First part of Sermon XLVIII. for the First Sunday after Trinity.
He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he
love GodWhom he hath not seen?— I ST.
JOHN iv. 20.
We have had occasion to notice that for many Sundays the appointed
Gospels have been taken from St. John, almost entirely so from Easter Day,
and these consist in some measure of our Lord’s last discourses on the
coming of the Comforter. And now when we celebrate the manifestations
of the Comforter in practical obedience, St. John furnishes the Epistle
for the two first Sundays after Trinity; still continuing the one great
lesson on which his Lord had been dwelling in those discourses, that of
Beloved, let us love one another. And why? for love
is of God; for love is of all things the most Divine—the peculiar gift
of God. And more than this, it is the very mark of God’s children;
and every one that loveth, who has this Divine love, is born
of God. Nor is this all; for he adds, and knoweth God.
He has that intimate vital union with God, which, for want of a higher
term to express it, is called knowledge, though it passeth all understanding.
This knowledge and love are indeed so united, that they are like light
and heat from one and the same flame. And, again, the more strongly
to ensure this subject of love he puts the negative also: He that loveth
not knoweth not God; for God is love. This last expression is
far more than all; he does not say that God is loving, or that He delights
in love, or that He is the Author of love, but that He is Love. “If
nothing else,” says St. Augustin, “were said of love in this Epistle, and
nothing else in all the Scriptures, yet, if the Spirit told us this only,
that Love is God, we ought to require nothing more.” (In 1 Joan.
ad loc.) And how much does it contain; for if God is Love, then whenever
we sin against love in thought, word, or deed, in any matter, great or
small—with regard to any person, whatever he may be or may have done—we
sin against God. Whatever is against love is against God.
And then St. John adds the living proof and evidence we have of this
love, upon all the recorded particulars of which we may dwell, in order
the better to apprehend it in heart and life. In this was manifested
the love of God towards us, because that God sent His only-begotten Son
into the world, that we might live through Him; that in His life we
might have life, that in His love we might have love. This His love
was manifested; it was not like an unseen emotion of the mind, dead
and inoperative, but showed itself in deed; nor was it like the mere return
of love such as we find among mankind, but it was love in an infinitely
higher, truer, better sense,—Love itself, essential love. Herein
is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, seeking our love
in return while we loved Him not; and sent His Son to be the propitiation
for our sins, to reconcile us unto Himself, to make us meet and fit
to love Him, to dispose us to value and to seek for His love,—having this
pledge, “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all,
how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things ?" (Rom. viii.
32.) Hating sin so much, yet so much did He love the sinner: how much more
then will He love us, if sin be away, buried in the grave of Christ, and
we are in Christ, the Beloved of the Father?
Beloved, says St. John, returning again to the same point, if
God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. For we are
all alike loved of God; and if we have any love for Him in return, we must
needs love what He loves; we have no other way of showing our love for
Him. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another,
God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us. We cannot
behold God; but what we have beheld is inconceivable Love, in the countenance,
in the words, in the actions, in the sufferings of the Son of Man; and
He by His Spirit dwelleth in us, and perfects His love in us, while we
love all others as He loved them. Hereby know we that we dwell
in Him, and He in us; because He hath given us of His Spirit.
And if we have this love in our conduct to others, this fruit of the Spirit—for
the Holy Spirit is Love—then we have a pledge and assurance of this His
indwelling, this our living union with Him; according to the promise which
Christ hath made, that He will send the Holy Spirit, that He Himself will
come and make His abode with us. For a bad man may be named after
Christ, may have been baptized in His name, and may receive the living
symbols of His Body and Blood, and attend the ordinances of religion, and
do many religious actions, but he cannot have love. By “love shed
abroad in our hearts,” by love bearing witness on our words and actions,
written as on the “fringes” (Numb. xv. 39.) and phylacteries of our garments,
we know that He hath given us of His Spirit. (Rom. v. 5.)
And it is the gift of the Spirit which gives us to see and acknowledge
Him in Whom is the forgiveness of sins, the healing of our maladies, the
restoration of all our infirmities. Thus he adds, And we have
seen, and do testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of
the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God,
God dwelleth in him, and he in God. Here we may observe how all
this, the chain of love, the breath of our life, and the light of Heaven,
depends on our sustaining in our souls by obedience the doctrine of the
Three Persons One God, into Which life-giving Name we are baptized.
This mystery of Godhead is ever recurring throughout this Epistle, all
things connected with it, flowing from it, returning to it; it is the foundation
and the crown; it is the way and the end; the progress and perfection;
the fulness of the greatest, the life of the least of duties; the centre
and circumference of all. By brotherly love we know we have the Spirit,
and by the gift of the Spirit we know that we have the indwelling of God;
and by acknowledging the Father we confess the Son, and by confessing the
Son we have God dwelling in us and we in Him, and He is Love—Love in us
and we in Love. And we have known and believed the love that God
hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in
God, and God in him. “He dwelleth in God,” safe from every enemy,
the wars of the world, and the strife of tongues; and “God dwelleth in
him,” filling him with all truth and love, and guiding him along the way
All Christians perhaps have the beginnings or germs of this love, but
in many it dies away and never comes to ripeness; “as the grass growing
upon the housetops,” “whereof the mower filleth not his hand.” St.
John therefore speaks of this love being in us brought to perfection, advancing
as it were to the fulness of the stature of Christ, which is Love. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day
of judgement; because as He is, so are we in this world. Such
love as St. Paul had, when he desired to be dissolved and to be with Christ;
and St. John, when he said, “even so, come, Lord Jesus;” and St. Peter,
when “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the Day of God.”
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because
fear hath torment: He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
It is fear indeed which urges to repentance, and repentance kindles love;
but such partakes of servile bondage rather than the filial spirit of adoption;
it is as the scourge, or remedy, or the pruning-knife, which becomes less
and less needed as love is perfected. Fear is the forecasting of
evil; but he whose heart is by love established feareth no evil, for God
is with him. It hath no fear, except the godly, loving fear of displeasing
Him, which fear hath in it nothing of torment, but ever grows with growing
We love Him, because He first loved us. He loved us when
evil, that we might be made good; He loved us when sick, that we might
be made whole; He loved us when foul and unlovely, that we might become
clean; and by loving Him in return, we that were evil become good; by loving
Him, we that were sick are made whole; by loving Him, we, even foul and
unlovely, are made in Him lovely and clean. But here is the proof
whether we love Him or no. If a man say, I love God, and hateth
his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath
seen, how can he love God, Whom he hath not seen? And this commandment
have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
He that would love God; he that thinks he loves God; he who has the faint
beginnings of the love of God in him, must let this love be shown, exercised,
perfected, by loving him whom Christ hath made to be in His own stead to
him upon earth—his Christian brother.
From this most soothing, gracious, and beautiful lesson, the picture
of Divine love afforded us in the Epistle, we now pass to another lesson,
the most awful and terrible in the whole of the Scriptures, and the more
awful and terrible, because delivered to us by Him Who is Love itself.
It is the account which our Lord Himself gives us in the Gospel for to-day,...
(for the second part, on the Gospel.)