“Love and I” A Mystery
A Sermon(No. 1667)Delivered on Lord’s-Day Morning, July 2nd, 1882, by C. H. SPURGEON, At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
“I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love herewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 27:26.
For several sabbath mornings my mind has been directed into subjects which I might fitly call the deep things of God. I think I have never felt my own incompetence more fully than in trying to handle such subjects. It is a soil into which one may dig and dig as deep as ever you will, and still never exhaust the golden nuggets which lie within it. I am, however, comforted by this fact, that these subjects are so fruitful that even we who can only scratch the surface of them shall yet get a harvest from them.
I read once of the plains of India, that they were so fertile that you had only to tickle them with a hoe and they laughed with plenty, and surely such a text as this may be described as equally fruitful, even under our feeble husbandry. Pearls lie on the surface here as well as in the depth. We have only to search its surface, and stir the soil a little, and we shall be astonished at the plenitude of spiritual wealth which lies before us. Oh, that the Spirit of God may help us to enjoy the blessed truths which are herein set forth! Here is the priceless treasure, but it lies hid till he reveals it to us.
You see, this text is taken out of our Lord’s last prayer with his disciples. He did as good as say, “I am about to leave you, I am about to die for you; and for a while you will not see me; but now, before we separate, let us pray.” It is one of those impulses that you have felt yourselves. When you have been about to part from those you love, to leave them perhaps in danger and difficulty, you have felt you could do no less than say, “Let us draw nigh unto God.” Your heart found no way of expressing itself at all so fitting, so congenial, so satisfactory as to draw near unto the great Father and spread the case before him. Now, a prayer from such a one as Jesus, our Lord and Master; a prayer in such a company, with the eleven whom he had chosen, and who had consorted with him from the beginning; a prayer under such circumstances, when he was just on the brink of the brook of Cedron, and was about to cross that gloomy stream and go up to Calvary, and there lay down his life such a prayer as this, so living, earnest, loving and divine, deserves the most studious meditations of all believers.
I invite you to bring hither your best thoughts and skill for the navigation of this sea. It is not a creek or bay, but the main ocean itself. We cannot hope to fathom its depths. This is true of any sentence of this matchless prayer; but for me the work of exposition becomes unusually heavy, because my text is the close and climax of this marvellous supplication: it is the central mystery of all. In the lowest depth there is still a lower deep, and this verse is one of those deeps which still exceed the rest. Oh, how much we want the Spirit of God. Pray for his bedewing: pray that his balmy influences may descend upon us richly now.
You will observe that the last word of our Lord’s prayer is concerning love. This is the last petition which he offers, “That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.” He reaches no greater height than this, namely, that his people be filled with the Father’s love. How could he rise higher? For this is to be filled with all the fulness of God, since God is love, and he that loveth dwelleth in God and God in him.
What importance ought you and I to attach to the grace of love! How highly we should esteem that which Jesus makes the crown jewel of all. If we have faith, let us not be satisfied unless our faith worketh by love and purifieth the soul. Let us not be content indeed until the love of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Well did the poet say,
“Only love to us be given,
Lord, we ask no other heaven;”
for indeed there is no other heaven below, and scarcely is there any other heaven above than to reach to the fulness of perfect love. This is where the prayer of the Son of David ends, in praying “that the love herewith thou hast loved me may be in them.” What a subject! The highest that even our Lord Jesus reached in his noblest prayer. Again with groanings my heart cries, Holy Spirit, help.
I shall this morning try to speak first upon the food of love, or what love lives upon; secondly, upon the love itself, what kind of love it is; and then, thirdly, upon the companion of love. “That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
I. First, THE FOOD OF LOVE to God: what is it? It is knowledge. “I have made known unto them thy name, and will make it known.” We cannot love a God whom we do not know: a measure of knowledge is needful to affection. However lovely God may be, a man blind of soul cannot perceive him, and therefore is not touched by his loveliness. Only when the eyes are opened to behold the loveliness of God will the heart go out towards God who is so desirable an object for the affections.
Brethren, we must know in order to believe; we must know in order to hope; and we must especially know in order to love. Hence the great desirableness that you should know the Lord, and his great love which passeth knowledge. You cannot reciprocate love which you have never known, even as a man cannot derive strength from food which he has not eaten. Till first of all the love of God has come into your heart, and you have been made a partaker of it, you cannot rejoice in it or return it.
