The Perfume of Love
by Thomas Watson
"See that you love one another with a pure heart
fervently." 1 Peter 1:22
The Holy Scripture makes the love of the brethren
the surest note of a man who shall go to heaven, 1 John 3:14. Christ and His
Apostles beat much upon this string of love—as if this made the
sweetest music and harmony in true religion. The consideration of this has
put me upon this subject.
All the graces have their beauty—but there are
some that more adorn and set off a Christian in the eye of the world, such
as humility and love. These two graces, like precious diamonds, cast
a sparkling luster upon religion. I have designed to speak of the last of
these at this time, "See that you love one another with a pure heart
fervently." Love is a grace always needful, therefore never out of season,
though too much out of use. My text, like the River of Eden, parts itself
into four heads:
1. The command, "See that you love."
2. The extent of this love, "One another."
3. The manner of this love, "With a pure heart."
4. The degree of this love, "Fervently."
Love purely; that is—opposed to hypocrisy.
Love must be with the heart. It must not be a 'mere complement', which is
like a painted fire. Pretended love is worse than hatred.
Love fervently; that is—opposed to neutrality.
Love must flame forth. It must not be as the smoking flax—but as a burning
lamp. The Hebrew word for love imports an ardent and zealous affection; no
water must quench it.
DOCTRINE. Christians must love one another cordially and
Colossians 3:14, "Above all these things, put on love." 1
Peter 4:8, "Above all things, have fervent love among yourselves." It is as
if the Apostle had said, "Whatever you neglect—do not neglect this grace."
Jerome reports that when John was old, he was said to be led up into the
pulpit and there he repeated these words, "Little children, love one
another!" Oh, that this grace of love were engraved as in letters of gold
upon our hearts, by the finger of the Holy Spirit!
Here the question will be asked, "What is love?"
I answer, love is a sweet and gracious affection whereby
we wish the good of another and promote his welfare as our own. Love is a
sacred fire kindled in the heart by the Spirit, like that fire which came
from heaven, 2 Chronicles 7:1. I shall endeavor to preserve this fire in
Christian hearts, as the fire the vestal virgins kept in Rome, that it may
not go out.
Arguments to Enforce Love
1. We must love by virtue of command. John
13:34, "A new commandment I give unto you—that you love one another." Love
is both a new commandment and an old commandment. It is
an old commandment, because it is a law written in the heart of man by the
pen of nature as with the point of a diamond. And it is old because it is
written in the ancient statutes and records. Leviticus 19:18, "You shall
love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord."
Yet it is a new commandment because it is newly purged
from pharisaical glosses. Before it was "love your neighbor," but now
it is "love your enemy," Matthew 5:44. Here is a new comment upon an
Love is said to be a new commandment because of a new
edition. It came out of the new mint of the gospel, and was pressed by a new
example. John 13:34, "As I have loved you"; so that it is not
arbitrary but a duty. It is a new commandment and an old commandment.
2. We must love because of the excellency of this grace.
It is a lovely grace. All the other graces seem to be eclipsed, unless love
shines and sparkles forth in them. Faith itself has no beauty, unless
it works by love. The tears of repentance are not pure unless they
flow from the spring of love. Love is the jewel which Christ's bride wears;
it is the diamond in the ring of graces. This is the grace
which seasons all our actions and makes them savory. Love is like musk among
linen—which perfumes it. So love makes all our pious services a sweet
fragrance to God, Ephesians 5:2.
Prayer is compared to incense, Psalm 141:2. Now incense,
if it is laid on the altar and has no fire put to it, does not smell so
sweet. The incense of prayer does not cast such a fragrant aroma, unless
kindled with this fire of love. Love is the badge and temper of a true
saint. John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if
you love one another"; not if you work miracles—but if you love one another.
By this garb, you are known to belong to Me, says Christ. Bernard calls
love, the sweet dew which distills from a Christian, and refreshes
all whom it drops upon. Love is the golden clasp which knits hearts;
it is the cement which unites Christians together; it is the bond of
perfectness, Colossians 3:14. If this bond is broken, all falls to pieces.
Love is the fulfilling of the law, Romans 13:10. All the duties of the first
and second table—piety towards God and equity towards our
neighbor, are comprehended in this, "You shall love."
