Christ's love for His Redeemed People
"As" and "So"
Archibald G. Brown, March 12th, 1871, Stepney Green Tabernacle
"AS the Father has loved Me — SO have I loved you; continue in My love." John 15:9
The reason for my selecting this portion for meditation can best be explained by a simple illustration, which will be understood by all present who are in any way acquainted with rural life. You will often have observed, while walking along some footpath that winds its way amid the fields, a flock of sheep quietly feeding within an enclosure made by portable fences. Instead of roaming the whole field over, they are located on one small spot, until the shepherd shifting the simple fence, makes the furthest boundary the commencement of another plot of feeding ground — and so on, until every portion of the field has, in its turn, yielded food and sweetness to the flock. The different changes made are not from one pasture land to another — but from one portion to an adjoining plot of the same great field.
As under-shepherd of this flock, I desire this morning to do the same — to lead you to the green pastures, commencing from where we terminated last Lord's-day. The field is still the same, namely, the fifteenth chapter of John — but the portion of that field is a different one — yet adjacent to it.
Last week our souls found sweet refreshment in the thought of . . .
our union in Christ,
our communion with Christ, and
our fruitfulness through Christ.
We beheld ourselves as the branches of the vine — indeed, part of the vine itself, drawing all our life from the sap flowing through the parent stem. We heard our Savior's voice telling us to abide in the vine — to have His life continually circulating in us. We saw that all the fruit the branch might ever bear, was simply the result of the vine's life abiding in it, and not the result of any separate life possessed by the branch apart from its union with the stem.
We then closed by observing that according to the statement of Jesus, it is not the fruit — but the abundance of it, that glorifies the Father. Grapes on a vine attract no particular notice; they are justly expected. It is the number and size of the bunches that attract the attention of the stranger. So it is with Christians. Every ordinary saint will bear some fruit — but it is much fruit that glorifies the Father by our fruitfulness. These thoughts brought us down to the eighth verse of this chapter. And I felt last week, when looking for a text, that having found the food so sweet, it would only be wise to lead the flock of God to the adjoining verse, and not altogether leave the pasture for another.
But here the illustration with which I commenced this discourse breaks down and fails, as must all earthly illustrations of heavenly truths. The shepherd moves his flock because the spot is eaten bare, and it fails to continue to give food. Not so with us. The pastures of the Word can never fail. Their fullness is never exhausted. Their supply never ceases to be equal to demand. The more they are made the subject of the feast, the more their fullness and their freshness grows. No spot in the entire meadowland of Scripture is one degree less clothed with verdure through the entertainments it has given to the flock of God. Always rich — always sweet — always wet with the dew of Heaven, are the green pastures into which the great Shepherd leads His sheep.
The subject for this morning's contemplation is pre-eminently a blessed one. It tells of a Savior's love, and it explains that love by the most marvelous type that Christ Himself could use. The whole verse revolves around the axis comprised in the two little words "as" and "so." "AS the Father has loved me — SO have I loved you."
Christ's love to us, is described as being identical with the Father's love to Him. Fathom the "as" — and you will have sounded the "so." Measure the former — and you will then have learned the dimensions of the latter. Grasp, if you can, what that love is that dwells in the heart of the Father toward the Son — and then, and not until then, will you know what is the love in the heart of Jesus toward you.
You will see at once, dear friends, that we have a subject vast and boundless. May the Holy Spirit direct the preacher into all truth, and put upon his lips such words as shall bring the divine comparison instituted in the text, home to every heart with power. There are two things found in the verse which shall serve us as divisions:
1. We have an amazing comparison, "As the Father has loved me — so have I loved you."
2. We have a loving admonition, "continue in my love."
I. First then, let us meditate on an Amazing Comparison. "AS the Father has loved Me — SO have I loved you." I have already said, that if we are able to understand the love of the Father to Christ — then we shall then be able to understand the love of Christ to us. Here is an "if" indeed. How can the finite measure that which, in itself, is infinite? The difficulty is increased also by the matter of contemplation. It is love — Divine love. The love of Him who is love. The love of God to Christ.
