Chapter 4. Love.

If it behoves us, beloved, to speak with diffidence, and in the spirit of self-judgment about every principle of divine truth, such as the two preceding ones of "Order" and "Obedience," it becomes us still more to be humbled before the Lord, when speaking of "The Royal Law," because there is no divine principle, against which we have failed so grievously, and which is so little exhibited in our daily lives, and because we remember the words of the disciple, whom the Lord loved: "My little children, let us not love in words, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth." Alas! beloved brethren, well may we exclaim: "From whence are we fallen" when we look back, I will not say to those pentecostal times, when the multitude of them that believed, were of one heart and of one soul, as they were one body, so that the selfish world around them could but testify: Behold how they love one another, — but even when looking back upon so short a distance, as forty or fifty years, when, in the power, freshness, and warmth of those recovered divine truths, we knew what it means, to "provoke one another unto love and to good works," and to stir up each other's pure mind! May the Lord keep us very low before Him, and enable us, not only "earnestly to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints," but to "keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."

"Now unto Him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now, and for ever, Amen."

"God is light;" and "God is love." These two are His essential qualities — His very being. We know that power, dominion and authority, wisdom and riches belong to Him. But it is nowhere said in scripture, that "God is power," or that "God is wisdom," etc. We know that God is holy, righteous, and just, and that He is good, gracious, and merciful. But these divine qualities are only the manifest results of what God is in Himself, i.e., "Light," and "Love."

"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."

Alas! how soon did man forget it! He forgot it in the morning light, and amidst the abundance of the garden of the Lord, where each rising sun told him, that "God is light," and the happy creation around him, where God had placed him as head and centre, that "God is love." Listening to the voice of the serpent, he turned in disobedience from the light that shines upon the path of the righteous, to the crooked ways of darkness.

But the same bosom-disciple of the Lover of our souls continues:

"God is love. In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

But what follows?

"Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. if we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we, that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit."

Now, light and love are closely connected, nay, inseparable. For the same apostle writes: "He that loveth his brother, abideth in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him." And further: "God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."

Our thrice Holy, and thrice blessed God, has not only shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ, but He has also shed abroad in our hearts His love, by the Holy Ghost given unto us, He has made us partakers of His own divine nature, and that nature consists of light and love (though He alone is "Light," and is "Love.") And He has given His Holy Spirit of love to dwell in that new nature — the new wine in the new bottles — to draw it out, and to direct its new heavenly desires, thoughts, and affections towards their proper object: even Christ at the right hand of God, that blessed Man, who, during His life on earth as "God manifest in the flesh," was ever the perfect expression of what God is as "Light," and "Love."

And as far as that blessed Spirit of glory Who dwells in you and me, beloved, is in us an ungrieved Heavenly Guest, He will fix our eyes on the glory of Christ, and our hearts on His all-glorious and altogether lovely Person.

And thus we shall be enabled, not only to treat, in the light of His presence, that abominable thing, "Self," which is the opposite and opposer of love, as a judged and condemned thing (as it has been judged and condemned on the cross); but, whilst basking in the sunshine of His love and favour, we shall forget that horrible thing altogether in the Presence of Him, who is the Great "I AM." He Whose train filleth the temple, will fill the whole vision of our minds, and hearts too. Happy privilege, in God's own blessed Presence to rejoice in His Christ, in Whom is His own heart's delight; once lost ones, found by Him, now lost in Him, the sense of His Presence filling us, and the beauty and glory of His Person before us, in the power of His Spirit within us, thus not only to keep "Self" judged, but to forget it. Blessed forgetfulness, whilst thinking of Him, in Whose all-satisfying, and delightful Presence that forgetfulness alone is possible and safe!

"Nothing need our souls dishearten,
But forgetfulness of Thee:
Nought can stay our steady progress;
More than conquerors we shall be
If our eye, whate'er the danger,
Looks to Thee, and none but Thee."

"In Thy presence we are happy
In Thy presence we're secure;
In Thy presence all afflictions
We can easily endure;
in Thy presence we can conquer,
We can suffer, we can die;
Wandering from Thee we are feeble;
Let Thy love, then, keep us nigh."

In our chapter (Eph 5), which deals most fully with the Christian's family relationships, we find in its first part, the divine character in light and love, to be manifested and reflected in the walk of those that belong to the family and household of God.

"Be ye therefore followers [lit.: "imitators"] of God, as beloved chidren. And walk in love, even as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour."

And further on; as to light:

"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light, for the fruit of the light (which is the correct reading) is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth."