Oh, how sweetly does the Apostle Paul discourse and
expound upon this grace! How he extols it! He plays as well the orator as
the theologian; how he delineates this grace of love! How he pencils and
draws it out to the life, in all its beauty and spiritual embroidery!
That he may extol this grace, first he does it
exclusively. He shows that the most glorious things are nothing without it.
1 Corinthians 13:1, "Though I speak
with the tongues of men." If a man could speak in as many languages as
Mithridates (of whom it is said he understood 22 sundry tongues), if he had
the golden mouth of Chrysostom, if he could do with his oratory as the poets
said Orpheus did with his harp, move the very rocks and stones—yet without
love it would be nothing!
No, says the Apostle, "though I speak with the tongues
of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or as a
tinkling cymbal." Would it not be a noble thing to have the eloquence of
angels? Yet this, without love, would be but the tinkling of the cymbal. To
love as Christians, is better than to speak as angels.
"And though I understand all mysteries and all
knowledge," verse 2. If a man's head were a library of all learning, if
he could know all that is knowable, if he could, with Solomon, discourse
from the Cedar in Lebanon even to the hyssop—and have not love, all is
nothing. Knowledge without love makes a man no better than a devil.
"And though I have all faith, so that I could move
mountains." Would it not be admirable to have the faith of miracles? To
unhinge mountains, to cast out devils, to take up serpents, and drink
poison, and not have it hurt us? Matthew 16:16. Yet "if I have not love, I
am nothing." I am of no account with God. The miracles of faith, without the
mystery of love, profit nothing.
"And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,"
verse 3. Suppose I give away all my estate to charity—yet without love it
avails me nothing. It is like a lamp without oil.
"And though I give my body to be burned, and have not
love, it is nothing." The fire of martyrdom avails nothing, without the
fire of love. Let a man come to church, pray, and read Scripture; yet if his
heart burns in malice, it is but going to hell in more saint-like manner.
"Oh, how precious a jewel," said Augustine, "is love! How rare a grace that,
if this is lacking, all other things, though ever so glorious, are in vain!"
The Apostle sets forth this grace of love positively by
deciphering its nature and excellency.
"Love is kind," verse 4. Love is a generous,
bountiful grace. It is full of good works; it drops as the honeycomb.
"Love is not puffed up." Though it is bountiful, it
is not proud. Love is a humble grace, like the violet. Though it perfumes
the air—yet it hangs down its head. Loves lays aside the trumpet and covers
itself with a veil. Love conceals its own worth, and says, as Paul, 2
Corinthians 12:11, "though I am nothing."
"Love seeks not her own," verse 5. The Apostle
complains, Philippians 2:21, "All men seek their own," but love seeks not
her own. This is a diffusive grace, and wholly spends itself for the
good of others, 1 Corinthians 10:33. Love makes a private Christian a common
good. Love is a grace which does not dwell at home; it goes abroad; it makes
frequent visits; it looks into the condition of others and relieves them.
Love has one eye blind to wink at the infirmities of others—and another eye
open to spy their needs!
"Love is not easily provoked." It is not in a violent
fit; it does not burn in anger. It is meek and calm, never taking fire
unless to warm others with its gracious beams of mercy. It gives honey but
does not easily sting.
The Apostle sets forth the excellency of this grace of
love comparatively, by laying it in the balance with other graces, verse 13,
"And now abides faith, hope, love; these three—but the greatest of these is
love." He compares love with faith and hope, and then sets the crown
upon love. Indeed, in some senses, faith is greater than love.
Faith is the cause of love; therefore, more noble; for,
as Augustine said, though the root of the tree is not seen—yet all the
beauty of the branches proceeds from the root. So all the beauty which
sparkles in love, proceeds from the root of faith.
Faith is more excellent than love. Faith is a more
beneficial grace to us; for by faith we are ingrafted into Christ and
partake of all the blessings of salvation. Faith fetches into the soul—all
the strength and riches of Christ! Faith puts upon the soul the embroidered
robe of Christ's righteousness, in which it shines brighter than the angels.
But, in another sense, love is greater than faith.
