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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 John 4:19



We love, because He first loved us.

Adam Clarke Commentary

We love him because he first loved us - This is the foundation of our love to God.

  1. We love him because we find he has loved us.
  • We love him from a sense of obligation and gratitude.
  • We love him from the influence of his own love; from his love shed abroad in our hearts, our love to him proceeds. It is the seed whence our love springs.
  • The verse might be rendered, Let us therefore love him, because he first loved us: thus the Syriac and Vulgate.

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.

    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

    Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

    We love him, because he first loved us - This passage is susceptible of two explanations; either.

    (1)that the fact that he first loved us is the “ground” or “reason” why we love him, or.

    (2)that as a matter of fact we have been brought to love him in consequence of the love which he has manifested toward us, though the real ground of our love may be the excellency of his own character.

    If the former be the meaning, and if that were the only ground of love, then it would be mere selfishness, (compare Matthew 5:46-47); and it cannot be believed that John meant to teach that that is the “only” reason of our love to God. It is true, indeed, that that is a proper ground of love, or that we are bound to love God in proportion to the benefits which we have received from his Hand; but still genuine love to God is something which cannot be explained by the mere fact that we have received favors from Him. The true, the original ground of love to God, is the “excellence of His own character,” apart from the question whether we are to be benefited or not. There is that in the divine nature which a holy being will love, apart from the benefits which he is to receive, and from any thought even of his own destiny. It seems to me, therefore, that John must have meant here, in accordance with the second interpretation suggested above, that the fact that we love God is to be traced to the means which he has used to bring us to himself, but without saying that this is the sole or even the main reason why we love him. It was His love manifested to us by sending His Son to redeem us which will explain the fact that we now love Him; but still the real ground or reason why we love Him is the infinite excellence of His own character. It should be added here, that many suppose that the Greek words rendered “we love” ( ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν hēmeis agapōmenare not in the indicative, but in the subjunctive; and that this is an exhortation - “let us love him, because he first loved us.” So the Syriac, the Arabic, and the Vulgate read it; and so it is understood by Benson, Grotius, and Bloomfield. The main idea would not be essentially different; and it is a proper ground of exhortation to love God because He has loved us, though the highest ground is, because His character is infinitely worthy of love.

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.

    Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

    The Biblical Illustrator

    1 John 4:19

    We love Him, because He first loved us

    The priority of God

    Everything which we do God has first made it possible for us to do.
    Everywhere God is first; and man, coming afterward, enters into Him and finds in God the setting and the background of his life. There is no part of life in which this is not true. We may say a few words first upon the whole subject of the backgrounds of life in general. Man never is sent first into the world and bidden to evolve out of his own being the conditions in which he is to live. Always something is before him; always there is a landscape in which he finds his figure standing when he becomes conscious of himself. The material is background for the spiritual--the earth, which is body, for man, who is soul. A child was born yesterday. How he lies today in his serene, superb unconsciousness! And all the forces and resources of the earth are gathered about his cradle offering themselves to him. He takes what they all bring as if it were his right. Not merely on his senses, but even on his mind and most unconscious soul, the world into which he has come is pressing itself. Its conventionalities and creeds, its prejudices and limitations and precedents, all its discoveries and hopes and fears--they are the scenery in which this new life stands. They are here before him, and he comes into them. Shall we talk about all this as if it were a bondage into which the new child is born? Shall we dream for him of freedom which he might have had if nothing had been before him? Surely that is no true way to think about it. There are men who, if they cannot destroy the world of assured truths, would at least destroy the consciousness of it. They would ignore it. They would seem at least to be trying experiments as if nothing had yet been proved. Far be it from me to deny the exceptional value of such men; but their value is the value of protest and exception. The normal, healthy human life lives in its environments and keeps its backgrounds. It is not their slave, but their child. It fastens itself into them, and realises and fulfils its life by them, and makes in its due time along with them the background for the lives of the years to come. Now all of this is not religious, save in the very largest sense; but all of this becomes distinctly religious the moment that all this background of life gathers itself into a unity of purpose and intention and becomes a Providence, or care of God. When once that truth has opened on us, then all the interest of life centres in and radiates from this--that He, God, is before it all. Every activity of ours answers to some previous activity of His. Do we hope? It is because we have caught the sound of some promise of His. Do we fear? It is because we have had some glimpse of the dreadfulness of getting out of harmony with Him. Do we live? It is a projection and extension of His being. Do we die? It is the going home of our immortal souls to Him. Oh, the wonderful richness of life when it is all thus backed with the priority of God! It is the great illumination of all living. And the wonder of it is the way in which, in that illumination, the soul of man recognises its right. That is what it was made for. See what the religious world really is in its idea, and shall be when it shall finally be realised. A world everywhere aware of and rejoicing in the priority of God, feeling all power flow out from Him, and sending all action back to report itself to Him for judgment--a world where goodness means obedience to God, and sin means disloyalty to God, and progress means growth in the power to utter God, and knowledge means the understanding of God’s thought, and happiness means the peace of God’s approval. That is the only world which is religious. And now see how all this truth comes to the full display of its richness in the Christian faith. The Christian faith is the sum and flower of the religious life of man. Whatever has struggled in all other religions comes to its free and full expression there. And so the truth of the priority of God is the first and fundamental truth of Christianity. With Jesus it was always, “God loves you.” He went about saying that from house to house, from man to man. He built this background behind every life. What will you do if you are sent to carry the Gospel to your friend, your child? Will you stand over him and say, “You must love God; you will suffer for it if you do not?” When was ever love begotten so?” Who is God? “Why should I love Him?” “How can I love Him?” answers back the poor, bewildered heart, and turns to the things of earth which with their earthly affections seem to love it, and satisfies itself in loving them. Or perhaps it grows defiant and says, “I will not,” flinging back your exhortation as the cold stone flings back the sunlight. But you say to your friend, your child, “God loves you,” say it in every language of yours, in every vernacular of his, which you can command, and his love is taken by surprise, and he wakes to the knowledge that he does love God without a resolution that he will. How shall you make man know that God loves him? In every way there is no speech nor language in which that voice may not be heard--but most of all by loving the man with a great love yourself. We may think again not of the way in which we shall get our friends to love God, but of the way in which we shall get ourselves to love Him. Oh, the old struggles! How many have said, “I will love God; I ought to, and I will,” and so have wrestled to do what they could not do--what in their hearts they knew no real reason for doing--and have miserably failed, and now are satisfying themselves with loveless obedience, or else have left God altogether, and tell their hearts’ that they must forego all such beautiful, hopeless ambitions. Ah, what you need is to get away round upon the other side of the whole matter. It is not whether you love God, but whether God loves you. If He does, and if you can know that He does, then give yourself up totally and unquestioningly to the assurance of that love. Rejoice in it by day and night. Sometimes it seems good to sweep aside all the complications of spiritual experience and bring it all to absolute simplicity. Here is God, and here is a child of God. The Father loves the child, not because the child is this or that, or anything but just His child. He says to you, “Go, save My child for me.” And you say, “How, my Father?” And He says, “By Me.” And you say, “Yes, I see,” and go and take the Father’s love and press it on that child of His, just as you find him. You know that the fire and the wood belong together: You are sure that if the fire gets at the wood, the wood will burn, and by and by, look! the wood is burning. The wood turns to fire because the fire gave itself to the wood. The wood loves the fire because the fire first loved it. And now I wonder whether in some of your minds there does not come a question regarding all this that I have said. “After all,” you may ask yourself, “what does it matter? If the end is gained, if God and man come together, what matter is it from which side the first impulse came? But must it not make a difference? Is there a situation or a fact or a condition anywhere which is absolute and identical, and does not vary with the character of him who occupies it? The man is more than the situation. The situation means little without the soul of the man giving it its meaning. When then I see man reconciled to God and walking with his Lord in the white garment of a new life, it makes vast difference what is the spirit of that reconciled, regenerated man. If it is the first fact of his new existence--that which he never loses for a moment--that the impulse of it came from God; that before he ever thought of the higher life: its halls were made ready for him and its Lord came forth into the wilderness to find him--then the strength of a profound humility is always with him. The paralysis of pride does not creep over him. Besides this, the appeal of the new life to the soul which lives it is largely bound up with the truth of the priority of God. The man is stone whom that does not appeal to. How shall he overtake this love which has so much the start of him? This is what makes his service eager and enthusiastic. Again this truth, that God is first, gives me the right to keep a strong and lively hope for all my fellow men. It gives me also the chance to believe that I can help them. I have only to tell them over and over again how near He is; I have only to beg them to open their eyes and see! Have I talked today too generally of the priority of God? Then make it absolutely special and Concrete. There is some duty which God has made ready for you to do tomorrow; nay, today! He has built it like a house for you to occupy. You have not to build it. He has built it, and He will lead you up to its door and set you with your feet upon its threshold. Will you go in and occupy it? Will you do the duty which He has made ready? (
    Bp. Phillips Brooks.)

    Love, not fear, the animating principle of a believer’s conduct

    I. It is a principle exactly suited to our mental constitution. Take the case of our love to the creature, and whence does it arise? Two elements invariably attach, in our apprehension, to the object of it. These are excellence in itself and some advantage arising from it to ourselves. Neither of these alone will produce love. Even in the natural love of the parent for the child or of the child for the parent, it will be found these two elements exist. Relative goodness seems to be essential to love. It may be said, such a view destroys the disinterested nature of love, and introduces an element of selfishness. Even were this true, it would not set aside a fact of which all must be conscious in their mental constitution. But we do not admit that a regard to our own happiness is of the nature of selfishness. It is in itself good. The Creator has implanted it in all His intelligent offspring, and it is therefore not blameworthy. Now this is the very ground on which the love of God is based. Every perfection that can command our approval and admiration belongs to Him. But this excellence is all relative to us. In every feature of it we recognise an advantage to ourselves. That unerring wisdom is our guide, that almighty power is our protection, that boundless goodness is our support. We look upon them with delight, and say, “This God is our God.” And so we acquiesce in the apostle’s sentiment--“We love Him because He first loved us.”

    II. This principle is as scriptural as it is reasonable. How naturally and properly does David express himself (Psalms 18:1-3). Excellence upon excellence he discovers in God and celebrates with the highest praise, but everyone of them is regarded as a source of benefit to himself. The Scriptures unite the glory of God and our good.

    III. This principle is well illustrated in the history of redemption. It began with God. The first movement was on His part. When our first parents fell they fled from God, and discovered no disposition to return to Him. But He followed them with proposals of love. Observe, then, the practical effect of such a revelation on the mind of him who becomes concerned about his own redemption. He sees what the mind of God is. He can have no doubt upon the great truth that “the will of God is his salvation.” He has only to acquiesce in an arrangement that has been made already by unerring wisdom and infinite love.

    IV. The principles of the text apply to every individual who is saved, as well as to the scheme of redemption by which he is saved. God has not devised redemption, and then left it to men to receive it if they will and reject it if they will. The same grace that provided it applies it.

    V. When the soul is thus brought under the power of grace, it continues to be powerfully influenced by its apprehension of the undeserved and gracious love of God.

    VI. Everything is so ordered in the life of the believer as to exercise and advance this Divine principle. He is taught to trace up all he enjoys to the gift of God in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:21-23). He lives in the midst of continual remembrances of God and His love. He looks upon the world in which he has been placed. The marks of sin are many, but the tokens of the Divine love are many more and greater far. (J. Morgan, D. D.)


    I. The parentage of true love to God. There is no light in the planet but that which cometh from the sun; there is no light in the moon but that which is borrowed, and there is no true love in the heart but that which cometh from God. From this overflowing fountain of the infinite love of God, all our love to God must spring.

    II. Love, after it is Divinely born in our heart, must be divinely nourished. Love is an exotic; it is not a plant that will flourish naturally in human soil. On what, then, does love feed? Why, it feeds on love. That which brought it forth becomes its food. “We love Him because He first loved us.” The constant motive and sustaining power of our love to God is His love to us. And here let me remark that there are different kinds of food in this great granary of love. When we are first of all renewed the only food on which we can live is milk, because we are but babes and as yet have not strength to feed on higher truths. The first things, then, that our love feeds upon when it is but an infant, is a sense of favours received. And mark, however much we grow in grace this will always constitute a great part of the food of our love. But when the Christian grows older and has more grace he loves Christ for another reason. He loves Christ because he feels Christ deserves to be loved. But mark at the same time, we must always mingle with this the old motive. We must still feel that we begin with that first stepping stone, loving Christ because of His mercies, and that although we have climbed higher and have come to love Him with a love that is superior to that in motive, yet still we carry the old motive with us. We love Him because of His kindness towards us. This, then, is the food of love; but when love grows sick--and it does sometimes--the most loving heart grows cold towards Christ. Do you know that the only food that ever suits sick love is the food on which it fed at first? Take it to the Cross and bid it look and see afresh the bleeding Lamb; and surely this shall make thy love spring from a dwarf into a giant, and this shall fan it from a spark into a flame. And then, when thy love is thus recruited, let me bid thee give thy love full exercise; for it shall grow thereby. You say, “Where shall I exercise the contemplation of my love to make it grow?” Oh! Sacred Dove of love, stretch thy wings and play the eagle now. Come I open wide thine eyes and look full in the Sun’s face, and soar upward, upward, upward, far above the heights of this world’s creation, upwards, till thou art lost in eternity.

    III. The work of love. “We love Him.” Children of God, if Christ were here on earth, what would you do for Him? “Do for Him!” says one; “do for Him!” “Did He hunger, I would give Him meat though it were my last crust. Did He thirst, I would give Him drink, though my own lips were parched with fire. Was He naked, I would strip myself and shiver in the cold to clothe Him. Did He want a soldier, I would enlist in His army; did He need that some one should die, I would give my body to be burned if He stood by to see the sacrifice and cheer me in the flames.” Ah! we think we love Him so much that we should do all that; but there is a grave question about the truth of this matter after all. Do you not know that Christ’s family are here? And if ye love Him, would it not follow as a natural inference that you would love His offspring? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    Love’s logic

    Our love to God is like a trickling rill speeding its way to the ocean because it first came from the ocean. All the rivers run into the sea, but their floods first arose from it: the clouds that were exhaled from the mighty main distilled in showers that filled the water brooks. Here was their first cause and prime origin; and, as if they recognised the obligation, they pay tribute in return to the parent source. The ocean love of God, so broad that even the wing of imagination could not traverse it, sends forth its treasures of the rain of grace, which drop upon our hearts, which are as the pastures of the wilderness; they make our hearts to overflow, and in streams of gratitude the life imparted flows back again to God.

    I. The indispensable necessity of love to God in the heart. You will find in the seventh verse of this chapter, that love to God is set down as being a necessary mark of the new birth. “Everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” In the eighth verse we are told also that love to God is a mark of our knowing God. True knowledge is essential to salvation. God does not save us in the dark. Further, the chapter teaches us that love to God is the root of love to others (1 John 4:11). He, who, being in the Church, is yet not of it heart and soul, is but an intruder in the family. But since love to our brethren springs out of love to our one common Father, it is plain that we must have love to that Father or else we shall fail in one of the indispensable marks of the children of God. Again, keeping to the run of the passage, you will find by the eighteenth verse that love to God is a chief means of that holy peace which is an essential mark of a Christian. Love must cooperate with faith and cast out fear, so that the soul may have boldness before God. We also see, if we turn again to St. John’s Epistle and pursue his observations to the next chapter and the third verse, that love is the spring of true obedience. “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.” Though the fruit be not the root of the tree, yet a well rooted tree will, in its season, bring forth its fruits. Love to God is as natural to the renewed heart as love to its mother is to a babe. Who needs to reason a child into love? As certainly as you have the life and nature of God in you you will seek after the Lord.

    II. The source and spring of true love to God. “We love Him because He first loved us.” Observe, then, that love to God does not begin in the heart from any disinterested admiration of the nature of God. Again, our love to God does not spring from the self-determining power of the will. A man can only love God when he has perceived some reasons for so doing; and the first argument for loving God which influences the intellect so as to turn the affections, is the reason mentioned in the text, “We love Him because He first loved us.” Now, having thus set the text in a negative light let us look at it in a more positive manner. It is certain that faith in the heart always precedes love. We first believe the love of God to us before we love God in return. And, oh what an encouraging truth this is. Your first step is to believe that God loves you, and when that truth is fully fixed in your soul by the Holy Spirit, a fervent love to God will spontaneously issue from your soul, even as flowers willingly pour forth their fragrance under the influence of the dew and the sun. Rest assured that in proportion as we are fully persuaded of God’s love to us, we shall be affected with love to Him. Do not let the devil tempt you to believe that God does not love you because your love is feeble; for if he can in any way weaken your belief in God’s love to you he cuts off or diminishes the flow of the streams which feed the sacred grace of love to God. Oh for a great wave of love to carry us right out into the ocean of love. Observe day by day the deeds of God’s love to you in the gift of food and raiment and in the mercies of life, and especially in the covenant blessings which God gives you, the peace which He sheds abroad in your hearts, the communion which He vouchsafes to you with Himself and His blessed Son, and the answers to prayer which He grants you. Note well these things, and if you consider them carefully and weigh their value, you will be accumulating the fuel on which love feeds its consecrated flame.

    III. The revival of our love. Perhaps some of you have become so cold in your affections that it is difficult to be sure that you ever did love God at all. Now note well that the cause which originated your love is the same which must restore it. You went to Christ as a sinner at first, and your first act was to believe the love of God to you when there was nothing in you that: evidenced it. Go the same way again. Think of the Lord’s unchanging grace, and you will feel the springtime of love returning to your soul. Many considerations ought to aid you, a backslider, to believe more in the love of God than ever you did. For think what love it must be that can invite you still to return, you, who after knowing so much have sinned against light and knowledge; you, who alter having experienced so much have given the lie to your profession.

