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think that we have known something of the love of God; our hearts have heaved ; our eyes have beamed with it; and yet, when we take the three short simple words, «God so loved,” we find in their simplicity a depth of truth that we can never fathom. But, blessed be God, he gives us to believe what we cannot comprehend ; and in the text just alluded to we have a clue to the mystery, sufficient for faith to fasten on, but not for reason to grasp. We can here trace the golden chain in its descent from heaven to earth as it proceeds from the Father, and ceases not till it has reached a fallen world. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." God's love to sinners was concentrated in the person and work of Jesus, in whom all the links of that golden chain were manifested to men and angels. " 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," 1 John iv. 9.
Here we have the grand original of love in the bosom of the Father flowing out to guilty sinners. We have also seen that this love is concentrated in Christ Jesus. As one of the persons of the Divine Trinity, and specially as the destined Saviour of sinners from all eternity, Christ is said from the beginning to have rejoiced in the habitable parts of the earth, and his delights to have been with the sons of men, Prov. viii. 31: and when he became flesh, he represented and embodied in himself the immeasurable extent of God's love to a ruined world. Christ contained in his person the perfect epitome of love: as God, he possessed the wondrous attribute that bears that name ; as man, in union with the Godhead, he had all the force of Divine love transfused into his sensibilities for his fellow-man. Hence the beauty, the unspeakable depth of that expression, “ The love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Rom. viii. 39. And so we have the love of Christ, in all the capacity and sensibilities of his joint nature, declared in such texts as the following :"To know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,” Eph. iii. 19; “ As Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us," Eph. v. 2. Such is “the love of Christ” as meaning that love which Christ bears to sinners; and the idea is simple in kind, though immeasurable in degree.
But the expression may also mean the love felt by believing sinners to Christ. Whence arises that love in the sinner's breast? John tells us, “ We love him because he first loved us,” 1 John iv. 19. Does this mean that the mere recital of
Christ's love, the bare knowledge of the fact that Christ loved sinners, will make sinners love him in return? Far from it. The very offer of mercy, the very declaration of the love of Christ, where it does not soften, will often excite the greater enmity in the sinner's breast. What answer did the Jews make to the personal declaration of that love by Jesus himself in the days of his flesh? “Crucify him, crucify him,” was the emphatic reply.
The natural man can neither understand nor welcome the love that God bears to sinners, still less can it love God in return. But Paul tells us how the sinner is enlightened on this point, how he is made to recognise the mighty love wherewith God loved him in Christ Jesus: “Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us,” Rom. v. 5. What is it that takes place in our hearts and minds when the Holy Ghost enters into them? First, we are “ renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created us,” Col. iii. 10. This enables us to see and appreciate the love of God in Christ to perishing sinners; and then we may say, with the apostle, “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us,” 1 John iv. 16. Next, we are renewed in love, or in the power of loving God, and then we are enabled to say, “ We love him, because he first loved us," 1 John iv. 19.
The reason of this is quite apparent, “ God is love;" the Spirit of God is love. When God gives his Spirit he bestows “the Divine nature,” which is love. Thus the heavenly principle of love springs up spontaneously within the breast of the converted sinner. As the tendency of water is always to rise to the level of its source, so the spirit of love within the Christian (that well of water springing up unto life eternal) rests not till it rise to the living God. And when this law of the spiritual nature comes to act upon the grateful sensibilities of the renewed heart, and through the operations and machinery of the renewed mind, it produces within us that characteristic feature of the new man, “ the love of Christ.” The love of Christ within us! how marvellous in its origin, how simple in its effects ! coming down from the bosom of God, and thus transfused into the heart and acted out by the energies of the converted mind!
How mysterious does the love of Christ often appear to the Christian ! At one moment he feels that he has it, and can exercise it; he feels as though it were a part and parcel of his own mind~-80 palpable is it in its presence, so easy in its
operations : at another moment it seems clean gone, and nowhere to be found; where the love of Christ was, there appears now a blank, an empty space; and to the question, “Where is it?” the heart can make no answer but that of the eloquent silence of its own emptiness. · The perplexity thus occasioned in the Christian's mind can only be relieved by considering the nature and origin of the love of Christ, as above regarded : in short, the love of Christ is the indwelling of the Spirit of God within him. The Spirit bloweth when and where he listeth: when he blows upon his garden, the spices thereof flow out-love is felt. and exercised : when he withholdeth the breath of his gracious influences, no balmy fragrance is shed forth, no love is felt to be in operation. Thus God vindicates the independence of his own Spirit; teaches man that the feelings and experiences of the renewed mind are not self-originated and sustained. Thus he stimulates his people to energy and faithfulness, that the influences of the Spirit be not withdrawn from any carelessness in their walk; and thus He would teach them that their strength is not in themselves, but in the Spirit that dwelleth in them.
