may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love,
1 John 4:8). Thus it comes to pass that we can know the love of Christ realizingly just in proportion as we have that which resembles it in our own hearts, and that love is there in virtue of his own indwelling by the Spirit. "The Christ of the Bible manifests himself, and, by the laws of human nature, can manifest himself only to his own image formed in the heart." Thus it is possible to read a new meaning into the beautiful sentence of inspiration, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). Our Lord has suggestively said, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God." There are moral as well as intellectual conditions in the pathway of all extended knowledge. - T.C.
May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height.
(J. Pulsford.)I. THE DIMENSIONS OF THIS LOVE.
4. The height of this love consists in making sinners heirs of God, and bringing them finally to glory (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
II. WHAT THE APOSTLE MEANT, DESIRING THE EPHESIANS MIGHT COMPREHEND IT. "May be able to comprehend with all saints."
1. That they might form correct views of the freeness of God's love (2 Timothy 1:9).
3. That they might exhibit the effects of it in its constraining influence and constant peace (Romans 5:1-5).
III. FOR WHAT PURPOSE HE EXPRESSES THIS DESIRE. "That ye might be filled," etc.
1. That they might be able rightly to value it (Philippians 3:8, 9).
2. That they might depend upon it (James 1:17).
3. That they might honour it (Galatians 6:14).
4. It is inexpressible love.
(T. B. Baker.)
1. The "breadth" suggests to us the extent of that love, the vastness of the field for which it is designed and for which it provides. God loves all His creatures — not one is excluded.
2. The "length" may suggest the duration of His love. It is not a thing of today, suddenly conceived, and that may be suddenly laid aside; it is from eternity, and had its birth before the foundations of the earth were laid. Look back, and back, and back, and you shall not see its commencement! Look forward, and forward, and forward, and you shall never see the termination of it, for it is also "to everlasting." Through the whole of your journey, however long continued it may be, you shall find His love with you.
3. And the "depth." Oh, how low has God come with that wondrous love of His! How He stooped to our low estate. From what depths has He sought to rescue His wayward, erring children.
4. And the "height." "He who ascended is the same also who descended; therefore, God hath highly exalted Him." He is high upon the throne of universal empire; and He says, "Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am." In the same height of glory to which He Himself has gone; to the same height as that throne on which He reigns; to that height of glory He purposes to bring us — a height to which no weapon can reach — a height at which there can be no sin — a height from which every step may be a stepping stone to higher glories. As the lark soars and sings, and soars and sings, so shall we; but not as the lark, which soars aloft, but ever comes back to earth.
(Newman Halt, LL. B.)
I. WHAT, THEN, IS THE BREADTH OF THAT LOVE? It is as broad as humanity. As all the stars lie in the firmament, so all creatures rest in the heaven of His love. Mankind has many common characteristics. We all suffer, we all sin, we all hunger, we all aspire; and, blessed be God! we all occupy precisely the same relation to the love, the Divine love, which lies in Jesus Christ. There are no step-children in His great family, and none of them receive a more grudging or a less ample share of His love and goodness than every other. Broad as the race, and curtaining it over as some great tent may enclose on a festal day a whole tribe, the breadth of Christ's love is the breadth of humanity. And this broad love, broad as humanity, is not shallow because it is broad. Our human affections are too often like the estuary of some great stream which runs deep and mighty as long as it is held within narrow banks, but as soon as it widens becomes slow, and powerless, and shallow. The intensity of human affection varies inversely as its extension. A universal philanthropy is a passionless sentiment. But Christ's love is deep though it be wide, and suffers no diminution because it is shared amongst a multitude. There are two ways of arguing about the love of Christ, both of them valid, and both of them needing to be employed by us. We have a right to say, "He loves all, therefore He loves me." And we have a right to say, "He loves me, therefore He loves all." For surely the love that has stooped to me can never pass by any human soul. What is the breadth of the love of Christ? It is broad as mankind, it is narrow as myself.