Love is greater than faith because love is a more
visible grace then faith. Faith lies hidden in the heart, Romans 10:9.
Love is more conspicuous and shines forth more in the life. Love reveals the
soundness of faith, as the steady beating of the pulse shows the healthful
temper of the body. Faith bows the knee to Christ and worships Him; love
opens its treasures and presents unto Christ gifts, gold and frankincense.
Love is greater than faith in regard of continuance.
1 Corinthians 13:8, "Love never fails." We shall lay down our body of flesh,
and see God face to face. Faith and hope shall be no more—but love shall
remain. While we live here, we have need of faith, this is our Jacob's
staff to walk with. 2 Corinthians 5:7, "We walk by faith." But we shall
set this staff shortly at heaven's door, and love alone shall enter
within the veil. So you have seen the sparkling of this diamond, and thus
does the Apostle no less elegantly than divinely set forth the beauty and
orient luster of this grace.
3. The third argument pressing Christians to love is that
this sets a crown of honor upon true religion. It renders the
Gospel lovely in the eyes of the world. It was an honor to religion in
Tertullian's time, when the heathens could say, "See how the Christians love
one another!" Psalm 133:1, "Behold how good, and how pleasant it is for
brethren to dwell together in unity!" It is like precious ointment upon the
head which runs down to the skirts of holy garments. Oh, what a blessed
sight it is to see Christians linked together with the silver link of love!
The church is Christ's Temple, the saints are living stones, 1 Peter 2:5.
How beautiful is this temple when the stones of it are cemented together
with love! It was said of the first Temple, that there was no noise of
hammer in it; and oh, that there might be no noise of strife and division in
God's church! Could we see unity and truth, like the vine and elm mutually
embracing; could we see the children of Zion spreading themselves as olive
plants round about their mother's table in an amicable and peaceable manner;
how would this adorn true religion and be a lure to invite and draw others
to be in love with it! What is true religion, but a binding and knitting
together of hearts! We are knit to God by faith—and one to another by love.
4. The fourth argument is the necessity of love.
Love is a debt. Now debts must be paid. "Let no debt remain outstanding,
except the continuing debt to love one another," Romans 13:8. The debt of
love differs from other debts.
When a debt is paid, we receive an acquittance and are to
pay it no more; but this debt of love must be always paying. In heaven we
must be paying this debt, love to God and the saints; there is no discharge
from this debt.
Other debts may be dispensed with. We forgive a debt
sometimes, as that creditor did in the parable, Matthew 18:27, "The Lord of
that servant was moved with compassion and forgave him the debt." But this
debt of love is by no means to be dispensed with; it must be paid. If we do
not pay this debt, God will come upon us with an arrest, and throw us into
In civil debts between man and man, the more they pay,
the less they have; but, in this debt of love, it is quite contrary.
The more we pay, the more we have. The more grace from God, the more
love to others. Love, like the widow's oil, increases by being poured out.
By paying other debts we grow poorer—by paying this debt, we grow richer.
5. A fifth argument enforcing love, is that love makes us
like God. "God is love," 1 John 4:16, a golden sentence.
Augustine said, "The Apostle more commends love in this one word, 'God is
love,' than Paul does in his whole chapter." As the nature of the sun is
light, so God's nature is love. The three persons in the trinity are all
God the Father is love. John 3:16, "God so loved
the world." That God should part with Christ out of His bosom, the Son of
His love, and lay this jewel, as it were, to pawn for our salvation, oh,
unparallel love! Never was such love shown to the fallen angels!
God the Son is love. How did Christ love His
spouse when He died for her! His sides dripped blood—His heart
dripped love! Such a vein of love was opened in Him, that our sins
could not quench it. Love was the wing on which Christ flew into the
virgin's womb. Christ incarnate—here was love covered over with flesh!
