So important is love that a single
Sunday is insufficient for its treatment, and our Church gives us a second
Sunday of Love, on which we chiefly consider what return we may make for
the love of God. Nothing but love is adequate. We must ourselves reflect
the love of God in the whole character and temper of our lives.
THE EPISTLE — 1 S. John 3:13-24 — The Supreme Duty of Love
A. The Necessity of Love.
We must not marvel if the religion of love exposes us to the hatred of the world, on account of our firmness of principle, the strictness of our conduct, and the faithfulness of our admonitions; but let it be on this account and not on account of our inconsistency, negligence, the disagreeableness of our characters, our inconsiderateness, or want of tact and wisdom. Hatred must not lessen our love, for the spirit which lusts to kill is the very opposite of the spirit of life. Love and life are one, and the only proof that we have passed into the region of life is that we have passed into the region of love.
B. The Tokens of Love.
If love be the test of life, what is the test of love?
(1) The Sacrifice of Life.
It is by this token that we perceive the love of God, and ours must be known by our willingness “to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Our first duty is to these. (cf. S. John 13:34.) We must deserve the sneer directed at the early Christians—“their lawgiver has persuaded them that they are all brethren.” We must love Christians as such, because of our common connection with a common Saviour; prefer their company; cleave to them when despised; champion them when blamed; shew them every consideration; overlook their weaknesses and seek to learn from the strong points of their characters. We may be sure that we belong to the class which we love best, and that there is no better evidence of the life of grace in ourselves than the love of God’s grace seen in others.
(2) The Sacrifice of our Goods.
The test of life is more rigorous at every step of the argument the test of life is love; the test of love is the great sacrifice of life; the test of the great sacrifice is our willingness for lesser sacrifices. If we live we love; if we love we lay down life; if we lay down life we lay down things of lesser cost. We may not have to be dying sacrifices, but we are bound to be living sacrifices till we die.
C. The Rewards of Love.
(1) Confidence towards God.
The reality of our love to others will enable us to understand and feel confidence in the love of God. If we have sure evidence of our brotherhood with Christians we have the best test of our sonship to God. This is the best test of all, for a quiet conscience does not of itself prove us to be all right, nor an unquiet conscience prove us all wrong, for in both cases God’s greater knowledge may reverse our judgment. But if our love confirm the verdict of conscience, its sincerity is a proof of ours. Such confidence in God will enable us to pray and assure us of acceptance in our prayers.
(2)The Conscious Presence of God.
That we are obedient to the commandment of Christ that we love one another may assure us that we are also obedient to the commandment of God that we “believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ.” Thus, we have a strong assurance that we dwell in Him for our justification and pardon, and that He dwells in us for our sanctification and holiness. Thus, love will be the final evidence of life.
THE GOSPEL — S. Luke 14:16-24 — The Feast of Love
Each Sunday of Love has a Gospel of warning in the form of a parable. We may not trifle with the love of God. Every call of God, however loving, demands the submission of the will.
A. The Invitation.
The great supper is a picture of the love of God. The love of God is wide, for He has bidden many. The love of God is very rich in its provision for all the needs of man, and is a great supper ready prepared. It is a feast of all grace, for everything is provided in the Church of Christ for our spiritual life and growth in holiness. It is a feast of joy in the present and of hope for the future. No worldly feast can offer more than present satisfaction, nor even that without alloy; this offers present happiness and future glory in the enjoyment of the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him. (1 Cor. 2:9.) The work of the ministry is to invite.
B. The Refusal.
The feast being so rich and the entrance so easy, it is much to be wondered at that so many refuse to come. There are many excuses, but one reason. Some excuse themselves on the ground of their riches and position occupying mind and time, others on the plea that their business engrosses all their energy and must be attended to; while others urge the ties and duties of home. The real reason in each case is that all are pre-engaged to another feast; are too satisfied with the world’s riches, too busied with its cares, too happy in its delights to feel the need of anything higher and better. There is room at the feast, but no room in their hearts. Their excuses are vain, for the enjoyment of God’s feast will add restful ease to the possession of riches; will help the man of business to bear his burdens without anxiety, and will make the happiest home yet happier.
C. The Rejection.
The Master of the house vouchsafes no thought or word of reply to these manifold excuses, for He knows them to be worthless, and is angry, for He sees the ungodly will and worldly heart which prompts them. His anger is roused, but His love is not stayed, but turns to other plans. He seeks for the outcasts of the city, and the waifs and strays of the country, who know the pinch of hunger. These know their need, and are ready to come.
The parable is for all ages, and the temptation comes to all to think themselves too rich, too busy, or too happy to be good. We cannot taste the supper until we have the taste for it. The penalty of refusal is rejection, and our heaviest punishment is ever what we miss. They, too, who have accepted the invitation, and have taken their seats at God’s board, must have a care that they really partake. The supper is great, and it is but the crumbs of it that we have yet tasted.
THE COLLECT — The Education of Love
A. Love isOur Teacher.
Our teacher is our Father, and His Church the school in which He “brings us up.” He teaches by His Son, His Spirit, His word, His providential dealings with us, and by the teaching of others. His kindness and patience are such that He “never fails to help and govern” His obedient scholars. Education, and not mere probation, is His aim, for He is ever ready with His help, and yet our progress and final happiness may demand our chastisement.
B. Love is our Lesson.
We pray that we may not only remain in the School of God and “under the protection of His good providence,” but may learn the lesson He desires to teach. This lesson is first so to fear that we obey; and then, when that is learnt, so to love that we obey. When the education is finished perfect love casts out fear, and the school of discipline is left for the home of love and the Father’s house.