Deuteronomy 6:5
Attention is summoned for the reception of central truth, viz. the unity of the Godhead. At that period, this doctrine was in great peril. All the Orientals believed in "lords many and gods many." Science here confirms Scripture. The unity of design, running through all natural law and force, indicates clearly unity of the Creator. To know the true God is, for honest minds, to love him. But rebellion of heart has engendered repugnance towards God - dislike, hatred, enmity.

I. THE SOURCE OF ALL AUTHORITY IS A BEING OF ESSENTIAL GOODNESS.

1. He is sole Monarch, incomparable and unapproachable. He dwells alone, higher than the highest creature. The disparity between him and an archangel is immeasurable,

2. He is absolutely perfect. Every attribute and quality that is essential to perfection is found in him. "He is light," having no dark shade anywhere.

3. He is the Source of life: Jehovah - the Living - the Life-giving. All we have, and are, and hope to be, is derived from him.

4. He has deigned to come into intimate relation with us. He has made a voluntary compact with us. He calls us his people. He allows us to call Lira our God. We have a proprietorship in him.

II. THIS GOD DESERVES THE CENTRAL PLACE IN OUR HEARTS. Because of the moral beauty and essential goodness of our God, he is incomparably most worthy of human love. To give to any other a higher place in our affection than we give to God, would be an outrage against righteousness, fitness, and self-interest. For all these faculties and susceptibilities of the human heart have been fashioned by God himself, and have been fashioned for this very purpose, viz. that we should bestow our worthiest love on him. If this eternal design be frustrated, there is violence, disharmony, misery within. Such love is commanded. It is a duty as well as a privilege. Though we cannot instantly and summarily command our love, we can indirectly. We can fix our thought on the worthiest object of love. We can contemplate his charms. We can appreciate his goodness. We can assure ourselves of his love. It is to be an intelligent, reasonable, practical love.

III. THE LOVE OF THE LAWGIVER PRODUCES LOVE TO HIS LAW. Law is a projection of God's thought, a mirror of his mind, an overt act of love. The true child will highly esteem every known wish of its father. To have practical direction from an unseen father will be treasured as a choice token of that father's regard. If children, we shall hide every word of our father in our memory and in our love. Every wish of his heart will be a visible feature in our life. It may be painful to the flesh, but it will be pleasant to the soul. To the dutiful child, obedience is a luxury, a banquet of joy. "Oh! how I love thy Law!" exclaims the pious Psalmist. "Thy Law is within my heart." Thy Word is to me as honey, as the droppings of the honeycomb.

IV. LOVE IS THE MOTIVE-POWER OF SPEECH. The tongue is the servant of the heart. We speak freely and fluently of that which is dear to our hearts. The child will speak freely of its toys anti games, the farmer of his crops, the artist of his works. If men esteemed and valued God's Word, they would spontaneously converse of it, morning, noon, and night. It would be a painful restraint upon our desire if we withheld our speech. This precept of Moses need not be an external law imposed upon us from without; it may become the living law within, "the law of the Spirit of life."

V. LOVE CONSTRUCTS ITS WHOLE LIFE ON THE MODEL OF GOD'S LAW. The hand will become the instrument of righteousness. On it will be written God's Word, viz. industry, honesty, restraint, generous kindness, helpfulness. God's Word will be our ornament. Instead of gold and jewels upon the forehead, "our adornment will be" modesty, chastity, cheerfulness, moral beauty. God's Name will be indelibly inscribed upon our foreheads. Oar domestic affairs will be ordered by the Divine will. We shall write his Word on the posts of our houses. Every home in which love dwells will be a temple. Order, active piety, frugality, peace, mutual service, will be the principles conspicuous in godly homes. And our municipal and political life will be conducted on the same line of obedience. Legislation, justice, taxation, commerce, literature, art, will all be consecrated to God's glory. As the flowers of earth send their fragrance heavenward, so from every act of ours a fragrance of homage should ascend to God. - D.







Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.
1. This verse is the meeting point of the law and the Gospel. Very wonderful it must have sounded in the ear of Israel. To be bidden, not only or chiefly to fear Him as the God revealed in lightnings and thunderings and voices on Sinai; not only or chiefly to keep themselves from provoking a wrath so awful, a jealousy so sensitive and so terrible; but to love Him, to love Him as the whole of duty, to love Him notwithstanding — nay, partly because of — His incommunicable glory!

2. The words are very strong, very touching: "With all thine heart." Let the affections, even the emotions, find in God their object and satisfaction. "And with all thy soul." Let the immortal thing within thee, let the everlasting being which thou art, come out towards this Lord God, and devote itself, in the central life, in the moving will, to Him as its Creator, Owner, Father, Saviour, Comforter. "And with all thy might." Not with the feeblest, but with the mightiest of all thy faculties of thought and speech and action — with the mightiest of all, at their mightiest, in a devotion of which man is the priest and self the sacrifice.