I find it easier to form in some measure, a conception of His power than I do of His love. True, both are infinite. But then one is a matter of His arm — while the other concerns His heart. On every hand I can perceive His might: the sun marching in its course by day, and the stars gliding along their paths by night. Both alike declare a power that is infinite, for it is He who has set "a tabernacle for the sun," and as for the stars, "He calls them all by name; by the greatness of His might, and being strong in power, not one fails." Isaiah 40.26. Moreover, power, wisdom and glory seem things that one may venture to speak about; but a peculiar sacredness, almost commanding silence, surrounds the deep love of God's heart. That heart, the heart of God and the object of that love, is His Son.
As we approach the subject with a feeling akin to awe, we almost imagine that we can hear with Moses, the voice of God, saying, "Take off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground." Exo 3.5.
The love of God to Christ — here is the "AS."
While pondering this mighty "as" in the quiet of my study, the scene around me changed. Familiar objects seemed to fade away, and in imagination, I stood upon a shore. Stretching out before me was an ocean. Far as the eye could reach there was water everywhere. As I stood contemplating this vast expanse, I thought I heard a voice saying to me, "The ocean on which you are gazing has no other shore. Before you — to the right — to the left — it has no bound, no limit — form an idea of its extent." My mind was staggered, and I answered, "How can I measure what has no boundary, knows no end?" The voice again said, "The ocean on which you look has no bottom — fathom it." Overwhelmed, I replied, "How can I sound that which is all depth?"
This ocean awed me by its calm. No wave, no ripple broke or murmured on the shore on which I stood. I felt as if it was too vast to heave, too deep to know disquiet. It was the ocean of the Father's love to Christ.
Again, the scene changed, and I found myself standing at the foot of a giant mountain. Beside it all other mountain ranges were dwarfed to mole hills. Astonished, I looked upwards to the towering peaks only to find there were higher still. Sight failed and the spirit quailed, while the same voice I had heard before said, "This mountain has no top — climb it." Ah! how? Who can gain a summit when there is none? It was the love of God to Christ which in its height and depth, and length and breadth, is measureless.
Behold, beloved, the boundlessness of the "AS" — to fathom it — to encircle it — to scale it — are but impossibilities. All we can hope to do is just mention some of its leading features, and then try and show you that the leading features of the "as," are also the leading features of the "so."
First then, the love of the Father to the Son was a SUPREME love. It is . . .
higher than the highest,
deeper than the deepest,
longer than the longest,
broader than the broadest.
It was love beyond all love — the greatest love with which the God of love could love. It was a love into which the whole divine power of loving was thrown. It would be the foulest blasphemy to imagine it is possible for Christ to be loved with a greater love. Here is the "AS."
Now turn to the "SO." "So have I loved you." Christ loves His people with an affection that is incapable of increase. It is no comparative love — but a superlative love. The whole heart of Christ loves every saint to its utmost power. I know this is hard to realize. Painfully conscious of our own utter unworthiness, and of our ten-thousand inconsistencies — we often feel that if Jesus will show us just bare mercy and pity — it is all we can dare to ask.
But, dear friend, this is wrong. It is judging our Lord's love by our own — it is bringing Him down to our own low level. We have nothing to do with what we feel — but what he has said — and he has declared that His love to us is the same as His Father's love to Him. You dare not doubt the latter — then do not doubt the former.
The only true way of judging love, is by what love will do. O, try the love of Jesus by this test. See if it is possible for Him to give higher or deeper proofs than those he has given. The greatest exhibition of love is for a man to lay down his life for his friends — but Jesus far exceeded this proof. He gave His life for His enemies. He endured Gethsemane and stooped to Calvary, for His foes.
"And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony,
Yes, death itself and all for me,
Who was your enemy!"