Now, love, as we remembered before, is the very opposite of self. It forgets itself, to think only of its object. And just as light cannot be hidden, but manifests itself towards others, so is love. It wants and seeks an object, to make it as happy as it is itself. It cannot be shut up within itself, but goes out towards its object, and spends itself upon it, yea, gives itself for it.

Such is the love of God towards us. That love has given all it had to give and could give. It could give no more. And for whom? This it is, that makes it so truly Divine! What is the most unclean thing on earth? Far more unclean than all the forbidden unclean things in Moses' law? It is a worm in rebellion against God, such as you and I once were, Christian reader! And what has divine redeeming love given for such wretched and defiled objects? Why, the best thing in heaven and on earth! "That Holy thing that shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God." — "And thou shalt call his name JESUS."

Stupendous exchange! Marvellous substitution! Who could effect it but God, who is love. it almost tempts one to exclaim with the monk of Erfurth, when God first opened his eyes to behold the wonder of divine substitution and redemption: "Oh, Beata culpa, quae talem meruisti Redemptorem!" ("Oh, happy debt, that deserved such a Redeemer!")

Love in itself, loves to give and to bless; but divine Love delighted in giving that "ineffable gift" all that even such a God could give — to save and bless sinners, and rebels, and enemies. Human love, when commending itself, is a poor thing; but divine love has a right to commend itself.

His own Son, when He was found on earth in fashion as a man, commends that love in that wondrous sentence, each word of which is, as it were, a gospel in itself:

"For — God — so — loved — the world, — that — he — gave — his — only — begotten — Son, that — whosoever — believeth — in — him, — should — not — perish, but — have — everlasting — life.'"

And after those blessed lips, that thus commended the love of the Father, had been closed in death upon the cross, where that divine Love that had given Him, did not spare Him, when Satan and man did not spare Him; again, God through the third Person of the Trinity, commends His love through the pen of His inspired apostle, in contrasting it with human love.

"For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet, peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die."

"But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

In the third chapter of that grand gospel Epistle, which so properly heads the epistles of the great Apostle of the Gentiles and of the Church, God shows us what man is towards Him: "There is none that seeketh after God;" and in the fifth, He says, as it were, "I will now show you, what I am towards you."

May His love, that passes understanding, draw forth a fuller response from our hearts, in worship and in our daily lives.
"Once as prodigals we wandered
 In our folly far from Thee;
But Thy grace, o'er sin abounding,
 Rescued us from misery:
Thou the prodigal hast pardon'd,
 'Kiss'd us' with a Father's love;
'Kill'd the fatted calf,' and called us
 E'er to dwell with Thee above."
"And not only so!" we may add with the apostle's words in that blessed chapter. For in the same passage before the Spirit of God commends the love of God towards poor sinners and enemies, He tells us that the love of God (i.e., His love towards us) is shed abroad in our hearts by the same Holy Ghost given unto us. Wondrous fact! only to be accomplished by a still more wondrous love; that the blessed God, Who is Love, and gave His Son as the gift of that love, when we were sinners and enemies, being now His Children by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, should dwell in us by His Own Spirit, as the gift of His Son, after He had given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.

And this blessed "Spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind" that dwells in us, beloved, tells us to "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God."

He wants us to realize, in our measure, these wondrous treasures of divine love! — Are we doing so?

Beloved, this world is not only a dark, but a cold place. And even in the "House of the living God," that was once filled with light and love divine, the atmosphere is becoming more and more chilly. The love of many is waxing cold. If the Apostle was obliged to write about the early age of Christendom, that all were seeking their own; what would he say now? Is it less true now-a-days that "all seek their own," than when he wrote down those words? Let our own consciences give the answer. If we want a warm place, we must go to the heart of our ever blessed and "Happy" (makarios) God, Who is love, in the power of His Spirit, by Whom His love is shed abroad in our hearts, and Who points upwards to the glorified and all-beauteous One at the right hand of God, Who is the ineffable gift of that Love, as He is the perfect expression of it. Thus the poor, often fainting heart, begins to bask in the warmth and sunshine of His love. We learn amidst the ruins around, of which we ourselves form a part (let us remember it!), not only to "encourage ourselves in the Lord," as David before Ziklag (only in an infinitely higher sense), instead of needing to be encouraged by others, or to realize with Nehemiah, amidst the ruins, that "The joy of the Lord is the strength of His people;" but we learn to rejoice always in the Lord. The heart gets filled with the sense of the love of God, in giving His only Son; — of the love of the Son in giving Himself, and His Spirit a well of water within us, and through the Spirit of love, it learns to behold that manner of love, which the Father has bestowed upon us.