    IV. The perfecting of our love to God. There are few of us who know much of the deeps of the love of God; our love is shallow. Love to God is like a great mountain. The majority of travellers view it from afar or traverse the valley at its base: a few climb to a halting place on one of its elevated spurs whence they see a portion of its sublimities: here and there an adventurous traveller climbs a minor peak, and views glacier and alp at closer range; fewest of all are those who scale the top most pinnacle and tread the virgin snow. As fear goes out love comes in at the other door. So the more faith in God the more room there is for soul-filling love. Again, strong faith in God’s love brings great enjoyment; our heart is glad. This deep enjoyment creates the flaming love of which I have just now spoken. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    Love’s birth and parentage

    I. We shall use the text for doctrinal instruction; and one point of doctrinal instruction is very clear, namely, that God’s love to His people is first. From all eternity the Lord looked upon His people with an eye of love, and as nothing can be before eternity His love was first. Another part of the doctrine of the text is this, that the love of God is the cause of our love to God. A thing may be first and another second, and yet the first may not be the cause of the second, there may be no actual link between the two: but here we have it unmistakeably, “We love Him because He first loved us”; which signifies not merely that this is the motive of which we are conscious in our love, but that this is the force, the Divine power which created love in us. If you love God it is with no love of yours, but with the love which He has planted in your bosoms. Unrenewed human nature is a soil in which love to God will not grow. There must be a taking away of the rock and a supernatural change of the barren ground into good soil, and then, as a rare plant from another land, love must be planted in our hearts and sustained by power divine or else it will never be found there. There is no love to God in this world that is of the right kind except that which was created and formed by the love of God in the soul.

    II. Secondly, we shall use the text for experimental information; and here--

    1. We learn that all true believers love God. I do not say that they all feel an equal love, or that they all feel as much love as they should. I will not say that they do not sometimes give cause to doubt their love. But there is love in the heart of every true-born child of God; it is as needful to spiritual life as blood is to natural life.

    2. Observe carefully the kind of love which is essential to every Christian--“We love Him because He first loved us,” Much has been said about disinterested love to God; there may be such a thing, and it may be very admirable, but it is not mentioned here. You may not be able to rise into those heights into which others have ascended because you are as yet only a babe in grace; but you are safe enough if your love be of this simple character, that it loves because it is loved. See whether such a humble, grateful love towards God dwells in your hearts, for it is a vital point.

    3. Love to God wherever it is found is a sure evidence of the salvation of its possessor. If you are loving God you must have been loved of God: true love could not have come into your heart in any other conceivable way; and you may rest assured that you are the object of His eternal choice.

    III. Thirdly, we shall use the text as a matter of practical direction. The text tells you how to love God. The text shows us the method of the Holy Spirit. He reveals the love of God to the heart, and then the heart loves God in return. Go thou to the fragrant mystery of redeeming love, and tarry with it till in those beds of spices thine own garments shall be made to smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia. There is no way of sweetening thyself but by tasting the sweetness of Jesus Christ; the honey of His love will make thy whole nature to be as a honeycomb, every cell shorter of thy manhood shall drop sweetness. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    Love of God

    The phrase of the revised version has the larger meaning. “We love” includes “We love Him,” and it is evident from the rest of the passage that we have here a distinct though not an exclusive reference to the love of God. How can we love Him then, the Invisible, the Infinite, and Omnipotent? Might we not as well try to love illimitable space or embrace the elastic and viewless air? And yet a great multitude which no man can number declare with St. John that they do love God. Yes, and moreover you will find that the love of God will stand all the tests which can be applied to any love known among men. Things widely different in their nature are often much alike in their appearance. Artificial flowers are very like real ones; gilt is very like gold; and paste is made to look like gems. Wise men, therefore, apply tests which only the real articles can stand. They find the real flower by its scent; test gold by acids, and the file tells them at once which is the gem and which is the worthless imitation. What, then, are the marks of true love?

    I. True love is unselfish. False love rushes onwards to its own low ends. It is meanly selfish, and when resisted, cruel as the grave. But true love gives up and goes without. ‘Tis finely prodigal, royally extravagant, and divinely liberal. Well, men’s love for God has this mark upon it; it teaches men to deny self--to give up and go without. Oh, what sacrifices men have made for God! The sacrifice of God’s love for men is indeed, and ever must be, the great fact of all history. But the next great fact is the sacrifice of men’s love for God. God’s love in Christ gave its “all” to men, and the love of God in Christian hearts gives “all” to God today. It is a constraining power in men’s lives.

    II. True love has pleasure in fellowship with its object. As the needle turns to the pole, so love, if true, seeks communion with its object and is only there at rest. Sir Henry Taylor, in his autobiography, says that when the affection of a certain couple of friends for each other was spoken of in Wordsworth’s hearing, the poet asked, “Are they, so far as circumstances permit, continually together: for that is the test?” Yes; fellowship is the measure of love. “It is good for me to draw near to God,” said one psalmist; and sacred history proves that such is the conviction of all saints. Every halting place along the patriarch’s line of march became at once a place of worship. These men and their God were continually together. They delighted in God; and all who love Him still live with Him. They go to prayer and worship, not as the “whining schoolboy, with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school,” but rather as children run from their tasks to play.

    III. True love is ennobling in its influence. Passion degrades, and lust dehumanises man; but love makes all men better and nobler. Sir Richard Steele said of Lady Hastings that “to love her was a liberal education.” But all true love educates. You cannot tend in love a wounded bird, or pity a hungry dog without thereby being taught something of the lore of angels. A mother cannot love her helpless babe without thereby being lifted nearer God. Love, like mercy, is twice blessed, “it blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” Well, men’s love to God does this. It cleanses speech of all impurities and gruffness. It refines manners and educates the taste. It expands sentiment and deepens sympathy. It makes the clown gentle and the coward brave.

    IV. True love is faithful unto the end.

    “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds,

    Or bends with the remover to remove.

    Oh, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,

    That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

    It is the star to every wandering barque,

    Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.”

    It is no fickle fancy, no passing mood, no fair-weather affection. (J. M. Gibbon.)

    Love God and humanity

    I. Love to God is essential to the Christian life.

    1. The Lord is not satisfied unless He obtains our love.

    2. Unless we love the Lord there cannot be complete personal union.

    3. Love to Him makes our obedience sweet.

    4. Love to God acts as an irresistible magnet to draw us from sin.

    5. The mutual love between the Christian and his Lord is the heart music of life.

    II. The love of God is the grand motive power of the Christian life.

    1. The love of God is the fountain of our love to each other. To do good to those who need our active sympathy merely because it is our duty to do so is pulling up stream, and the best of us would soon tire of it, but to bless men because we love them constrains us to be faithful in active goodness unto death.

    2. The love of God is needful to inspire us to noble deeds. In olden times the maiden promised her hand to the knight if he did some valiant deed of warfare; but in our case the Lord loves us first of all, and that love is the impulse of a noble life.

    3. The love of God to us is a sure foundation for our faith.

    4. The love of God to the world is an ever present rainbow of hope to the Christian. Why? Because God will second your efforts. He loves them, and therefore let us hope for the worst of men.

    III. We are commanded to love our brother man.

    1. This love oils the wheels of service.

    2. Love to our brother man is the motive of self-denial for his sake. Pure love is its own exceeding great reward.

    IV. I would now remind you why you love God.

    1. We love Him because He first loved us.

    2. We also love Him because He laid down His life for us.

    3. We love Him because His love is unchangeable. (W. Birch.)

    God’s love to us, and ours to Him

    Our nature is so constituted that we are never really happy until we love God. A bold assertion this; but does not our experience prove that it is a true one? We can love Him. Millions have done so already. And having the capacity within us, which we must admit to be the highest of all our capacities, when we consider the object on which it may be exercised, we are never quite at ease till it has fastened itself on its proper object. Till then there is uneasiness, insecurity, a sense of disproportion between the promise of our nature and its performance. We are like guests at a banquet who cannot find their place, and go hunting up and down bewildered. But when once we have got to love God there is tranquillity. But if it be true that .man is so constituted that he cannot be really happy unless he love God, it is also true that he cannot love God unless he knows Him. Not till an object is brought in some way or other into contact with our experience can we have any emotion about it, much less that highest and most appreciative of all emotions--love. And therefore man, with that inborn capacity of his for loving God, has at all times, however imperfectly, sought to know Him. He has “felt after God.” But here an obstacle rises up, before which some, who may have so far gone with us, turn back in despair. They grant that it were man’s happiness to love God if he could, and that to love Him he must know Him; but who, they ask, can know the Unknowable? We can but enumerate the things He is not, but that is far from discerning what He is. In reply, we grant the difficulty, but remain undiscouraged by its existence. It only shows that if a man is to know God, God must take the initiative; God must reveal Himself to man. And to reveal Himself means not to disclose His whole essence, but so much of His being, and so much of man’s relation to Him, as it may be well or possible for man to know. Now this, if revelation be true, is what God in His wisdom and His goodness has seen fit to do; and we might as well refuse the aid of a lamp in the darkness because it is not the sun as decline to be guided by such knowledge of Himself as He has given us because it is not and cannot be complete knowledge. But God’s revelation is manifold, and they do ill, and lose much of it that is precious, who confine it within the four corners of a book, which does but contain the imperfect record of a part, though it be far the most important part, of it. God reveals Himself in nature as the sustaining power, by which all things exist and have their being, and as a power working through fixed laws, which reach from the minutest particles of matter on earth to the most distant star, not one of which laws varies one hair’s breadth, not one of which ever fails. God reveals Himself in history as the moral governor of the world; and here also He works by fixed, unalterable laws. He shows us that He loves good and hates evil, and that evil shall in the end be overcome by good. God reveals Himself in conscience to each individual man with that inevitable, unimpeachable verdict on our past actions as they proceed from us one by one, and those promptings and monitions as to future actions, which we may neglect, because we are free, but which, “whether we hear or whether we forbear,” have still been given us. These are some of the revelations by which God imparts, or is ready to impart, to all men some knowledge of Himself. But as yet we touch but the hem of His garment, we do not see His face. God is on His throne in heaven, and we are poor mortals upon the distant earth. But what if God, in His infinite goodness, sees fit to bridge over from His side the chasm which we cannot pass, to satisfy the longing which, if He has made us, He has Himself imparted in our souls, and to reveal Himself to man, not now in a cold immutable law, but in a living breathing person like ourselves, who can gather up all our God-ward affections as in a focus, and transmit them in concentrated fulness to the awful throne on high? Shall we not know Him then as we never knew Him before? And shall we not be able to love Him then as we never loved Him before? But this is the revelation which He has actually vouchsafed to give us in His Son Jesus Christ. And this manifestation of God was not opened on us unexpectedly, in which case we might have missed its full significance, but prepared for and led up to by a long course of discipline and aroused anticipation. The record of this preparation we have in the pages of the Old Testament and the record of its fulfilment in the New. What if those to whom it was first tendered misunderstood it in part, as we can now see, mixed up much that was local and temporary with it, and failed to come at the whole truth? Their knowledge of God was coloured knowledge, but it was not therefore unreal; their expectations of a further revelation of Him were coloured expectations, but they were none the less inspired from a Divine source. In this as in other things connected with the education of our race the same order prevails: “That is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, then that which is spiritual.” And when that fuller revelation was made, did not illusion cease, and did men see nothing but the pure absolute light? By no means. They saw as much as they were capable of seeing; they understood as much as they had capacities for understanding. Now, if we turn from the manner of the revelation of Himself which God has made in Christ Jesus to the matter of it, we find that it conveys to us precisely that which we most need to know. I admit that God is my Creator, but does He regard me as the workman regards the machine that he has made? There is no sympathy between them. He can make it and break it, so far as the machine is concerned, with equal indifference. I admit that God controls the affairs of men by fixed moral laws, but so far men may be to Him but as pawns are in the hand of the chess player. The player cares not for the pawns in themselves, he moves them this way or that, according to the requirements of the game. I admit further that the working of these laws, when considered through a long period of time, convinces me that God approves of good and punishes evil, and so far I may recognise a kind of moral similarity between my own imperfect character and what I may reverently style the character of God; but does this warrant me in hoping for any closer union with Him? If I desire to draw nearer to Him, will He suffer it? The unlikeness is greater than the likeness, and, besides, sin bars the way. Yes, answers Jesus of Nazareth to all these questionings, God is not your Maker and Governor only, but your Father. He loves you and desires your love. I know it and reveal it to you. My life itself is the manifestation of His love. I am His Son, He sent Me to you. Behold in Me, so far as human eyes can see, the character of God. But beautiful, winning, soul-satisfying as this revelation is, there are difficulties in the way which make some men hesitate to accept it. Doubtless there are such difficulties, but do they lie in our path here only, or are they not greater for him who rejects it? Our life is hemmed in with difficulties on every side, they are the necessary accompaniment of our limited faculties, and we may sit reckoning them up for ever, till they paralyse every thought and every action. To complain of them is to complain that God has made us men, and not a creature quite different from man. He is wisest and most loyal to his Master who bears the burden laid upon his back and moves on in spite of it as best he can. And further, whilst we admit the existence of these difficulties, we must be careful not to exaggerate their number or their importance. We may divide them into two classes: those which are inherent in the subject itself, and those which we create for ourselves or others have created for us. The former we shall never abolish, there is nothing for it but to put up with them; the latter we may, in some cases, extenuate or remove. Is it possible, we ask, for God to reveal His very self in a man? That is an inherent difficulty, and the only answer we can make is that we cannot fully understand it, neither can we expect to understand it, because we do not know the limits of possibility with God, but we can believe and act on the belief, as we do in a score of other instances every day, and when we do so we find rest for our souls. He gave us a person and a life to imitate, to trust in and to love; let us beware lest we substitute for Him in our hearts a theory and a scheme of salvation. Let us observe further, for our comfort, how many of the difficulties which so perplex us are merely intellectual difficulties, not moral. That shows us, perhaps, that they are somehow of our own creating. It is much learning that doth make us mad. The poor and the ignorant do not feel them. It is with the heart they believe, not the head; and we must humbly imitate them. Let us then be encouraged to east away the thought of difficulties, and open our hearts to receive in simple faith, and respond to, the full stream of Divine love. “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” That may suffice us. God loves us--stupendous thought!--and therefore we may love Him. When a little child has done wrong and offended his father he goes about uneasy and with an aching heart. He tries to distract himself with other things; he turns to this amusement or to that--innocent amusements, it may be, in themselves--but they have all lost their interest. There is something amiss in the relation of perfect love between him and his parent, and the consciousness of this goes with him wherever he goes. He fortifies himself in his pride, dwells on the fancied wrong that he has suffered by being rebuked, not on the real wrong that he has wrought by disobedience, and resolves to be self-sufficient and do without the love which seems withheld; but the aching heart is still there, the dull sense of unhappiness. At last his father calls to him with a father’s voice, full of pity and of love, and at the sound of that voice his heart is melted like wax within him, not with fear, but with penitent, trustful love; all the barriers which pride had raised are broken down, and he rushes to his father’s arms and is folded once more in a loving embrace. (E. H. Bradby, M. A.)

    God’s love to man

    To many it seems that perfect amiableness and goodness in our Creator requires Him to look with entire approbation and indulgence upon men, without regard to the principles upon which they are acting, whether holy or unholy. And yet some of this very class of persons, when brought to a more intimate acquaintance with themselves and to a higher conception of what they ought to be, see that a holy God must hate them; and if He hates them they cannot imagine that He loves them at the same time. Here are the two extremes of error, one of which, probably, mankind generally regard as truth.

    I. God can hate and love the same person at the same moment. It is shown in--

    1. The very nature of benevolence. What is a good man? Try him by a case of this kind. He knows a man who is addicted to drunkenness, and who in his paroxysms abuses his family. How does this good man regard the case? He abhors the drunkard’s character and conduct, yet he loves and pities the man. And thus God exhibits Himself to us as a holy God. He abhors all our sins. He threatens us with eternal destruction, and yet, while we were still enemies, He gave His Son to die for us.

    2. Scriptural representation of God’s feelings towards the children of men. Notice the case of those who murdered Christ. None can doubt that they were most hateful to God. And yet the dying Son, who fully represented His Father’s feelings, regarded them as deserving the wrath of God at the same time He prayed for their forgiveness. And was that prayer ineffectual? No; for on the day of Pentecost, a servant of Christ is commissioned to go and charge upon them their crime, not to condemn them, but to bring them to repentance. And then the Holy Spirit descends to bring them to exercise repentance, and some of them, at least, are forgiven. Then look abroad upon a world lying in wickedness, sometimes as great as that which brought the deluge of water on the world or that of fire on Sodom. But He sendeth His rain upon the thankful and the unthankful.

    II. God does love all men. It is seen in--

    1. The very act of creation. What endowments has He bestowed on man!

    2. Forming a moral government for man. The laws under which He has placed us all aim at our personal perfection and the highest degree and form of happiness of which we are capable. But the crowning proof of God’s love--

    3. Is in Christ and redemption.

    III. Every human being should love Him. The benevolence of God claims our admiration, complacency, and gratitude. (E. N. Kirk, D. D.)

    Gratitude not a sordid affection

    Some theologians have exacted from an inquirer, at the very outset of his conversion, that he should carry in his heart what they call the disinterested love of God. They have set him on the most painful efforts to acquire this affection. They have led him to view with suspicion the love of gratitude, as having in it a taint of selfishness. The effect of all this on many an anxious seeker after rest has been most discouraging. With the stigma that has been affixed to the love of gratitude, they have been positively apprehensive of the inroads of this affection, and have studiously averted the eye of their contemplation from the objects which are fitted to inspire it.