And now, although exalted high, "his love is still as great." Poor trembling down-cast saint, take this thought into your heart this morning, and let it be a solace to you: Jesus loves you with a love as infinite as the Father's love to Him!
The love of the Father to the Son was also an ETERNAL love. If you will turn with me to the seventeenth chapter of this Gospel, and the twenty-fourth verse, you will read, "For you loved me before the foundation of the world." Here we are brought face to face with one of those truths that can never be grasped by the mind — but only believed in the heart.
Who can form a conception of what eternity is? Who can explain in language, the meaning of the word "everlasting?" There is something transcendent in the depth of a past eternity. Go back as far as the mind can imagine — it is always infinitely before that. What ages have rolled their courses since the solid foundations of the world were laid — how far remote is that time when "in the beginning, God created the Heaven and the earth."
But the Father loved the Son before the foundation of the world. If we go back in thought to the time when no world existed, when space did not know a star; yes, further back than that, when an angel did not exist, when not a single "son of the morning" had ever raised his voice — we find that the Father loved the Son. From all eternity, when God alone was everywhere, and everything was nowhere — the Son dwelt in the bosom of the Father. There never was a moment when Christ was not the well-beloved. Here, dear friends, you have the "as," and that was an eternal one.
Now turn to the "SO." "So have I loved you." As eternal as the Father's love to the Son — is the Son's love to His people. Child of God, the love of Jesus to you is no love of yesterday. Listen to His word: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving-kindness I have drawn you." Jeremiah 31.3. Before the foundation of the world, He had thoughts of love to you — for even then He was in purpose "the Lamb slain." In the council chamber of eternity, His heart yearned over you, and made Him cry, "Save from going down into the pit, for I have found a ransom." Job 33.24.
The "so" has ever run parallel with the "as." There never was a time when Jesus did not love you. O, what infinite value does this thought give to "the love of Christ to me!" I would abide under its influence. I would revel in its sweetness. The love I know and feel He has to me this morning, dates back with the love the Father ever had to Him!
"His love, from eternity fixed upon you,
Broke forth, and discovered its flame,
When each with the cords of His kindness He drew,
And brought you to love His great name."
The Father's love to the Son was also an UNFLUCTUATING love. Our Savior says, concerning it, "I always abide in His love." John 15.10. It is impossible to imagine a momentary alteration in the divine love of the Father. It is a deep, deep ocean, that knows no flow or ebb. It is love that rests in infinite delight in Christ. It is always at the fullest.
There you have the "as," now listen to the "so." "So have I loved you." I frankly confess, dear friends, that it is this view of Christ's love that I find most difficult to realize in my own soul. I can far easier imagine a love that has no end — than a love that knows no variation in degree of intensity. When one looks within, and watches the changing experience of the heart — when one finds it today burning with a returning love, and tomorrow frozen up and coated with the ice of indifference — it is indeed hard to realize that the love of Jesus has known no corresponding alterations. It is so natural to measure our Savior's love to us — by ours to Him; and think that because we feel more of His love, therefore there is more. But blessed be God, although we cannot always grasp the fact — yet the fact remains.
"His is an unchanging love,
Higher than the heights above;
Deeper than the depths beneath,
Free and faithful, strong as death!"
"What," I think I can hear one of you saying, "Do you mean to say that Jesus loves me just as much when I am depressed, and deep down in the dark valley — as when I am full of sunshine, and standing on the mount of God?" Yes, I do, dear friend, quite as much. His love was never begotten by anything he saw in you — and can therefore never be changed by anything about you. The roots of love are deep within His own heart — and therefore the fruits are never increased or diminished by anything in you. Surely, of all thoughts one can possibly have of the love of Jesus, it would be impossible to find one more full of refreshment and joy to the sorrowing saint, than the thought of its unchangeableness.
