WE pass from the mystery of the Divine Nature to the contemplation
of the Divine Character; from what He is in the depths of His Eternal Being,
to what He is, and has manifested Himself to be, towards us; we are led,
as Moses was led, from the vision of glory to the vision of Love.
Even the mystery of God is delightful, and much more His simplicity.
The God Whom we cannot understand understands us, and admits us into holy
fellowship and intimacy. The Love of God is the source of love to
God, and the motive of a life of service.
THE EPISTLE. (I S. JOHN iv. 7.) THE
LOVE OF GOD.
A. The Eternal Love.
From eternity God was Love. As there never was a time when He
was not, so there never was a time when He was not Love, and all love is
from Him and is His likeness. Since God is Love it must follow that,
if we are to know what He is, we must learn first what love is. It
is not merely that we must love God before we can know Him, but that we
must love, for all pure love is a preparation for the supreme love.
By loving goodness wherever we find it we are prepared to love Him in Whom
all goodness is found. Loving the parts we cannot but love the perfect
whole, when “all partial affections are lost in that entire universal one,
and Thou, 0 God, shalt be all in all.” (Butler.)
B. The Manifestation of Eternal Love.
As from eternity God was Love, and rejoiced in loving all that He had
made, so He eternally purposed to manifest His Love to man as to no other
of His creatures. The mission of Christ was the manifestation in
time of the Love of God. Three times occurs the word “sent,” each
giving an aspect of Christ’s mission. He was sent to be—
(1) The Giver of Life.
In this all is summed up, for He came “that we might have life and
have it more abundantly.” Men had lost the secret of life in losing love,
and God sent forth love to restore to us life. Christ came to show
what life means, and to give us the power to live, and to know Him is life
eternal, which is not length of days, but fulness of living.
(2) The Propitiation for our Sins.
This is the first step towards life. We cannot truly live separated
from God by sin, and under condemnation and the sentence of His wrath.
Christ came to be the propitiation for our sins and to set free the love
of God, yet so as to avoid doing us the harm that so easily follows indiscriminate
mercy. That propitiation was needed was due to sin, that it was provided
was due to the Father’s love.
(3) The Saviour of the World.
Salvation is more than pardon. Christ came not only to pardon,
but to remove sin by the indwelling power of the Spirit, thus bringing
the perfect life of the invisible God into our dead hearts. To receive
and accept the mission of Christ is to receive all the life of pardon and
holiness which Christ came to bring.
C. The Reception of the Love of God.
“We have known and believed the love which God hath to us,” and the
reception of the love of God alters the attitude of the Christian—
(1) Towards God.
The realization of love “casts out fear.” Fear rises from unlikeness
to God, and as this is changed into likeness, fear will depart. We
shall no longer dread, but have boldness in the day of judgment, if even
in this world we bear the Divine likeness in character, principle, and
(2) Towards Man.
THE GOSPEL. (S. LUKE xvi. 19.)
THE LOVE OF MAN.
Having learned from God the blessedness of “loving first,” we shall
not wait for others to begin. This will alter all our attitude towards
men. God’s children are our brethren, and we cannot be said to love
God if we do not also love His children, for which we have the direct command
of Christ, that “he who loveth God loveth his brother also.” Loved undeservedly,
we can love even the undeserving.
This Gospel must be considered solely in its application to the central
teaching of the Sunday, and as a Divine pronouncement of the necessity
of love for eternal life. Christ warns us in this solemn parable
that “he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen cannot love God
Whom he hath not seen.” Nothing requires greater caution in interpretation
than parables generally, and this in particular must not be over-pressed.
A. The Picture of a Loveless Life.
Surrounded by every luxury of dress and sumptuous fare, Dives yet lives
a mean and despicable life, wholly concentrated upon himself, and destitute
of love, caring nothing that Lazarus at his gate drags out his life in
wretchedness that he might so easily have relieved. But the unloving
is far poorer even than the unloved. Lazarus was the richer man of
the two, for he had, as his name implies, made God his helper, and possessed
a character which the rich man never sought to make his own, using his
earthly trials as a school of heavenly discipline.
B. The Picture of a Loveless Hereafter.
Lazarus, borne by loving angels, is placed next to Abraham at the feast
of Paradise, as the beloved S. John was placed next to Christ at the last
supper, enjoying rest and comfort, the most blessed companionship and affection,
but Dives has no place here in a home of love into which he is spiritually
incapable of entrance. In Hades he awakes to gaze on the gulf he
himself has fixed; to endure the flame of remorse he himself has kindled,
and the parching thirst contracted in his desert life of selfishness.
He has made his own punishment, but what is the nature of that punishment?
C. The Discipline of Love.
Dives is in Hades, the place of discipline, but the Gospel is not inconsistent
with the Epistle, and the eternal fires of God burn to melt, and not to
destroy. Dives begins to care for others as he had never cared before.
It was too late to do them good, and they had their own lesson to learn,
and their own teachers. Was it too late for Dives? It is not
the purpose of the parable to tell us this, for it is a revelation of the
things that are, and only a dim foreshadowing of what shall be hereafter.
Its warning is clear that nothing can take the place of love. It
is not said that Dives was openly wicked, or neglected God—but that he
neglected Lazarus. Any explanation of the parable is at fault which
speaks of Hades as Hell, and any explanation which is inconsistent with
eternal love contradicts the very intention of the parable, which is to
show that the absence of love is the absence of the God Who is Love.
This is the opening Collect of the Trinity season, in which we are to
consider the life of service of which we have to-day learned that its supreme
motive is the realization of the love of God. We seek two necessary
conditions of the life of service.
A. Sense of Weakness.
This must come first that we may cease to trust in ourselves and in
the weakness of our mortal nature, and begin to trust in Him Who is the
strength of all who put their trust in Him.
B. Prayer for Grace.
Grace is the help of God given us in order that we may keep His commandments.
We need a double portion of God’s grace— grace for the will, that God may
accept our motives; grace for the deed, that God may accept our actions.
God may of His mercy take the will for the deed, and overlook our imperfect
service, but He cannot take the deed for the will. We cannot please
God unless we desire to please Him, and no one who lacks this sincere intention
can be considered as a true servant at all.