    1. The proper object of the love of gratitude is the Being who has exercised towards me the love of kindness; and this is more correct than to say that the proper object of this affection is the Being who has conferred benefits upon me. Just let the naked principle of kindness discover itself, and through it have neither the power nor the opportunity of coming forth with the dispensation of any service, it is striking to observe how, upon the bare existence of this affection being known, it is met by a grateful feeling on the part of him to whom it is directed; and what mighty argumentations may be given in this way to the stock of enjoyment, and that by the mere reciprocation of kindness begetting kindness. For to send the expression of this kindness into another’s bosom it is not always necessary to do it on the vehicle of a positive donation. It may be conveyed by a look of benevolence; and thus it is that by the mere feeling of cordiality a tide of happiness may be made to circulate throughout all the individuals of an assembled company. Now this is the very principle which is brought into action in the dealings of God with a whole world of malefactors. It looks as if He confided the whole cause of our recovery to the influence of a demonstration of goodwill. It is truly interesting to mark what, in the devisings of His unsearchable wisdom, is the character which He has made to stand most visibly out in the great scheme and history of our redemption; and surely if there be one feature of prominency more visible than another it is the love of kindness. As soon as His love of kindness is believed, so soon does the love of gratitude spring up in the heart of the believer. As soon as man gives up his fear and his suspicion of God and discerns Him to be his friend, so soon does he render Him the homage of a willing and affectionate loyalty. There is not a man who can say, I have known and believed the love which God hath to us, who cannot say also, I have loved God because He first loved me. The law of love begetting love will obtain in eternity. Like the law of reciprocal attraction in the material world, it will cement the immutable and everlasting order of that moral system, which is to emerge with the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Now, by looking more closely to this affection, both in its origin and in its exercises, we shall perceive in it more clearly all the characteristics of virtue. Let it be remarked, then, that an affection may simply exist, and yet be no evidence of any virtue or of any moral worth in the holder of it. I may enter the house of an individual who is an utter stranger to the habit of acting under a sense of duty; who is just as much the creature of mere impulse as the animals beneath him; and who therefore, though some of these impulses are more characteristic of his condition as a man and most subservient to the good of his fellows, may be considered as possessing no virtue whatever, in the strict and proper sense of the term. But he has the property of being affected by external causes. And I, by some ministration of friendship, may flash upon his mind such an overpowering conviction of the goodwill that I bear him as to affect him with a sense of gratitude, even unto tears. The moral obligation of gratitude may not be present to his mind at all. But the emotion of gratitude comes into his heart unbidden, and finds its vent in acknowledgments and blessings on the person of his benefactor. We would say of such a person that he possesses a happier original constitution than another who, in the same circumstances, would not be so powerfully or so tenderly affected. And yet he may have hitherto evinced nothing more than the workings of a mere instinct, which springs spontaneously within him and gives its own impulse to his words and his performances, without a sense of duty having any share in the matter, or without the will prompting the individual by any such consideration as, Let me do this thing because I ought to do it. The first way, then, in which the will may have to do with the love of gratitude is by the putting forth of a desire for the possession of it. It may long to realise this moral accomplishment. It may hunger and thirst after this branch of righteousness. Even though it has not any such power under its command as would enable it to fulfil such a volition, the volition itself has upon it the stamp and the character of virtue. But, again, there are certain doings of the mind over which the will has a control, and by which the affection of gratitude may either be brought into being or be sustained in lively and persevering exercise. At the bidding of the will I can think of one topic rather than another. I can transfer my mind to any given object of contemplation. I can keep that object steadily in view, and make an effort to do so, when placed in such circumstances as might lead me to distraction or forgetfulness. And it is in this way that moral praise or moral responsibility may be attached to the love of gratitude. Ere the heart can be moved by this affection to another there must be in the mind a certain appropriate object that is fitted to call it and to keep it in existence--and that object is the love of kindness which the other bears me. It is this which arms with such a moral and condemnatory force the expostulation which He holds with Israel, “that Israel doth not know, that My people do not consider.” It is because we like not to retain God in our knowledge that our minds become reprobate; and, on the other hand, it is by a continuous effort of my will towards the thought of Him that I forget not His benefits. It is by the strenuousness of a voluntary act that I connect the idea of an unseen benefactor with all the blessings of my present lot and all the anticipations of my futurity. It is by a combat with the most urgent propensities of nature that I am ever looking beyond this surrounding materialism and setting God and His love before me all the day long. There is no virtue, it is allowed, without voluntary exertion; but this is the very character which runs throughout the whole work and exercise of faith. To keep himself in the love of God is a habit, with the maintenance of which the will of man has most essentially to do, because it is at his will that he keeps himself in the thought of God’s love towards him.

    2. We now feel ourselves in a condition to speak of the gospel in its free and gratuitous character--to propose its blessings as a gift--to hold out the pardon and the strength and all the other privileges which it proclaims to believers as so many articles for their immediate acceptance--to make it known to men that they are not to delay their compliance with the overtures of mercy till the disinterested love of God arises in their hearts, but that they have a warrant for entering even now into instant reconciliation with God. Nor are we to dread the approach of any moral contamination, because when, after their eyes are opened to the marvellous spectacle of a pleading and offering and beseeching God, holding out eternal life unto the guilty, through the propitiation which His own Son hath made for them, they must from that moment open their whole souls to the influences of gratitude and love the God who thus hath first loved them. We conclude, then, with remarking that the whole of this argument gives us another view of the importance of faith. It brings the heart into contact with that influence by which the love of gratitude is awakened. The reason why man is not excited to the love of God by the revelation of God’s love to him is just because he does not believe that revelation. This is the barrier which lies between the guilty and their offended Lawgiver. Could the kindness of God in Christ Jesus be seen by him, the softening of a kindness back again would be felt by him. This also suggests a practical direction to Christians for keeping themselves in the love of God. They must keep themselves in the habit and in the exercise of faith. They must hold fast that conviction in their minds, the presence of which is indispensable to the keeping of that affection in their hearts. (T. Chalmers, D. D.)

    The reciprocal action of love

    I. Divine love in its manifestation to the creature.

    II. The reciprocal influence of that love.

    III. The priority of the Divine love to the human.

    IV. The Divine love causative of the human. (John Tesseyman.)

    On love to God

    I. The nature and actings of our love to God.

    1. Love to God supposes or springs from the knowledge of Him and faith in Him.

    2. Love to God includes the highest esteem of Him.

    3. Love to God includes earnest desires after His grace and favour, communion with Him, and the enjoyment of Him.

    4. Love to God includes or produces complacency, joy, and delight in Him.

    5. Love to God includes or springs from a thankful sense of His benefits.

    6. Love to God may also include goodwill to, and zeal for, His honour and glory in the world.

    II. Reasons and motives to it.

    1. How unjust and how unhappy the disposition opposite to this love is.

    2. Consider that love to God is the true honour and happiness of your souls.

    3. To excite your love to God consider what a transcendently glorious, excellent, and amiable Being He is in Himself.

    4. Consider that God, and He alone, can be a suitable and satisfying portion to your souls.

    5. Consider the goodness and mercy, love and grace of God, and the blessed fruits of it, to you and others. (T. Fernie, M. A.)

    Why we love Him

    Love is said to be the fulfilling of the law; and, in its highest conditions, it casts out all fear. A soul that is filled with love to God has no anxieties in reference to the future. A man so filled with love is elevated; and while he walks on earth, his conversation is in heaven, his associations with the invisible. But how shall this love be developed in our hearts? What is the law of its development and of its manifestations? How shall we love God with that perfect love which thus associates us with the redeemed, and makes us confident in the midst of all dangers? Love Divine has the same law of origin and of development as love human. We love a mother because she first loved us. We love God because He first loved us. And that long tutelage and care which the child receives fixes on its heart this sentiment of love. It grows with its growth, it strengthens with its strength; and were there no depravity, no stains on human nature, that love would grow up in all its beauty, strengthening from year to year. But let us look at some of the manifestations that God has given of Himself to develop this emotion of love in our hearts. And, first, in the works of creation around us, God has manifested Himself as the loving Creator. He hath placed us in a world framed for our enjoyment. Not only have we indications of God’s love around us in this creation, but we can rise higher as we come to the realm of mind. If I compare, step by step, as I advance: A child’s affection for a parent is increased by beautiful material arrangements made for the comfort of the child. The chamber, the furniture, the clothing, everything prepared by a father’s affection or a mother’s love, indicate to the child that affection. So, in these material arrangements, God tells us He loves us; and as we gaze on these arrangements, we ought to love God; but as the book of the mind opens up before us, how this care is multiplied! The thought of God strangely drops into our bosom. There is thought in animate beings. We take those animals that serve our comfort, that labour for us, that watch for us, and there are indications of thought evidently in them. They are made to serve, and their range of thought is exceedingly small. We are made to rule, and our thought seems to be almost limitless. How ought we to love God, in that He loved us so much as to give us this power! And then could He call us up while the great mass of us are all the time disposed to look downward! Man not loving God, not looking upward and outward, becomes sensual. He spends his time in feeding his body, in satisfying his appetites, and he forgets the realm of empire over nature, and over ideas, and over thoughts, that God opens out before him; and hence, without love of God, man is the animal; with love to God, he is the seraph; with love to God, he lives in His affections and rises toward glory; without love to God, he crawls like the worm; without love to God, he goes downward until he is ready to make his bed with demons; with love to God, he rises above angels and archangels, and is preparing for the throne of God. What a glorious provision, and how ought we to love God in that He loved us, and gave to us such prerogatives! But then, again, God hath not only given this mental power, this dominion of thought, this government of the lower world, but He hath given unto us an exalted spiritual nature. Now, this spiritual nature has in it this power: First, in looking at the objects of admiration, in seeing what God has done, reflecting toward Him gratitude; and, secondly, in reflecting that gratitude, growing into His image, and when that image is formed, becoming like God Himself in radiating light, and giving satisfaction to all around us, just as the eyes develop love. Now, as God develops in us this love from our first growing up into the likeness of God, as our hearts are grateful, we recognise Him to be the grand idea, the perfect pattern; our souls long for His image, we want to be like God in the development of this love, we long to be changed into His image, and we are changed from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. Oh, as we grow up into the image of the Master, then we would be like Him in action, imitating Him; and this brings up in our hearts the desire to do good to others. Oh, were all men filled with love to God, this earth would be quite on the verge of heaven; tears would be wiped away by some soft hand; darkness would be illuminated by the smile of love; wants would be provided for by the supply of affectionate charity; and this earth would bear the impress of being the footstool of God. We love Him in the origin of our love; we love Him in the law of the development of our love; we love Him in the manifestation of love as we grow into His likeness. But this law of Divine love is not like that of human love, merely in its origin; it is like it in the means of its growth. Human love increases, as we know, most perfectly the object of that love, if the being be entirely lovable. In God there is no blemish. The more we can know of Him, not only do we love Him better, as we love our friends, but there is no drawback to that love. In Him is love without blemish--no selfishness, no defect; and hence the more we know of God, the better we must love Him. (M. Simpson, D. D.)

    The genesis of love

    When we read one of the writings of St. John the Divine it is as if one heard strange and beautiful music, and for the moment our mind is filled with the sound of composed emotions. First, we are lifted above this earth, and taken, with that eagle eye, into the blue above where old things have passed away and all things have become new. We next become conscious of the things that have before haunted us, the vague thoughts that have entered into our minds, the unfulfilled desires that were ever eluding our grasps, and the ideals which have floated before our imaginations; and we see for the first time what before we had only imagined--the perfect shape of heavenly and spiritual beauty. And then, after that, we become conscious of something else, and that is our own unloveliness and our own imperfection. But I find that the last feeling left upon one’s mind, if one is in a healthy state, is this: a great longing to be rid of one’s own self, and to be lifted up and made like God. You see, St. John is the master of the philosophy of love, and there is one question I should like to ask you. How can a person create love if love does not exist? And if it does, how can a person increase it? If there be no fire at all upon my cold hearth, how shall I light it? And if there be a flicker of flame upon the cold ashes, how shall I bring it to a blaze? It is a very difficult question. No person, for instance, can love by an act of will. I can, by an act of will, lift my arm, because my arm is moved by voluntary muscles. I cannot, by an act of will, make my heart beat. And neither I, nor any other man, nor all men together, shall be able to make it give one beat more on some future day fixed upon by the Divine will. I will to love, but what follows? I find I cannot love. “Love is not a duty, but a virtue.” That is why love can never be commanded. Before you can obey, you must have love. Now I turn to St. John, and he just meets my question about how love can be created. It is with love exactly as with life. Life cannot spring into existence, it must be communicated. It is exactly the same thing with regard to love. You cannot make the black coals on your hearth burst into flame until you apply a light. If you want to love, you must wait till love comes from without. There is just one source of love, and that is God. And there can be no love in the human heart till the love of God comes in and creates it there. Ii must come by a genesis, not by spontaneous generation. We love because God has first loved us. What He means is this: there may be a great many secondary and important reasons and causes for love, but there is only one Source of love in the whole universe, just as to this world there is only one source of heat. Remove any human soul from the perpetual consciousness of the Divine and Fatherly love, you have got no love in that soul. Now let me illustrate this spiritual truth, first from the reverse side. Take a street arab. How do you expect he can be approached? Leave him alone. He will then become an outcast, a vagabond, perhaps a murderer. Now ask yourselves this question, How is it that this man is a curse to himself and a danger to society? Ask yourselves another question, Was he ever loved? His father--why his father kicked him when he came across him, and swore at him as a nuisance! His mother sent him out to beg as soon as he could stand. His companions, in Court No. 6, off Street So-and-so, why they were just young savages, and they treated him like a savage! Depend upon it, if you deny a human being his natural rights, if you treat him with injustice, and disregard all his feelings, you will turn him into a fiend. Why should he not? He cannot help it; it is the constitution of human nature, he hates because he is hated. Now there is the other side. Take the opposite product of our civilisation. Nothing, I suppose, is more beautiful than the way in which some boys are trained. They are then natural boys; ay, spiritual boys too! A boy comes home from school after morning lessons; the first thing he asks is, “Where is mother?” Not because he wants her, but just to take her hand to tell her what has happened at school. If she is not at home he is miserable. And if she goes away for a little he is never happy till she returns. What is the reason? “It is natural,” you say, “because he loves her.” What do you mean by “natural”? Do you mean that there is a little germ of love in every human heart? I believe that, too, whether it is nurtured or not. Do you believe it still lives? In some homes the boys are happier when they are away at school. “How that boy does love his mother!” Well, what do you argue from that? I argue that his mother first loved him. The mother shone on him, now he shines on her. The sun gave out its heat, now the earth gives out its heat. “A capital son that to his mother!” He does not think so. She is getting in her old age what she gave before. Again, if you see a man that is pleasant and kind to everybody, men like that man. He never says a mean thing about anyone. Do not praise him too much. Pass it back! He has had a good mother, a good father. Do not praise the tropics because the fruit is there. The arctic regions might have done as well if they had had as much sun. We will “love Him because He first loved us.” Let us see how this applies in the sphere of religion. If a man believes that God is, but never has got the length of believing that God is love, then I do not expect much from that man. I expect him to be uncharitable, narrow, not particularly generous in his feelings. The Pharisee did not believe that God was love, so he did not love. He could not help it any more than the arctic regions can help being frozen. Now you turn to the other side. Why, how the children loved Jesus! Why, how all kinds of people followed Jesus! Because He was lovable; because He loved. We are getting on now. Why did Jesus love as no person has ever loved yet, or ever can love again? Because He could not help it. St. John tells us that He “lay in the bosom of the Father,” where all is love. Now this law of St. John throws a marvellous light upon many events. The devotion of some people in the history of the world is quite beyond explanation unless you understand St. John’s principle. There is one of the saints whose life was so beautiful that the story of it is one of the most wonderful that ever was written. The beasts of the field all loved him; all living things loved him. You may call it legend, but I do not see any limit to the possibilities of human love. I cannot tell what might have followed if that man had lived. When all creation is reconciled it will be through the reconciliation of love. Francis Xavier was ordained for the salvation of the East, and he used to cry out in his prayers, “Give me more suffering that men may be saved.” It seems marvellous; but it is not marvellous when you know that the love of God burned inside that man’s heart just like a flame from the day of his conversion to the day of his death. (J. Watson, M. A.)