Jesus finds His joy in loving His people! Is it bliss to me to be beloved by Him? It is also a cause for song on His part to love me. He finds satisfaction in His love. He rests in it. "The Lord your God, in the midst of you, is mighty; He will save, he will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Zeph 3.17.
Yes, child of God, your Savior's love, unlike your own, is a resting love. It rests on the person, never leaving him. It rests in degree, never varying in itself. Until the Father's love to the Son fluctuates, and not until then — you need not fear the love of Christ ever altering in its intensity towards you.
The Father's love, moreover, was one of DELIGHT. This is the highest kind of love — far beyond the love of compassion or the love of pity. It is a love full of pleasure and satisfaction in the person loved. "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." These words give us an insight into the nature of the Father's love. It is love unmingled with sorrow or disappointment. It is love reposing — love rejoicing — love singing.
Now turn to its counterpart. "So have I loved you." The love of Jesus is something far more than compassionate love. Let me illustrate what I mean by compassionate love. Walking through the streets, I may perchance come across some little lost boy, crying enough to break its heart. The big tears roll down the little dirty cheeks in quick succession. Something makes me stop and ask the little fellow the cause for all this grief.
Broken by many a sob, he tells me he has lost his way, and wants to find his mother. I cannot leave him in his piteous distress. Compassionate love says, "Wipe his eyes, take his little grimy hand in yours; never mind if you do look odd with such a companion; don't leave him until you find his home, and return him to his half-distraught mother."
Now perhaps this work may occupy many an hour, and overthrow a dozen plans I have drawn out for the day. Never mind! It cannot be helped. The child must be looked after. Now this is the love of compassion — but not delight; for all during the time there is no sweet fellowship between us. I may not even be pleased with the child. It was his state, not himself, that was the object and the care of love.
This is far different from the walk of bosom friends, who find mutual delight in each other's company. That is the love of delight.
Dear friend, Jesus finds His delight in you, if you are His redeemed child. True, His love commenced as the love of compassion. He "found us wandering;" but now that love has mellowed into one of infinite satisfaction. He not only refreshes — but he is refreshed by communion with His people. Not only does He make and keep His church as His garden — but walking in that garden, He is himself refreshed. This truth is most beautifully and poetically taught in the Canticles. "Where has your beloved gone, that we may seek Him?" is the question asked of the spouse. Mark the answer, "My beloved has gone down into His garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather bliss. I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine; he feeds among the lilies." Song 6.1-3
Believer in Jesus, try and grasp this thought, it will be a source of unbounded joy to you. Your Savior rests in His love, and reposes in His affection towards you. He delights in you, as much as you ever delight in Him. He says concerning you, as the Father said concerning Him, "In whom I am well pleased."
It was also a love manifested in the time of HUMILIATION. Not only is love precious — but also the time and way in which love declares itself. The deeper our state of trial and humiliation — the more valued will the manifestation of an unaltered affection become.
When was it that the Father first gave from Heaven the glorious declaration of His love of delight in Jesus? I answer, at Christ's baptism. It was at the moment of our Lord's condescending obedience that the Father broke silence, and declared, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The Father's love remained unaltered by the Son's humiliation. The same love that had rested on Christ during an eternity of glory, followed Him through the shame of earth, and refused to leave him at the cross.
Here is the "as," now turn to the "so." "So have I loved you." Christ's love to His people is never withdrawn on account of any humiliation or suffering they may be called to bear. You may be called to pass through a very baptism of fiery trial, the heat of which will scorch almost all the professed friendship now made; but hovering over you like a dove, it will still remain the love of Jesus. Like the Hebrew youths, there may be in store for you a furnace seven times heated; but you will find, when cast into its flaming mouth, that there is one "like the Son of God," who will walk the furnace with you.
The deeper the trial, the nearer the Savior. When most needed, the Savior's love is always most felt. Fear not, tried child of God, that Jesus will ever be afraid to own you for His friend, for as the Father loved Him in His deepest abasement — so He will ever manifest His love to you in your times of greatest grief.