3. Two things lie on the surface of the text.(1) The first is, the testimony here borne to God. He asks our love. What an idea must this give of His character! We all know how it draws us towards a man to know that, being active, manly, strong, and supporting many burdens of care, and work, and thought, and responsibility, he also has a warm heart — nay, even is womanly in his tenderness; craves affection; is touched by the response of gratitude; loves love; has even a void place within till love fills it. Does not this raise him in your esteem? The tenderness is the complement of the strength.(2) And what is this love which God asks of us? It is not different in kind, it differs only in direction, from that which we give one to another. Think what love is, as you give it to your nearest and best beloved. Think of it in its spring in the heart; think of it in its course day by day; think of it as it prompts the word and the act that shall give pleasure; think of it as it makes presence a delight and separation a sorrow; think of it as it wrings from your soul the sob of anguish when you have vexed or wounded or wronged the object of it — and there, in those experiences common to all of us, you have the affection which God Himself here calls love, and which He asks of us.

4. And now reflect upon the mighty consequences and inferences of this demand. See how it deals with life — the life of men, the life of nations — in so far as it is received.(1) There is a thirst, in all of us, for liberty. Some men idolise liberty; care not if it run to licence; abhor, not tyranny alone, but authority; ask, "Who is Lord over us?" or mingle truth and falsehood, saying, "Even in religion there can be no obligation." See in this text how God offers liberty. He bids us love. He would make us free by one great Abolition Act. He would strike off the fetters of religion itself.(2) There is another cry of the age — and that is, equality. An impatience of differences; an obliteration of distinctions, clamoured for on the one side — on the other, half-yielded, half-resisted, selfishness resisting — vanity, whether the vanity which would discern, or the vanity which would lead, or the vanity which would please this echoing the cry and yielding. This is one cry of equality. Another is the impatience of God in equalities — those, I mean, which He keeps in His own power: differences of constitution, of fortune, or circumstance; differences which make one man prosperous and another unsuccessful, etc. Now we see how the offer of God's love bears upon all these things. If all may have this — and if nothing but this can satisfy, endure, give peace, or survive death — where is inequality? Where, in a moment or two will it be?(3) It is needless, yet delightful, to record, in harmony with the last reflection, the operation of this love of God upon the unity of the human brotherhood. Philanthropists, as well as revolutionists, talk much of fraternity. Christians know that brotherhood hangs upon falsehood; that only they who love from the heart "Him that begat" will ever love from the heart "the begotten of Him."

(Dean Vaughan.)

I. I am to consider THE NATURE AND EXCELLENCY OF THAT TEMPER OF MIND WHICH YOU ARE TO EXERCISE TOWARDS THE JEHOVAH OF ISRAEL. If you are men and have the feelings of humanity, I need not explain to you what love is. Without it, the names of father, son, brother, friend, and every charity of life, are vanity and a lie. But, though I refer to your hearts for the feeling of the temper we speak of, yet remember that as it varies in purity, in strength, and tenderness towards our connections on earth, so will it differ much. more when exercised towards the Lord our God. The love of God is founded in just apprehensions of His character. The very idea of God should contain in it all possible perfection in an infinite degree. There is no weakness in Him that thou shouldest despise Him and cast off His fear. He hath not burdened thee; that thou shouldest be weary of His service. He hath not wronged thee, that thou shouldest hate Him and break His commandments. The love of God is also founded on a due sense of His mercies. He hath given us life, and breath, and all things; and in Him we live, move, and have our being. He is perfectly good in Himself, and perfectly good to us, and to love Him with all our heart and to serve Him with all our strength is our rational service. If we do not, the very stones will cry out against our ingratitude, and evil, as well as good, angels will condemn us when we are judged. Consider how honourable this temper of love is to the blessed God, and to His happy worshippers. It exhibits Him in the lovely and confidential character of the Universal Father, the Father of mercies, and the God of all hope and of all consolations. It sheds the oil of gladness on all the springs and wheels of duty, and makes His service perfect freedom. For love is liberal in its gifts, unwearied in its services; it casts out tormenting fear, and indulges no suspicion in the unlimited confidence it reposes on the God of our salvation. Finally, it is a principle of universal obedience to all God's commandments, to all men, at all times, and under all circumstances. Love is the ruling affection of every soul of man, and, though false to every other principle, to this he will be ever true, as the needle to the pole. For where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also; and if the love of God exist in the soul, it will regulate and subject to itself every other principle. If we reject this Divine principle, how shall we supply its place? Faith itself is unprofitable but as it worketh by love. Obedience is a lifeless form of godliness but as it is animated by the spirit of love.