    The love of God reciprocated

    I. The love of God.

    1. Its antiquity.

    2. Its sovereignty.

    3. It is displayed in Christ.

    4. It has ever been a love of complacency and delight.

    5. It is unchangeable and everlasting.

    II. The character of the Christian’s love to God.

    1. It is not natural to man.

    2. It is caused or produced by the love of God.

    3. It is influenced by the love of God.

    4. It is manifested in various ways.

    5. Love to God is necessary. (Pulpit Themes.)

    Love for love

    I. Christians cherish great affection for Christ. “We love Him.”

    1. It is implied that they are an exception to others. The majority of the human race either ignore or oppose Christ.

    2. It is implied that there was a time when they did not. Religion is not inherent. It is an after production.

    3. It is implied that they are fully conscious of their love.

    4. It is implied that it is personal. “We love Him”--not His gifts, but Himself.

    II. Christians cherish great affection for Christ because of His greater affection for them. “Because He first loved us.” Natural if we consider--

    1. The greatness of the Lover.

    2. The wretchedness of the loved.

    3. The wonderfulness of the love.


    1. Jesus continues to love.

    2. He loves all.

    3. All should love Him. (B. D. Johns.)

    God’s love the cause of ours

    Reciprocity is the crown of love. And although it may be absent in one case or another, we cannot use the word “love,” except metaphorically, in any field which does not admit of its possible reciprocation. Any injunction to love God, therefore, will sound abstract and unreal, till we remember that its cause and condition is that “He first loved us.” God’s condescension, not man’s aspiration, is the beginning of religious life. There have been times when the sense of the Divine oppressed men, and led to superstition. But such times are not ours. The world of the present day believes, but does not tremble. It thinks, and speaks, and acts, and goes about its business as if our race were, for practical purposes, self centred and alone. Many causes have contributed to this. The psychological character of our philosophy, leading to agnosticism; our overestimate of liberty, with its attendant shadow self-assertion, to the comparative neglect of obedience, humility, reverence and awe; the splendid spectacle of our vast achievements in mechanism and science--have all tended to reinforce the natural pride of the human heart. It needs, therefore, a very real effort to bear constantly in mind the fact that we are creatures, and that our nearest relation is our Creator. If we turn, then, to the Divine share in the development of our faculties, we shall see that what we call our action may be better described as God’s attraction, and that we advance in exact proportion as we let ourselves be led by Him. We are the creatures, science tells us, of our environment. Yes; but the reason why we are so is that our true environment is God. Take the instance of the will. The denial of its freedom is only a parody of the truth that it must be developed by external law. The laws of nature, the laws of society, the laws of conscience, if we obey them, slowly determine our wills towards that uniform course of conduct which constitutes our character. The character of the scientific, the civilised, the moral man is formed by successive acts of more or less difficult obedience to a particular class of laws. We do not form ourselves, we are conformed to the law; and by every step in that conformity our true freedom is enlarged. And what is this but saying that God, the Source of all law, is for ever at work, attracting our wills into harmony with His will, increasing our liberty, and expanding our capacities, in proportion as that harmony grows more complete; teaching us to see, in what once seemed relentless forces, tokens of His truthfulness, His holiness, His love. The same is the case with our minds. We study a great author, and in doing so, as the phrase goes, make his thoughts our own. But in reality it is he who throws the spell of his personality upon us, and makes our thoughts his. So with all other mental objects, the course of the stars, the laws of mathematics, chemical properties, mechanical forces--they are there, they exist before us; we do not create, we only discover them. Our intellect grows with nourishment, but the nourishment must be given from without. Knowledge, therefore, rightly viewed, is the progressive acceptance of revelation; and thence the moral qualities which we see that it involves. So, too, our power of loving is drawn into activity from without. The tenderness of our mother, our father’s protecting pride, the warmhearted affections of the companions of our youth, bodily beauty, nobleness of life, sanctity of soul--all these draw the heart out of us, and teach us what it is to love. But who created them all, and endowed them with their loveliness? God, that He might draw us with the cords of a man, with bands of love. The love of God for us once realised has a constraining power that compels us to return it with all our heart, and soul, and mind. But such realisation never can be ours till our faculties are duly disciplined. Only the heart that knows what true love is can read the indications of God’s love for us aright. Only the mind that is directed upward can teach the heart that heavenly knowledge. Only the will that has learned obedience can give the mind its true direction. We must will in order to know, and know in order to love, before we can consciously enter within the sphere of the Divine attraction. There remains the crowning evidence that He first loved us. He gave Himself for us. The Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ is the supreme appeal to our love, because it is the supreme proof of His. And yet there are many earnest theists in the present day willing enough to trace the signs of a Divine presence in the universe, but inconsistently stopping short of a belief in the Incarnation. For it is an inconsistent stoppage on the part of any real theist, since God, who is conceived of as caring for His creatures, must be supposed to reveal Himself in ways suiting their capacity; and an Incarnation, as many a pre-Christian thinker saw, would be the reasonable culmination of such ways of self-revealing. There is evidence enough of God’s love for us in the beauty of the world, the beneficence of nature, and all the joy of human intercourse. It is only when we come to the dark sad side of life that our faith begins to fail. And here the Incarnation takes up the thread of proof, not by removing the problem of the mystery of sorrow from our minds, but by revealing God Himself as willing to bear it with and for us, and so enabling our hearts to feel it the crowning testimony of His love. The soul that has reached this certitude needs no other motive to ensure its obeying the commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” (J. R. Illingworth, M. A.)

    Love more attractive than light

    What is the force that draws men? Somebody says it is light. But men are not all drawn to Christ by light; they are sometimes driven from Him by it. By all means let people have their board schools and so on, but do not imagine that that will ever do the work of the Church. No, Christ must do that. Have you noticed that, in this brush we are having with the Egyptians, Arabi Pasha promised not to go on with the earth works? But when the sun went down, there were the fellows with their barrows hard at work. Admiral Seymour one night turned the electric light on the gentle men, and there they were. But they did not at once put down their barrows and their spades and go away home, feeling very much ashamed at being detected. They rather kept on working day and night. Sometimes when men get light, they rebel against it, and use the truth they have learned as an instrument to their detriment. That has often happened. I would, if I could, turn the electric light on some men’s minds and let them see themselves; but I know that in many cases it would increase responsibility and increase hostility, and it would not win the soul. How, then, are men won to Christ? It is by the force of love. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

    Creed and life

    “Religion is not a creed, but a life.” We will venture to put two little words into that sentence, “Religion is not only a creed, but also a life.” Is not this nearer the truth?

    1. In religion there is a creed. “He first loved us.”

    2. In religion there is a life. “We love Him.”

    3. In religion there is a life because there is a creed. “We love because He loved.” (C. Clemance, D. D.)

    God’s love

    If we want to know just what the apostle meant when he used these words we must refer to other verses in this Epistle.

    1. One of these gives us love’s expression. “He sent His Son, the propitiation for our sins.”

    2. We have love’s object. “He first loved us.”

    3. We have love’s intensity. “Herein is love.”

    4. We have love’s achievements. “Behold, what manner of love,” etc. (1 John 3:1).

    5. We have love’s ultimate intentions. “It doth not yet appear,” etc. (1 John 3:2). (C. Clemance, D. D.)


    Every Christian grace is some form or other of love. Repentance is love--grieving. Faith is love--leaning. Hope is love--expecting. Courage is love--daring. Patience is love--waiting. And so on through all the list of Christian virtues. And thus we see how it is that a man has just as much religion as he has love and no more. (C. Clemance, D. D.)

    Paganism and Christianity

    We find indications of the Pagans fearing their gods, dreading them, trying to appease their wrath by sacrifices and offerings, being very much obliged to their gods if they gave them a good harvest, and so on; but nowhere can we recall any indications of a Pagan loving his god! And why? Because the Pagans never knew of God loving them! (C. Clemance, D. D.)

    Our love the reflex of God’s

    And as the reflected beams of the sun are weaker than the direct, so are our affections weaker than God’s. (J. Trapp.)

    Richard Baxter’s prayer

    Draw my soul to Thyself by the secret power of Thy love, as the sunshine in the spring draws forth the creatures from their winter cells; meet it half way, and entice it to Thee, as the loadstone doth the iron, and as the greater flame attracts the less. (R. Baxter.)

    Doctrine and morals

    God first loved us is the summary of Christian doctrine; we love Him is the summary of Christian morality. (Luthardt.)

    The Christian’s love

    I can think of no better illustration of the relation of the Christian’s love to the love of God, than that which is afforded by the contemplation of the rising spray from the Falls of Niagara. Who that has stood beside that mighty cataract, and looked upon the water pouring in a thundering torrent over that stupendous precipice, and watched the mist as it floats upward and backward over the Falls, and outward over the river and land, has not been charmed and filled with holy admiration as he has contemplated this parable in nature? That mighty torrent, pouring itself with ceaseless and exhaustless energy, day and night, into the river below, is what the love of God is to sinners. Who can measure it? Who can estimate it? The thin, and yet beautiful spray, arising from the foot of the Falls, is just a little of these same waters going back in grateful acknowledgment to the source whence they came. So is the believers’ love to God. It is the rebound of His own love--only a little, yea, only an infinitesimal portion given back to Him who so loved us. As the spray does not rise by any forced effort of its own, so the believer, who stands under the Niagara of God’s love poured out through Christ, will not have to make an effort to love God; his love will ascend without effort. (G. F. Pentecost, D. D.)

    Action and reaction between God and man

    You have seen a flowering plant unfold itself under the kindly rays of the morning sun. It eagerly drank in the heat and life that came to it in each rill of celestial fire, and opened itself more and more fully as the beams grew in strength, until at length its whole being seemed to go forth in a glad return of fragrance and beauty. That plant, in its relation to the sun, was a type or symbol, in the material world, of the action and reaction that pass between God and man in the spiritual realm. Analyse the symbol and you observe--

    1. That in the nature of the plant there must be a certain affinity with the sun and his rays. But for that the sun might shine for ever, and produce no more vital effect on the plant than he does on a stone.

    2. That the plant does not find the sun, but the sun the plant. Initial action proceeds from the sun--the plant at first is only passive and receptive.

    3. That what the sun sends down is energy, not instruction how or where to get it, but energy, life, direct and simple.

    4. That the life thus radiated evokes responsive action. The plant lifts its head, expands every leaf and petal, follows the sun wherever he goes, and spends itself in works of fragrant beauty in praise of Him who rescued it from darkness and decay. (P. H. Steenstra, D. D.)

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

    Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 John 4:19". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

    Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

    We love, because he first loved us.

    Inherent in this epic declaration is the fact that Christ was not crucified in order to persuade God to love people, but because God already loved mankind, the divine love preceding the entire program of redemption, and even more, existing in the heart of God even before the world was. One great purpose of the cross was that of persuading people to receive the salvation God was so willing to give. Another truth evident in this is that, "Our love (whether of God or man) is a plain duty to us, since God first loved us."[45] It should be considered by all that the very fact of God's loving sinful and fallen humanity provides a powerful incentive for all perceptive souls to do likewise. Why did God love fallen and sinful men? Even their being sinful did not change the fact that they had been designed and created in the image of the Father; and through God's provident mercy, all of the moral and eternal consequences of their sins were potentially removable, through the means God revealed. Moreover, the disaster which had fallen upon humanity in the events of the Fall, had actually been brought upon them by the seduction and skillful cunning of their inveterate enemy, Satan. God pitied those human creatures who were so heartlessly betrayed and ruined by the sadistic moral rape of their innocence in Eden; and pity is never very far from love. And should not similar considerations today lead every Christian in the direction of loving all people, every man, who like himself is a victim of sin, and yet is potentially an heir of eternal glory as a beneficiary of the blood of Christ? "Such love flows from the nature of the lover, and not from the worthiness of the one loved."[46] The great redemptive purpose of God in Christ is that of making his children like himself, and, therefore, not to love is to negate our own redemption. "After God's love in giving his Son for us, it would be monstrous not to love ."[47]

    [45] J. W. Roberts, op. cit., p. 123.

    [46] Leon Morris, op. cit., p. 1268.

    [47] A. Plummer, op. cit., p. 105.

    Copyright Statement
    James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

    Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

    John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

    We love him, because he first loved us. Lest love to God, and so to one another, should be thought to be of ourselves, and too much be ascribed unto it, the apostle observes, that God's love to us is prior to our love to him; his love is from everlasting, as well as to everlasting; for he loves his people as he does his Son, and he loved him before the foundation of the world; his choosing them in Christ as early, and blessing them then with all spiritual blessings, the covenant of grace made with Christ from all eternity, the gift of grace to them in him before the world began, and the promise of eternal life to them so soon, show the antiquity and priority of his love: his love shown in the mission and gift of his Son was before theirs, and when they had none to him; and his love in regeneration and conversion is previous to theirs, and is the cause of it; his grace in regeneration brings faith and love with it, and produces them in the heart; and his love shed abroad there is the moving cause of it, or what draws it first into act and exercise; and the larger the discoveries and applications of the love of God be, the more does love to him increase and abound; and nothing more animates and inflames our love to God, than the consideration of the earliness of his love to us, of its being before ours; which shows that it is free, sovereign, distinguishing, and unmerited. Some read the words as an exhortation, "let us love him"; and others as in the subjunctive mood, "we should love him", because, &c. some copies read, "we love God", and so the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, and the Alexandrian copy, read, "because God first loved us": and so some others.

    Copyright Statement
    The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
    A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

    Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

    Geneva Study Bible

    14 We love him, because he first loved us.

    (14) Lest any man should think that that peace of conscience proceeds from our love as the cause, he goes back to the fountain, that is, to the free love with which God loves us although we deserved and do deserve his wrath. From this springs another double charity, which both are tokens and witnesses of that first, that is, that we love God who loved us first, and then for his sake our neighbours also.

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    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

    Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

    him — omitted in the oldest manuscripts. Translate, We (emphatical: WE on our part) love (in general: love alike Him, and the brethren, and our fellow men), because He (emphatical: answering to “we”; because it was He who) first loved us in sending His Son (Greek aorist of a definite act at a point of time). He was the first to love us: this thought ought to create in us love casting out fear (1 John 4:18).

    Copyright Statement
    These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
    This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

    Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

    He first (αυτος πρωτοςautos prōtos). Note πρωτοςprōtos (nominative), not πρωτονprōton as in John 20:4, John 20:8. God loved us before we loved him (John 3:16). Our love is in response to his love for us. ΑγαπωμενAgapōmen is indicative (we love), not subjunctive (let us love) of the same form. There is no object expressed here.

    Copyright Statement
    The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

    Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

    Vincent's Word Studies

    We love Him ( ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν αὐτὸν )

    The best texts omit Him. Some render let us love, as 1 John 4:7. The statement is general, relating to the entire operation of the principle of love. All human love is preceded and generated by the love of God.

    Copyright Statement
    The text of this work is public domain.

    Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

    Wesley's Explanatory Notes

    We love him, because he first loved us.

    We love him, because he first loved us — This is the sum of all religion, the genuine model of Christianity. None can say more: why should any one say less, or less intelligibly?

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

    Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

    Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

    19We love him The verb ἀγαπῶμεν may be either in the indicative or imperative mood; but the former is the more suitable here, for the Apostle, as I think, repeats the preceding sentence, that as God has anticipated us by his free love, we ought to return to render love to him, for he immediately infers that he ought to be loved in men, or that the love we have for him ought to be manifested towards men. If, however, the imperative mood be preferred, the meaning would be nearly the same, that as God has freely loved us, we also ought now to love him.

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.

    Calvin, John. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

    James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary


    ‘We love Him, because He first loved us.’

    1 John 4:19

    God’s love and man’s response—that is the meaning of our life as Christians. And it is God’s love, the kindness of God our Saviour, that comes first.

    I. We are surrounded, enwrapped in God’s love.—It is so close, it envelops us so completely, that for many of us it takes a long while to discern it; and when we do it comes with all the force of a discovery, just because it was ‘closer than breathing, nearer than hands or feet.’ He seems so far above, and we are so little, that we cannot believe it. Have you not sometimes had a friend in some one far removed from you—some one above you in station, your employer or chief; some one above you in age and knowledge, your teacher or your master; or some one of like age and standing, but above you in gifts, perhaps attractions? You have admired them very much and perhaps learnt from them. Then one day something done or said has revealed the truth, and you have found that they care, just care for you; that you are not merely a case, or a hand, or an item in their work, but that you, as a person, you being yourself and no one else, with all your faults and your insignificance, that you matter to them; that they care about that. Has it not made a world of difference? It makes you yourself a better person, for nothing individualises like love. And has not this knowledge made things easy which before were hard, and enabled you to do and bear a great deal more? And then comes another thought. You are anxious to show them something in return, and please them; if the thought were not absurd, you would like to help them. But they are too far above you, and you cannot do that, you know. You can love them, and that is all. But that is not all with God. We can love Him and help Him too. That is the wonderful thing; the strange truth that makes one almost shudder with joy. Not only does God let us love Him, but He will let us help Him, give Him something; give, too, not a little, but the best we have, all made better by the giving; more, too, give not only what we have, but what we are, ‘ourselves, our souls and bodies, a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice,’ and so make God happier. Has it ever occurred to you what it means—you can make God, make Jesus, happier? We are often told that our sins, our pride and wilfulness make Him miserable once more; that we renew for Him Gethsemane and dig those nails deeper. We do. But also we can make Him glad, can help Him, make it easier for Him to do His work, His never-ceasing work of saving the world, and bring a fresh note of joy even among the angels in heaven.

    II. We must love God.—We cannot help it, because He loves us. If some gracious and attractive nature shows love to us we must love Him back; as soon as we realise the fact we cannot help ourselves. For a long while, indeed, through pride and wilful ignorance, we may not know that He cares, and so live as if He did not, or one may fail to see how beautiful He is and not care whether He loves or not. So long as a person is unattractive or indifferent to you, you do not mind, as you put it, whether he likes or dislikes you—you do not know and you do not care; he is nothing to you. But once you have caught the attraction, once you have seen his beauty of spirit, or gifts, or power, or whatever it is has held you, he is no more indifferent, and you would be glad to know that he takes an interest in you. That is what God does: He takes an interest in us, and all our life is aflame with the fact. How it happens that when we know this and love Him too we can shame Him, as we do so often by our pride and lust, by our greed and cowardice, or by mere forgetfulness and distrust, I do not know. But we do. Yet even that He puts out of sight, because His love is an everlasting love and knows no bounds.