Christ on the cross—here was a book of love laid open before us to
God the Holy Spirit is love. His appearing in the
likeness of a dove showed His nature. "The dove," said Pliny, "is an
amicable creature; it is without gall." What are all the motions of the
Spirit, but offers of love? Thus all the persons of the trinity are love;
and the more we shine in the grace of love, the more we resemble the God of
6. A sixth argument enforcing love, is from the sweet
relations we stand in one to another. We are fellow-citizens,
Ephesians 2:19; we all expect one heaven. We shall shortly live
together, and shall we not love together? We are soldiers of
the same army, 2 Timothy 2:3; ours must be the fight of faith, not the fight
of contention. Our strife must be who shall love most! We are branches
of the same vine, and shall we not be united? We are stones of
the same building, and shall we not be cemented with love? Nay, we are
brethren. Acts 7:26, "Sirs, you are brethren, why do you wrong one to
USE 1. I might here take up a lamentation and
steep my words in tears, to consider the decay (I almost said "the
funeral") of this grace among Christians. The fire of brotherly love is
almost ready to go out. Instead of the fire of love, we see the wildfire of
contention. I have read of one Vitalis who hazarded his life to rescue his
distressed friend; but surely such Vitalises are dead in this age. The text
says, "See that you love one another." But our times are a bad commentary
upon this text. How Christians reproach, censure, and malign one another!
The text says, "love fervently," but they hate fervently. Instead of the
bond of love, behold the apple of strife! We live in the frigid zone, "the
love of many waxes cold." Many live as if they had been born upon the
mountains of Bether, the mountains of division, and as if they had
been baptized in the waters of Meribah, the water of strife.
Do the wicked unite? Nay, do the devils unite? There was,
in one man, a legion of demons, which is, according to Varro, seven
thousand six hundred twenty two. Shall there be more harmony among devils
than among Christians! For these divisions among the godly, there
are great thoughts of heart. Oh, Christians! Turn your hot words—into salt
tears! How do the enemies of true religion insult us, to see not only
Christ's coat torn—but His body torn! For these things let our
eyes run down with tears.
Consider the evil consequence, where love is lacking. The
absence of this grace brings forth divisions, and they are dangerous. For
divisions bring a reproach and scandal upon true religion; they make the
ways of God evil spoken of, as if religion were the fomenter of envy and
sedition. Julian, in his invectives against the Christians, said that they
lived together as tigers, rending and tearing one another. And shall we, by
our animosities and contentions, make good, Julian's words? Lack of love
will make others afraid to embrace the Christian faith.
Divisions advance Satan's kingdom. The devil has no hope
but in our discords. Chrysostom observes that, in the city of Corinth when
many zealous converts were brought in, Satan knew no better way to dam up
the current of religion, than by throwing in a bone of contention and
dividing them into parties. One was for Paul and another for Apollo—but few
USE 2. Be exhorted to cordial and fervent
love. "See that you love one another." Oh, that this sweet spice might send
forth its fragrant aroma among Christians! Oh, that the Lord would rain down
some of these silver showers of love upon the hearts of Christians,
which are, for the most part like the mountains of Gilboa, which have none
of this heavenly dew upon them! They say of the stones of the temple, that
they were so closely cemented as if there had been but one stone in the
temple. It is to be wished that the hearts of Christians were so sweetly
cemented in love, as if there were but one heart.
Let me commend this grace of amity and love to
Christians. You are members of the church of God; you bear Christ's name.
You wear His garb; therefore, you must be soldered together in
affection. It is a sad omen when the joints of the same body are loosed, and
the knees shall smite one against another.
If yet men will live at variance, nourishing a viper in
their bosoms, I shall offer two things to their serious consideration.
1. An unloving person is an unregenerate person. Titus
3:3, "At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by
all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being
hated and hating one another." It is as if he had said, "Before grace
came, we were filled and ready to burst with this poison of malice." The
Apostle, describing a natural condition, calls it the gall of bitterness. A
malicious person is of no kin to God, for God is love. He knows nothing of
the Gospel savingly, for it is a Gospel of peace. We read in Scripture of
the bond of peace, Ephesians 4:3 and the bond of iniquity, Acts 8:23. Him
whom the Gospel has not bound in the bond of peace, Satan has bound in the
bond of iniquity.
2. Uncharitableness is a leaven, which sours the whole
lump, 1 Corinthians 5:8.