II. THE MEASURE OF THAT TEMPER YOU ARE COMMANDED TO EXERCISE towards the Lord your God: "Thou shalt love Him with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength." The love so strongly marked is of no ordinary character. It is pure, grateful, strong, affectionate, fervent, and reverent; specifically different from all earthly affection. As the light of the sun darkeneth all other lights, so doth the love of God absorb other principles. It requires us cheerfully to recognise Jehovah as Father of our spirits, the God of our lives, and the Lord of our possessions: as entitled to dispose of us, of our wives, our children, our fortunes, our time, our talents, our reputation, and our influence, when and how He pleaseth. Nor is this requisition unreasonable or unrighteous. For we, and all we have, are His. He loveth us better than we love ourselves. He is wise, under every circumstance of life and death, to know what is best for us, in this world and in the next; and His power is able to effect all His goodness shall prompt and His wisdom shall contrive. In the absolute surrender of ourselves to Him lieth all our honour, our happiness, and our security. What greater honour, then, O ye Jews, can Christians show to the venerable Moses than to make this precept regulate every secret of their souls? This may appear wonderful, and it would be so, indeed, were Christianity opposed to Judaism. But, in truth, they are one and the same religion, as the light of the dawn is the same as the light of the day, as the rough outline is the same as the living picture, finished by the same great Master. It was to establish the law of love, as well as to atone for sin and to procure the Holy Spirit, that our Immanuel sealed His love to God and man on the altar of His Cross. We love Him because He so loved us, and His love constraineth us to love His enemies and ours.

III. APPLY THE SUBJECT TO JEWS AND CHRISTIANS. And, first, I address myself to both. Do you love Jehovah your God with all your heart? That is, better than you love the world and all that is in it? Better than life itself? if any man think he love God, how doth he prove the fact? "If ye love Me, saith God, "keep My commandments." "This is the love of God," saith the true worshipper, "that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous." Ye Jews, ye must be circumcised with the circumcision not made with hands, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; whose praise is not of man, but of God. Ye Christians, ye must be born again, not of water, but of the Spirit. Hearken, O men of Israel. Had your fathers believed Moses, they would have believed Christ. Had they loved God, they would have received Him who came forth from God.

(Melville Home.)

In this publication of His law God clothes Himself with this title, "The Lord thy God" —

I. With reference to His gracious, external interpositions in behalf of that people.

II. To intimate the gracious tendency of this seemingly severe revelation.

III. And its connection with the offer and communication of God according to the method of His grace. But there are two inferences falsely made from this preface which ought to be avoided.

1. That an assured apprehension of God, as ours, is the beginning of religion, and that this must go before all beneficial knowledge of God and His law, whereas there must be a spiritual knowledge of God and His law in the order of nature necessarily antecedent to any such apprehension of God, otherwise we have no just ideas of Him whom we apprehend (but embrace an idol), nor of the footing on which we do apprehend Him.

2. That, after reconciliation with God, a man hath nothing to do with His law.To overturn such fancies it is to be observed that the doctrine of the law of God is to be learned —

1. In subserviency to the glorification of God by the exercise of justifying faith in Jesus Christ.

2. For the government of one who is justified in walking towards heaven. It is chiefly in order to the first of those uses, to awaken men to flee to Christ, that I mean to speak at this time from the text. There are no Christians on earth exempted from the necessity of exciting themselves to faith in this way, unless there are Christians whose faith needs not to be increased or exercised.

I. I am to OPEN THE SOURCES OF THE OBLIGATION OF THE LAW OF GOD AS THEY ARE EXHIBITED IN THIS EXPRESSION OF THE TEXT, "The Lord our God is one Lord." Two preliminary observations may here be mentioned.(1) That the grounds of the obligation of the law of God upon intelligent creatures are of an unsearchable and incomprehensible nature. I mean not that it is impossible for us to have a sufficient knowledge of this matter. If this were the case, it would be vain to say anything on this subject. But I mean that, after the greatest progress in such resources, faith must be maintained as to the immensity of the glory of God as surpassing all knowledge.(2) That there is in us an exceeding great strength of spiritual darkness or blindness in this matter. They only who have a deep and tender sense of these two things, their own blindness and the mysterious sublimity of these subjects, have such a humility of mind as is suitable to such inquiries.

1. It appears from the text that the chief source of the obligation of the law of God must be searched for and found in God Himself.(1) It is evident, from the nature of the demands of the law of God, that they cannot be justified, unless on supposition of there being such things in the nature and character of God as do of themselves entitle Him to such service.(2) The certainty of this truth concerning the origin of the obligation of the law of God appears from the consideration of the penalty annexed to the violation of this law.(3) Every other argument enforcing the law of God derives its chief force from its connection with this primary source of moral obligation. Because I am created a reasonable being I am bound to love God. But whence is it that my reasonable nature is a precious benefit? Is it not because hereby I am capable of the sight and enjoyment of God in His infinite beauty? In this view the benefit of creation may be said to be infinite.(4) This is expressly adduced in the Scripture as the foundation of the authority of the law of God. So, in the preceding chapter, "I am the Lord thy God." The first and radical idea is, "I am Jehovah." I am what I am.(5) Obligations to obedience from consideration of Divine judgments and mercies are expressly resolved into this when the knowledge of God's being what He is is spoken of as the issue of these things, as is manifest (Ezekiel 28:22-26).

2. It appears from the text that the sources of the obligation of the law of God are to be found in those excellences of the Godhead which are most peculiar and distinguishing. Here it is to be considered that the excellences of God are justly distinguished into those which are called communicable and those which are called incommunicable. With respect to both these sorts of excellency He is incomparable. As to those which are called communicable excellences, because some degree of something like them is imparted to other beings, God is distinguished from His creatures by the degree and manner in which He possesses these excellences. But the most distinguishing quality of the manner in which God possesses communicable perfections is their being united with His incommunicable glories. It is by these last that God is chiefly distinguished from other beings, that He hath an immense fulness of such kinds of beauty as in no degree can be found in any created being.