Alas! I fear we have sadly failed to work that mine of divine wealth, or how different would be the response of our hearts to it, and how much more would our earthly relationships, in the world and in our houses, be the reflections of it! And how different would be our demeanour in the church and elsewhere; how much more would it resemble the traits of that love, drawn by the masterly divine pen of the Spirit, in the thirteenth chapter of the first Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians; so beautifully, and with divine fitness, coming in between the 12th and 14th chapters, those two chapters so abundantly stored with all the divers kinds of divine gifts, wherewith the Spirit of God has endowed the church, like the golden bracelets and earrings, wherewith Eliezer adorned Rebecca. Alas! those at Corinth used them only to adorn themselves, thus turning the blessing of God, given for His glory, and as blessing for others in the testimony of the truth, into snares for themselves, and a stumbling-block to those without. Alas! self appeared, and thus the love of Christ (that constrained the inspired penman of that epistle) disappeared. We cannot have that all-important portion of truth too constantly before our eyes, — on our sleeves, and our frontlets, as it were. Therefore I print it here in full for your and my own benefit, Christian reader.

"But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way."

1 Corinthians 13.
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
"Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
"Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
"Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
"Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
"For we know in part, and prophesy in part.
"But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."

I would not add one single word of comment on such a divine picture of that love, which, besides holiness of truth, constitutes the essential quality of the Christian, as it is, together with light, the essential characteristic, yea, the very being of God Himself. One may endeavour, in one's feeble measure, to speak, as has been done, on some other principles of divine truth, such as order, obedience, etc.; commenting upon them from scripture, but where the Spirit of God Himself has drawn such a lovely picture of love, that bears in every one of its traits, in its completeness and conciseness the stamp of the divine Master-Hand, one justly hesitates to add one word, lest it should spoil or weaken the effect upon consciences and hearts, intended by the grace of its divine Author.

It is therefore not by way of comment, but only as a general remark, that I would just venture to say, that love, as described in the above chapter, though divine in its source and nature, differs from the description of the love of God Himself, as given by the same Spirit in the gospel and first epistle of John the apostle, and in the fifth and eighth chapters of the Romans, as to the way in which its manifestation is expressed. The reason is, that in 1 Cor. 13, the description of that love, which "is of God," is expressed in a way, adapted to the character and nature of the poor frail and defective vessels of His mercy, by which that love is to be reflected and exhibited, where flesh and self constantly oppose, and rise against it, and therefore have to be denied daily. In God, on the contrary, whose very Self is love; "self," and "love," we would say with reverence, are identical, for He is love, which could never be said, even of the most gracious and loving of the Lord's own.* Every one of my readers, for instance, would feel at once, how inappropriate and unbecoming, to say the least, it would be, to apply verses 4 and 5 (1 Cor. 13), as descriptive of the love of God towards us, whilst, when applied to us, those negative expressions are quite in place, because "self" in us, with all its inherent evils, has to be "negatived," i.e., to be denied every day of our lives here below. Hence the different way of expression the Spirit uses, when speaking of the love of God, who is love Himself, as manifested towards us, and the love of God in, us, to be shown towards our brethren or fellow creatures.

{*The disciple whom the Lord loved, had to be rebuked by his divine Master, when he (and James) said, "Lord, wilt thou, that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?"

One word more, before I close this all-important subject. There is such a constant inclination, even in Christians, to look for love in ourselves. I do not mean, looking at self — that barren tree — for fruit, but to look for the fruit of the Spirit (such as "love, joy, peace," etc.,) in our new nature. Nor do I mean looking within, for love to God and our blessed Saviour, but the looking within ourselves (in our new nature), for love for one another. It is again the looking at self in a more refined, and therefore all the more dangerous way. It is just like one, standing before a crab-tree, and admiring some blossoms and fruits on it, which have been imparted to it — not brought forth by it — by means of engrafting. You look at the blossoms and fruits, it is true, but you glance at the crab-tree also, and are but too easily inclined, to identify the fruits with the tree, forgetting the skilful hand, that has produced them by engrafting the new tree. It is indeed a fine sight to see "grace on a crab-tree," which is not our own, for then we are sure to admire the grace, because we see the crab-tree, on which that lovely divine fruit appears, but it is very different to admiring grace on our own crab-tree, or, what amounts to the same thing, to look to our new nature for it, for we are but too apt to confound the new nature with the old one, i.e., flesh with spirit. The Pearsal-Smith movement ought to have a warning voice to us all, as to the insidiousness of the religious flesh in self-perfection.

