Page images

they were not urged in vain. How richly does the spirit of his Divine Master sparkle in all his writings—how clearly do they prove to us, that the precepts of Jesus had taught him, “what manner of spirit he was of;" what tenderness, what earnestness of love; what depth, what purity, what power of love is manifested by the “ loved," the loving Apostle! And even among the faintly-traced memorials of the early church we find the impression of the same spirit actuating this holy man.

When bowed down with years and infirmity, and unable to address the church as he formerly did, his constant appeal to them was but the transcript of his Master's command, “Children,

, love one another.

Alas! how little token of obedience do we behold now to this oft-repeated commandment of our Lord. If we would seek to find out, from the practice of the members of Christ's visible church on earth at the present time, what is the most prominent commandment which he urges upon them, it would appear to be, “Love yourselves," rather than “ Love one another.” Selfishness is the badge and the bane of modern Christianity.

And even among the sincere and faithful few, who have not only the outward form, but are also partakers of the inward power of godliness, how little is the grace of Christian heavenly love exercised. Alas! how often does the true disciple forget his neighbour in himself. How often does he neglect that exhortation, “Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” We are too apt to compress all the sweets of the gospel within the compass of our own experience, to gather its fruit, and so enjoy its fragrance and its beauty by ourselves. There is not the ready hand to give to others the like precious things we ourselves possess. There is not the readiness to rejoice with them that rejoice, and to weep with them that weep. We have not yet learned the lesson by heart, to love our neighbour as ourselves.” There is too much isolation in our Christian thoughts, and desires, and apprehensions—too much pleasing of ourselves, not our neighbour for his good to edification. There is but little of that expansive spirit which he manifested who pleased not himself. Oh that this might be given to us—that we might be able to love one another in our hearts, as he

loved us.


[ocr errors]

We cannot, indeed, love one another to the same extent and measure as he loved us. The poor brittle earthern vessel cannot contain the ocean of his mighty love. The finite mind cannot grasp the immeasurable outgoings of the infinite. But, if not to the same extent, we can love in the same manner, after the same kind. He looked down from his seat in heaven, over the poor wandering children of men ;


rested on them with the deepest compassion; but he was not satisfied with the mere emotion of pity and love ;-he “emptied himself” of everything which might restrain him, and came down amid darkness to bring light; to give life to them which sat in the region and shadow of death ;—he came as the good Samaritan, to bind up the wounds of the poor sinner, to put himself to labour, and trouble, and cost for his sake. Believer, “Go thou and do likewise." Let the recollection of the love of

" Jesus stir up the desires of your soul, rouse its slumbering affection, kindle its smouldering flame. Let the stream of love, which flows in upon your own heart, be no longer pent up there; let it burst through the barriers of selfishness; let it break forth on the right hand and on the left; let it flow out, even as the love of Jesus, to your family, your friends, your neighbours, your country, the world.

[ocr errors]

Have the zeal, the energy, the prayerful spirit of a missionary of the cross, both at home and abroad; and thus “adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things.' Let the apostolic injunction be your daily study, your daily practice,—“See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” The beginning as well as the "end of the

" commandment is love."

But our Lord proceeds to open up somewhat of the love wherewith he loved us: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” In this he glanced at his approaching hour of trial, when he should be lifted upon the cross for them. And though it is true that, as the Apostle says, “When we were yet enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son," still he died out of friendship for us, and to make us his friends. He died that we might be reconciled to God over his broken body and shed blood ; and none can participate in the blessings of his atonement, but those who are thus made his friends. How great the love of Christ therefore, which led him, not only to live and dwell among the sinful children of men, but also to humble himself unto death, even the death of the cross. And observe, he not only periled his life; he laid it unreservedly down on the altar of God. He did not only put himself in the way of danger, suffering, and death, with the possible hope of escaping, as if one rushed into a burning house, and only at the hazard of life endeavoured to save the inmates ; but he put himself in the place of a condemned criminal, and voluntarily undertook to bear the extreme sentence of God's righteous vengeance against them who had transgressed his law. There was not a may be, but a must be, in the sufferings and death of Christ, and this then he resolved to bear for the sake of his friends.

But observe, as our Lord intimated to his disciples his approaching death, so he gave them farther to understand who were the friends for whom he should suffer: “Ye are my friends."

Oh what wonderful honour put on the creature of a day, to be called a friend of God manifest in the flesh, a mere worm of the dust exalted to be the friend of Jehovah! The same Evangelist who records this discourse breaks forth in his Epistle in the glowing language of devout wonder, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God!” and he might well have added, “that we should be called the friends of God.” Perhaps our Lord, in using this expression of condescending kindness to his disciples, had reference to Abraham, the Father of the Faithful, who is especially honoured by being called the friend of God. And now the Mediator of the new and the better covenant assures them that their privilege is not a whit inferior to that of their father Abraham, “Ye are my friends."

Beloved, do you feel that Christ can address you in this endearing and gracious language? Are you a friend of his? Search your hearts, and see whether there are any tokens there of this heavenly intercourse. Is the seal of Christ's friendship in your soul, leading you to love him, and to rejoice in his presence, as “chief among ten thousand ?" But, besides the answer of your heart to this question, Jesus himself provides you with a test to prove yourselves : “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." Thus it was with Abraham. God called him to leave his country and his home, and he obeyed : God called him to offer up his son Isaac, and he went in obedience to this command until God stayed him. Abraham shewed his faith by his obedience; and thus, while his faith was

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

counted unto him for righteousness," he was also called the friend of God."

And unless we likewise have the stamp of obedience on our lives, we but deceive ourselves, and mock God, by saying that we are his friends. What! the friends of God, and yet living in daily neglect of his commands, and opposition to his will ?

The friends of God, and yet bringing discredit on his name? The friends of God, and yet careless of his esteem? The friends of God, and yet the friends of the world? The friends of God, and yet in the ranks of his enemies? Oh! “be not deceived, God is not mocked" with impunity; for whatsoever you sow that shall you reap. “The friendship of the world is enmity against God.” If, then, with the assumption of the name of a friend of God, you sow the wind of empty, hollow, professed friendship, while your heart is with another, you shall assuredly reap the whirlwind of his everlasting indignation.

It is true that there is often, nay generally, connected with obedience to the commands of God, toil and labour, and some cost or sacrifice. It is true that to be on the Lord's side, in the way of a godly and consistent life, is sure to entail on us something which flesh and blood shrinks from enduring: But, beloved, who of us will hesitate to endure this, when we have the bright encouragement before us, that in this act, in this point of duty, in this matter of obedience whatever it may be, or however it may lead us through the scorching fires of fierce trial, we are manifesting ourselves to be “ the friends” of the Lord Jesus Christ? Whenever there is a recoil of soul under the manifold and great difficulties which ever lie in our path through this wilderness, let us nerve our arm by the recollection of Christ's friendship; in those moments when

« PreviousContinue »