The Love of God.
THIS is a subject which it is difficult to speak of or to write about. It cannot be adequately treated. God only knows the love of God. But we may learn much concerning that love from the Scriptures, and we may, through grace, know it experimentally, as the saints have ever known it, in degree, and according to the capacity of the vessel.
Much is taught in the first Epistle of John concerning the love of God. We read:—
1. "God is love." Good it is for us to know that this is so, but if there were no further revelation than this, there could be no rest for the conscience of a man who felt himself a sinner against the God who is thus revealed.
2. But we read further, "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him" (1 John iv. 9). This is an advance upon the first statement. Not only is God love, (which conceivably He might be while yet He withheld the proof of it), but He has been pleased to make His love manifest, and that in its highest expression.
"God is love, I surely know
By the Saviour's depths of woe."
The sun shines in the heavens, diffusing everywhere, light and heat. Light must flow from it, because it is the sun and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. But the heat may, by means of a burning-glass, be intensified and brought to bear upon an inflammable object so as to kindle it into a flame. When this is done, that which had been diffused is, by the means employed, concentrated and brought into a focus. And thus, if it may be said with reverence, has it been at Calvary, the place where love is displayed in such a way as to kindle love in those who look upon Him who there was crucified.
3. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us" (1 John iii. 1). This again is an advance. The love which has been manifested has also been bestowed. We not only behold it, but we are invested with it. It is transitive, and has reached over and laid hold upon its object. In this view, love is like the best robe which was a suit on the returned prodigal. The robe was, no doubt, a goodly garment to look upon, but it was not merely exhibited to the prodigal, but put upon him so that he was enwrapped by it and felt its contact.
An incident like the following has been narrated and may here be quoted. Some well-disposed persons in London, who sought to do good to their fellow-men, both in soul and body, became interested in a man who had been a thief. They gave him a suit of clothes, and when he had put it on, they said to him, "You look like a gentleman." The man made answer, "I am only a poor London thief clothed in your charity." And that is just what we are, all of us poor sinners indeed, but garmented and wrapped around with the love of God.
God is love; He has manifested His love, and He has bestowed it. Thus far John. In the Epistle to the Romans, we read this other and further truth:—
4. “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Chap. v. 5). The Holy Ghost has been given unto us and the love of God is by Him shed abroad in our hearts. His presence and operation are both taught in the passage. He dwells in those who believe, and being within them, His gracious office is to diffuse the love of God in their hearts. The writer was once descending the river Rhine, and at Bonn on that river, he saw what looked like a lawn, in front of a house, standing on the bank, and beside the lawn, a fountain. Now, any fountain which the observer had seen before, sent the water into the air, so that it fell back into a basin and flowed away without any apparent beneficial result. But this fountain had a sort of rotatory arm, which threw the water over the lawn and kept it fresh and green for the owner thereof. That was what it was there for. May the simple illustration be of some help to show what is meant by the passage in Romans which has been quoted!
It is a long way from God in the highest to the heart of a sinner, but that way has been travelled. The love that exists in God, and which He has manifested in the gift of His Son, has been bestowed upon us and is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.