At times, when the Christian feels the presence of the love of Christ within him, he gazes at it, as it were, in mute astonishment, and says, " What is it?" He feels an unutterable longing to know its length and breadth, and depth and height. The fact is, that he is trying to find out that which is unsearchable. "Can any by searching find out God?" for the love of God in Christ is as deep a mystery as God himself. The Christian has within him a heavenly visitor, unseen save to the eye of faith; nay, he may feel the very actings of his heavenly inmate transfused into the actings of his own soul; but were he to search to all eternity, he never could fathom the bottomless depths of his character and existence.
This view of the matter should teach the Christian not to despise the love of Christ within himself, either in kind or in degree. If he have the smallest spark of it, he should remember that it must be good, because God has given it. He may have great reason to regret the imperfect use that he has made of the gift; but as to the gift itself, let him be persuaded that not one atom of love for Christ can come from any source but God.
Love constitutes the practical working of the principle of faith, for “ Faith worketh by love.” Faith and love, in one sense, are identical; it is the self-same Spirit that imparts both, and embodies them in the soul. The one can no more enter into the heart of man without the other than the Spirit of God can be divided in his nature. And thus genuine love must exist in any soul in the very same degree that faith exists in it; and so we occasionally find love spoken of in Scripture where we should have expected to find faith mentioned, as in 1 John iv. 17, “ Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment.” We should have been inclined to say, “ Herein is our faith made perfect,” because faith is that which lays hold upon the righteousness of Christ, and, therefore, frees us from the consequences of sin and the dread of judgment. But see how the apostle works it out in what follows: " There is no fear in love.” And wherefore no fear? because love acts upon faith, which frees from fear, and, therefore, “perfect love casteth out fear.” And thus we see that the love of Christ and the fear of judgment are just as incompatible with each other as fear and faith are.
The love of Christ is as simple in its workings in the soul of the Christian as it is divine in its origin and unsearchable in its nature. It assumes the form of a direct, undivided affection, as much as any other feeling of the heart. It constrains the feelings perceptibly, and flows out toward its object palpably; the Spirit of God identifying his operations for the time with the willing spirit of the believer, and employing the machinery of his mind and affections for the carrying out of God's work in the soul. Thus, when we have the love of Christ sensibly active within us, we feel it to be a palpable, undoubted affection for the Lord himself, as much as we can realize affection for any earthly object. Do we not speak to Him? do we not long to feel more intimate with him ? does not our heart affect our eye, so that the fervent tear bears testimony to the reality of the affection ?
But when we cannot realize this love sensibly; when the Lord is absent, as it were, from our affections, have we no proof that we love him? does not the love of Christ constrain us then? Undoubtedly it does. We love him in his word ; we love him in his ordinances; we love him in his righteous will; we love him in his people. We have here the most satisfactory evidences of a real affection. The soul, in all these things, is acting upon its heaven-imparted and renewed sensibilities, while the Lord the Spirit, by withdrawing the sensible presence of the great object of the soul's affection,
vindicates the Divine original and the unsearchable nature of the love of Christ.
SUNDAY MORNING SCENES. Four boys had been away for two Sundays from the Sunday school; the absence of two of them would not have caused surprise, as they were irregular, rude, and ill-behaved children: but the absence of the other two led to the idea that there must be illness in the case; and my place being supplied, I walked over to their parents' houses to inquire about them. It was such a Sunday morning as a poet might delight in
“A sabbath-morn in summer-tide.” Even the air was still; the bright sun had not yet risen to its full power; the cattle in the fields looked at rest; the birds appeared to sing more softly than usual; the very trees were quiet : all was calm, and all was beautiful, and all seemed very good. I repeated to myself the lines
“O God! O Good, beyond compare !
If these thy meaner works are fair,
Where thy redeemed dwell with Thee!” Thus, with a thoughtful heart and a quiet mind, I walked along a pleasant and tranquil country-road, and turned down the lane leading to the cottage of my two good boys.
It was a nice cottage; there was a garden before it, every spot of which was turned to account; even the borders of the well laid-out beds were made of some plants that were useful as well as pretty. It was surprising to see the quantity of vegetables in it, and yet the great blow of flowers which there was in so small a space. The thick, well-clipped privet hedge, that bordered it all round, was made very useful on weekdays, when it was quite white with the nicely-washed linen ; for the owner of that house took in the largest washing in the whole neighbourhood. Then there was a pretty green-porch with two benches, and hung over with sweet woodbine ; and there were deep crimson and pink roses trained against the white walls : and, altogether, most persons who saw that house outside would think its owners did not do much more than take care of it, and adorn it; but if they saw the washing around it on a week-day they could not think that.
The door was shut, and I stood and tapped at it: there