Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
I. THE DUTY RECOMMENDED, FROM LOVE HAVING ITS ORIGIN IN GOD. The duty enjoined. "Beloved, let us love one another." John has a winning way of urging duty, addressing his readers as objec
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love
(Mark Guy Pearse.)
Homilist.I. The loving heart, not the INQUIRING INTELLECT.
II. The loving heart, not the CREATIVE IMAGINATION. Imagination has swept the universe, and yet failed to discover God.
III. The loving heart, not the EXCITED CONSCIENCE. The excited conscience has formulated a God, but it has been a God of vengeance, wrath, and fury. God is only known to the loving. If I know the controlling feelings of a being, I know him, though I may be ignorant of his person and his history. Profoundly philosophical, therefore, is the statement that "He that loveth not, knoweth not God."
I. With respect to THAT BEING WHOM WE CALL GOD, infinite as He is in all His perfections, our limited understandings can comprehend only a very small portion of His excellence. "The heaven of heavens cannot contain Him": still less can His nature be compassed by the little span of the human mind. Yet of this much we are assured, that His power is such, as to be incapable of being controlled, and that His happiness is such, that nothing can enhance or augment it. And these are two of the Divine attributes which, when we reflect on the Godhead by Himself, tend most satisfactorily to prove His benevolence in condescending to interfere for the salvation of mankind.
II. From the Sender, let us turn our thoughts to HIM WHO WAS SENT. "God sent His only begotten Son." The greatest trial which human nature can sustain is perhaps the loss of a son, of an only son.
III. AND WHITHER WAS HE SENT? He was sent into a world which was altogether "lying in wickedness." How unbounded, in this respect again, how great, how disinterested appears the love of God!
IV. Let us not forget THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH HE WAS SENT, as a farther testimony that God is love. "He was sent that we might live through Him": for us men, and for our salvation He came down from heaven. And as the love of God is thus manifested, in that we were His enemies, for whose salvation His Son was sent, so is it, more over, manifested by the greatness of the salvation, which was wrought by His coming: a salvation great in every particular respect; great in respect to its extent; great in respect of the deliverance which it affords; great in respect to the means of grace which it now affords us, and of the all-sufficient aid of Christ's Holy Spirit to overcome our natural weakness and corruption; and great in respect of the hope of everlasting glory which it reveals to those who shall hereafter be admitted into His presence.
(Bp. Mant.)I. IN THE SIGHT OF GOD MAN IS A BEING OF UNSPEAKABLE WORTH. And the fact is only intelligible in the light of this first fact, "God is love." It is very easy to prove the insignificance of man. The scientist, for instance, traces him to the ape, and says, "This is where he came from"; or he dissects his brain, and says, "Thought, emotion, love, imagination, poetry, worship — see the marks of every one of them upon this material tablet, which we call the brain." And this gospel story the cynic indulges in cheap sneers at it, and asks if you are going to make an angel out of this sorry being with his vulgar appetites and animal lusts. The sober-minded Deist, out of pure reverence for God, he thinks, refuses to believe the story. That the infinite God should concern Himself with man and his paltry destiny is incredible. And it is incredible. Man is so small, mean, ignoble, unworthy, until you read his story with the eyes of love; until you remember this — "God is love." But every mother will waste the wealth of her brave heart upon the boy in whom no one but herself can see one sign of grace or virtue. But it is a luxury to her to serve him. The man who believes in no prophet but the political economist thinks that Christian philanthropy is sheer infatuation, sheer waste of human energy. And so it is to everything but love. Love sees worth in what to every other eye is contemptible. The poorest, most sin-sodden is to God a mirror in which He sees Himself. Beautiful, of infinite worth to Him! Divine in Him, for "God is love."
II. GOD SEEKS FOR EVERY MAN THE MOST PERFECT DESTINY; THE MOST PERFECT GOOD.
1. The good of man includes the whole man. It includes the body. To preach the gospel of health is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. God intended us to die as the ripe fruit falls from the tree. The physician is God's servant, as well as the preacher. It includes the mind. God claims every pure-minded writer as His workman. It includes the sunniest as well as the gloomiest sides of human life. The frosts of winter work for the harvest.