3. It may also be inferred from the text that the obligation of the law of God is primarily derived from those excellences of the Godhead which chiefly constitute the harmony of all Divine excellences, or the bond of union, in consequence of which all the fulness of the Godhead is one whole. "The Lord our God is one Lord" — that is, in the midst of the immense variety of excellences which are found in Him, there is a marvellous unity and harmony, so that there is no division, jarring, or separation, but one glorious whole, in which all things are compacted.

4. The source of the obligation of the law of God lies in that one essence which is equally and fully possessed by each of the three persons in the Godhead.Application:

1. Beware of despising these truths as abstruse and unintelligible.

2. I call and invite every one of you to employ Jesus Christ, the Prophet of the Church, to instruct you savingly in these things.

3. Let those who have been called into the light attend to these exhortations (1 Peter 2:1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 11, 12).

II. TO GIVE A GENERAL EXPLICATION OF THE NATURE OF THAT LOVE TO GOD WHICH IS DEMANDED AND PRESCRIBED IN HIS LAW. Here the following preliminary remarks are to be attended to:

1. That we are now to speak of the love of God not as it is found in saints on earth, mingled with contrary corruptions, but as it is prescribed in the law of God, and as it is found in such creatures as are perfectly conformed thereto.

2. It is difficult for us to attain just and lively conceptions of the nature of this perfect love, because we never had any experience of it — no, not for a moment.

3. Such a knowledge of it is attainable as is sufficient to answer the purposes of the glory of God which are intended to be answered in this life, such as to excite high thoughts of the glorious excellences of God as appearing in His law, to discover the preciousness of the righteousness of Christ, the imperfection of our present attainments, the necessity of progress, and the amiableness of that state of perfection which is the "prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

4. Our thoughts may be assisted and elevated on this subject by considering the highest attainments of Christians on earth, and adding perfection of purity and continuance thereto.I shall now apply myself to the direct consideration of this most fundamental subject, namely, "What is that perfection of love to God prescribed in His holy law?"

1. What are those views and character of God in which He is contemplated while perfect love is exercised?(1) I observe that God in the whole of His character, so far as in any degree revealed to the creature, is the object of perfect love. "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all — no spots or blemishes, nothing to allay or abate the splendour of His amiableness. "He is altogether lovely."(2) More particularly He is so in His incommunicable fulness of excellence, beauty, and perfection.(3) In His communicable perfections. Whatever amiableness is found in the creation, so far as is consistent with infinite perfection, is found in God in a Divine manner.(4) As He is the author of all that is good in the creation.(5) As He is the last end of all, for the sake of whose glory all things exist and all events happen.(6) As He is the benefactor, lover, and judge of intelligent, created beings.(7) As He is the enemy and avenger of evil.(8) As He is the supporter and recompenser of good.(9) In His unknown, hidden, and unsearchable fulness, which is implicitly loved.

2. The different motions of the faculties of the soul in bringing forth the actings of this love may be represented in this order.(1) The first principle of spiritual motion being the will, or the soul, as choosing and inclining itself towards what is suitable to its taste and inclination, so in this perfect love there is a Divine instinct and disposition of the will by which the whole soul is turned towards God.(2) Hereby the faculties of the understanding are stirred up to inquire after God.(3) There is a disposition to faith concerning what God is, before the soul sensibly sees Him.(4) And to seek and take in that marvellous light by which He is sensibly discovered.(5) Then the will, having, by means of the understanding, found its object, embraces it, and rests in it in such actings as are afterwards to be mentioned.(6) Then the understanding is stilted up to go forward in taking in more of God, and this awakens new actings of the will, and these, again, new exertions of the understanding.

3. In the course of these motions of the faculties of a perfect creature, the various acts of love in their distinct kinds and in their connection with each other are brought forth.(1) Esteem, which is the accounting a thing valuable, excellent, precious.(2) Desire, as to present enjoyment and the securing endless possession, and hence valuing the intimations of Divine love, etc.(3) Delight, complacency, rest.(4) Zeal; delighting in the honour of God. Benevolence.(5) Self-denial; preferring the interest of God to ourselves. Disposition to suffer for Him.(6) Undervaluing the whole creation in comparison of Him.(7) Loving the creation in subordination to Him. Thus the creation is first thrust away; and then embraced.(8) Gratitude for the person's self and others.(9) Disposition to acts of worship and beneficence, in which this love appears clothed with its fruit.Application:

1. Give glory to God, the author of this law.

2. See the greatness of our fall from a state of perfect, uninterrupted love to a state of enmity.

3. See the preciousness of that redemption by which men are restored to a state of perfect, endless conformity to this spotless standard.

(John Love, D. D.)

I. THE COMMAND.

1. None will dispute for a moment God's right to the affection of all His creatures. Surrounded as we are by the amazing proofs of God's love to us, hourly as we are the recipients of His bounty, it is to the lasting disgrace of every member of the human family that such a command as this should be needed.

