1 Peter 1:6-9
Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations:…
Affections are evoked, not created, educed from within, not implanted from without. The quality of the object determines indeed the kind and quality of the affection. Perfect love is perfect joy only where the loving and the loved are alike good, holy, and true. Love again may be evoked in one of two ways — by instinct and nature, or by reason and spirit. If a man loves his son simply because the boy happens to be his, or a woman her daughter simply because the girl chances to be hers, and for no other and higher reason, the love is only blind impulse; it has no regard to actual or possible spiritual qualities, or any high moral end. But love awakened through the reason and in the spirit is spiritual love. The qualities admired belong to the spirit, the eye that sees is the spirit's, and the admiration excited lives in the spirit. Instinctive affection is blind and arbitrary, but spiritual is not. Many a man would perceive and despise in another boy the moral qualities he scarcely observes in his own son. The first is due to a relation, natural or arbitrary, but the second to worth, personal, inherent, moral, real. Instinctive affection may be blind and impure, but spiritual must be altogether lovely and true. Perhaps it may now be superfluous to remark that the Christian's love to Christ must be of the latter kind. The sight is spiritual and the affection the same. The love may lack the passion and intensity of instinct, but it has the calmness and the power of spirit. The claims of Christ have not appealed to eye and ear, but to heart and mind. We love Him, not for His beautiful face, or fine voice, or winsome ways, but for His mercy, and grace, the righteousness and truth that blend so perfectly in His character. The moral excellencies of Jesus, and these alone, can be inexhaustible sources of spiritual love. This distinction may enable us to deal with a too common difficulty. Many a devout soul has said, "I cannot love my Saviour as I love my child. I do not, I cannot, love God more than I love my husband. There is an intensity in my affection for my family and friends entirely wanting in my affection for Divine things. I need to be reconverted. I must be altogether wrong." But the error lies in confounding things that differ. Man's affection for man must be more or less instinctive. Man's love for Christ must be altogether spiritual. Our love for Christ, then, while wanting the warmth of our love for man, has more depth and root in our being; while its form is less fervent, its essence is more real. The one seems to be, but the other in reality is the greater. Indeed, it cannot be rightly compared to our love for the living. It resembles much more closely our love for the dead. Death at once sanctifies and spiritualises our affection. It is, then, no hardship to have an invisible Saviour. We can love Him the better that He is unseen. Were God localised, He would seem to our thought much less awful and majestic than when He is conceived as everywhere, like the air we breathe, the element in which all beings live. It is, perhaps, not too much to say that the disciples never loved Christ aright till He became invisible. Their love had much of the intensity of passion, co-existed with much self-seeking. But when Jesus .ascended all this was changed. Their affections were enlarged and clarified. Note, now, how this invisibility enables the mind to glorify, to idealise Jesus, as the object of its love. The senses are very prosaic and tyrannical. They see but a little way into a man, and retain only what of him is superficial and transient. The image of Christ that haunted the disciples would be very unequal, one of blended power and weakness, glory and shame. He would rise in their memories now as a weary man, sitting on Jacob's well, or asleep in the hinder part of the ship, and again as a mighty God, feeding the hungry multitude, or stilling the tempest. Now, He would be seen amid the glories of the transfiguration. But in our ease there is no such hindrance. We enjoy the privilege of never having seen Jesus. The Saviour, we know, is one whose griefs are past, whose glories have come, "whom having not seen we love." Imagination should often come to the help of love. Does not the loved, lost mother appear adorned with every grace, and the father apparelled in every virtue? Does not boyhood, too, gleam to the old man, when he recalls the meadows on which he played with a light such as the sun never threw from its burning face? And since imagination can lend a brilliance of hue, a splendour of colour to the objects of time, calling forth deeper and tenderer love, why not to the Object at once of sacred memory and eternal hope — the invisible Saviour? The love of the invisible Jesus may thus be developed in us like any other normal affection, and our growth in grace will be commensurate with this development. Here we may note God's wisdom and goodness in thus enlisting our natural capacities on the side of our own eternal interests. But can we define this love? What are its constituent elements? Love, like light, seems simple, but is in truth compound. In a simple beam of white light there are varied colours. Pass the beam through a prism and it breaks into those bright and dark hues that blend so beautifully in the rainbow. The beam is one, yet several, each constituent colour being necessary to its very existence. So love has its essential elements, each complementary to the other, and all combining to give it real and ample being — goodwill, approbation, delight, desire, and trust. Where any of these is not, love cannot be. O Thou Christ of the living God, teach us to love Thee, not simply as a short and easy method of deliverance, not as a convenient way of escaping the terrible pains of hell; but as our Brother, our Fellow, our Friend, our one Supreme Good, in whom alone everlasting happiness and peace can be found I And now, consider what a privilege, what an honour thou hast in being permitted to love the invisible Jesus. Pencil cannot delineate His perfection; colour cannot express His beauty. The human form must be transfigured and transformed into the Divine, ere it can tell the glory and the grace of the indwelling Christ. We would not then, O Christ, wish Thee to become visible — One we could see with our fleshly eyes, and handle with our fleshly hands. Remain Thou within the veil; there Thou art worthier to be loved; and while here we abide we shall enjoy the blessedness of those who, because they have not seen, have only the more believed and the better loved.
(A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: