Love to the Unseen Christ
1 Peter 1:6-9
Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations:…

We are apt to suppose that, had we lived in the days of Christ, our faith and love would have been very much nearer perfection than they ever can be now. Witnessing the expression of His countenance would have given so much fuller a comprehension of His character, that our strongest affections would necessarily have been moved towards Him. There are persons who need the perceptions of the senses to help out the operations of the understanding, before they can realise facts with sufficient distinctness for their feelings to be excited. But this is not true of most earnest minds — of some, it is the very reverse of the truth. It is the same with regard to both Christ's teaching and His moral qualities, as with regard to all other things in life — the mind comprehends only what it is prepared to receive. Things affect us, not only according to their nature, but according to our own. What we see depends, not only upon what there is to be seen, but also upon our capacity for seeing. Goodness and purity immeasurably above us will only affect us in that degree in which we are able to take them in. Hence, those Jewish disciples standing around our Saviour, gazing into His eyes, would only be moved by His character, in proportion as their own goodness, purity, and inner spiritual beauty enabled them to enter into sympathy with Him. Then, too, there is another consideration greatly in our favour: the love which rests upon the idealisation of a character must, necessarily, be more refined and spiritual than that which is derived through the sensuous perceptions. For the senses lend influences of their own, which, mingling with the spiritual elements, prevent the pure and simple operation of the latter, and oftentimes distort their proper impressions, Hence, a man's character is frequently better understood by those unacquainted with his person than by those round about him. And, still more frequently, it is only when distance of space or time removes the sensuous presence that the spiritual qualities of a man become thoroughly understood. And, upon this principle, too, it is that a friend removed from us by death, soon loses, in our imagination, his distinctive physical characteristics, whilst his moral and spiritual qualities Stand out more and more clearly defined. To this objection it may possibly be replied, why should our love for Christ be different from the love called forth by our living companions and friends? Why since He was in all points like unto us, should not the sensuous mingle with the spiritual? I answer, first, because it is unnatural; seeing He is removed from our sight, we can truly only follow the natural law of our minds and draw an ideal representation of Him. But, secondly, and most of all, because the whole spiritualising influence of the love depends upon its spiritual character. For the power of the love of Christ to elevate us depends upon two elements, First, although it is love for a son of man, it is a son of man who is not standing before us in hard forms of sense, but whose very humanity becomes to us as a spiritual essence, who eludes us when we attempt to grasp him, but who takes all the brightest lines our purified fancies project upon him. And this impalpableness of the sensuous image leads us, more and more, to enter into the second element upon which the power depends, namely, the spiritual and moral qualities of his nature. By dwelling almost exclusively upon these, the mind becomes, as it were, saturated with their influences, and is brought into closer and closer sympathy with them. The ideal it thus forms of the Christ is continually rising higher and higher; brighter and more candescent with Divine holiness, truth, goodness, spiritual beauty, the wondrous image glows — no wonder that the adoring, quickened soul enthusiastically exclaims, "Whom having net seen we love." And the qualities upon which this love for Christ rests, are the qualities upon which all true love ever rests. For love is the going forth of spirit to spirit, of soul to soul — the giving of one's own inward spiritual life to another. When the soul thus discerns Him, all its deepest life is awakened; admiration, delight, and ineffable joy harmonise as melodious chords of holy music within its inmost being; it yields itself in love to Him whom thus it knows. And it is worth our while to note the qualities which the soul thus discerns in Christ which so call forth its love.

1. First of all, there is the Divine truthfulness. I mean the inward harmony of the thought and feeling with God's law, with God's idea, with eternal and unchangeable facts. Stronger, by reason of this truthfulness, than the granite rock, more immovable than the mountains of Lebanon, He stands forth for God, and for God's law of right within Him.

2. But, then, this truthfulness led to purity; for purity is truth reduced to life; it is the embodying of what is right in one's own character. And you know how the Saviour did this. You know how He followed the right through evil and good report. There may, however, be all this, but in hard forms like the granite rock, glittering in the sun and standing out with its sharply defined, hard lines against the sky, exciting our wonder and admiration, but touching no chord of love in the heart.

3. And therefore there must be love — the gentleness and tenderness of a loving nature added on to and rising out of these. Annihilating self, it seeks to lavish the resources of its own life and blessedness on the world around. And I need not dwell upon the manifold forms in which this gentle and tender love manifested itself in Him who did not cry nor cause His voice to be heard in the streets — who brake not the bruised reed nor quenched the smoking flax. But then, I take it, that it is neither the truthfulness, the purity, nor the love which in itself and alone calls forth our love. But these qualities constitute, when existing together in their proper proportions, that wonderful thing which we call spiritual beauty — a thing we all recognise, according to our culture, when we meet with it, but which is so subtle as to defy our definition. Whilst theologians have been constructing their theories and doctrines about the Divine nature, and rival sects have been fighting for their individual shibboleths, the simple, loving souls of all churches have, out of the brief narratives of the Gospels, been idealising to themselves the Christ, and before the overpowering spiritual beauty which thus they have discerned in His character, have yielded their heart's strongest love and purest devotion.

(James Cranbrook.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:

WEB: Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been put to grief in various trials,

Love to Christ
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