    III. We have to help God to give Him presents.—You know how it is if you do not care about people and you have to give them a wedding present. It bores you; it seems such waste of money. On the other hand, nothing seems good enough for any one you greatly care for. Cannot we be a little more extravagant in our gifts to God? I am not talking about money, though for many people that is a very good test of reality. But every day, every hour almost, we can be giving something to Jesus. Make Him a present—some pleasure, personal and selfish, we give up; some sorrow or humiliation you can turn into joy and strength for His sake; some evil thought we put away we give to Him, just because He loves us and does not like it; some hard piece of work we do just to serve Him; some brave discipline, some bad fight we face, because we are His friends. I know it is all very hard, and perhaps we shall fail. We may have enough pluck to go into the fight, and then past sins or a fresh fall may give the victory to the other side. We are not all intended to give Him success; we are all intended to give Him our efforts. Perhaps the only thing we can say is, ‘Lord, I have failed; I did my best in vain, but I did try. I have been beaten, but it was for Thee.’ Give Jesus success, if it comes to you; high sacrifice and great results, if you win them. But if not that, if you have only scorn and humiliation and grief and self-contempt, you can give Him that. Which was it, failure or success, He Himself gave His Father on Calvary?

    —Rev. Dr. J. Neville Figgis.


    ‘This is what makes the difference—what separates us from other men, and unites us, if we only realise it, by a bond that is deeper than all the barriers, real though they be, which are set up by race and social training, by breeding or virtue, and by intellect and education—the last and the hardest barrier of all. We Christians are men who love. In other religions you can find men who worship; in some of them in the East quite a number who make prayer their life. Under many different moral systems there are those who sacrifice all, and shame us by the depth of their renunciation. Often do we meet outside the Christian Church men of virtue, of high standards and noble integrity. In ours alone is there this rare aroma, that we are lovers of a living Lord; friends in the beautiful name of a sect that did much to restore tenderness to an age full of religion and empty of love. Friendship—that is the quality, the meaning of our religion; and all our Church system, and all our elaboration of services, all our sacramental life, the grace of Holy Baptism, the beauty of the Eucharist, the tenderness of penitence, the courage of Confirmation, and the joy and strength of priestly office are but so many symbols of this one fact, so many facets “of the diamond heart unstained and clear, and the whole world’s crowning jewel,” the friendship between man and God.’



    Of all revelations that is the most Christian that you ever listened to. If there is no love in your heart at all for God, look at what God has done for you in the person of His beloved Son.

    I. We love Him because He first loved us.—I often wonder why it was not made a question, or rather why a mark of interrogation was not put after ‘we love Him.’ Do we love Him? It is a question which indeed we must answer. There is no doubt about the second part, He did love us. God grant that you may realise how much He loved you, and then, if you will but realise it in ever so small a degree, there is some hope that you will love Him because He has first loved you.

    II. Contrast fear and love.—Fear in its way is a very wholesome feeling. It has its good points, but do you know the difference between fear and love? It is this, that unless fear merges into love, fear never lasts. Even a small child will get accustomed to a terror. You cry bogey very often and at last the child will laugh, and it is not well for us ministers of the Word to be always trying to frighten you with views of hell, at which I know quite well you are only inclined to smile. No fear will ever convert a soul; only love will do that. Fear only torments, fear makes a man, as it were, to tremble, but it will never bring him to God. But love hath peace. Oh, what a beautiful picture in contrast is the Gospel according to St. John! What a beautiful contrast are these Epistles of his! Is he afraid of God? He looks up into the face of God the Father and sees that face wreathed with smiles. What does He hear? ‘The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.’ ‘Herein is our life made perfect, that we may have boldness in the great day of judgment.’ He faces death, the great unknown, but is not afraid because he knows of the love of God.

    III. Would it not be a blessed thing for you in the middle of trouble—and God knows how much trouble there is in the world—to be able under the almighty hand of God to say from the ground of the heart, ‘Thy will be done, O Lord’? How is it to be done? St. John points the way. He shows you that salvation is of Jesus Christ. He tells you that the peace of Jesus Christ is to be had in Jesus Christ’s way, in the worship of His blessed Church, in the blessed sacrament, in prayer, in worship. Have you found that peace now? Have you found that peace which passeth all understanding, and have you the desire to be in a place where no one says, ‘I am afraid of Him,’ but where all joyfully acknowledge and unite in uttering with one voice the words of the blessed Apostle, ‘We love Him, because he first loved us’?

    Rev. J. Jenkins.


    ‘Perhaps you have heard or read of the love of the two friends Damon and Pythias for each other. When Damon was condemned by the tyrant Dionysius to die, he asked permission to visit his wife and children, that he might bid them farewell; and his faithful friend Pythias gave himself up as a pledge, promising to die in his friend’s place if he did not come back at the appointed time. But Damon was hindered, and could not return at the time he intended. Then Dionysius the tyrant visited Pythias in prison, and said to him, “How foolish you were ever to think that your friend would come back again to die.” But he replied, “I would rather suffer a thousand deaths than his word and honour should fail. But it will not fail; he will come back.” He then prayed that his friend might be hindered from coming back until he himself had died in his place, that so Damon might be spared to his family and to his people. The scaffold was then prepared, and Pythias took his place upon it to die for his friend. Suddenly the sound of a galloping horse was heard. “Stop! stop!” cried the crowd. It was, indeed, Damon come back. In a moment he sprang from his horse, mounted the scaffold, and was clasped in the arms of his friend. Pythias appeared much disappointed that his friend had not come a few minutes later, and said that now that he could not die for his friend he would die with him. But when the tyrant Dionysius saw the love of these two friends, he wept and said to them both, “Live! live! ye incomparable pair! Live happy! live revered! and as you have invited me by your example, form me by your precept to participate worthily of a friendship so Divine.”’

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    Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

    John Trapp Complete Commentary

    19 We love him, because he first loved us.

    Ver. 19. Because he first loved us] {See Trapp on "1 John 4:10"} Mary answers not Rabboni till Christ first said unto her, Mary. Our love is but the reflex of his. And as the reflected beams of the sun are weaker than the direct, so are our affections weaker than God’s. That is a memorable saying of a modern writer, As a great brightness of the air at midnight argueth the shining of the moon, and that presumeth an illumination of the sun, because these depend one upon another; so the diffusing of our charity on our neighbours proveth our love to God; and our love to God presumeth his love to us first, for the inseparable dependence they have on each other.

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    Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

    Sermon Bible Commentary

    1 John 4:19

    Originating Love.

    The love of all who love God is a consequence of God's love to them.

    I. By an act of creative power. All love in the heart is a creation; and whom God loves, in them He creates love to Him. It might be enough to see that, but we may trace the creation. First, by moral cause and effect. There is always an inclination to love those who we believe love us. If you believe God loves you, it is a sure effect that you will try to love Him; it is a part of the ordinary constitution of our nature. It is so wonderful a thing that the great God should indeed love a poor miserable sinner that whenever it is really brought home to the heart and conscience it awakens heavenly affections.

    II. And now mark, it must be believed and felt. Many have a general sense of the love of God, but they cannot believe that He personally loves them; and yet till this is done nothing is done. You will not love God until you are quite sure that God specially and individually loves you.

    III. But then this feeling cannot be produced by any natural process, by any reasoning whatever. Therefore the way by which God's love produces our love is altogether spiritual. Where God loves the Holy Ghost comes and shows us that love of God.

    IV. Hence we arrive at the fourth reason of mutual love in a believer's heart. It is a necessity: the love of God has shone there, and it must reflect itself. And the reflection of God's love to the soul is that soul's love—first to God, then to the Church, and then to every creature.

    J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 8th series, p. 188.

    References: 1 John 4:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 229; vol. xvii., No. 1008; vol. xxii., No. 1299; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 163; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 114; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 5. 1 John 4:21.—Church of England Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 414. 1 John 5:1.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 979.

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    Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

    Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

    1 John 4:19. We love him, &c.— Some would read this, Let us therefore love him: and their reasons for it are, because the connection is by this interpretation rendered more easyand obvious; and the word αγαπωμεν, may be indifferently understood, either in the indicative or subjunctive mood: and as the word αγαπα is in the subjunctive mood, 1 John 4:21 so it seems to be ch. 1 John 5:1 and therefore the word αγαπωμεν should be so understood in this place. St. John, 1 John 4:11 infers from God's first loving us, that we ought to love one another: here he infers from God's first loving us, that we ought in return to love God.

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    Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

    Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

    There is a double reading of these words according to the original.

    1. They may be read, let us love him because he first loved us, by way of motive, denoting, that believers have great reason to love God with their choicest and highest affections, forasmuch as he has loved them, and first loved them.

    2. They are here read by way of casuality, we do love him, because he first loved us; intimating, that God's love to us is the root and spring of our love to him, and to one another: all our love to saints is the effect of his preventing love to us, and but a reflection of those beams of love which God has first cast upon us; if God's love to us had been a mere dependent consequence of our love to him, how uncertain should we be of its continuance? But his love to us was the antecedent cause of our love to him; we therefore love him, because he first loved us.

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    Burkitt, William. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

    Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

    DISCOURSE: 2461


    1 John 4:19. We lore Him, because He first loved us.

    THERE is, as there ought to be, a great and visible difference between the Lord’s people and others. But no one of them has any ground for glorying in himself: for, to every one of them may that question be applied, “Who made thee to differ? and what hast thou which thou hast not received?” Verily, whatever attainments any man may have made, he must say, with the Apostle Paul, “By the grace of God I am what I am.” To this effect St. John speaks in the words before us; in which we are taught to trace the love which the saints bear to their God, not to any superior qualities in their own nature, but to God’s free and sovereign grace: “We love Him, because He first loved us.”

    Now, this being a truth indispensably necessary to be known and felt, I will endeavour to point out—

    I. Its doctrinal use—

    Our love to God springing from, and being founded on, God’s love to us, it is,

    1. An indispensable evidence of his love to us—

    [Supposing a person to affirm that God loves him as one of his peculiar people, I ask, What evidence have you of that fact? Your mere assertion is not sufficient to satisfy my mind: nor should a mere persuasion of it be sufficient to satisfy your mind. If God has really loved you, wherein has he manifested that love? What has he done for you? Has he revealed himself to you as reconciled in the Son of his love? Has he poured out his Spirit upon you, as “a Spirit of adoption, enabling you to call him Abba, Father?” And has he enabled you to surrender up yourself to him in all holy obedience to his will? In a word, Has he brought you to “love him,” and to serve him in truth? If, in “his loving-kindness, he has drawn you” to himself, then you may be satisfied that “he has loved you with an everlasting love [Note: Jeremiah 31:3.]:” but without this evidence, your persuasion, how confident soever it may be, is a fatal delusion. The Jews of old affirmed that God was their Father: but our blessed Lord said to them, “If God were your Father, ye would love me.” So I say to you, “It God have loved you, you must of necessity have been brought to love him.”]

    2. A decisive proof of his love to us—

    [Suppose now a different character to be manifesting from day to day his love to God, and yet to be doubting and questioning God’s love to him; I would ask, Whence did you obtain those dispositions which you manifest? Were they natural to you? or did you form them in your own heart? or did any fellow-creature implant them there? By nature, you are as much a child of wrath as any other person in the universe. So corrupt are you by nature, that “every imagination of the thoughts of your heart is evil, only evil, continually.” If there be only a good desire towards him, it has been imparted to you by God himself; who, of his own good pleasure, has wrought in you both to will and to do. If you behold the heavens and the earth, you conclude that they have been formed by an Almighty power: and the same conclusion must you form from every thing which you see in the new creation. If you can say from your heart, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee,” you may without hesitation add, “He that hath wrought me to the self-same thing, is God.”]

    To appreciate this truth aright, we must consider,

    II. Its practical importance—

    Verily, it is of the utmost importance,

    1. For the forming of our judgment—

    [It is well known, that confidence in God is our bounden duty: nor is it less clear that we are called to cherish in our bosoms a diffidence respecting ourselves. But professors of religion are very apt to separate these habits, instead of combining them; and to carry both the one and the other to an undue extreme. One indulges confidence, and carries it to presumption: another affects diffidence, and extends it to despondency. But from both these extremes we should flee; maintaining no confidence which is not warranted by God’s word; and never carrying our diffidence so far as to invalidate his truth. We must have a scriptural foundation for our hopes: and with God’s promises before us, we must moderate our fears. Hope and fear have each its appropriate place in the believer’s bosom, and should both be called into action in his experience. They should be like the scales of a balance, rising or falling according to our secret walk before God. If we are really living nigh to God, in the enjoyment of his presence and in the performance of his will, our hope may grow to assurance, yea, and to “a full assurance.” On the other hand, if we are far from God in secret, and harbouring any lust in our bosom, our fear ought to preponderate, and to be within us a friendly and faithful monitor. Yet, again I say, that whether we “rejoice or tremble,” extremes must be avoided: for we never can have such ground for joy, but that we have reason for trembling; or such ground for trembling, but that we have reason to rejoice. The person most confident of God’s love should search and try his ways, to see whether he be requiting God aright, and walking worthy of his profession: and the person who is most doubtful of God’s love should be careful not to write bitter things against himself, as though he were an outcast from God: for, if his attainments may justify a fear, his desires most assuredly justify a hope. And, after all, the doubting Christian has the advantage of his presumptuous brother: for, though he has less of present comfort, he has, through God’s abounding mercy, a greater measure of security.]

    2. For the directing of our ways—

    [Here it is taken for granted, that every Christian loves his God. In that, we cannot err. Whether we have a greater or less persuasion of God’s love to us, our duty is plain in reference to him. His love to mankind at large is clear enough: for “he has so loved us, as to give his own Son to be a propitiation for our sins.” Here then is ground enough for our love to him, and our affiance in him. Let all, then, stand upon this broad basis. I deny not but that personal favours call for love and gratitude: but I say, that the mercies we all enjoy in common with each other, are grounds of love; and I call every one of you to devote yourselves to God with all possible fidelity and affection. Esteem him above all — — — Desire him above all — — — Delight in him above all — — — And, if our Lord put the question to you which he put to Peter, “Lovest thou me?” let your whole life and conversation testify in your behalf, so that you may appeal to him and say, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.”]

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    Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

    Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

    1 John 4:19. ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν] According to this reading (omit αὐτόν), ἀγαπᾷν is here to be taken in the same comprehensive way as ἀγάπη in 1 John 4:16 (Düsterdieck, Myrberg,(284) Ebrard), and must not be restricted to “brotherly love” (Lücke).

    ἀγαπῶμεν, in analogy with ἀγαπῶμεν in 1 John 4:7, and with ὀφείλομεν, 1 John 4:11, is taken by Hornejus, Grotius, Lorinus, Lange, Lücke, de Wette-Brückner, Baumgarten-Crusius, Sander, Besser, Düsterdieck, Myrberg, etc., as imperative subjunctive; but it might be more correct to regard this verse, just as 1 John 4:17, as an expression of the actual character of true Christians, with whom, in 1 John 4:20, by ἐάν τις εἴπῃ the false Christian is contrasted, and therefore to take ἀγαπῶμεν, with Beza, Socinus, Spener, Bengel, Rickli, Neander, Ebrard, Hofmann (Schriftbew. II. 2, p. 338), Braune, etc., as indicative, in favour of which is also the prefixed ἡμεῖς.

    The reason of ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν is stated in ὅτι αὐτὸς πρῶτος ἠγάπησεν ἡμᾶς, in which the chief emphasis rests on πρῶτος; comp. 1 John 4:9-10.

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    Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

    Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

    1 John 4:19. ἀγαπῶμεν(14)) we love, driving away fear.— πρῶτος ἠγάπησεν, He was the first to embrace us with love) How much the more hereafter? Therefore fear is cast out.

    AB omit αὐτόν. Vulg. in some MSS. has “Deum.” Amiat. MS. has “invicem.” Vulg. makes ἀγαπῶμεν let us love, diligamus: not we love. Rec. Text has αὐτὸν, with inferior authorities.—E.

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    Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

    Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

    His is the fountain love, ours but the stream: his love the inducement, the pattern, and the effective cause of ours. He that is first in love, loves freely; the other therefore loves under obligation.

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    Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

    Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

    1 John


    1 John 4:19.

    Very simple words! but they go down into the depths of God, lifting burdens off the heart of humanity, turning duty into delight, and changing the aspect of all things. He who knows that God loves him needs little more for blessedness; he who loves God back again offers more than all burnt offering and sacrifices. But it is to be observed that the correct reading of my text, as you will find in the Revised Version, omits ‘Him’ in the first clause, and simply says ‘we love,’ without specifying the object. That is to say, for the moment John’s thought is fixed rather on the inward transformation effected, from self-regard to love--than on considering the object on which the love is expended. When the heart is melted, the streams flow wherever there is a channel. The river, as he goes on to show us, parts into two heads, and love to God and love to man are, in their essence and root-principle, one thing.

    So my text is the summary of all revelation about God, the ultimate word about all our relations to Him, and the all-inclusive directory as to our conduct to one another. To know that God loves, and to love again--there is a little pocket encyclopædia in two volumes, which contains the smelted-down essence of all theology and of all morality. Let us look at these three points.

    I. The ultimate word about God.

    ‘He first loved us.’ Properly and strictly speaking, that ‘first’ only declares the priority of the divine love towards us over ours towards Him. But we may fairly give it a wider meaning, and say--first of all, ere Creation and Time, away back in the abysmal depths of an everlasting and changeless heart, changeless in the sense that its love was eternal, but not changeless in the sense that love could have no place within it--first of all things was God’s love; last to be discovered because most ancient of all. The foundation is disclosed last when you come to dig, and the essence is grasped last in the process of analysis.