2. But these things are preliminaries. They exist merely for the sake of a greater thing than themselves. Beyond these there is something still sacreder and more precious — the spirit. Here man finds his most perfect good, and God works through every other good to this. There lies the difference between Divine love and human love. We ignore the highest for the sake of the lowest. We ruin our children in the name of the vulgarest and ignoblest thing in them, and we imagine that to be love. The child's native indolence grumbles against the drill and what he calls the hard work of the school. "Poor overtaxed boy!" says the mother; "I must not permit it"; and he grows up with a flabby mind that is not fit for such a world as this. I often saw in Upper Egypt an ancient temple pulled to pieces to build a village of hovels. I have seen a band of roving gypsies tear down the exquisitely carved panels of an old palace to light a fire to boil their kettle with. And I have seen young people take the studies in which they had been long immersed, and with them light the fires of sordid pleasures and the many foolishnesses of fashionable life. We Use the highest to light the lowest. Not so God. God also has His fire; and the fire is your religious life. And God uses your whole soul, your whole nature, to supply fuel for that fire. Your intellectual life; you read, you think; but you read and think that you may have fuel for the fire. You go through the drill of your daily work, you wrestle with temptations; it is fuel for the fire. You join hands with others in the joy of worship. The Word of God feeds you, the common hymn and the common prayer thrill you; it is all fuel for the fire. This is man's highest good as God reads it; this God feeds, for "God is love."
III. GOD HAS MADE SUFFICIENT PROVISION TO SECURE EVERY MAN'S HIGHEST GOOD. There is a very famous English poem — of course you know who wrote it — it is called "Pictor Ignotus," the painter who chose to remain unknown; the man of genius, the born painter, who refused to paint because men would not understand, would not properly appreciate his work. He would never degrade the genius that was in him by pandering to vulgar wealth. But that is not the noblest genius. Real genius must express itself, even for its own sake. Forgive the illustration. God must express Himself for His own sake. God has poured out the wealth of His redemption. We may reject it or receive it: God must give it. He has been telling it unweariedly through the ages. Men have rejected it, treated it with contempt. It matters not: to God to tell Himself was a necessity, for "God is love."
1. In the redemption of man God has found a work by which He manfully express Himself. Men talk of the wonders of nature. They often become so absorbed in nature that they have no wish to look beyond it. But these were the mere trifles of God's works. God had never been able to tell Himself in these. But Christ came; Calvary came. This is God; this was the solution of the world's problem: God had told Himself at last. Pardon, hope, life, for all the world; the break of the eternal day. This is God.
2. The love of God makes it all credible. It would be impossible to believe it did we not know that "God is love." Everyone believes the Bible to be a marvellous book. It is when you speak of the Cross, when you speak of the "Lamb of God," of the sins of the world being laid upon Him, that men begin to hesitate and stammer. "No, no; that is incredible; that can never be," they say. But love — the love of God — makes even that — makes every item of the story credible. I have seen the miracles that love works. The Cross shall be forever the symbol of love's perfect triumph. It was love, it was love that did it. "God is love."
IV. GOD WILL WORK OUT THE PROVISIONS THAT HE HAS MADE SO THAT THEY SHALL NOT MISS WHAT THEY AIM AT. Set it down as a certainty that God's love will win, that the gospel of love will tell. This love often uses terrible means to secure its purpose. Do not miss that. Not terrible means for the sake of using them, but terrible means because it will not submit to be beaten. Terrible disasters require terrible remedies; but he who can use terrible remedies, loves. So is it with some of you. You have been sore tried; hut God set so much store upon the design He is cutting into you, that He may set you in the fire even yet. He will not miss His aim; for "God is love."
(J. Morlais Jones.)
1. Benevolent affections form the moral beauty of the Divine character. God is love. His independence, almighty power, and unerring wisdom are mere natural perfections; but His benevolent feelings are moral beauties.
2. Men are required to imitate their heavenly Father. Power, wisdom, and all the natural perfections of the Deity are above imitation. There is nothing in the nature of God which any of His creatures can imitate, except His benevolent feelings.