II. Then, in the next place, WHAT IS THE LENGTH OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST? If we are to think of Him only as a man, however exalted and however perfect, you and I have nothing in the world to do with His love. When He was here on earth it may have been sent down the generations in some vague, pale way, as the shadowy ghost of love may rise in the heart of a great statesman or philanthropist for generations yet unborn, which he dimly sees will be affected by his sacrifice and service. But we do not call that love. Such a poor, pale; Shadowy thing has no right to the warm, throbbing name; has no right to demand from us any answering thrill of affection; and unless you think of Jesus Christ as something more and other than the purest and the loftiest benevolence that ever dwelt in human form, I know of no intelligible sense in which the length of His love can be stretched to touch you. And if we content ourselves with that altogether inadequate and lame conception of Him and of His nature, of course there is no present bond between any man upon earth and Him, and it is absurd to talk about His present love as extending in any way to me. But we have to believe, rising to the full height of the Christian conception of the nature and person of Christ, that when He was here on earth the Divine that dwelt in Him so informed and inspired the human as that the love of His man's heart was able to grasp the whole, and to separate the individuals that should make up the race till the end of time; so as that you and I, looking back over all the centuries, and asking ourselves what is the length of the love of Christ, can say, "It stretches over all the years, and it reached then as it reaches now to touch me, upon whom the ends of the earth have come." Its length is conterminous with the duration of humanity here or yonder. There is another measure of the length of the love of Christ. "Master! How often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? I say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven." So said the Christ, multiplying perfection into itself twice — two sevens and a ten — in order to express the idea of boundlessness. And the law that He laid down for His servant is the law that binds Himself. What is the length of the love of Christ? Here is one measure of it, howsoever long drawn out my sin may be, it stretches beyond this; and the while line of His love runs out into infinity, far beyond the point where the black line of my sin stops. Anything short of eternal patience would have been long ago exhausted by your sins and mine, and our brethren's. But the pitying Christ, the eternal Lover of all wandering souls, looks down from heaven upon every one of us; goes with us in all our wanderings, bears with us in all our sins, in all our transgressions still is gracious. The length of the love of Christ is the length of eternity, and out-measures all human sin.
III. Then again, WHAT IS THE DEPTH OF THAT LOVE? Depth and height, as I said at the beginning of these remarks, are but two ways of expressing the same dimension; the one we begin at the top and measure down, the other we begin at the bottom and measure up. The top is the Throne; and the downward measure, how is it to be stated? In what terms of distance are we to express it? How far is it from the Throne of the Universe to the manger at Bethlehem, and the Cross at Calvary, and the sepulchre in the garden? That is the depth of the love of Christ. Howsoever far may be the distance from that loftiness of co-equal Divinity in the bosom of the Father, and radiant with glory, to the lowliness of the form of a servant, and the sorrows, limitations, rejections, pains and final death — that is the measure of the depth of Christ's love. As if some planet were to burst from its track and plunge downwards in amongst the mists and the narrowness of our earthly atmosphere, so we can estimate the depth of the love of Christ by saying "He came from above, He tabernacled with us." A well known modern scientist has hazarded the speculation that the origin of life on this planet has been the falling upon it of the fragment of a meteor or an aerolite, from some other system, with a speck of organic life upon it, from which all has developed. Whatever may be the case in regard of the physical life, that is absolutely true in the case of spiritual life. It all comes because this heaven-descended Christ has come down the long staircase of Incarnation, and has brought with Him into the clouds and oppressions of our terrestrial atmosphere a germ of life which He has planted in the heart of the race, there to spread forever. That is the measure of the depth of the love of Christ. And there is another way to measure it. My sins are deep, my helpless miseries are deep, but they are shallow as compared with the love that goes down beneath all sin, that is deeper than all sorrow, that is deeper than all necessity, that shrinks from no degradation, that turns away from no squalor, that abhors no wickedness so as to avert its face from it. The purest passion of human benevolence cannot but sometimes be aware of disgust mingling with its pity and its efforts, but Christ's love comes down, howsoever far in the abyss of degradation any human soul has descended, beneath it are the everlasting arms, and beneath it is Christ's love. When a coal pit gets blocked up by some explosion no brave rescuing party will venture to descend into the lowest depths of the poisonous darkness until some ventilation has come there. But this loving Christ goes down, down, down into the thickest, most pestilential atmosphere, reeking with sin and corruption, and stretches out a rescuing hand to the most abject and undermost of all the victims. How deep is the love of Christ? The deep mines of sin and of alienation are all undermined and countermined by His love. Sin is an abyss, a mystery, how deep only they know who have fought against it; but —
"O Love! thou bottomless abyss,
My sins are swallowed up in thee."I will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. The depths of Christ's love go down beneath all human necessity, sorrow, suffering, and sin.
