'T is not possible to take up this subject of "Love to the Lord Jesus," without speaking at the same time of His love to us. If we want to warm a man benumbed with cold, we must bring him to the tire; and if we want to keep him warm, we must keep him at the fire. So I see no escape, with this programme before me, but to speak first about His love to us.
Let me begin by removing what might seem to be an imputation upon God's love to us, and which would interfere with our love to Him. We read, "I love them that love Me" (Prov. viiL 17): and then we read again this other word, "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John iv. 19). The two passages do not seem consistent with each other. But Solomon was too wise in the things of God, and the Holy Ghost who inspired his words knew too well the mind of God, to make any mistake. And John, who lay in his Master's bosom, knew it all well, and it is he who says, "He first loved us." The analogy of a parent's love explains the whole. The parent loves the child long before the child understands what love is; but as the child grows up, its love, drawn out by the parent's love for it, and shewn in daily acts of filial obedience, draws forth new and special manifestations of love for the delighted parent. Even so, it is quite true, "He first loved us;" and it is also quite true that, when we keep His commandments, His love is manifested to us more and more in peculiar tenderness (John xiv. 21).
There is a passage in John's Epistle that is sometimes applied to the children of God to their hurt. It is this, " Perfect love casteth out fear" (1 John iv. 17). Some give that away to the disciple: now I claim it for my Lord. In the original there is an article before the word "perfect," so that it reads, "The perfect love casteth out fear." And where was perfect love manifested but on Calvary 1 Beloved friends, faith learns that love, faith apprehends that love; and if you would have victory over fear, it is by seeing this perfect love, and its manifestation on the Cross. There it shines in noon-day splendour. It is not your love that is meant; that, however real, will not be perfect here. And if you say, "You forget John follows it up by saying, 'Herein is our love made perfect'" (1 John iv. 18), I claim this also for the Lord. Look at the margin. It is, "Herein is the love with us made perfect." It is the love of God come down from heaven to us; it is Lnmanuel-love. The apostle says, "Herein the love which came down from heaven into our hearts is made perfect." And this expression, " Is made perfect," has the same meaning as when the Lord Jesus used it concerning Himself in Luke xiii. 32, "The third day I shall be perfected;" and as in Hebrews ii. 10, "The Captain of our Salvation made perfect through suffering." Fully installed into office is the meaning in these places. And so also here the meaning is—the love of God reaches its goal, or is installed into its full office, when it enables the believer to have boldness in the day of judgment. As long as you have fear in your heart, you have not fully apprehended that perfect love of God. Take in that perfect love of God manifested in Christ, and you will have boldness in the day of judgment—in the day of His Coming which is drawing near. Yes, you will have boldness in that day, when the wicked shall cry to the rocks and mountains to hide them from the face of the Lamb. The saints, ascending from the tomb, shall say, "Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him." There is nothing but bold ness for us in that day, not because of our love to Him, but because of His love to us.
Having thus cleared our way, let me remind you of some things said about this love in the Old Testament. You remember that passage in the Song (chap. viii. 6), ''Love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave," &c. Who says this? It is the Bride, as she leans on the Bridegroom. She says, "I know of a love stronger than death." It is His love that is stronger than death. Death is stronger than all things but God. It overcomes all on earth; but Christ's love is stronger still. There is no barrier in its way which it will not break down. Guilt and sin He put out of the way by the Cross; the corruption of our heart He overcomes by His Holy Spirit, and nothing can separate us from that love of His. Many years ago, Mr. AndrewGray (whose memory is fragrant in this city) and Dr. Malan were talking together about the grace of God. Dr. Malan suddenly said, "Brother, you would not go to heaven if you could help it; but, brother, you must and shall go." Mr. Gray was somewhat startled; but Dr. Malan, in his own way, was giving emphatic expression to the truth, that it is just the infinite strength of this Love—Love that will never unloose its grasp— which keeps a believer, in spite of earth and hell and his own corruption.