3. The Scriptures ascribe affections to God in the most plain and unequivocal terms.(1) It may be said that the passages which ascribe affections to God are figurative, and ought not to be taken in a literal sense. We are never to depart from the literal sense of Scripture, without some apparent necessity.(2) It may be said that affections are painful, and consequently cannot belong to God, who is perfectly happy. It is true, affections are always painful when they cannot be gratified; and this is often the case among mankind. But since all the affections of the Deity are only different modifications of pure, disinterested benevolence, they admit of a constant and perfect gratification, and always afford him a source of complete and permanent felicity.(3) It may be asked, "How is this notion of Divine affections compatible with that perfect immutability and simplicity which all divines ascribed to the Deity?" We may observe here that there is a plain distinction between such a mutability as does, and such a mutability as does not, imply imperfection. If a man who was a sinner yesterday becomes a saint today, it implies no imperfection in God to change His affections towards that person.Improvement: —
1. This subject may give us some faint conceptions of the strength and ardency of the Divine affections.
2. In the view of this subject we may discover what it was which moved God to the work of creation.
3. It appears from what has been said that God is pleased with the existence of everything which takes place in the universe. His heart is in all His works.
4. This subject suggests matter of great consolation to those who are interested in the Divine favour.
5. This subject warns sinners to flee from the wrath to come.
(N. Emmons, D. D.)I. In the first place, I think we should take this text as it stands — as being literally and completely true. It needs no qualification, admits of no complement. That "God is love" is not one side of the truth, but the whole truth, about God. No addition is possible. The leaf, we are told, is the stem expanded — the stem is the leaf closed. This text is theology closed. All theology is this text expanded.
II. We are to take it as true of God at all times and in all places. Nothing but love has ever reigned on the throne of creation; nothing but love ever will reign. Christ did not create, He revealed, the love of God. The love of God has no shallows. It is equally deep everywhere — Calvary deep Wherever you try it.
III. "God is love." When? Always. "God is love!" Where? Everywhere. Love built heaven. Love made earth. Love made hell; and its pains are the measure of God's love for goodness — its flames are love on fire.
IV. Now, one word as to the effect this revelation ought to have on us. One effect is joy. This text, if we believe it, will assuage our sorrow, lighten our hearts, and brighten our lives. "God is love," I say. "Of course!" you say. How commonplace! But look into old creeds, look into modern philosophy, where God is Force without heart, and Law without pity. Look at your own lives, at the records on the pages of memory. Are you not glad for your own sakes that God is love?
(J. M. Gibbon.)I. Love THE DOMINANT QUALITY.
II. MAN'S PRESUMPTUOUS CRITICISM. St. John's statement does not imply that love's activities are necessarily in accordance with human conceptions of love. Who art thou, O man, with thy limited perception, blind to all the future — who art thou, that thou darest to say what infinite, omniscient, eternal love ought to do? As well expect the fly that crawls on the dome of this majestic cathedral to interpret the purposes and methods, the disposition and attributes of the architect. Do not expect that because God is love you are going to understand all that God is doing around you and for you. It may be a token of the greatest love that you know nothing of it.
III. INDULGENCE NOT LOVE. It is the office of love to seek the final good of its object; to bless the object rather than pamper it; to raise and ennoble and glorify it rather than minister to its passing whims and caprices. Does not this thought interpret some of the mysteries of life to us? Does it not let in daylight and sunlight upon the dark experiences of this sorrowing earth?
(W. J. Hocking.)
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)I. This emphatic description refers to THE NATURE, as well as to the operations of God.
II. The truth of the assertion, that God is love, appears in His PROVIDENTIAL DEALINGS with the children of men.
III. IN THE REDEMPTION OF MANKIND our Lord has displayed the full glories of His love.
IV. The truth of the assertion appears with peculiar evidence, by tracing THE DEALINGS AND METHODS OF HIS GRACE towards every individual who has interest in the Saviour. CONCLUSION:
1. Let me address careless sinners in the language of warning and reproof.
2. Let me address those who, drawn by the attractions of Divine love and redeeming grace, are saying in sincerity, "Whatever others do, we will serve the Lord."(1) Submit, without murmuring, to the various dispensations of His providence.(2) Love this God with supreme regard and gratitude.(3) Imitate this God of love, and seek, through grace, to resemble your heavenly Father.(4) Is that glorious Jehovah, to whom you have devoted your hearts and lives, indeed the God of love? Then recommend Him as such to your friends and families while you are on earth, and long to be with Him in the heaven of heavens.
(M. G. Pearse.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
(W. G. Pascoe.)
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