2. But will the mere command produce love? No, it will not. The severest injunctions, the most formidable threatenings, are insufficient to produce love in the human heart. The penalties attached to disobedience may excite a slavish fear, but they cannot excite love. A child does not love its parent because commanded to do so; it may obey that parent by the outward act, but to excite love something more is needed than a command. And that something more is found in the affectionate kindness and watchful care of the parent, and this it is which, shown in a thousand varied ways, calls forth the love and affection of the child. If I want my neighbour to love me, it is not by merely expressing the wish for it that I shall gain his affection, but by embracing every opportunity for the exercise of benevolent feelings towards him. And thus it is that the love of God will be awakened within the heart of any one of us. And therefore, in exhorting you to obey the command, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," we should set before you those dealings of God towards you which are calculated to kindle in your breasts the emotions of love.

II. ITS EXTENT. What is the degree of love which God demands?

1. It must be supreme — with all the heart. You are to love God not as you love your friends, your relatives, your children, but above, all things. He will allow no rival to share with Him the throne of your heart's affections. Not even any lawful affection must be set above that which we give to God, much less the love of sin or of the world.

2. It must be an intelligent love — with all the soul or understanding. By this you will have a clear perception of why you love God, and of the many motives which should excite you to give Him your heart's undivided affections. The thoughtful Christian will see the reasonableness of the adoration he pays to God.

3. It must be also a strong and fervent love — "with all thy might" — a love deeply rooted in the heart, and so closely intertwined with all your thoughts and feelings as to defy the power either of sin or Satan to tear it from your breast.

(R. Allen, M. A.)

One of the loudest outcries of present-day scepticism against Christianity is that it is based on an anthropomorphic or too manlike view of the nature of God, which is said to be degrading to the Unseen Everlasting Cause. and to be contrary to scientific fact. Now clearly there must be some limits to thinking of God as "such an one as ourselves." When men have, for example, represented the Divine nature by fabricating and consecrating an image of the human body, as in the case of the whole idolatrous world; or when they have conceived of the Divine character in the moral likeness of wicked men, as in the case of nearly all the gods and goddesses of paganism, there is reason in the outcry of these sceptics and in the demand for loftier and purer ideas of the Deity. But where objection is made to the formation of ideas of the Divine nature based on any similarity to man's nature, or to ideas of the Divine providence based on our notions of great and small — as if so small a world as this and so minute a creature as man were unworthy of the special attention of an Infinite Being — then the objection is in fact founded on another kind of anthropomorphism or too much manlikeness — an error which is at least as vulgar as that which it condemns, and then the basis of so-called scientific unbelief is open to the same accusation which it brings against the Christian faith. For, of all indefensible notions, this must be the most indefeasible — that the Infinite Being measures the value of objects in proportion to their size. Does any man really believe that if there be a God at all who is an intelligent Being, even if He were only as intelligent as a man may be, that He values things elderly according to their cubic contents, so that what you call a "little" world has no chance of the notice of the Everlasting Mind? Everything that we know here of mind leads us to conclude very differently. Men do not value each other chiefly according to their size, or anything else, when they are educated into some right perception. The noblest nations have not inhabited the largest territories. It is not the largest buildings, the largest works of art which are of the highest value. We may be certain, then, to begin with, that suns and planets do not rank in the Creative Mind according to their cubic contents. He who made man in His own image of reason and love cannot possibly account man unworthy of notice because of his littleness. Nothing is too great for the Mightiest One, and nothing is too minute for His care. But now comes for consideration the deeper question of the nature of God, as capable or incapable of real feeling towards man — as caring or not caring for our affection — so as to be fitted to win our love to Him, a personal and everlasting love. Nothing is clearer in the Sacred Writings than that they all alike represent God not only as essential Love, but as asking for our love, and delighting in it, as the love of His children, to whom He has given all things. God's love of being loved is, perhaps, the foremost quality of the Divine Nature as described to us in revelation. Consider how strange it would be if God were not such a Being as this — if the Creator of all sensitive souls were the One Spirit devoid of real sense and feeling. Oh, surely this great world of sense and feeling was born out of a nature all sentient and vital, and rose like some form of beauty from a wondrous ocean of Deity, full of the life whence she sprang. Consider, too, what an effort seems to be made in the physical world to convey to our minds on all sides the impression that there is real and personal feeling towards man in the Most High. Does not every living form in plant or flower, every delicious landscape, or breadth of ocean, lighted with the radiance of the morning or the evening sun, breathe forth to us the feeling of some unseen, but not far distant, and Omnipotent Artist, who loves His children? But it is true that our sense affords no sufficing revelation to the soul. She cries out still for the Living God. We require a richer, fuller, nearer communion, and we have it in Christ. In Jesus Christ the Infinite is revealed, not only as a Person, but as one "full of compassion." And now we are more ready for the reception of the truth that, if "God is Love," it follows that next to the satisfaction of His own Almighty love in blessing His creatures, and saving the lost by His own sacrifice, that Nature must seek for its sweetest delights in the love of His children. And this is the revealed but too often forgotten fact that God loves to be loved...When, then, of old, God spake by Moses, "Thou shalt love, etc., this was not the terrible and menacing demand of a Potentate requiring love as a debt, and threatening its non-payment with perdition. But it was Eternal Love crying out for the love of a world of revolted souls, and determined not to rest until it conquered the rebellion by the sacrifice of itself. But what that union of souls with God will be in eternity, in the embrace which no created power can unlock, and which the Uncreated never will, no earthly tongue can tell. The infant spirit will have grown up to its adult and angelic strength and the faint answering smile of its earlier days shall have passed into the effulgent sunlight of an intelligent and immortal passion — a love forever strengthening in the experience of the Love Divine, and thrilling the Infinite Nature with the gladness that the saved alone can give it, because they alone love with the ardour kindled by redeeming grace.

