Love is of God!
From Timeless Grace Gems
William Bacon Stevens
"Love is of God." 1 John 4:7
No writer gives us such lofty ideas of love as John. His First General Epistle is an epitome of the whole philosophy of love, human and divine; and all that subsequent authors have done has been to amplify and interpret the principles enunciated by the beloved disciple.
Love is the most powerful and influential of human passions. It has been analyzed and described by more minds, and has engrossed more hearts, than any other affection. Yet the majority of writers have failed to apprehend the true character of love, and have busied themselves in describing some of its turbid and earth-polluted streams, flowing between the banks of human selfishness--instead of rising to the fountain-source of the passion, and showing us its existence as it fills the bosom of the eternal God.
John takes us up to this fountain-head, and, in the words of the text, shows us the origin of all love, when he says, "Love is of God."
The point which I wish to illustrate is--that all the love in the universe is the gift of God. The proposition, as thus stated, is a very simple one; but it involves consequences of the most interesting and responsible character. Let us first unfold the principle, and then ascertain some of its resulting consequences.
In another part of this love-filled epistle, John utters the sublime truth, "God is love"; and, by many, this has been considered as equivalent to the declaration of the text, "Love is of God." This, however, is not so. When the apostle tells us that "God is love," he designs to say, not that God has had this attribute and no other--not that He has this attribute paramount to others; for, as the attributes of any mind must partake of the character of the mind which exercises them, so the attributes of God must partake of the essence of God, and be in all aspects, therefore, infinite and divine: no one attribute, therefore, can be less than divine. Each attribute--His truth, His power, His wisdom, and the like--must stand on the same footing as His love, and be equally great and glorious.
But, by the expression "God is love," John evidently wishes to convey to us the idea that love is the great motive power of the Divine Being. Love is that which shapes and guides all His attributes; so that each is manifested under the working of love, and each directed to the securing of love.
We can imagine, indeed, that God might possess certain attributes without that of love--as, for example, power, wisdom, holiness, truth. But what a fearful God would He be--if almighty power was not guided by love; if infinite wisdom, in its contrivings and legislations, was not pervaded by infinite love; if perfect holiness was only a cold and ice-like purity, devoid of the warmth and redolence of love; if truth was the mere mechanical utterance of right by lips on which sat no law of kindness, from a heart which had in it no pulsation of love!
Love, then, is the affection of the Divine Being, which, not operating by itself, permeates and influences each attribute, moves them in harmony, throws over them the beauty of holiness, and thus quickens into action, controls in motion, and guides to its destined end--all the workings of Jehovah. And, because every attribute is thus set in motion by love, hence we say, "God is love."
But when the apostle says, "Love is of God," he means something different from the truth just unfolded. He looks at love from another standpoint. He marks it in its human manifestations; and beholding it not so much as a great and original attribute of the Most High--but as seen in daily life, ramifying through all the grades and conditions of society, and observing its power, its workings, its sway in man's heart--he traces the affection to its source, and says, "Love is of God."
When God created man, He made him in His own likeness--not in the likeness of His power to do all things, or His wisdom to know all things; but of His love and of His holiness--those purely moral qualities in which he could alone be fashioned in the divine likeness; and so man was created lovely, lovable, loving, and pure.
In the fall which brought in sin and death upon our race, and a curse upon the ground--man was morally wrecked. He lost the image of God, in which he was made; and he no longer was, to the extent which he had been--lovely, lovable, loving, and pure. He was a guilty and a polluted being; and all his powers of mind and heart were perverted and debased by sin.
While, however, man made a total loss of holiness--there was not a total loss of love. In mercy to our race, God permitted this affection to continue--not, indeed, in its original beauty or force or purity--but still to exist, though shorn of its glory, as the great happiness-creating power of mankind; so that to the exercise of this one affection, more than to any other, is the world indebted for all that remains to it of Eden's bliss, before man was driven from Eden's bower.
A few familiar illustrations will fully establish this point.
Take the first love which one human being ever felt for another--marital love--and mark how that is of God.
When God formed Eve, He brought her to Adam; and He implanted in them such love for each other, that not only did Adam say, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh," but henceforth it was ordained that the twain united by this marital relation, should be one flesh; that is, that they should live and act and feel as a moral unit, having one interest, one heart, one aim. Thus also Paul writes: "So ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the Church."
In making the woman out of the rib of man; in uniting them, by the act of God himself, in holy wedlock; in proclaiming, that, by such a relation, the man and the woman are no more twain--but one flesh; in inspiring prophets and apostles to urge men to love their wives as their own bodies; and in likening the union of husband and wife to the mystical union which exists between Christ and the Church--God has indicated, by the most direct, solemn, and authoritative way which infinite wisdom could devise--that He was the author and giver of marital affection; and therefore, in respect of that emotion of the heart which is . . .
the source of more joy,
the light of more dwellings,
the comforter of more sorrows,
the strengthener of more weakness,
the sustainer of more hope--
than any other passion, we say that it springs direct from Heaven; so that, in very truth, this marital love is of God.
Take the second love which grew up on earth--parental love--and see how this is of God. We say, in common parlance, that it is natural for a man to love his child, and that it is unnatural for him to dislike him. But what constitutes the naturalness of this love, other than the fact that God implanted it in parents' hearts, as a part of their moral constitution? A parent's heart is the peculiar workmanship of God. He has so fitted it up with sensibilities and affections, and so adjusted these to the necessities of infancy and childhood--that all the needs, physical, mental, and moral, of the babe and the youth--are fully provided for in the love which God has placed, as a controlling power, in the father's and the mother's heart.
What mightiness of affection is lodged in a father's love! How it nerves him to toil, and to spend and be spent, for his children! How it fills him with glad thoughts of home, and proud hopes of the future! And who can speak aright of a mother's love?--its depth, its force, its purity, its unselfishness, its long-suffering, its self-sacrificing character. Poets have essayed to portray it in verse, and sentimentalists to describe it in prose; but words feebly illustrate its nature, or enable us to compute its worth. Yet all the happiness which is spread over the face of society by parental love; which permeates each family group, each home; which links heart with heart, though sundered by continents and oceans; which draws out and gives back affection, like the sun which exhales the vapor from the earth, only to return it in dew and rain to beautify and fertilize it; all the joy and peace and comfort which springs from parental affection--is the direct gift of our heavenly Father; for this love is of God.
Take the third kind of affection, which, in the order of time, rises in the human breast--the love of children for parents--and we shall find the same truth holds here also. Before the infant mind can reason, or understand its relations, or even appreciate the kindness shown to it, there is felt the goings-forth of love; and the little delicate fibers of affection, each as slender, perhaps, as the gossamer thread that "floats idly in the summer air," strengthen with the growth of days, become interlaced and braided with others. And thus the child, the youth, the adult, is moored to the parent's heart by cables of love, which only life-wrecking tempests can part or loosen.
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