    So one of the old psalms, with wondrous depth of truth, traces up everything to this, ‘For His mercy endureth for ever.’ Therefore, there was time; therefore, there were creatures--’He made great lights, for His mercy endureth for ever.’ Therefore, there were judgments--’He slew famous kings ... for His mercy endureth for ever.’ And so we may pass through all the works of the divine energy, and say, ‘He first loved us.’

    It is no accident that there are but foregleams of this great thought brightening the words and the thoughts of psalmist and prophet, saint and sage, from the beginning onwards, while the articulate utterance of the simple sentence was first heard from the lips of Him who declared the Father, and stands in that part of the Book which, both in its position there, and in its date of composition is the last of the Apostolic utterances. ‘God is love’;--that is in one aspect the foundation of His being, and in another aspect the shining ruby set on the very sky-piercing summit of the completed process of the revelation of that Being to man. ‘He first loved us’; and thence, from that centre and germinal point, streams out the whole train of consequences in the divine activity, and in the divine self-revelation.

    I need not ask you to contrast with this infinitely simple and infinitely deep utterance all other thoughts of a divine Being--the cold abstractions of Theism, the dim dreads of popular apprehension, the vague utterances of any mythology, the clouds that men’s thoughts have covered over the face of this great truth--and then, to set by the side of all these groping, these peradventures, these fears, these narrow, unworthy ideas, the clear simplicity, the infinite depth of ‘He first loved us.’

    But I may ask you to consider, but for a moment, the relation which all the other perfection of the divine nature have to this central and foundation one. There are all those pompous names, ‘Omnipresence’ and ‘Omniscience’ and the like, which are but the negations of the limitations of humanity or of finite creatures. There are the more spiritual and moral thoughts of Wisdom and Righteousness and the like. These are but the fringes of the glory: I was going to venture to say that the divinest thing in God is love. There is the central blaze; the rest is but the brilliant periphery that encloses it. And that infinite love stands to all these other attributes in the relation of being their master and motive spring. They are Love’s instrument, and in the divine nature Love is Lord of all. They give it majesty; it gives them tenderness. We may reverently say, in regard to the divine nature, what the Apostle says about our humanity, that love is the ‘bond of perfectness’--the girdle which, braced round all the garments, keeps them in their place. For round these infinite, innumerable, unnameable, and named divine perfections, is that which brings them all into symmetry and keeps them all in harmonious action--Love. He has wisdom, and power, and eternal being, but He is Love.

    But do not let us forget that whilst thus my text proclaims the ultimate truth, these other attributes, as they are called, are all smelted down, as it were, into, and present in, the love which is their crown. The same Apostle, who has thus the honour of ringing out to the world the good news that God is Love, declares that ‘this is the message’ which he has to tell, that ‘God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.’ So the light of righteousness, as well as the lambent flame of love, burn together on that central fire of the universe. We must not so conceive of the love of God, as to darken the radiance of His righteousness, or to obscure the brilliancy of that pure light which tolerates no admixture of darkness.

    May I venture a step further, and ask whether we are not warranted in believing that in that which we call the love of God there do abide the same elements as characterise the thing that bears the same name in our human experience? The spectrum has told us that the constituents of the mighty sun in the heavens are the same as the constituents of this little darkened earth. And there are the same lines in the divine spectrum that there are in ours. So if we can venture to say of Him, He is Love, do not let us shrink from saying that then, like us, He delights in the companionship of His beloved; that, like us, He rejoices in giving Himself to His beloved; that, like us, but infinitely, He desires the good of His beloved; and that, like us, He seeks only for the requital of an answering love. All these things, the joy of the Lord in man, the yielding of the Lord to man, the beneficent desire of the Lord for the good of man, and the hunger of the Lord for the response of love from man--all these things are affirmed when we affirm that God is Love.

    Our Apostle would concur heartily in the great text which was the theme of a recent sermon. Paul said, ‘God establishes His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ John says, ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’

    So the Cross of Christ is the one demonstration that God loved us. Looking to it we can say, with a great modern teacher:--

    ‘So the All-great were the All-loving too,

    So through the thunder comes a human voice,

    Saying "Oh! heart I made; a heart beats here,

    Face, My hands fashioned, see it in Myself;

    Thou hast no power, nor mayest conceive of Mine;

    But love I gave thee, with Myself to love,

    And thou must love Me, who have died for thee."‘

    II. Here we have the ultimate word as to our religion.

    ‘We love Him, because He first loved us.’ There is a bridge wanted between these two, and the bridge is supplied abundantly in this letter, in entire harmony with the teaching of the rest of the New Testament. Much has been said, and profitably said, with reference to the modification of the general type of Christian teaching in the writings respectively of Paul, Peter, James, and John. I thankfully recognise the diversities. They are not divergencies; they are perfectly complementary, and may all be made to harmonise. This Apostle of love has also declared to us how it comes that the love which burns at the centre of things, where there is a heart, kindles a responding love away out on the circumference of things, where there are men with hearts; and the bridge is--’We have known and believed the love that God hath to us.’ So says John. And Paul, the Apostle of faith, who sometimes seems as if his only conception of the link of union between God and man was, on the part of man, faith, responds when he speaks of a faith which worketh, comes to energetic operation, through the love which it has kindled.

    So we come to this, that a simple trust in the love of God, as manifested in Jesus Christ, our Lord, is the only thing which will so deal with man’s natural self-regard and desire to make himself his own object and centre, as to substitute for that the victorious love to God. You cannot love God, unless you believe that He loves you. You will never be absolutely sure of that, unless you have learned it from the Cross of Christ. You will not respond with the love that He desires, but there will be a film between your ice and the fire that could melt it, until that is swept away by the simple act of confidence in God manifested to you in Jesus Christ. This is Christianity; this, nothing less, is religion--to love God, because I believe that in Jesus Christ God has loved me.

    And that is the only thing that He desires or accepts. The Religion of Fear; what is it? ‘Thou wert an austere man ... and I was afraid.’ Yes! and what did you do when you were afraid? ‘I hid my talent in the ground,’ and was utterly idle. Here rise, on either side of the valley, two mountains--Ebal and Gerazim. From the one were thundered the curses, from the other broke the benediction of the blessings; the one is barren, the other is verdant--’which thing is an allegory.’ The Religion of Fear does nothing, the Religion of Love does all. The Religion of Self-interest is narrow, poor, mostly inoperative of any lofty enthusiasm or high nobleness of character. The Religion of Duty; ‘I ought to worship, I am bidden to do this, that, or the other thing, which I do not a bit like to do. I am forbidden to do this, that, and the other thing which I should very much like to do, if I durst’--that religion is the religion of a slave; and there are hosts of us that know nothing better. And so our Christianity is a feeble and an uncomfortable thing; and there are little joy, and little subjugation of the will, and little leaping up of the heart in glad obedience in it. I was talking to a good, aged man, not long ago, whose religion was of a very gloomy type. He said to me, ‘As to love, I know next to nothing about it.’ Ah! brethren, I am afraid that is true about a good many of us who call ourselves Christians.

    Then let me say, too, that if we love Him, it will be the motive power and spring of all manner of obediences and glad services. Love is the mother-tincture, so to speak, which you can colour, and to which you can add in various ways, and produce variously tinted and tasted and perfumed commixtures. Love lies at the foundation of all Christian goodness. It will lead to the subjugation of the will; and that is the thing that is most of all needed to make a man righteous and pure. So St. Augustine’s paradox, rightly understood, is a magnificent truth, ‘Love! and do what you will.’ For then you will be sure to will what God wills, and you ought.

    If this be the summing-up of all religion, a practical conclusion follows. When we feel ourselves defective in the glow and operative driving power of love to God, what is the right thing to do? When a man is cold, he will not warm himself by putting a clinical thermometer into his mouth, and taking his temperature, will he? Let him go into the sunshine and he will be warmed up. You can pound ice in a mortar, and except for the little heat generated by the impact of the pestle, it will keep ice still. But float the iceberg south into the tropics, and what has become of it? It has all run down into sweet, warm water, and mingled with the warm ocean that has dissolved it. So do not think about yourselves and your own loveless hearts so much, but think about God, and the infinite welling up of love in His heart to you, a great deal more. ‘We love Him, because He first loved us’; therefore, to love Him more, we must feel more that He does love us.

    III. Lastly, here is the ultimate word about our conduct to men.

    I said that John, by leaving out any specification of the object of love, as well as by the verses that immediately follow, shows that he regards the emotion as one, though its direction is two-fold. That just comes to the plain truth, that the only victorious antagonist to the self-regarding temperament of average men, and the only power which will change philanthropy from a sentiment into a self-denying and active principle of conduct, is to be found in the belief of the love of God in Jesus Christ, and in answering love to Him.

    That is a lesson for many sorts of people to-day. What they call altruism is no discovery of Christianity, but its practice is. I freely admit that there is much honest and self-sacrificing beneficence and benevolence which are not connected, in the men who practice them, with faith in Jesus Christ. But I question very much whether these would have existed if the story of the Cross had been unknown. And sure I am that the history of non-Christian attempts to promote the brotherhood of man, and to diffuse a wide and operative love of mankind, teaches us, on the one side, that the emotion is not strong enough to last, and to work, unless it is based on God’s love in Jesus Christ. And the history of Christianity, on the other side, though with many defects and things to be ashamed of, teaches us, conversely, that wherever there is a genuine love of God, its exterior form, so to say, the outside of it which is presented to the world, will be true love to man.

    Christian people, lay this to heart; you are to be mirrors of the love to which you turn for all blessedness and peace. It is of no use to say, ‘My religion is the love of God’ unless the love of God is manifested in the love of man. If you love God, you will love those that God loves, those for whom Christ died, those who are just like what you were when you learned that God loved you. The service of God is the service of man.

    One last word, ‘We love Him, because He first loved us.’ Do you? Or is it rather true of you: ‘I do not love God, though He has loved me’? I saw not long since, up on the flank of a mountain, an obstinate patch of snow, that had fronted, in unmelted cold, months of the summer sun. There are some of us who lift a broad shield of thick-ribbed ice between ourselves and the radiance of the warm heart of God. Oh! brother; do not shut that love out of your heart; for if you do, you shut out peace and goodness, and shut in all manner of poisonous creatures and doleful shapes, whose companionship will be misery and death.

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    MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture.

    Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

    Because he first loved us; his love to us opened the way for and was the procuring cause of our love to him. The gift of the Saviour and the way of life which he has opened, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the preaching of the gospel and all the means of grace, the regeneration of men, their sanctification and hope of glory, their perseverance in holiness, and their eternal life, are all the fruit and manifestation of the infinite and eternal love of God, and will call forth from all the redeemed the most exalted praises to God and the Lamb for ever. Revelation 5:8-14.

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    Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

    Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

    19. ἡμεῖς ἀγαπῶμεν. The Old Vulgate here is trebly wrong: nos ergo diligamus invicem, the New has Deum; Augustine omits both,—Nos diligamus. [1] The οὖν inserted in A and some other authorities is a false reading. [2] There is no invicem either stated or implied by the Greek. [3] Ἀγαπῶμεν is indicative, not subjunctive, as is shewn in the ἡμεῖς: the hortative verb would hardly have the pronoun expressed; contrast 1 John 4:7. Some authorities insert τὸν θεόν or αὐτόν after ἀγαπῶμεν: so A.V., ‘we love Him’. Nothing is to be understood, Christian love of every kind being meant. The power of loving is a Divine gift.

    ὅτι αὐτὸς πρῶτος. The πρῶτος is the important word and implies three things. 1. Our love owes its origin to God’s love, from which it is an effluence (1 John 4:7). 2. Love is checked by fear when it is doubtful whether it is returned; and our love has no such check, for God’s love has been beforehand with it. 3. Gratitude easily blossoms into affection, especially gratitude for love. With God’s priority in loving us Bede compares Christ’s priority in choosing His disciples (John 15:16).

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    "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". 1896.

    Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

    19.] I am sorry to be obliged here to differ from the best modern Commentators, Lücke, De Wette, Düsterdieck, Huther, as well as from Episcop., Grot., Luther, Calov., Spener, al., and the Commentators on the vulgate, in holding firmly that ἀγαπῶμεν is indicative, not imperative (i. e. hortative). This I do not merely on account of the expressed ἡμεῖς, though that would be a strong point in the absence of stronger, but on account of the context, which appears to me to be broken by the imperative. He that feareth is not perfect in love. Our love (abstract, not specified whether to God or our brother) is brought about by, conditioned by, depends upon, His love to us first: it is only a sense of that which can bring about our love: and if so, then from the very nature of things it is void of terror, and full of confidence, as springing out of a sense of His love to us. Nor only so: our being new begotten in love is not only the effect of a sense of His past love, but is the effect of that love itself: We (emphatic—one side of the antithesis) love (see above. The indic. is taken by Calvin, Beza, Aretius, Socinus, Schlichting, Seb.-Schmidt, Whitby, Bengel, Rickli, Neander, al. Most Commentators supply αὐτόν or ἀλλήλους, but unnecessarily. It is of all love that he is speaking; of love in its root and ideal), because He (God: see the parallel, 1 John 4:10) first loved us (viz. in the sending of His Son).

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    Alford, Henry. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

    Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

    19. He first loved us—And thus our firm and fearless love has a firm and assuring base, his antecedent love. God as love is source of all divine love in man. That preceding love demands our responsive love, and becomes its assurance.

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    Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

    Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

    ‘We love, because he first loved us.’

    ‘We’. That is, we who are His, who have come to believe in Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord, who come together with His people that we might learn more of Him, who know that Jesus Christ is true man and true God, who have received Him as our means of reconciliation with God, of propitiation before God, who have come to understand His purposes for His own, all His own, who are continually experiencing the working of His Holy Spirit within us. But what is the source of this love which is perfected within us, which gives us this assurance? The source is His love which bestows on us all these things and reaches out to us to draw us ever nearer to Him. Because He first loved us we have entered into the sphere of His love, and this has produced love within us.

    What then does this whole passage tell us about His love and what our love should be in relationship to God’s love?

    a) That love is of God, He is its source and producer (1 John 4:7).

    b) That we love because by His gracious goodness we are begotten of God and know God (1 John 4:7).

    c) That God is love, holy love to those in the light (1 John 4:8).

    d) That God’s love was made fully known in sending His only unique Son into the world that we might live through Him (1 John 4:9).

    e) That He revealed His love by sending His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, that is, to be the means of turning away from us God’s aversion to and hatred of sin (1 John 4:10).

    f) That because God so loved us this love should make us love one another. As we contemplate that our brothers are all taken up in God’s love, share with us in the life that God has given, have been made right with God as we have, are being daily transformed as we are being, bring to us the truth and maintain us in the truth, are fellow-workers together with us in His service and in the maintaining of His truth, are those who will be transformed with us at the Parousia, are those who pray along with us for the extension of His kingship, are part of our destiny, so will we love. It is not a love of affection, although that will grow, so much as of goodwill and fellow-feeling, a willingness to bear with them and show Christ’s kindness and compassion towards them, as they do to us, and be partakers with them in the service of Christ. It is a sharing love.

    g) That God continually abides within us so that His love might be perfected in us (1 John 4:12), as we grow from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).

    h) That we know that He abides within us because He has given us of His Spirit (1 John 4:13).

    i) That because of His love we have beheld and bear witness that the Father has sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. It is His love for us that has brought this truth home to our hearts (1 John 4:13).

    j) That it is God abiding within us in His love which results in our confessing Jesus to be the Son of God (1 John 4:15).

    k) That our contemplating of Him brings home to our hearts His great love, so that we know that He is continuing love to all who are in the light. Thus through His love we know and believe it, and know that He abides in us and we in Him (1 John 4:16).

    l) That His love being made perfect within us, coming home to us and possessing our hearts, and making us more aware of the truths about Him, and what He has done for us and of what He is, gives us boldness in the day of judgment. This is because He has made us as He is in this world, transforming us in Christ that we may be His witnesses by living to reveal Him in this world. To this end He has made us potentially like Himself in Christ, and has promised that He will conform us to the image of His Son (1 John 4:17; Ephesians 1:4).

    m) That His making us perfect in love, which is His guaranteed purpose in Christ, casts out all fear. Once we have within us His assurance of love because we have been made His through Christ we will no longer fear His judgment.

    How then can we not ourselves love, both Him and those on whom He has set His love?

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    Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

    Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

    Our ability to love and our practice of love come from God"s love for us. We need not fear standing before our Judge because we love Him and He loves us. This verse is the climax of the body of this epistle.

    "The ultimate ground of Christian assurance (including confidence on the judgment day, 1 John 4:17) is not to be found in our loving, however "complete" ( 1 John 4:18), but in God"s prior love for us ..." [Note: Smalley, p261. Cf. Dodd, pp122-23.]

    "God always makes the first move in the game of love." [Note: G. S. Sloyan, Walking in the Truth, p49.]

    Confidence is one of the great consequences of having intimate fellowship with God. We can have confidence now and confidence to meet Jesus Christ when He returns for us or when we die ( 1 John 2:28). Moreover we can have confidence in prayer ( 1 John 3:21-22) and confidence when we stand before His judgment seat to give account of our stewardship ( 1 John 4:17-19).

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    Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

    Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

    1 John 4:19. we love because he first loved us. Looking back, this sublimely shows the possibility that our love—here once more absolute or without object, our ‘perfect love’—may become supreme: the argument of ‘because’ is almost equal to ‘even as,’ which is, however, not said. But the words look forward to the next verse, and that again looks back to the first of the three points in 1 John 4:12, which has been in suspense during the interim.

