Is this your religion?
(John Angell James, "Christian Love")
"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all
mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith
that can move mountains, but have not love,
I am nothing!" 1 Corinthians 13:2
LOVE is a grace which many professing Christians
think far too little about; but it is of infinite value
in the eyes of God. Love is the most characteristic
feature of Christ's image in a renewed man. Love is
the most precious fruit of grace; and yet the fruit
which too many of His professed followers seem to
think themselves hardly under any obligation to
Christian love is that benevolent disposition
or kindness, which consists in good-will to all
creatures, and which leads us, as we have
opportunity, to promote their happiness.
The apostle has given us a description of the
exercises of this noble and god-like principle.
"Love is patient" and forbearing under injuries
and annoyances--and does not revile, revenge,
"Love is kind," not harsh or crude--but ever ready,
willing, and pleased by looks, words, and actions,
to promote the comfort of others.
"Love does not envy." It does not pine and grieve
at the sight of another's superior possessions, fame,
happiness, or piety--and dislike him on that account.
"Love does not boast. Love is not proud." It neither
boasts its own gifts, achievements, and possessions,
nor despises others, nor makes insulting comparisons
--but is humble and gentle.
"Love does not behave unseemly." It modestly keeps
its place, and does nothing to offend by what is
unfitting its rank, station, or circumstances.
"Love seeks not her own." It does not selfishly want
to have its own way, or promote its own interest--to
the neglect of others.
"Love is not easily provoked." It governs its temper,
controls its passions, and is not soon or unreasonably
irritable or petulant.
"Love thinks no evil." It is not censorious, nor forward
to impute a bad motive to a doubtful action--but is
disposed to put the best construction on the actions
and words of others.
"Love rejoices not in iniquity--but rejoices in the truth."
It does not delight in the sins--but in the excellences
of an opponent.
"Love bears (or covers) all things." It does not divulge,
proclaim, aggravate faults--but hides them as far as it
can, and it is right to do so.
"Love believes all things," that are to the advantage
"Love hopes all things," where there is not sufficient
evidence to authorize belief.
"Love endures all things," bears hardships, sustains
labor, makes sacrifices--in order to accomplish its
purposes of good-will.
Such is love in exercise and act. This is benevolence
--this is a regard to the happiness of others. Whoever
acts thus, must promote happiness. He must bless all
around him. All things smile in his presence.
Beautiful description! Heavenly temper! Godlike mind!
Observe its seraphic glow, its divine temper, until you
are all enamored with its charms. But look at it not only
as something to be admired--but to be possessed and
practiced. Unless this is your temperament, you are not
Christians. I do not say you cannot be Christians unless
you have love in perfection. But you must have the
principle of love, and must be living in its exercise. You
are Christians no further than you live under its influence.
No matter what knowledge you may have of the doctrines
of the gospel; what seeming faith you may possess; what
zeal you may manifest; what liberality you may exercise;
what regularity, and punctuality in attendance upon the
means of grace, you may maintain--if love is lacking, all
this is of no avail.
Nothing can be a substitute for love.
Christianity is love . . .
not a slavish attendance on ceremonies;
not receiving the sacraments;
not zeal for orthodoxy;
not a form of church government;
not belonging to any particular church.
God's eternal thoughts and purposes in election,
Christ's redeeming work upon the cross,
the Spirit's omnipotent agency in regeneration,
are not merely to bring us under a particular
ecclesiastical regimen--but to deliver us from
the dominion of selfishness, and place us under
the reign of love--and thus make us like God!
If an individual is destitute of love, he has no
saving religion. He may be zealous for the forms
of Christianity, but he is destitute of its living spirit.
And now, my dear friends, let me entreat you to
examine yourselves concerning this great essential
of the Christian character. Are you experimentally
acquainted with this disposition? Is this your
religion? Is your temperament thus molded? Is
that one word 'love' characteristic of your spirit?
Has God's love to you, changed you into its own
likeness? Do you know what it is to have pride,
passion, envy, malice, selfishness--subdued,
repressed, resisted--by a meek, gentle, lowly,
forgiving, forbearing, generous, self-denying
temper? Are the harshness, hardness, asperity
of the fallen nature, displaced by the softness,
sweetness, and kindness of true love?