Uncharitableness sours your good qualities. Naaman
was an honorable man, a mighty man in valor—but he was a leper, 2
Kings 5:1. Like a dead fly in the ointment, it spoiled all the rest. So it
may be said that such a man is a man of abilities, a man of great moral
endowments; he is just, affable, temperate—but he is a leper. He is
not a loving person. He pays everyone their own—but there is one debt he
will not pay, though he rots in hell for it—namely the debt of love. This is
a brand of infamy upon him.
Uncharitableness sours your good duties. You pray
and come to church—but refuse to be tied in a knot of love. What profit is
there of all your seeming devotion? We are bid to lift up pure hands
without wrath, 1 Timothy 2:8. The unloving person does not lift up pure
hands in prayer—but leprous hands, bloody hands. 1 John 3:16, "Whoever hates
his brother is a murderer!" Prayer, said Chrysostom, may be compared to a
fine garland. The hands which make a garland must be clean; just so, the
heart which makes a prayer needs to be clean. Wrath and anger sully and
defile a Christian's prayers—and will the Holy God touch them? The unloving
man poisons his own prayers—and will the Lord accept a poisoned sacrifice?
Oh, that all this might at last persuade us to cordial
and fervent love! Let us turn all our censuring into praying!
Let us pray to God that He would quench the fire of contention, and increase
the fire of brotherly love among us. Let us pray that the Lord would heal
our schisms, and repair our breaches; that He would make us like the
cherubim with our faces looking one upon another. Let us pray that God will
make good that promise that we shall serve Him with one heart, and that this
may be the golden motto written upon our churches, "One heart and one way."
It exhorts us that, as we would be amicable to all, so
especially that we would love those who are of the household of faith—namely
the people of God, Psalm 16:2. We must love as God loves, He loves those
most who are like Him. He loves piety, though it is espoused to
poverty. So must our love run out especially to those who have the image
and superscription of God upon on them. Joseph loved all his brethren—but he
loved Benjamin the most. The people of God must have a Benjamin's portion
of our love.
The saints are called jewels, Malachi 3:17, which
we must love and prize; they are called the apple of God's eye—to
show how tender they should be in our eye. The saints are partakers of
the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:4, not by an incorporation into divine
essence—but by a conformity to the divine likeness. These we must
love, with a love of delight and delight. These are near allied to Christ by
faith; they are of the blood royal of heaven; these must be higher in
our thoughts and deeper in our affections than others.
When I say the saints must have the largest share in our
love, I mean not all who call themselves saints, such as under a mask of
holiness commit sin, hypocritical saints—but such as the Scripture
calls saints, such as excel in virtue and grace, Psalm 16, such as walk
humbly with God, Micah 6:8; such as have something of Christ in them. These
saints, we must place our entire love upon. Indeed, there is that in them
which may excite and draw forth love; they have the beauty of inner
holiness, and they have an interest in the unspotted holiness of Christ,
which may be a sufficient loadstone to draw our love to them.
But what shall we say to those who, instead of loving the
people of God because they are saints—hate them because they are saints! As
Tertullian says, "the very confession of the name of a Christian was enough
to bring them into an odium, and was laid against them as a matter of
crime!" It was said of Aristides that he was banished out of Athens because
he was just. Sanctity is the thing that is reproached and hated in
the world. Wicked men, panther-like, would tear the picture of God drawn in
the new man! Let one have all kinds of accomplishments, learning, morality,
piety—though men will love him for his learning and morality, they will hate
him for his piety. Holiness has become a crime!
The serpent is known by his hissing. They are the seed of
the old serpent that hiss at true religion. Let me speak my mind freely.
There is generally among men a secret antipathy against the power of
godliness. They are for some shows of devotion; they keep up a
form of religion—but such as have a spirit of zeal and sanctity shining
in them—the hearts of men rise against! Let me tell you, there is not a
greater sign of a rotten and devilish heart—than to hate a man for that very
thing for which God loves him—namely, his holiness!
It is a high affront to abuse the King's statue. What
vengeance shall they be counted worthy of, who malign and do all that they
can—to tear in pieces the image of the living God! Oh, take heed of this!
Hating the grace of the Spirit comes near to despising the Spirit
To conclude, let us plead with God for the spirit of
amity and unity—that we may love one another; especially that we may be
endeared in our affections to those who are of the family of God and whose
names are enrolled in the Book of Life.