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    Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

    The Expositor's Greek Testament

    1 John 4:19. ἀγαπῶμεν has no accus. The thought is that the amazing love of God in Christ is the inspiration of all the love that stirs in our hearts. It awakens within us an answering love—a grateful love for Him manifesting itself in love for our brethren (cf. 1 John 4:11). The insertion of αὐτόν is a clumsy and unnecessary gloss. Neither should οὖν be inserted and ἀγαπῶμεν taken as hortat. subjunctive. Vulg.: “Nos ergo diligamus Deum, quoniam Deus prior dilexit nos”.

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    Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

    E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

    Him. The texts omit.

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    Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

    We love him, because he first loved us.

    Him. Omitted in A B: 'Aleph (') has 'God.' 'We (emphatic, on our part) love (in general, Him, the brethren, and our fellowmen), because He (emphatic: answering to 'WE' because it was He who) first loved us, in sending His Son (aorist of a definite act at one time). He was the first to love us: this thought ought to create in us love casting out fear (1 John 4:18).

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    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

    The Bible Study New Testament

    Because God. God's unique love for us in Christ, fills us with love for Him and for our fellowman!

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    Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

    Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

    The Ray and the Reflection

    We love, because he first loved us.—1 John 4:19.

    Some truths, when we have learned them, are to us like precious jewels which we keep in caskets, hidden most of the time from sight, our great satisfaction regarding them being simply their possession, simply that they are ours. Other truths, when we have learned them, are like new countries into which our lives have entered, and in which they thenceforth constantly live. There is a new sky over our head and a new earth under our feet. They fold themselves about us and touch every thought and action. Everything that we do or think or are is different because of them. Of this second sort is the truth of the priority of God’s love.

    I think I might say of this sentence what the poet says of prayer: it is “the simplest form of speech that infant lips can try,” and yet it is one of the “sublimest strains that reach the majesty on high.” Take a little believing child and ask her why she loves the Saviour, and she will reply at once, “Because He loved me and died for me”: then ascend to heaven where the saints are perfect in Christ Jesus and put the same question, and with united breath the whole choir of the redeemed will reply, “He hath loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood.” When we begin to love Christ we love Him because He first loved us; and when we grow in grace till we are capable of the very highest degree of spiritual understanding and affection, we still have no better reason for loving Him than this, “Because he first loved us.”1 [Note: C. H. Spurgeon.]


    God’s Love to us

    1. God is first.—Unless God had been first, we—our whole human race in general and each of us in particular—never would have been at all. We are what we are because He is what He is. Everything that we do God has first made it possible for us to do. Every act of ours, as soon as it is done, is grasped into a great world of activity which comes from Him; and there the influence and effect of our action is determined. Everything that we know is true already before our knowledge of it. Our knowing it is only the opening of our intelligence to receive what is and always has been a part of His being who is the universal truth. Every deed or temper or life is good or bad as it is in harmony or out of harmony with Him. Everywhere God is first; and man, coming afterward, enters into Him and finds in God the setting and the background of his life. If we love, He loved first.

    It is as when up the morning sky, all coldly beautiful with ordered ranks of cloud on cloud, is poured the glow of sunrise, and every least cloud, still the same in place and shape, burns with the transfiguring splendour of the sun. So is it when the priority of existence is seen to rest in a Person, and the background of life is God. Then every new arrival instantly reports itself to Him, and is described in terms of its relationship to Him. Every activity of ours answers to some previous activity of His. Do we hope? It is because we have caught the sound of some promise of His. Do we fear? It is because we have had some glimpse of the dreadfulness of getting out of harmony with Him. Are we curious and inquiring? It is that we may learn some of His truth. Do we resist evil? We are fighting His enemies. Do we help need? We are relieving His children. Do we love Him? It is an answer of gratitude for His love to us. Do we live? It is a projection and extension of His being. Do we die? It is the going home of our immortal souls to Him.1 [Note: Phillips Brooks, The Light of the World, 45.]

    2. The love of God to us precedes our love to God.—From all eternity the Lord looked upon His people with an eye of love, and as nothing can be before eternity, His love was first. He loved us before we had any being, before we had any desire to be loved, before any repentance on our part was possible. Divine love is its own cause, and does not derive its streams from anything in us whatsoever. It flows spontaneously from the heart of God, finding its deep wellsprings within His own bosom. This is a great comfort to us, because, being uncreated, it is unchangeable. If it had been set upon us because of some goodness in us, then when the goodness was diminished the love would diminish too. If God had loved us second and not first, or had the cause of the love been in us, that cause might have altered, and the supposed effect, namely, His love, would have altered too; but now, whatever may be the believer’s condition to-day, however he may have wandered, and however much he may be groaning under a sense of sin, the Lord declares, “I do earnestly remember him still.”

    Strictly speaking, the words of the Apostle only declare the priority of the Divine love towards us over ours towards Him. But we may fairly give it a wider meaning, and say—first of all, before creation and time, away back in the abysmal depths of an everlasting and changeless heart, changeless in the sense that its love was eternal, but not changeless in the sense that love could have no place within it—first of all things was God’s love; last to be discovered because most ancient of all. The foundation is disclosed last when you come to dig, and the essence is grasped last in the process of analysis. So one of the old psalms, with wondrous depth of truth, traces up everything to this, “For his mercy endureth for ever.” Therefore, there was time; therefore, there were creatures—“He made great lights, for his mercy endureth for ever.” Therefore, there were judgments—“He smote great kings … for his mercy endureth for ever.” And so we may pass through all the works of the Divine energy, and say, “He first loved us.”

    We may say of the silvered sea that it shines because the moon sheds upon it its silvery light. We may say of the full-orbed moon that she shines in soft beauty because she reflects the glory of the far-absent sun. But of the sun we can only say that it shines because it shines. We know of no eternal sources from which it draws its glory. So it is with the great heart of God. He loves, because He loves. “He first loved us.”1 [Note: W. E. Burroughs.]

    If you look on the buds on the trees in the spring-time you will see they are all covered over with a gummy hard case, which keeps them from opening out. Well, there was a little bud like this and its little heart was dark and cold and uncomfortable. But one day the sunshine came streaming upon it, and it felt the hard case melt away from round it, and as the light grew brighter and warmer the case all melted away and the bud opened out into a beautiful blossom, and the fine, rich sunbeam found its way right into the little bud’s heart, then, when the bud saw the light it smiled and said, “See! see!—I have made the sun!” “Nay, nay, my child,” said a little sunbeam passing by, “you didn’t make the sun—it was the sun which made you. It was the sun which nourished you and cherished you, and opened your leaves and touched your heart. You should love the sun because the sun first loved you.”1 [Note: J. Reid Howatt, The Children’s Angel, 16.]

    3. The love of God begets love in us.—One thing may be first and another second, and yet the first may not be the cause of the second, there may be no actual link between the two: but here we have it unmistakably, “We love, because he first loved us”; which signifies not merely that this is the motive of which we are conscious in our love, but that this is the force, the Divine power, which created love in us.

    The meeting-point of God and man is love. Love, in other words, is, for the poet, the supreme principle both of morality and of religion. Love, once for all, solves that contradiction between them which, both in theory and in practice, has embarrassed the world for so many ages. Love is the sublimest conception attainable by man; a life inspired by it is the most perfect form of goodness he can conceive; therefore, love is, at the same moment, man’s moral ideal, and the very essence of Godhood. A life actuated by love is Divine, whatever other limitations it may have … God is Himself the source and fulness of love.

    ’Tis Thou, God, that givest, ’tis I who receive:

    In the first is the last, in Thy will is my power to believe.

    All’s one gift.

    Would I suffer for him that I love? So wouldst Thou—so wilt Thou!

    So shall crown Thee the topmost, ineffablest, uttermost crown—

    And Thy love fill infinitude wholly, nor leave up nor down

    One spot for the creature to stand in!2 [Note: Henry Jones, Browning as a Philosophical and Religious Teacher, ch. vi.]

    It is with love exactly as with life. You know that there has been a controversy in the field of science about the origin of life, which has raged for a considerable part of this century, and has only lately been settled. One school said that life was born of itself; the other that life must come from a Life without. One school, to take an illustration that makes it plainer, took an infusion of air, heated it to a very high temperature, put it into a flask, sealed it hermetically, put it aside. A few weeks after the flask was opened; there was life inside it. Now, you see, they claimed this as spontaneous generation. The other side said, “It is not conclusive. You did not apply enough heat.” They heated it several degrees higher till there could not possibly have been any existing germs of life within the flask. They opened it after a lapse of time; there was no life. And now they accept this truth, life alone can propagate life. Life cannot spring into existence, it must be communicated. It is exactly the same thing with regard to love. You cannot make the black coals on your hearth burst into flame until you apply a light. If you want to love, you must wait till love comes from without. There is just one source of love, and that is God. And there can be no love in the human heart till the love of God comes in and creates it there. It must come by a genesis, not by spontaneous generation. We love because God has first loved us.1 [Note: J. Watson, in The Contemporary Pulpit, ii. 296.]

    He seeks for ours as we do seek for His;

    Nay, O my soul, ours is far more His bliss

    Than His is ours; at least it so doth seem,

    Both in His own and our esteem.

    His earnest love, His infinite desires,

    His living, endless, and devouring fires,

    Do rage in thirst, and fervently require

    A love ’tis strange it should desire.

    We cold and careless are, and scarcely think

    Upon the glorious spring whereat we drink.

    Did He not love us we could be content:

    We wretches are indifferent!

    ’Tis death, my soul, to be indifferent;

    Set forth thyself unto thy whole extent,

    And all the glory of His passion prize,

    Who for thee lives, who for thee dies.2 [Note: Thomas Traherne.]

    (1) But in order that the love of God may beget love in us there must be sufficient evidence of His love. What evidence have we? We have evidence enough of God’s love—at least for the ordinary experience of life—in the beauty of the world, the beneficence of nature, and all the joy of human intercourse.

    Mazzini crossed the St. Gotthard with some danger. “The scene,” he wrote back to England, “was sublime, Godlike. No one knows what poetry is, who has not found himself there, at the highest point of the route, on the plateau, surrounded by the peaks of the Alps in the everlasting silence that speaks of God. There is no atheism possible on the Alps.”1 [Note: Bolton King, Mazzini, 116.]

    One who went with Dr. McLaren to the Isle of Wight writes: “I saw during our walks on one or two lovely mornings that wonderful light in his eyes, his lips slightly parted, his face almost transfigured, a look of ecstasy as he gazed lovingly (no other word will do) at the minute flowers covering the merest cranny in the moss-grown walls by the roadside. He said no word, but one could see that he was worshipping at the ‘Temple’s inner shrine.’”2 [Note: Dr. McLaren of Manchester, 46.]

    Wilberforce did not do things by halves. What he did, he did with all his might. His likes and dislikes were strong. He felt strongly, and so he spoke and acted strongly. There were three things for which he evidently had an intense love: the Truth, Nature, Home. And if we were permitted to look for the underlying cause we should probably find it in a perfectly simple belief in the Fatherhood of God as revealed to us by our Lord. The truth was God’s truth. The world was God’s world. The home was God’s home.3 [Note: J. B. Atlay, Bishop Ernest Wilberforce, 234.]

    (2) It is only when we come to the dark sad side of life that our faith begins to fail. And here the Incarnation takes up the thread of proof, not by removing the problem of the mystery of sorrow from our minds, but by revealing God Himself as willing to bear it with and for us, and so enabling our hearts to feel it the crowning testimony of His love. The soul that has reached this certitude needs no other motive to ensure its obeying the commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” But there are many who have not attained it, from fearing to make the initial venture of taking up their cross. With all their disbelief in miracles, they still seek after a sign. A sign, they must remember, cannot produce conviction; for conviction comes by obedience, and by that alone. But a sign may arrest attention, and lead to obedience in the end. And there is a sign which outsoars all other miracles, and grows only more wonderful as the ages pass along, and that is the empire of Jesus Christ over human hearts. He claimed it, and history has justified the claim. No other founder of religions, patriot, martyr, king, or saint, has ever claimed it or received it. In all history it is unique. Critics tell us that the sayings of the Sermon on the Mount were not original, and the suffering of Calvary no greater than what other men have borne, and even that the Gospel narratives are in many points inaccurate. But all these things, if granted, only force into stronger relief the wonder of the fact that Jesus Christ, crucified, dead, and buried, more than eighteen centuries ago, has inspired in every age, and among wholly diverse nations, in thousands after thousands of sinful and saintly hearts alike, not merely reverence for His memory, or sympathy for His sufferings, or enthusiasm for His cause, but a personal, passionate, living adoration, passing the love of woman; and characterized by a finality, a restfulness, a peace, which finite objects of affection never can afford. That this is so is a fact beyond the reach of controversy, and a fact which defies explanation on any other view than that Jesus Christ is God—the Infinite and therefore adequate Object of human love, the desire of all nations, who alone could say, “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.”

    Like the skilfully painted portrait which seems to look at each individual in a crowded room, the Saviour on the Cross appears to gaze on me. I listen in the silence, and He, as it were, addresses me, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love,” and as I look I reply in wonder, “He loved me, and gave himself for me!” And this love becomes a double bond, uniting with his Lord and Master the Christian’s heart and life.

    Love has a hem to its garment

    That touches the very dust,

    It can reach the stains of the streets and lanes,

    And because it can, it must.

    (3) But if the highest manifestation of the love of God is seen in the cross of Christ, then God loves us not because of our deserving but of His grace. In our natural desire to ascertain the cause of things, we can generally give a good reason why we love this person or that. A relationship—husband and wife, parent and child, friend and friend—is quite enough to account for it; or it may be in his nature or conduct that we see what causes our love to go out to another. These reasons may be often inadequate, sometimes even unworthy, but they satisfy our desire to trace the emotion to its originating cause. And when we are asked to believe that God loves us, even us, we are led at once to ask, Why? Why should God love me? And if we know even a little of Him or of ourselves—His greatness and our littleness, His glory and our poor estate, His holiness and our sinfulness—we have ample ground for doubting the fact. We fail entirely to account for it, and so we disbelieve it. If we were good, we say, the good God would love us. If we were holy, the Holy One would love us. Perhaps this is the earliest theology most children learn: “If you are not good God will not love you!” “If you do that God will not love you!” As if sin, the child’s or the man’s, placed the sinner outside the sphere of the love of God. This heresy lies at the root of all false religions, and of all hypocrisies, that we must by our goodness win the love and favour of God; till we are “good” God will have nothing to say to us!

    We are amongst savages of the very lowest type, caring for nothing but what satisfies the cravings of their fleshly lusts. Nevertheless, I love them, not because of any virtue in them, but for the sake of Him who died for them, as well as for us. And although it is not my lot to preach, and a thing I cannot do, yet I hope, while working with and among them, that my life and example will help to mould them to the likeness of our Lord and. Master.1 [Note: J. MacConnachie, An Artisan Missionary on the Zambesi, 77.]

    “I love poverty,” says Pascal, “because He loved it. I love goods, because they enable me to succour the needy. I keep faith with all the world, I do not return evil for evil; and I would that those who wish me harm had reached a state like mine beyond the power of men to make or mar. I try to be true and just to all, and I feel peculiar tenderness for those to whom God has more closely bound me. In all my actions, public and private, I keep in view Him who will one day judge them, and to whom they are all offered up beforehand. Such are my feelings. Every day of my life I bless my Redeemer, who has implanted them within me. Out of a mass of weakness and misery, pride, ambition, and ill-will He has made a man freed from all these evils by the power of grace.”2 [Note: Viscount St. Cyres, Pascal, 229.]


    Our Love to God

    The Revised Version omits “him” in the first clause, and simply says “we love,” without specifying the object. That is to say, for the moment John’s thought is fixed rather on the inward transformation effected, from self-regard to love, than on considering the object on which the love is expended. When the heart is melted, the streams flow wherever there is a channel. The river, as he goes on to show us, parts into two heads, and love to God and love to man are, in their essence and root-principle, one thing.

    1. Our love is the heart’s response to God’s love.—We love, because He first loved us. Our love is secondary, His is primary; ours is reflection, His the original beam; ours is echo, His the mother-tone. Heaven must bend to earth before earth can rise to heaven. The skies must open and drop down love, before love can spring in the fruitful fields. And it is only when we look with true trust to that great unveiling of the heart of God which is in Jesus Christ, only when we can say, “Herein is love—that he sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” that our hearts are melted, and all their snows are dissolved into sweet waters, which, freed from their icy chains, can flow with music in their ripple, and fruitfulness along their course, through our otherwise silent and barren lives.

    As the sun holds our planet in the strong grasp of its attraction, while the earth by its own very weak gravitation is also held in its place, so does the consciousness of God’s great love grasp and sustain my soul and my life; and then my own weak and feeble love to Him (itself the “first-fruits of the Spirit”) serves to “bind my wandering heart” to Him. I apprehend, though with poor and trembling hand, Him by whom I am apprehended with a hold which no other power can destroy. It is to this love that our Lord appeals as the motive of all obedience. Hence the tender, anxious, repeated inquiry, “Lovest thou me?” This love will account sufficiently for single actions and for whole lives. The perfumes which the woman poured upon the Saviour’s feet, and the “spikenard very precious” which the sister of Bethany lavished on her Divine Master, were prompted by a like love. The grandest human life of service and of suffering ever lived on earth is explained and accounted for in the words, “the love of Christ constraineth us.” “We love, because he first loved us.”

    How all reasoning and arguing fails where one word of love softens, and influences, and does the work! and it is, as ever, by dwelling on the good rather than driving out the evil that the right thing is brought about.1 [Note: A. P. Stanley, Memoirs of Edward and Catherine Stanley, 308.]