(E. White.)

A man is not a Christian because he is socially loving and kind any more than a person is a good son because he loves his brothers and sisters, leaving out his father and mother. Men would not wish to be treated by their children as they propose to treat their Father in heaven. They would not be satisfied to have their sons and daughters act on the principle that to love each other is the sufficient and only way by which children ought to love their parents. I should not like to hear my children say, "To be kind to each other, and not care for father and mother, is the way for us to be good children towards them."

(H. W. Beecher.)

All men know, or think they know, what love is. The poets have sung its praises, and the philosophers have analysed it, and the moralists have assigned it a niche, under one name or another, among their virtues; but all have alike regarded it as too irrational, too capricious, too transitory a thing to be an adequate foundation for morality. Christianity alone has made love at once the guide and goal of life, the condition of perfection, the fulfilling of the law. The principle of love is universal, without being abstract, it is a fact, a plain, obvious, palpable reality, which all men agree to recognise, and to recognise as ultimate and fundamental. Its analogues are broadcast throughout the universe, from the laws of gravitation upwards. It is universal, it is real, and further, it is vital. It is its own dynamic. It lives and grows and expands and fructifies, and sows its fiery contagion broadcast with an importunate, an imperious necessity of its own inner nature, which admits of neither help nor hindrance from without. The command, therefore, to love appeals to an instinct which is co-extensive with humanity, which is real beyond touch of controversy, and endowed with a vital force that is exclusively its own. But the very instinctive nature of love often misleads men into many other fallacies, owes its plausibility to its containing half a truth. Love is indeed irresistible; many waters cannot quench it. But like other irresistible forces — the lapse of a river, the electric energy, the current of a flame — it can be guided, and by guidance be controlled. "Learning to love" is too deep-set a phrase in our language ever to have arisen, if the act which it describes were after all impossible. And love, like the instincts in a being that is rational, not only can be, but must be, directed by the will, as the sole condition of attaining its true end. To assist us to that end let us look at love as we find it among men. In the first place, love is a relation existing between persons. The will need not have for its field of exercise more than a law, nor the mind more than an abstract object; but it is only in a derived and secondary sense that we can speak of loving anything other than a person. We may love him for the possession of this or that attribute of loveliness; but it is the self behind the attributes — the person — that we love. And then, though we cannot analyse this mysterious element of our being, we may see one thing about it clearly, that it moves between two poles — desire and sacrifice. The family, the earliest home of love, shows both these elements in their simplest form. The love of the child for the parent is one of simple, unreflective, self-referent desire; that of the parent for the child one of increasingly unselfish sacrifice. Both factors, of course, coexist, but in each case one predominates, and gives character and colour to the whole. To love is to be lifted or degraded by our love, in proportion as we repudiate or welcome the law of sacrifice. The forms which that sacrifice may take are infinite, but the fact of it needs no proof. Love, then, as we know it, is a relation between persons, founded on desire, tending to self-sacrifice, needing for its true development the guidance of the will. And further, it is never stationary. It withers unless it grows, and in growing gathers purity, intensity, perfection. This is the faculty which we are bidden to enlist wholly in God's service: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart." How is this to be done? Different forms of personal beauty, different graces of mind or character, wake the love of different men. But once let a man be confronted by the congenial character, the appropriate grace, and nature does the rest. So with the love of God. He attracts us through many avenues. Our part is to direct our mental vision by the will; and thenWe needs must love the highest when we see it.But it is in this direction of our vision that we fail. Our eyes are feeble, and we cannot bear the light. "He left not Himself without witness," but we interpret it amiss. The simplest of all witnesses is our natural desire for God. "All men yearn for the gods," said the Greek. "My soul is athirst for God," said the Hebrew poet. In spite of such utterances, a century ago philosophers could still maintain that religion was artificial. But in the light of our larger knowledge this is no longer possible. For however far we look back over India, or Babylon, or Egypt, or abroad over the savage inmates of the islands of the sea, the religious instinct is there; not merely a fear, or a sense of infinitude, but a yearning, a desire, the beginning of a love. So universally is it found to be part of our primitive endowments, that zoologists have proposed, for their special purpose, to classify mankind as "the religious animal." This desire is the foundation of all our love. Our capacity for loving God and our capacity for loving man are one and the self-same thing. Or to put it otherwise, we have an infinite capacity for loving, which points to an Infinite Being as its only final object. Limit your love exclusively to any finite thing or person, and what is the result, and why? Sooner or later it will begin to flag; it will fail; it will become disgust; and that because you have thought to limit what never can be limited. We are all of us endowed, then, with an emotional capacity, whose final cause is the love of God. And every phase of human emotion should be, and may be if we will, a stage in the training of this faculty for its destined end and goal. There is, for instance, the love of nature — of the beauty of earth and sea and sky, and of all the various life with which they teem. Contemplate nature, and its loveliness will strengthen and develop your emotions, but in doing so will point them on, with irresistible suggestiveness, to One lovelier than itself. And then there is the love of art. Art selects and rearranges nature, with a view to bring its lessons more intimately home. Our duty is to use all art that will kindle our emotions nobly, but sternly to forego, oven in what may seem the neutral region of amusement, all that is insidiously poisonous to us, and yet may innocently brighten and help the lives of other men. This fact needs insisting on; for artistic influences elude observation, and we are hardly aware of how profoundly painting, music, drama, poetry, and the immense literature of fiction mould and modify for good or evil every fibre of our modern life. Again, there is the love of humanity, the most universal of all schools of love. In the early dawn of affection we idealise our dear ones with an instinctive insight that is in truth prophetic of what they may one day be. But hero and now they are finite beings — weak, sinful, incomplete. Differences of taste and temper, inadequacies, imperfections, cannot but disclose themselves, as time goes on. But if our love he true, we shall learn to efface our selfishness in helping other lives to overcome their insufficiencies; and every sacrifice this costs us will deepen our power of sympathy; we shall feel not only for the grace and beauty, but for all the pathetic frailty of the struggling human soul; and as we learn, by loving more profoundly, the limitless nature of our love, we shall see that its only adequate satisfaction is in God — "Nor man nor nature satisfies whom God alone created." There is one more school of affection; but we can only learn its lessons if we come to it, at least in sonic degree, prepared; for it is the school of bereavement. To the idolater of nature, or of art, or of humanity, we know what the shattering of his idol means — hopeless, helpless, impotent despair; weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. And yet it was not meant to be, it never need be, so. If once we have risen to realise that what we love on earth can have derived its loveliness from no other source than God, bereavement, however bitter, is full of earnest meaning. Our concern is with the fact that bereavement reveals to us new and mysterious vistas in the life of love. All along we have seen that sacrifice of one kind or other must be present. But bereavement shows us how intensely real that sacrifice must be. All else seems to vanish before it; and the very name of love acquires an awfulness which makes its light misuse seem blasphemy. Such are the common means by which we may learn to fulfil the commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart." The genius can dispense with the ordinary methods of education; and so too can the saint; but for most of us it is otherwise. The things that lie around us, the stuff that life is made of, the field of our daily exercise — nature, art, society, marriage, friendship, partings, death — these are the appointed channels that should guide the heart to God. Our mistake is to think such things indifferent, as if there were a neutral region, neither good nor ill. Nothing is indifferent, except to our blindness. Every object of human interest lifts us up or drags us down.

