes responsive action. The plant lifts its head, expands every leaf and petal, follows the sun wherever he goes, and spends itself in works of fragrant beauty in praise of Him who rescued it from darkness and decay.

(P. H. Steenstra, D. D.)

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