There never was a time when the affections of the church toward the Lord, as Bridegroom, should be more earnestly and diligently cultivated than the present moment.
His coming is drawing, we believe and hope, very near. With a deepening desire “the Spirit and the bride say, Come,” as the day of union approaches. The bride bids Him welcome, as moved to do so by the animating Spirit to whom is known the mind of the Bridegroom. The desire is reciprocal; and, if so, how fervently should the affections of the bride flow out to Him who not only loved her and gave Himself for her, but who shall presently come for her in person, and take her to be with Himself where He is for ever—“a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).
Could anything be more seemly than such affection? Was it not departure from “first love” that originated the gradual fall of the church from days of pristine devotedness and zeal to the present state of Laodicean lukewarmness, worldliness, and widespread infidelity? And shall we not seek, at least individually, a return to that early love for our Lord Himself which at first made everything of Him and His sacred interests, while the world, with its snares and blandishments, was a thing of naught? What but a deep appreciation of the love of Christ made the early church so separate, so holy, so devoted, and the fire of those affections that burned up the attempts of the imitators, and endured the rage of opponents? The spring of love for the Lord was then supreme. He was everything to her—His bride—and she was, and, thank God, still is, everything to Him. He is the same, be the changing years what they may. “He loved them to the end.”
And has there not been, for many years now, a gracious rekindling in the hearts of His saints of love for the Lord Himself? Has there not been a ministry of the Spirit which has had that, the chiefest of all ministry—the love of Christ—for its object, and a preparing of souls, not for an event, however blessed, but for the actual, personal coming of the Lord Himself?
This, I think, is undoubted. It can be traced through every cloud, and should be cherished in face of every opposition.
Let us remember that our Bible closes with the words: “Surely, I come quickly,” and that the immediate and glad response is, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” It is a beautiful closet. It is the golden promise that was purposely given to cheer the heart of the bride through the, to our experience, long period of the Lord’s absence; and not only to cheer her heart, but to test her allegiance and fidelity to Himself. We know, alas! the result, how the church has failed, but how that, spite of all, His love abides unaltered, while His promise is on the very eve of fulfilment. Hence, on these grounds alone our love for Him, our true, holy, and bridal affections should centre increasingly on Himself.
What more comely, more suitable, more sanctifying?
Then, along with the development of such affections, there should be also that of brotherly love.
We need only turn to the First Epistle of John in order to learn the immense place which love to our fellow-Christians holds in the life of the true believer.
In 1 John 2:10 we read that “he that loves his brother abides in the light.” He is no longer in darkness, for “the light” is in his home, and love to his brother proves that he is there.
Further, in 1 John 3:14, “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.” Thus we learn that love to our brethren is an absolutely essential mark of brotherhood in the divine family. It is the patent proof that we have passed out of death unto life. Not to love your fellow-Christian is, de facto, to hate him, as Cain hated and slew his brother, because, spite of his sacrifice, his works were evil and himself the same. He was not right with God, nor therefore with his brother. He stands before us as a fearful beacon. Then, again, in verse 23 of the same chapter we read, “And this is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” Mark the last word. It is His “commandment” that we should love one another. It is therefore our bounden and sacred duty that we should do so. None more binding nor obligatory; it is just as essential as is believing on the Son of God. Do we realize this duty? Do our renewed affections flow out not only to the Lord, our heavenly Bridegroom, but equally to each and all of God’s beloved children. We are to love one another, as He has loved us (John 15:12). If, if only we did so, how soon would our strife and folly and divisions come to an end, or be happily reduced to a minimum.
But more (1 John 4:7-8), “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and every one that loves is born of God and knows God; he that loves not knows not God, for God is love.” Two facts: first, such an one is born of God—He possesses the divine nature; and, second, he knows God.
Not to love is not to know God (solemn thought indeed), for God is love. If the blessed God has been made known to the soul at all, He is known as love, and He has proved His love by the gift of His only begotten Son, that we might live through Him; and, yet again, that He might be the propitiation for our sins. How blessed! What pure and undeserved grace! How forceful the conclusion: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”
Hence, to love is the proof of being in the light; it is the consciousness of having passed from death unto life; it is the highest obligation of one Christian to another; and it is the reproduction and expression of the nature of that God who is love.
This is brotherly affection! How sacred! How necessary! How essential!
But, mark, in chapter 5:2 we find the salutary statement: “By this we know that we love the children of God when we love God and keep His commandments.” Let this be noted: we only, and in truth, love His children when, first, we love God and keep His commandments. Our affections must be governed by the will of God, so that they may be of a nature divine, and not merely human; but all the deeper, purer, and more fervent on that account, as they flow forth to all His children.
May we cultivate all these precious affections in view of the near coming of the Lord, and also of the nature we possess as the children of God.