Perfect Love: God abiding in us.
1 No man hath beheld God at any time: if we love one another, God abideth in us, and His love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit.'—1 John iv. 12> 13.
'No man hath beheld God at any time:' the vision of God we may not yet have. The allconsuming, all-absorbing fire of its glory, bringing death to all that is of nature, is not consistent with this our earthly state. But there is given to us in its stead an equivalent, that can prepare and train us for the beatific vision, and also satisfy the soul with all that it can contain of God. We cannot behold God, but we can have God Abiding In Us, and His Love Perfected In us. Though the brightness of God's glory is not now to be seen, the presence of what is the very essence of that glory—His Love—may now be known. God's love perfected in us, God Himself abiding in us: this is the heaven we can have on earth.
And the way to this blessedness? 'God abideth in us, and His love is perfected in us, if we love one another.' We may not behold God; but we behold our brother, and, lo! in him we have an object that will repay us for the loss of the vision of God. An object that will waken up and call forth the Divine love within us; will exercise and strengthen and develop it; will open the way for the Divine love to do its beloved work through us, and so to perfect us in Love; will waken the Divine complacency and draw it down to come and take up its abode within us. In my brother I have an object on which God bids me prove all my love to him. In loving him, however unlovely he may be, love proves that self no longer lives; that it is a flame of that fire which consumed the Lamb of God; that it is God's love being perfected in us; that it is God Himself living and loving within us.
'J£ we love one another, God abideth in us. Hereby know we that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit.' The wondrous knowledge that God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us, is no result of reflection, a deduction from what we see in ourselves. No, Divine things, Divine Love, the Divine indwelling, are only seen in a Divine light. 'Hereby know we them, because He hath given us of His Spirit. John remembers how little the disciples understood or experienced of the words of Jesus until that never-to-beforgotten day when, in the light of the fire that came from heaven, all became luminous and real. It is the Holy Spirit alone, not in His ordinary gracious workings, such as the disciples too had before that day, but in His special bestowment, direct from the throne of the exalted Jesus, to make Him personally and permanently present to the soul that will rest content with nothing less—it is the Holy Spirit alone, by whom we know that God dwelleth in us, and we in Him, and that His love is perfected in us.
It is in the Christian life now still, even as it was then. It is the special work of the Holy Spirit to reveal the indwelling God and to perfect us in love. By slow steps we have to master now one side of truth and then another; to practise now one grace and then the very opposite. For a time our whole heart goes out in the aim to know and do His will. Then, again, it is as if there is but one thing to do—to love—and we feci as if in our own home, in all our intercourse with men, in our outlook in the Church and the world, we needed but to practise love. After a time we feel how we fail, and we turn to the word that calls us to faith, to cease from self and to trust in Him who works both to will and to do. Here once more we come short, and we feel that this alone can meet our need—a share in the Pentecostal gift—the Spirit given in power as not before. Let none faint or be discouraged. Let us seek to obey, and to love, and to trust with a perfect heart. In that whereunto we have attained let us be faithful. But so let us press on to perfection: let us confidently expect that this portion too of the word will be made all our own: 'If we love one another, God abideth in us, and the love of God is perfected in us. Hereby know we it, because He hath given us of His Spirit.'
It is only in the path of love—love in practical exercise seeking to be perfect love—that this wondrous blessing can be found: God abiding in us, and we in Him. And it is only by the Holy Ghost that we can know that we have it. God abiding in us, and His love perfected in us: God is Love; how sure it is that He longs to abide with us! God is Love, who sends forth the Spirit of His Son to fill the hearts that are open to Him: how sure it is that ■we can be perfected in love. A perfect heart can count upon being filled with a perfect love: let nothing less than perfect love be our aim, that we may have God abiding in us, and His love perfected in us; we shall know it by the Spirit which He hath given ua