God is Love!
James Smith, 1860
What is MAN? A solemn searching question because it resolves itself into this, What am I?
What is man in himself, but a mass of selfishness, seeking self-gratification in a variety of ways?
What is man in reference to God — but enmity against him, not subject to his law, nor can he be.
What is man in reference to his fellow-man —
but envious, jealous, cruel, unfeeling, and often oppressive?
But what is GOD — God in Christ? "God is love!" 1 John 4:16
God is love in his NATURE. It is natural for God to love, and that he might have some to love, he created the pure, the intelligent, the glorious hosts above, who partake of and enjoy the natural love of God. He then created man in his own image and likeness, and loved him with a pure and perfect love.
To conceive of this is easy, for the natural love of God must flow out to the beautiful, and pure, and perfect. But how can God love sinners? He must be just, as well as loving — and justice must note crime, and punish criminals.
Here divine sovereignty comes in, employing
divine wisdom, to devise a way in which God can be just —
and yet love a guilty sinner. The plan was to put sinners into
Christ, to give them a virtual union to the pure and perfect Son of God,
so that . . .
as their head, He should represent them;
as their shield, He should defend them, and
as their surety, He should answer for them.
In Christ they were chosen,
in Christ they were blessed,
in Christ they are preserved,
and in Christ they are loved.
Christ and His people form a glorious mystical man, He is the head — and they are the members.
To them God is love — pure, unmixed love.
All His thoughts of them are loving thoughts.
All His words to them are loving words.
All He does in them, for them, or to them — he
does out of pure love. The head and members are loved alike, as Jesus
testified, "You have loved them — as you have loved me."
As God's nature is love — so His love must be like His nature.
Is He INFINITE? Then His love must be infinite love, and so it is, for it not only surpasses expression — but is beyond conception. "The love of God which surpasses knowledge."
Is His nature ETERNAL? Then His love must be eternal, and it is, as He says, "I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself!"
Is He IMMUTABLE? Then His love must be immutable, and it is, from everlasting to everlasting the same. "For I am the Lord, I do not change; that is why you . . . are not consumed!" Malachi 3:6
Is He WISE? Then His love must be wisely fixed, wisely exercised, and wisely displayed.
Is He JUST? Then His love must be just, and it is, for by loving His redeemed people — He never interferes with the rights of others, or in any way injures them.
Is He FREE in the exercise of His perfections and prerogatives? Then His love must be free, and it is free as the shining of the sun, as the falling of the shower, as the descent of the dew. God loves freely, without looking for a cause or reason in man.
Is He OMNIPOTENT? Then His love must be all-powerful, and blessed be His holy name, His sweet and gentle love always goes hand in hand with omnipotence.
Is He HOLY? Then His love must be holy love, and so it is, for while it is fixed on the sinner — it never, directly, or indirectly, in any manner, or in any measure sanction sin.
God is love, and the love of God is God himself
loving, in accordance with all the glorious attributes, and sublime
perfections of His nature.
God displays His love in His works. The CREATION, before man fell, and the curse of God came as a withering blast, and a deteriorating blight passed over it — must have been exquisitely lovely! It was the outward expression of some of the lovely thoughts and beauteous conceptions of God's eternal mind. Even now, after it has been under the curse so many years, it is a beautiful world — a world full of wonders.
We see something of the love of God . . .
in the variety which adorns it, the hill and dale, the rock and river, the towering mountain and the rolling ocean;
in the beauty which crowns it, what beauty of form and color, to sight and smell;
in its suitability to man's senses, needs, and wishes — how pleasant its fruits to the palate, the fragrance of its flowers to the smell, and many of its productions to the touch.
Truly it must have been a beautiful world once, and .
its spreading skies,
its rolling rivers,
its undulating hills,
its mighty forests,
its lovely gardens,
the songs of the feathered tribes,
the capers of its animals,
the frolics of its fish,
the happiness of all its inhabitants —
must have united to proclaim that "God is love!"
What will the world be when it emerges from its fiery baptism, when all things are newly molded and made, and it becomes the residence, the home, the paradise of Jesus and His much loved bride!
God has especially manifested His love in our
SALVATION. He has loved, and loved infinitely, millions upon millions of
unlovely ones. He has given His Son to them, to be their Savior;
and has given him for them, to be the sacrifice for their sins.
He sends His salvation home to their hearts, by the grace and power of
the Holy Spirit. He prepared the kingdom for His people, before
the foundation of the world; and all through time, he is preparing
them for the kingdom. In His love he . . .
chose His people,
gave them to Jesus,
sent them a Savior,
accepted His sacrifice,
sent them His Spirit,
confers on them His grace, and
trains them up for honor, glory, immortality, and eternal life!
In salvation, love appears as the moving cause, as providing all the means, and as crowning the whole with surpassing splendor and glory.
God wishes to be viewed and treated, as love.
He prizes the love of His people, and therefore wishes them to love him.
He values the confidence of His children, and therefore requests them to trust in him.
He appreciates the faith of His subjects, and therefore directs them to believe him.
He esteems the obedience of His servants, and therefore commands them to obey him.
But our love to him, our confidence in him, and our obedience to him — will be all regulated by our views of him. If we view him as love, if we believe the love that he has to us — then we shall feel love spring up in our souls, confidence rising in our hearts, and we shall bow with cheerful willingness at His throne, asking, "Lord, what will you have me to do?"
Let us then, take care only to receive scriptural representations of God into our minds, and especially let this view of him ever predominate, "God is love."
Is God love? Then here is good news for the future. We know not what a day may bring forth. No one can tell what shall be on the morrow; but let what will come, whatever may take place, if God is love — we may meet it, bear it thankfully.
Men may despise or hate us,
circumstances may change around us,
providence even may frown upon us —
but if "God is love," all will be well.
Is God love? Then here is a bright light in the gloomiest hours. Believer, in all your toils, in all your trials, in all your sorrows, and amidst all your sufferings — remember, "God is love!" For in so doing, you will prove the truth of the Psalmist's words, "Unto the upright, there arises light in the darkness."
Is God love? Then here is a fountain of joy in the Valley of Baca (weeping). We shall have to cross many a dry and arid valley, with the trees stripped of their foliage, and the wells empty and dry. The burning sands beneath us, and the scorching sun above us, will exhaust our strength, and we shall be wearied in the difficulty of our way.
But with the eye fixed on God as love — joy will spring up in the heart, and peace will flow into our souls.
Is God love? Then here is manna from Heaven in the barren desert. We may have no waving corn-fields, nor so much as a handful of meal in a barrel.
"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails, and
the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty —
yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!" Habakkuk 3:17-18
Is God love? Then here is a star of hope in the darkest night. Like the north star, that fixes the poor slave's eye, as he flees from his cruel oppressor, and hastens to the land of the free; so this precious truth should fix our eye, awaken our hope, and quicken our pace as we flee from the wrath to come, or flee to the refuge set before us in the gospel.
Is God love? Then here is the subject for a song
in the most sorrowful seasons. We may not be able to sing of sweet
spiritual frames, or pleasant feelings, of kind friends, or cheering
prospects — but we may sing of the infinite, unvarying, and immortal
love of God! We can sing of God's love . . .
sovereignly fixed upon us,
freely flowing to us, and
prepared to do anything for us,
or give anything unto us.
Is God love? Then here is a two-edged sword for the fiercest conflict. Before this Satan will quail, and all our foes must flee. Let us grasp it firmly, use it wisely, and we shall conquer with it gloriously. Its keen edge will never turn, its blade will never break, therefore victory is certain. Victory — more than victory, for "we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."