But, some of my readers may say, is there not such a thing as the fruit of the Spirit, such as "love, joy, peace, holiness, and righteousness?" Stop. There is nothing said about holiness and righteousness in Gal. 5:22, where we find the fruits of the Spirit mentioned.* It is, "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." All that which appears, and ought to appear in the outward walk of the Christian, such as holiness, righteousness, well-doing, etc., is not mentioned amongst the fruit of the Spirit; for the fruit of the Spirit is wrought within us, not in that which appears before, though manifest to men. The latter, such as holiness, righteousness, etc., are the visible effects of the light. The Spirit works within, "in the inward parts" where God "desireth truth," and in "the hidden part," where he will "make me to know wisdom." The word of God nowhere tells us, to look at the new nature for fruit.

{*Eph. 5:9, the true reading is: "the fruit of the light," (not of the Spirit) is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. There we have the sun shining on the tree and producing outward fruits.}

But is not the tree known — outwardly — by the fruit thereof, such as holiness, righteousness, etc.? Certainly. But how does the tree in your garden bring forth fruit? Through your standing before it and looking at it? No, but by being rooted in a good soil, and having the light of the sun and the air above and around it. The apostles prays for his beloved Ephesians, that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ would grant them, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might, by His Spirit in the inner man. And how? By looking within? "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by" — love? No, but by — "faith, and ye being grounded in" what? faith? No, but — "love." Faith does not look at self, nor even at the new nature within us, but it looks off, and looks up to Christ. And so does love. It looks not within, but at its lovely object, that draws it forth — even Jesus Christ — and so loves Him. Effort is no love. How are we to run the race that is set before us, in patience? By looking off unto — Jesus. The Holy Spirit never occupies us with ourselves, except for self-judgment, if we have grieved Him and when we have judged ourselves, He at once points upwards. "He shall glorify me, for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." The tree bears fruit, because it is rooted in the ground, and the sun shines upon it. It instinctively turns towards the sun as does every plant. The Spirit of glory, if not grieved, keeps the eye of faith (that looks at Jesus Christ, and sees Him up there, crowned with glory, and honour) fixed on His glory, and beauty, and we know, beloved, if the eye rests upon a lovely object, the heart soon begins to feed and feast upon it. And thus it is that Jesus Christ "dwells in the heart by faith, as He has entered there by faith. And how do we, like a good tree, get rooted and grounded in love?" Why? through the very looking of the eye of faith at Him, and the feeding of the heart upon Him, Who is altogether lovely. Thus the heart is feasting upon the "hidden manna," upon His all-gracious, and all-beauteous Blessed Person, by Whom "grace and truth," came into this world, where He was always love amidst hatred, as He always was light amidst darkness, and Who is now up there above, "the brightness of glory," and the image of the Father in holiness and truth, in goodness and grace, and all that is divine; and not only so, but He is as the perfect Man there above, with perfect human sympathy entering into the smallest details of the trials, and sufferings of each of His members here below, knowing the very house and streets, where they are living. (Acts 9, 10.) Beloved, will not our hearts, whilst pondering and feasting upon all that is good, and gracious and true and holy, and lovely in that ever Blessed One, by getting filled with the sense of His love, reflect and manifest His love towards others, (always remembering, however, that His love cannot be disconnected with truth,) and shall not we thus become "rooted and grounded in love," and bear the fruit of a good tree, in the warm sunshine of the Presence of Him who is light and love and in the atmosphere of His holiness, grace and truth, "rooted and built up in Him," who to us is our soil, sun and air. Poor and feeble though our love may be, yet we can say, through grace, like Peter, who did not look at his own heart, nor at the new nature within him, when the Lord asked him: "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" But he looked at the altogether lovely Person of his thrice denied, yet ever gracious and ever loving, but faithful Master before him, and said: "Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee." It is the same apostle, that afterwards wrote: "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren: see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently, being born again not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever."

"But we all, looking on the glory of the Lord with unveiled face, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

"Love Divine, all praise excelling,
Joy of heaven, to earth come down!
Bless us with Thy rich indwelling,
All Thy faithful mercies crown!
Saviour, Thee we'd still be blessing,
Serve Thee here, as soon above,
Praise thee, Saviour, without ceasing,
Glory in Thy dying love.

Carry on Thy new creation —
Faithful, holy may we be,
Joyful in Thy full salvation,
More and more conformed to Thee!
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
There to worship and adore Thee,
Lost in wonder, love, and praise."