IV. And, lastly, WHAT IS THE HEIGHT OF THE LOVE OF CHRIST? We found that the way to measure the depth was to begin at the Throne, and go down to the Cross, and to the foul abysses of evil. The way to measure the height is to begin at the Cross and the foul abysses of evil, and go up to the Throne. That is to say, the topmost thing in the universe, the shining apex and summit, glittering away up there in the radiant unsetting light, is the love of God in Jesus Christ. The other conceptions of that Divine nature spring high above us and tower beyond our thoughts, but the summit of them all, the very topmost as it is the very bottommost, outside of everything, and therefore high above everything, is the love of God which has been revealed to us all, and bought for us sinful men in the passion and manhood of our dear Christ. And that love which thus towers above us, and gleams the summit and the apex of the universe, like the shining cross on the top of same lofty cathedral spire, does not gleam there above us inaccessible, nor lie before us like some pathless precipice, up which nothing that has not wings can ever hope to rise, but the height of the love of Christ is an hospitable height, which can be scaled by us. Nay, rather, that heaven of love which is "higher than our thoughts," bends down, as by a kind of optical delusion the physical heaven seems to do, towards each of us, only with this blessed difference, that in the natural world the place where heaven touches earth is always the furthest point of distance from us; and in the spiritual world, the place where heaven stoops to me is always right over my head, and the nearest possible point to me. He' has come to lift us to Himself. And this is the height of His love, that it bears us up, if we will, up and up to sit upon that throne where He Himself is enthroned.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. Like a wise and enlightened teacher, Paul desires for the saints that they should receive THAT PREVIOUS EDUCATION WHICH IS NECESSARY BEFORE THEY WILL BE ABLE TO ENTER UPON SUCH A SCIENCE AS THE MEASUREMENT OF CHRIST'S LOVE. When lads go to school they are not at first put to study algebra, nor are they sent out to make a trigonometrical survey of a county. The schoolmaster knows that they must have a rudimentary knowledge of arithmetic, or else to teach them algebra would be waste of time, and that they must have some acquaintance with common geometry, or it would be absurd to instruct them in surveying. He therefore begins with the elementary information, and when they have learned simpler matters they are ready for the more difficult studies. They climb the steps of the door of science, and then they are introduced to her temple. The Apostle Paul does not propose that the new convert should at once be able to measure the breadth and length and depth and height of the love of Christ; he knows that this is not within the range of his infant mind; for the newborn spirit has a time of growth to go through before it can enter into the deep things of God. If you will kindly refer to the text you will see what this previous education is which the apostle desired for the saints. It is very fully described in three parts.
1. He desired that their spiritual faculties might be strengthened, for he prays that they might be "strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man." The schoolmaster knows that the boy's mind must be strengthened, that his understanding must be exercised, his discernment must be developed, and his memory must be rendered capacious before he may enter upon superior studies; and the apostle knows that our spiritual faculties must undergo the same kind of development; that our faith, for instance, must be unwavering, that our love must become fervent, that our hope must be bright, that our joy must be increased, and then, but not till then, we shall be able to comprehend the length and breadth of love Divine. We are to be strengthened in the inner man by the Spirit of God; and who can strengthen as He strengthens?
2. He desired that the object of study may be evermore before them: "that Christ may dwell," etc. A good tutor not only wishes his scholar may have a disciplined mind able to grapple with the subject, but he endeavours to keep the subject always before him; for in order to attain to any proficiency in a science the mind must be abstracted from all other thoughts, and continually exercised with the chosen theme. You will never find a man preeminent in astronomy unless astronomy has become the lord of mind, and holds a sway over his mind even in his dreams. The anatomist must be bound to nerves, and bones, and blood vessels, as the galley slave is bound to the oar, or he will never master his subject, The botanist must be enamoured of every flower, and wedded to every plant, or the fields will utterly bake him. "Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom." Solomon knew what he wrote when he said, "Separated himself," for without separation or abstraction there can be no progress. Now, the apostle desires that we who are believers, our faculties being strengthened, may have the person of Jesus constantly before us to inflame our love, and so increase our knowledge. See how near he would have Jesus to be! "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith." You cannot get a subject closer to you than to have it on the inner side of the eyes; that is to say, in the heart itself. The astronomer cannot always see the stars because they are far away, and outside of him; but our star shines in the heaven of our hearts evermore. The botanist must find his flowers in their seasons, but our plant of renown blooms in our souls all the year round. We carry the instruments of our saintly art, and the object of our devout contemplation within ourselves. As a scholar carries in his pocket a small edition of his favourite classic, so do we carry Christ in our hearts; what if I say we bear about with us a heart edition of the Liber Crucis, the Book of the Cross. If we knew more fully by experience the meaning of "Christ in you the hope of glory," our heaven-taught affections, which are the best part of our inner man, might be continually exercised upon the person, the work, and the love of our dear Redeemer.