Once more, and lastly, upon this amazing comparison. The Father's love only found its CULMINATION IN GLORY. He raised up Christ on the third day, and shortly after, our Savior ascended to enter into His mediatorial glory. O! who can describe that triumphal entry, when the everlasting gates lift up their heads to let the King of glory in? Who can tell the honors paid to the Son when he ascended the throne, and took His place at the Father's right hand? His prayer is answered, "Glorify me with yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." John 17.5.
The "as" is one that reaches Heaven. The "so" meets it there. Christ so loves us that He will have us by His side. As He shares the glory of the Father — so He will have us share His glory.
Listen to the wondrous yearning of His heart for his peoples' company. "Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory which you have given me; for you loved me before the foundation of the world." John 17.24. Here you have the Father's love to Christ linked with Christ's prayer for our glory. O, blessed love of Jesus!!
"Love, which will not let Him rest,
Until His chosen all are blessed;
Until they all for whom he died
Live rejoicing by His side!"
Thus much for our first division, on which we have dwelt longer than we anticipated — but too shortly to satisfy our desire. Christ's love to us, like the Father's love to Him, is . . .
full of delight,
manifested in time of humiliation,
and culminating in glory!
II. A Loving Admonition."Continue in my love." I can well imagine one of you saying, "Whatever does that mean? Have you not just been telling us that the love of Jesus knows no variation, and never ceases to encircle the saint? Why then are we told to continue in that love? I will try and explain what I think our Lord meant by these words.
Although His love abides always upon us — yet we are not always consciously living in it. Our Savior having just described to his disciples what His love was, now gently admonishes them to live in its influence. Our appreciation of, and joy in, His love — is a very different thing to the love itself. The latter never changes, the former hardly ever remains the same. Yet it is only in proportion, as we live in the love of Jesus, that we can live a happy and useful life.
It is a sad, sad fact, that many seem almost ignorant of such a life. There are most Christians — and there are some Christians who live under the influence of the love of Jesus. Have we not all come across many whom we could not dare to unchristianize — and yet who seem ignorant of the fact that there is such a thing as living, walking, and working under the influence of a realized Savior's love!
To live under this influence is to live within a charmed circle of light. O, do not be content to dwell outside this happy sphere. To be saved — but only just saved. To enter Heaven at last — but never to know what it is to have Heaven in your own soul on earth. If up to the present you have been a Christian living in an atmosphere other than that of Christ's love — do not be content to remain in it any longer. Listen to the gentle admonition of Jesus this morning, "Continue in my love."
Do you ask, "What is the secret of doing so?" I answer, or rather your Savior does, obedience. Kindly turn with me to the tenth verse of this chapter, and there you will read, "If you keep my commandments — then you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love." Turn also to the previous chapter, the twenty-first verse, and onwards, "He who has my commandments and keeps them — is the one that loves me; and he who loves me shall be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
One said to Him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?" Now mark the answer. "Jesus answered, and said to him, if a man loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him."
The disobedient child will never have the sweet manifestations of a Savior's love that the one will have who keeps the words of Jesus. If my life is not in harmony with the Savior's commandments, it is foolish to expect the Father and the Son to come and make their abode with me. A disobedient walk will ever prove a barrier to my entering and dwelling within the bright region of a Savior's realized love. Grieving the Spirit of God, and resisting His gentle drawings to a higher life, will render my continuing in Christ's love an impossibility.
Beloved friends, permit me to plead with you and my own heart to no longer be strangers to this heavenly experience. If we are, we are strangers to a joy that is unutterable in its fullness. It was Christ's love to his disciples, and His desire for their joy that made him admonish them this way, for he says, in the eleventh verse, "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full."
May God, in His mercy, give to us a daily increase of this fullness of joy which comes from abiding in that amazing love, concerning which our dear Redeemer says, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you." Amen.