Then, further, it is "jealous love;" for that is the meaning of "jealousy cruel as the grave." It will not be interfered with; it must have the whole heart. He is determined you shall be all His and His alone. He seeks the whole heart. And it looks often cruel, that jealous love of His. He will send you trials, He will sweep away idols; sore afflictions and bereavements come, and He seems deaf as the grave to your tears and mourning cries. But it is all love. It is His jealous love—the heart-love of God which would not let you hurt yourself by putting another object in His place.
Then, it has "coals of fire." There is intense heat in it, a fervour worthy of God. And so (as it stands in the Hebrew) it is said to be "Like coals of fire, Jehovah's flame" most vehement. It is the flame of Jehovah, as if no other comparison could be found for it. It is Jehovah's affection, Jehovah's loving heart. Do you not feel ashamed of the coldness of your hearts when you think of His?
Then, its manifestation is only beginning now. It is in the ages to come He is to show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us (Eph. ii. 8). These ages begin when the Lord shall return; we are only in the dawn yet; and if the dawn be so wondrous, what will the noon of glory be? Does it not set your heart a tingling to think of this Love? Many waters could not quench it, and many "floods cannot drown it." The objects of that love were sinners, against every one of whom could be established the charge of guilt most heinous, rebellion, enmity, ignorance, base ingratitude, folly, pollution; yet His love was not cooled, far less quenched. And when Satan offered Him all earth's glory at once, if He would forego His errand of redeeming love, He did "utterly despise" the offer.
Now, then, what is your love to Him in return? Is it "strong" as death 1 Could you face death for Him? I do not mean merely could you die once for Him ?— but is your love strong as death every day? Is it such as can face the world and your own corruption every day, and not be overcome? A martyr's death is not the worst death after all. By far the sorest is the daily victory over the flesh and the world. In Germany, some time ago, I saw a terrible instrument of torture called "The Maiden," which opened to take in its victims, and with rows of sharp-pointed spikes closed on them, piercing head and heart through and through. I don't doubt but that you could face that appalling death; for, beloved friends, it is not so difficult to face that death once as it is to live every day in the midst of cold-hearted professors, and keep a glowing heart to Christ all the time.
Then, is your love to Christ a "jealous " love 1 His is jealous towards you. Are you on the watch against the world getting into His place? And is it easily cooled? Many such questions we might ask, if time permitted.
But, for a moment longer, let me take you to a New Testament passage. Look at Eph. iii. 17: "Rooted and grounded in love," the apostle says. The believer's roots are in it. Look at that! And when Paul prays that with all saints we "may be able to comprehend what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;" it is as if He had said, If you wish to know what height is, try to scale the heights of this love. If you wish to know what depth is, try to fathom this love. If you would know what length and breadth mean, try to measure this love. You will only reach thus far, viz., you will perceive that it "passes knowledge."
In Paul's day, the mist that had for ages rested on this ocean had risen. And what had they discovered? God-man, the Christ of God, the mighty Sacrifice, laid on the altar! He bore the fire, and bore the curse, and bore the Father's expression of his hatred against sin. "Herein indeed was love" (1 John iv. 10). O man of God, look at this cross and see His love. Study that love which you are to study for ever, and press on to that day when you shall know it as you never can know it here. And stir up others to join with you, for this love is best studied "with all saints," each one helping the other.
I close by asking you, beloved, do you cultivate the meditation of that love in your heart? If there be one here who wishes to quench unholy love, this love will do it; and if there be one who seeks to have more brotherly-love and love to all men, it is here his heart is set on fire. "Whom having not seen we love!" and how then shall we love Him when we see Him and are with Him for ever! Do you ever feel like Samuel Rutherford, when he says, "O Thou the the Father's eternally-sealed Love! O Flower and the Bloom of heaven and earth's love, give me leave to stand beside Thy love, and look on and wonder. O Love, slain and crucified for me, give me leave to love Thee! at least, give me leave to wish to love Thee, if I can do no more."