3. The apostle prays further that they may have practical exercise in the art of holy love; "that ye being rooted and grounded in love." Every experienced tutor knows that it is greatly helpful to the student to exercise him in his chosen pursuit upon some lower and inferior branch of it, so as to lead him gradually to the higher points of it. If, for instance, he means him to understand the surveying of estates, he bids him measure a field containing an acre or two. If he means him to map out a country, he sets him first to make a plan of a neighbouring field or a farm. The apostle acts upon the same method. "That ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend the breadth and length of the love of Christ." Having the love of Jesus in you, possessed with love to Christ, you will be practised in the exercise of love, and so will understand the love which filled the Saviour. You will learn to do business upon the greater waters of the Redeemer's infinite love to His people, as you sail upon the stream of your love to Him. Two expressions are used: — "rooted," like a living tree which lays hold upon the soil, twists itself round the rocks, and cannot be upturned — "grounded," like a building which has been settled, as a whole, and will never show any cracks or flaws in the future through failures in the foundation. The apostle wishes us to be rooted and grounded in love, a vital union being established between our souls and Jesus, so that we love Him because He first loved us; and also a fiducial union, or a union of trust, by which we rest upon Jesus as the stones of a wall are settled upon the foundation.
II. We now come to consider more closely the SCIENCE OF HEAVENLY MENSURATION ITSELF. According to the text, we have a solid body to deal with, for we are to measure its breadth and length, and depth, and height. This cubical measurement — for it lieth foursquare, like the new Jerusalem — proves the reality of the body to be measured. Alas, to a great many religious people the love of Jesus is not a solid substantial thing at all — it is a beautiful fiction, a sentimental belief, a formal theory; but to Paul it was a real, substantial, measurable fact. No one knows the love of Christ at all if he does not know it to be real, and no one has felt it in his soul at all unless it becomes so real as to constrain him and move him into actual activity. The apostle desires that when the love of Christ becomes to us a solid reality we may have close communion with it. You may measure the breadth and length of a thing at a great distance, but you cannot very well measure its depth without drawing near to it. What a holy familiarity with Jesus do the words imply when we come to measurements of all kinds! What condescension is this which allows the sacred heart to be fathomed like a sea, and to be measured as a field! Shall the infinite thus bow itself to man? Shall man refuse to commune with such condescending love? Let me come to the very words of our text, and point out to you their order.
1. The first object of the Christian's knowledge should be the breadth of the Saviour's love. I know a certain school of Christians who have need to study this point, for they have a very narrow idea of the Lord's loving kindness. They conceive of Divine love as a very narrow stream, they have never seen it to be a mighty, flowing, abounding, and rejoicing river, such as it really is. The love of Jesus Christ does not surround our favoured island alone, but, like the ocean, it washes every shore. The love of Jesus Christ has been extended to kings upon their thrones, but with equal and more frequent bounty to the slaves in their dungeons.
2. The next object of study is the length of Christ's love. "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." Coeval then with Deity itself is the love of Deity towards its chosen ones. God did love us in His Son long before the world began. If an angel were to start from today with the design of finding out when God's love began he would doubtless fly on till he lingered at the Cross. "Here," he would say, "here is the fountain, here is the source of it all." But he would be reminded that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." Then there was a love before the giving of His Son. He would fly onward till he paused at Isaiah's day and heard of God's love in the prophecy that the Son of man should bear the iniquity of His people. He would say, "Surely it begins here!" But saints would remind him of yet older words of comfort, and he would fly on till he stopped outside of the garden of Eden and heard the Lord say, "The Seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head." "Surely," saith he, "it began here." But, divinely instructed, he would go back yet further, even to the eternal councils where first of all salvation was planned and contrived in the cabinets of wisdom before the world was. He would have to go back, back, back, till creation had vanished, till there remained not a shred of existence except the absolute self-existent Deity, and then in the Eternal Mind he would see thoughts of love toward a people to be formed for himself. This knowledge of the length of love does not always come to Christians early in their history. This love is not only without beginning, but it is without pause. There is never a moment when Jesus ceases to love His people. The love of Jesus knows nothing of suspended animation. There are some rivers in Australia which lose themselves, and for miles along their bed you find nothing but dry stones at certain seasons of the year. It is never so with the love of Christ: it is tong, and without a break from beginning to end; it is a chain without a single broken or feeble link.