    The Holy Spirit cries in us with a loud voice and without words, “Love the love which loves you everlastingly.” His crying is an inward contact with our spirit. This voice is more terrifying than the storm. The flashes which it darts forth open the sky to us and show us the light of eternal truth. The heat of its contact and of its love is so great that it well-nigh consumes us altogether. In its contact with our spirit it cries without interruption, “Pay your debt; love the love which has loved you from all eternity.” Hence there arises a great inward impatience and also an unlimited resignation. For the more we love, the more we desire to love; and the more we pay of that which love demands, the greater becomes our debt to love. Love is not silent, but cries continually, “Love thou love.” This conflict is unknown to alien senses. To love and to enjoy, that is to labour and to suffer. God lives in us by His grace. He teaches us, He counsels us, He commands us to love. We live in Him above all grace and above our own works, by suffering and enjoying. In us dwell love, knowledge, contemplation, and possession, and, above them, enjoyment. Our work is to love God; our enjoyment is to receive the embrace of love.2 [Note: M. Maeterlinck, Ruysbroeck and the Mystics, 95.]

    O eyes that strip the souls of men!

    There came to me the Magdalen.

    Her blue robe with a cord was bound,

    Her hair with Lenten lilies crowned.

    “Arise,” she said, “God calls for thee,

    Turned to new paths thy feet must be.

    Leave the fever and the feast,

    Leave the friend thou lovest best:

    For thou must walk in barefoot ways,

    To give my dear Lord Jesus praise.”

    Then answered I—“Sweet Magdalen,

    God’s servant, once beloved of men,

    Why didst thou change old ways for new,

    That trailing red for corded blue,

    Roses for lilies on thy brow,

    Rich splendour for a barren vow?”

    Gentle of speech she answered me:—

    “Sir, I was sick with revelry.

    True, I have scarred the night with sin,

    A pale and tawdry heroine;

    But once I heard a voice that said

    ‘Who lives in sin is surely dead,

    But whoso turns to follow me

    Hath joy and immortality.’”

    “O Mary, not for this,” I cried,

    “Didst thou renounce thy scented pride.

    Not for a taste of endless years

    Or barren joy apart from tears

    Didst thou desert the courts of men,

    Tell me thy truth, sweet Magdalen!”

    She trembled, and her eyes grew dim:—

    “For love of Him, for love of Him.”1 [Note: J. E. Flecker, Forty-Two Poems, 58.]

    2. Our love is the necessary and moral result of our persuasion of God’s love to us.—It is a part of the ordinary constitution of our nature that we should love those who, we believe, love us. Sometimes far out at sea the sailor sees the sky grow tremulous and troubled. The cloud seems to be all unable to contain itself; its under surface wavers and stretches downwards toward the ocean. It is as if it yearned and thirsted for the kindred water. A great grasping hand is reached downward and feels after the waves. And then the sailor looks beneath, and lo, the surface of the waves is troubled too; and out from the water comes first a mere tremble and confusion, and then by and by a column of water builds itself, growing steadier and steadier, until at last it grasps the hand out of the cloud, and one strong pillar reaches from the sea into the heavens, from the heavens to the sea, and the heavens and the sea are one. So you must make man know that God loves him, and then look to see man love God.

    What will you do if you are sent to carry the Gospel to your friend, your child? Will you stand over him and say, “You must love God; you will suffer for it if you do not”? When was ever love begotten so? “Who is God?” “Why should I love Him?” “How can I love Him?” answers back the poor, bewildered heart, and turns to the things of earth which with their earthly affections seem to love it, and satisfies itself in loving them. Or perhaps it grows defiant, and says, “I will not,” flinging back your exhortation as the cold stone flings back the sunlight. But you say to your friend, your child, “God loves you,” say it in every language of yours, in every vernacular of his, which you can command, and his love is taken by surprise, and he wakes to the knowledge that he does love God without a resolution that he will.1 [Note: Phillips Brooks, The Light of the World, 49.]

    It was early in his career that he happened one day to be alone for a few minutes with a young lady, who afterwards became the wife and active helpmate of a devoted minister of Christ in Edinburgh. In early life she had felt her need of a Saviour, and tried to become a Christian, but failed in finding the sinner’s Saviour. She looked too much into her own heart, and sought there, and sought in vain, for that kind and degree of conviction of sin which she thought to be necessary to fit her for coming to Jesus. As a natural result, she was almost reduced to despair. Mr. North, guided by the Spirit, on whose direction he constantly relied, and with that aptitude to understand the exact position of an anxious soul with which he was gifted, asked her if she was saved, and on her replying that she was not, he asked her, Why? and she answered, “Because I do not feel that I love Jesus.” He then said simply, “That does not matter, He loves you.” No other word was spoken, but this was enough, and was the means of leading her to trust in the Saviour’s dying love to sinners. She was enabled henceforth to rest in that love, and to follow Christ, and after a useful and happy life, closed it, in the beginning of 1877, by a very triumphant death.2 [Note: K. Moody-Stuart, Brownlow North, 406.]

    3. And our love to God is the best evidence to ourselves that we are passed from death into life.

    Robert Hall charmed the most learned by the majesty of his eloquence, but he was as simple as he was great, and he was never happier than when conversing with poor believers upon experimental godliness. He was accustomed to make his journeys on horseback, and having been preaching at Clipstone he was on his way home, when he was stopped by a heavy fall of snow at the little village of Sibbertoft. The good man who kept the “Black Swan,” a little village hostelry, came to his door and besought the preacher to take refuge beneath his roof, assuring him that it would give him great joy to welcome him. Mr. Hall knew him to be one of the most sincere Christians in the neighbourhood, and therefore got off his horse and went into the little inn. The good man was delighted to provide for him a bed, and a stool, and a candlestick in the prophet’s chamber, for that rustic inn contained such an apartment. After Mr. Hall had rested awhile by the fire the landlord said, “You must needs stop here all night, sir; and if you do not mind I will call in a few of my neighbours, and if you feel that you could give us a sermon in my taproom they will all be glad to hear you.” “So let it be, sir,” said Mr. Hall, and so it was: the taproom became his cathedral, and the “Black Swan” the sign of the gospel banner. The peasants came together, and the man of God poured out his soul before them wondrously. They would never forget it, for to hear Mr. Hall was an event in any man’s life. After all were gone Mr. Hall sat down, and there came over him a fit of depression, out of which he strove to rise by conversation with his host. “Ah, sir,” said the great preacher, “I am much burdened, and am led to question my own condition before God. Tell me now what you think is a sure evidence that a man is a child of God.” “Well, Mr. Hall,” said the plain man, “I am sorry to see you so tried; you doubt yourself, but nobody else has any doubt about you. I hope the Lord will cheer and comfort you, but I am afraid I am not qualified to do it.” “Never mind, friend, never mind, tell me what you think the best evidence of a child of God?” “Well, I should say, sir,” said he, “if a man loves God he must be one of God’s children.” “Say you so,” said the mighty preacher, “then it is well with me; I do love Him.”1 [Note: C. H. Spurgeon, The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1876, p. 343.]

    The opening paragraphs of Wesley’s Earnest Appeal to Men of Reason and Religion are perhaps the finest epitome of the ruling purpose of the Great Revival. The lifeless, formal religion of the time was a sad contrast to that religion of love which they had found. The love of God and of all mankind “we believe to be the medicine of life, the never-failing remedy for all the evils of a disordered world, for all the miseries and vices of men. Wherever this is, there are virtue and happiness going hand in hand. There is humbleness of mind, gentleness, long-suffering, the whole image of God, and at the same time a peace that passeth all understanding, and joy unspeakable and full of glory.”2 [Note: J. Telford, The Life of John Wesley, 112.]


    Our Love to Man

    1. Man’s life expands when God’s love possesses it. It becomes as the universe. God is everywhere its occupant, and yet excludes not one particle of His infinite productions. We are not bidden to abstract all affections from the creature when bidden to love God “with all the heart, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and with all the mind.” It is a principle laid down by St. John—“Every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.” And therefore the way to increase in that love which alone deserves the name as being anything better than a development of selfishness, is to increase in love to God. Piety will produce charity. The more we love God the more will we love man.

    Those thinkers who cannot believe in any gods often assert that the love of humanity would be in itself sufficient for them; and so, perhaps, it would, if they had it.1 [Note: G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles.]

    2. We can show our love by loving service. Where the love of the Almighty has been excited, it will become a ruling principle, and manifest itself in every department of conduct. If we love God, it will necessarily follow that we will desire to please Him; that we will delight in contemplating His glories; that the sense of His favour will be our choicest treasure; and that, consequently, obedience to His will, and earnestness in winning others from their enmity, will be evident in our actions.

    I think that it was at this time of his life that he used to go down every night of the week to the Grassmarket and convoy a man home past the public-houses.2 [Note: G. A. Smith, The Life of Henry Drummond, 114.]

    But still, the main lesson which her lady-pupils carried away from Walsall was not how to dress wounds or how to bandage, or even how to manage a hospital on the most popular as well as the most economical method, but rather the mighty results which the motive-power of love towards God, and, for His sake, towards mankind, might enable one single woman to effect. Sister Dora said to a friend who was engaging a servant for the hospital, “Tell her this is not an ordinary house, or even hospital; I want her to understand that all who serve here, in whatever capacity, ought to have one rule, love for God, and then I need not say love for their work. I wish we could use, and really mean, the word Maison-Dieu.”1 [Note: M. Lonsdale, Sister Dora, 102.]

    One night she was sent for by a poor man who was much attached to her, and who was dying of what she called “black-pox,” a violent form of small-pox. She went at once and found him almost in the last extremity. All his relations had fled, and a neighbour alone was with him, doing what she could for him. When Sister Dora found that only one small piece of candle was left in the house, she gave the woman some money, begging her to go and buy some means of light, while she stayed with the man. She sat on by his bed, but the woman, who had probably spent the money at the public-house, never returned; and after some little while the dying man raised himself up in bed with a last effort, saying, “Sister, kiss me before I die.” She took him, all covered as he was with the loathsome disease, into her arms, and kissed him, the candle going out almost as she did so, leaving them in total darkness. He implored her not to leave him while he lived, although he might have known she would never do that. It was then past midnight, and she sat on, for how long she knew not, until he died. Even then she waited, fancying, as she could not see him, that he might be still alive, till in the early dawn she groped her way to the door, and went to find some neighbours.2 [Note: Ibid. 52.]

    3. The more we love others and make our love manifest in our life, the more will we persuade them of the reality of love and therefore of the love of God. Our age is remarkable for triumphs of mercy, and not the least of the blessings which the merciful have rendered to us is that they have shown disinterested virtue to be possible. He who ennobles himself ennobles his race, draws away many a wavering recruit from the seat of the scorner, giving him an ideal and a hope in life. Ask those who have thus elevated their generation whence they drew their inspiration, and they will one and all reply: “We love, because he first loved us.” They will say: If we have taught our soldiers and sailors to keep their bodies in temperance, soberness, and chastity; if we have cleansed and clothed the waifs and strays of our modern Babylons and sent them forth as welcome colonists to subdue the virgin lands of our empire; if we have rescued woman from corruption and slavery; if we have carried thrift and peace and purity into the lowest dens of misery—we were but following Him who promised rest to the weary and heavy-laden. If our light shines before men, if they see any good works in us, let them glorify not us, but our Father which is in heaven, the Sun of all our day, from whom every good and perfect gift descends. We are unprofitable servants: we have done but a scantling of our duty. We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves. If He, the Lord and Master, washed our feet, we also ought to wash one another’s feet. It is the part payment of a debt.

    To many a man the strongest force for good has come by his finding out that some one loves him and trusts him far more than he has ever deserved. He discovers or slowly realizes that some one better, purer, nobler than himself cares for him, believes in him, loves him; and the discovery makes him ashamed of his unworthiness and ingratitude: it gives him a new hope, a higher standard for life. He has been content, perhaps, to be no better than the most easy-going, the least particular of his set; and then he finds out that a pure, true heart—his mother’s, it may be, or his wife’s, or his child’s, or his friend’s—is pouring out on him its wealth of love and trust, thinking him good, expecting great things of him, ready to wait or toil or suffer for his sake: some special occasion, it may be, or some side-light lets him see how deeply and generously he is cared for; and he begins to say to himself that it’s rather a shame to go on as he does. There must be some hope for him, some power or way for him to grow better, if people care for him, believe in him like that; anyhow, it’s a shame not to try to be a bit more like what their love makes them think he is. And so he tries; and, because they first loved him, he learns to love; he begins to live a steadier, purer, more unselfish and dutiful life: a life in which love springs up higher, stronger, happier, like a tree growing in the soil that suits it.1 [Note: F. Paget, The Redemption of War, 58.]

    It was in the fall of 1859 that my future husband, then a young man of about twenty-one years, came to our section to teach school, where he used his talents and influence for the good of all with whom he came in contact. He was an excellent teacher, loved and respected by parents and pupils alike. He soon found his way to my father’s and mother’s home, for the former teachers had not been strangers there. He said afterwards that when he saw me for the first time that day in my own home, he determined that I should be his. The task proved to be not as easy as may have seemed; but he had made up his mind, and, as in after-years in more important matters, when he won in spite of difficulties, so it was then. He poured forth his wealth of love and affection and compelled me to love him in return as I had never loved before. Of course we had to wait, but the time did not seem long. It was unalloyed bliss. Three years of school, of walks and talks, and when he left for college there were the letters, the visits, the hopes and aspirations and preparations, and with all at times a tinge of sadness lest I was not quite worthy of it all.1 [Note: Mrs. Robertson, in The Life of James Robertson, 25.]

    So they began to show him every possible kindness, and one after another helped him in his daily tasks, embracing every opportunity of pleading with him to yield to Jesus and take the new path of life. At first he repelled them, and sullenly held aloof. But their prayers never ceased, and their patient affections continued to grow. At last, after long waiting, Nasi broke down, and cried to one of the Teachers,—“I can oppose your Jesus no longer. If He can make you treat me like that, I yield myself to Him and to you. I want Him to change me too. I want a heart like that of Jesus.”2 [Note: John G. Paton, ii. 278.]

    There was one case of awful despair in a poor dying woman who refused to listen to any words of the mercy of God, saying only “too late, too late.” To her, Mr. Marriott devoted much care and many prayers. It seemed as though no impression could be made upon her. The cry went on—“too late, too late, too late for me.” But Mr. Marriott’s tender fervour to bring her to faith and trust in her Saviour prevailed at last. He said,—“But you do believe in the love of those around you, now that Jesus sends it to you?” With what seemed the last effort of life, she raised herself,—clasped her arms round the neck of the sister who was attending to her,—and kissing her answered,—“Yes, it is love.” The last struggle followed almost immediately and we heard her say, “Jesus, save me,”—the words he had entreated her to use. So his prayers had been heard. She died in hope and faith.3 [Note: J. W. Burgon, Lives of Twelve Good Men, i. 327.]

    Upon the marsh mud, dank and foul,

    A golden sunbeam softly fell,

    And from the noisome depths arose

    A lily miracle.

    Upon a dark, bemired life

    A gleam of human love was flung,

    And lo, from that ungenial soil

    A noble deed upsprung.1 [Note: L. M. Montgomery.]

    The Ray and the Reflection


    Banks (L. A.), John and his Friends, 152.

    Brooks (P.), The Light of the World, 40.

    Campbell (R. J.), City Temple Sermons, 122.

    Davies (D.), Talks with Men, Women and Children, v. 342.

    Davies (J. Ll.), The Work of Christ, 205.

    Gibbon (J. M.), The Gospel of Fatherhood, 54.

    Girdlestone (A. G.), The Way, the Truth, the Life, No. 6.

    Gregory (B.), Perfect in Christ Jesus, 104.

    Gregory (J. R.), Scripture Truths made Simple, 64.

    Howatt (J. R.), The Children’s Angel, 14.

    Illingworth (J. R.), University and Cathedral Sermons, 87.

    Jeffrey (R. T.), Visits to Calvary, 347.

    Jones (T.), The Divine Order, 226.

    Kingsley (C.), All Saints Day Sermons, 151.

    Lewis (F. W.), The Unseen Life, 51.

    Maclaren (A.), Sermons, ii. 216.

    Maclaren (A.), Triumphant Certainties, 305.

    Mayor (J. E. B.), Twelve Cambridge Sermons, 117.

    Paget (F.), The Redemption of War, 58.

    Pusey (E. B.), Parochial and Cathedral Sermons, 439.

    Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xvii. (1871) 481; xxii. (1876) 337; xlvii. (1901) 265.

    Stockdale (F. B.), Divine Opportunity, 40.

    Temple (F.), Sermons Preached in Rugby School Chapel, iii. 57.

    Thomas (J.), The Dynamic of the Cross, 52.

    Vaughan (J.), Sermons, 1st Ser. (1869), 227.

    Voysey (C.), Sermons (1876), No. 36; (1884) No. 34; (1907) No. 10.

    Walpole (G. H. S.), Life’s Chance, 81.

    Christian World Pulpit, liv. 168 (Scott Holland).

    Churchman’s Pulpit: 1st Sunday after Trinity: xxi. 481 (Grimley), 483 Moore; 18th Sunday after Trinity, xxxviii. 402 (Melvill).

    Church of England Magazine, li. 80 (Burland).

    Contemporary Pulpit, 2nd Ser., ii. 294 (Watson).

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    Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

    Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

    Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

    We love him, because he first loved us.
    10; Luke 7:47; John 3:16; 15:16; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Galatians 5:22; Ephesians 2:3-5; Titus 3:3-5

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

    Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

    E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

    This is commented on at 1 John 4:10.

    Copyright Statement
    These files are public domain.
    Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

    Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on 1 John 4:19". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

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