(J. R. Illingworth, M. A.)

There was once a great painter who had three scholars. They were all anxious to learn the secret of their master's power, and become great painters themselves. The first spent all his time in the studio at his easel. He copied incessantly the great master's pictures, studying deeply into their beauties, and trying to imitate them with his own brush. He was up early, and was the last to leave the workroom at night. He would have nothing to do with the master himself, attended none of his lectures, never went to him with any question, nor spent any time in talking with him. He wanted to be his own director, and make his own discoveries, and be self-made. This scholar lived and died without notice, and never expressed on canvas a single one of the noble characteristics of his master. The second scholar, on the contrary, spent little time in the studio, scarcely soiled his palette, or wore out a brush. He attended every lecture on art, was constantly asking questions about the theories of perspective, of colouring, of light and shade, of grouping figures, and all that, and was a zealous student of hooks. But for all his study he died without producing a single worthy picture to help and delight mankind and perpetuate his master's glory. The third was as zealous in the practical work of the artist as the first, and as zealous in the theoretical as the second, but he did one thing which they never thought of doing: he came to know and love the master. They were much together, the young artist and the older one, and they had long talks about all phases of an artist's life and work. So close and continual, in fact, was their communion that they grew to talk alike, and think alike, and even, some said, to look alike. And it was not long before they began to paint alike, and on the canvas of the younger glowed the same beauty and the same majesty that shone from the canvas of his master. The parable is not hard to interpret. If the Christian has been seeking to know God, and express God's beauty on the canvas of his human life, it has been in one of these three ways. If it has been by the way of practical living merely, by attempting with one's own unaided wisdom and power to be kind and helpful and influential, the attempt has failed. If it has been by the way of theory merely, if by searching of books alone the Christian has sought to find out God, he has failed. Our search for a noble and inspiring and fruitful basis of life will succeed only as, without by any means neglecting good deeds or study, we seek with all the might of the spirit God has given us for communion, personal love and communion, with the Spirit who made our spirits, until, in Jesus' words, we are one with Christ, even as He is one with the Father.