3. The depth of the love of Jesus! Consider it as stooping to look upon such an insignificant creature as man! View the depth of that love in receiving such sinful creatures into His embrace! O sinner! you cannot have gone too deep for Christ's love to reach you. O backslider! you cannot have sinned too foully for forgiveness.
4. Think next of the height of the Master's love. You see it is put last, as the highest point of learning, There are some who have advanced as far as to understand somewhat of the depths, who do not know the full dignity and glory of an heir of heaven, and have felt but little of the power of His ascension. Why, the love of Jesus, even in this present life, is a height unspeakable, for has it not lifted us up to become sons of God? Yet, brethren, the height of this love will be best seen in a future state. You shall be borne up to dwell with Christ in the clouds when the world is in a blaze, and when the judgment is passed you shall be carried by angels' wings up to the seventh heaven where God dwelleth. Oh the breadth, the length, the depth, the height! To sum up what we have said in four words. For breadth the love of Jesus is immensity, for length it is eternity, for depth it is immeasurability, and for height it is infinity.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THE PREVIOUS TRAINING REQUIRED FOR THIS MEASUREMENT.
1. He would have their spiritual faculties vigorous.
2. He would have the subject always before them.
3. He would have them exercised in the art of measurement.(1) We must love Him ourselves, if we would measure Christ's love.(2) We must, by experience of His love, be confirmed in our own love to Him, or we cannot measure His love.(3) We must also have a vital grip of Christ. We must be rooted as a tree, which takes many a hold upon the soil.(4) We must settle down on His love as our foundation, on which we are grounded, as a building.(5) We must also show fixedness, certainty, and perseverance in our character, belief, and aim; for thus only shall we learn.
II. THE MENSURATION ITSELF.
1. This implies a sense of the reality of the matter.
2. It includes a coming near to the object of our study.
3. It indicates an intimate study, and a careful survey.
4. It necessitates a view from all sides of the subject.
5. The order of the measurement is the usual order of our own growth in grace. Breadth and length before depth and height.(1) The breadth. Immense.
(a) (b) (c) (d) (a) (b) (c) (d) (a) (b) (c) III. THE PRACTICAL RESULT OF THIS MENSURATION. "That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Here are words full of mystery, worthy to be pondered. 1. Be filled. What great things man can hold! 2. Filled with God. What exaltation! 3. Filled with the fulness of God. What must this be? 4. Filled with all the fulness of God. What more can be imagined? (C. H. Spurgeon.) (C. H. Spurgeon.) (C. H. Spurgeon.)
(b) (c) (d) (a) (b) (c) (d) (a) (b) (c) III. THE PRACTICAL RESULT OF THIS MENSURATION. "That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Here are words full of mystery, worthy to be pondered. 1. Be filled. What great things man can hold! 2. Filled with God. What exaltation! 3. Filled with the fulness of God. What must this be? 4. Filled with all the fulness of God. What more can be imagined? (C. H. Spurgeon.) (C. H. Spurgeon.) (C. H. Spurgeon.)
(c) (d) (a) (b) (c) (d) (a) (b) (c) III. THE PRACTICAL RESULT OF THIS MENSURATION. "That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Here are words full of mystery, worthy to be pondered. 1. Be filled. What great things man can hold! 2. Filled with God. What exaltation! 3. Filled with the fulness of God. What must this be? 4. Filled with all the fulness of God. What more can be imagined? (C. H. Spurgeon.) (C. H. Spurgeon.) (C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Be filled. What great things man can hold! 2. Filled with God. What exaltation! 3. Filled with the fulness of God. What must this be? 4. Filled with all the fulness of God. What more can be imagined? (C. H. Spurgeon.) (C. H. Spurgeon.) (C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. Be filled. What great things man can hold!
2. Filled with God. What exaltation!
3. Filled with the fulness of God. What must this be?
4. Filled with all the fulness of God. What more can be imagined?
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)