It will not be so difficult for you to love God if you will only begin by loving goodness, which is God's likeness, and the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit. For you will be like a man who has long admired a beautiful picture of someone whom he does not know, and at last meets the person for whom the picture was meant — and, behold, the living face is a thousand times more fair and noble than the painted one. You will be like a child which has been brought up from its birth in a room into which the sun never shone, and then goes out for the first time, and sees the sun in all his splendour bathing the earth with glory. If that child has loved to watch the dim, narrow rays of light which shone into his dark room, what will he not feel at the sight of that sun from which all those rays had come! Just so will they feel who, having loved goodness for its own sake, and loved their neighbours for the sake of what little goodness is in them, have their eyes opened at last to see all goodness, without flaw or failing, bound or end, in the character of God, which He has shown forth in Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the likeness of His Father's glory, and the express image of His Person, to whom be glory and honour forever.

If a great potentate did make subject unto thee his whole kingdom and all his dominions, nobles, and strong, powerful men, nay, all his subjects, and did command them to guard, defend, preserve, to clothe, cure, and feed thee, and to take care that thou shouldest want nothing at all, wouldst thou not love him and account him to be a loving, bountiful lord? How, then, oughtest thou to love the Lord thy God, who hath kept nothing back for Himself, but appointed to thy service all that is in heaven, and from heaven, and all that is upon. earth, or anywhere? For He wants no creature for Himself, and hath excepted nothing from thy service, neither in all the hosts of holy angels, nor in any of His creatures under the stars. If we will, they are ready to serve us; nay, hell itself must serve us, by bringing upon us fear and terror, that we may not sin.

(John Arndt.)

1. We ought to love God. It is our duty to love God. We are commanded to love God. The Old Testament and the New Testament unite in emphasising that. It is not likely, however, that this text ever persuaded anybody into loving God. Love laughs at injunctions, pays no heed to duty, absolutely cannot be commanded. Obedience can be got that way, but love — never! It is of the very nature and essence of love that it must grow in a willing heart. Love is the manifestation of an untrammelled choice.

2. It may be that God set temptation within the reach of man, that He might thus make it possible for us really to love Him. The test of love is preference. Love comes out into the light, and is discovered when there is a choice to be made between two, or for or against. The best way in the whole world for a man to show his love for God is to say "no" to the devil, and to stand up on the side of God. But we must not do that because we are commanded to do it, because we are afraid not to do it, but because we want to do it, if there is to be any real love in it.

3. The purpose of this command is not to establish obedience, but to proclaim an ideal. The spirit of it is not that we must love God because we must, but that God wants us to love Him. "We love Him because He first loved us."

4. Christ is the only authoritative teacher of the love of God.(1) He taught God's love for man in the blessed words that He spoke. He looked up to the great God and called Him, and taught us to call Him, by that loving name "Father."(2) His life, even more than His words, was a revelation of God. God is like Christ, and it is not hard to love Christ. How can anybody help loving Christ? And whoever loves Christ, loves God.(3) He taught the love of God for us in the death that He died. We wonder if pain and love can really go together, and behold! here they are together at the Cross of Jesus.

(George Hodges, D. D.)

It is said that one of the greatest statesmen that we have ever had, having gone to hear an evangelical preacher, was heard growling as he left the church, "Why, the man said that we were to love God," evidently thinking that the very height of unreasonableness. And when Wilberforce attacked the fashion of religion in the beginning of the nineteenth century, this was the point on which he fixed — that not only was God not loved, but people did not even think that to love God was reasonable. Going to work philosophically, he demonstrated, first, that what he called passion — meaning love — is the strongest force ill human affairs; and secondly, that religion requires exactly such a stimulus, because of the difficulties that it has to overcome. We are now living in a far warmer atmosphere everywhere than that in which Wilberforce was living, and we have no difficulty in acknowledging the power of emotion, or passion, or love in any department of human affairs. In politics, it is enthusiasm that carries the statesman through. In war, it is enthusiasm that makes heroes. It was the passion of friendship that made Jonathan able to lay a kingdom at David's feet. Love between the sexes is the grand mainspring of human refinement and industry, and affection in the home sweetens adversity, and enables even the weak to bear up under intolerable burdens. But, my people, there is one kind of love for which the human heart was made which is deeper and more influential than any other kind, and that is the love of God. I daresay that you and I would claim that we had tasted the other kinds of love, perhaps all the kinds, and we know well their power of developing energy and rewarding endeavour, and sweetening what is bitter in life; but let me press this question home on you — do we know the highest love of all? has this blossom burst yet on the tree of our being — love to our Father in heaven? It is to be what we call an absorbing, an overmastering love, pervading the whole being, and setting every power within us in motion. If the love of God be in us anything like the absorbing and over-mastering passion that Jesus means it to be it will lead us also to love everything belonging to God — His day, His house, His people, His call, and so forth; and wherever there is any deep love for the Sabbath, or the Bible, you will find when you come to the bottom of it, that it is due to love of God Himself, wakened in the heart in the way that I have indicated. But there is especially one part of worship) which Jesus connects very closely with the love of God, and that is prayer. You know those who love must meet: The oftener they meet the higher rises the flame of love, and prayer is the trysting place between God and the soul.

(J. Stalker, D. D.)

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