Therefore our Lord took care to feed his disciples’ hearts upon the Father’s name. He laboured to make the Father known to them. This is one of his great efforts with them, and he is grieved when he sees their ignorance, and has to say to one of them, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?” Study much, then, the word of God: be diligent in turning the pages of Scripture and in hearing God’s true ministers, that the flame of love within your hearts may be revived by the fuel of holy knowledge which you place upon it. Pile on the logs of sandal wood, and let the perfumed fires burn before the Lord. Heap on the handfuls of frankincense and sweet odours of sacred knowledge, that on the altar of your heart there may always be burning the sacred flame of love to God in Christ Jesus.
The knowledge here spoken of is a knowledge which Jesus gave them. “I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it.” O beloved, it is not knowledge that you and I pick up as a matter of book learning that will ever bring out our love to the Father: it is knowledge given us by Christ through his Spirit. It is not knowledge communicated by the preacher alone which will bless you; for however much he may be taught of God himself, he cannot preach to the heart unless the blessed Spirit of God comes and takes of the things that are spoken, and reveals them and makes them manifest to each individual heart, so that in consequence it knows the Lord.
Jesus said, “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee,” and you and I would have been in the same condition, strangers to God, without God and without hope in the world, if the Spirit of God had not taken of divine things and applied them to our souls so that we are made to know them. Every living word of knowledge is the work of the living God. If you only know what you have found out for yourself, or picked up by your own industry apart from Jesus, you know nothing aright: it must be by the direct and distinct teaching of God the Holy Ghost that you must learn to profit.
Jesus Christ alone can reveal the Father. He himself said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” He that knows not Christ knows not the Father; but when Jesus Christ reveals him, ah! then we do know him after a special, personal, peculiar, inward knowledge. This knowledge brings with it a life and a love with which the soul is not puffed up, but built up. By such knowledge we grow up into him in all things who is our head, being taught of the Son of God.
This knowledge, dear friends, comes to us gradually. The text indicates this. “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it.” As if, though they knew the Father, there was far more to know and the Lord Jesus was resolved to teach them more. Are you growing in knowledge, my brothers and sisters? My labour is lost if you are not growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I hope you know much more of God than you did twenty years ago when first you came to him. That little knowledge which you received by grace when you found “life in a look at the Crucified One” has saved you; but in these after years you have added to your faith knowledge, and to your knowledge experience; you have gone on to know more deeply what you knew before, and to know the details of what you seemed to know in the gross and the lump at first.
You have come to look into things as well as upon things a look at Christ saves; but oh, it is the look into Christ that wins the heart’s love and holds it fast and binds us to him as with fetters of gold. We ought every day to be adding something to this inestimably precious store, that as we are known of God so we may know God, and become thereby transformed from glory unto glory through his Spirit. Are you not thankful for this blessed word of the Lord Jesus: “I will declare it”: “I will make it known”? He did do so at his resurrection, when he taught his people things they knew not before; but he did so much more after he had ascended up on high when the Spirit of God was given. “He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”
And now to-day in the hearts of his people he is daily teaching us something that we do not know. All our experience tends that way. When the Spirit of God blesses an affliction to us, it is one of the Saviour’s illuminated books out of which we learn something more of the Father’s name, and consequently come to love him better: for that is the thing Christ aims at. He would so make known the Father, that the love wherewith the Father hath loved him may be in us, and that he himself may be in us.
This knowledge distinguishes us from the world. It is the mark by which the elect are made manifest. In the sixth verse of this chapter our Lord says: “I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.” The world does not know the Father, and cannot know him, for it abides in the darkness and death of sin. Judge yourselves therefore by this sure test, and let the love which grows out of gracious knowledge be a token for good unto you.
Now let me try to show you what the Saviour meant when he said, “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare.” This knowledge which breeds love is knowledge of the name of God. What does he mean by “Thy name.” Now, I do not think I should preach an unprofitable sermon if I were to stop with the connection and say that the “name” here meant is specially the name used in the twenty-fifth verse: “O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee.” This is the name which we most need to know “righteous Father.” Observe the singular combination. Righteous and yet a Father. “Righteous”: to us poor sinners that is a word of terror when first we hear it. “Father,”oh, how sweet. That is a word of good cheer even to us prodigals; but we are afraid to lay hold upon it, for our sins arise, and conscience protests that God must be righteous, and punish sin. Our joy begins when we see the two united: “righteous Father,”a Father full of love, and nothing but love, to his people, and yet righteous as a Judge, as righteous as if he were no Father. Dealing out his righteousness with stern severity as the Judge of all the earth must do, and yet a Father at the same time. I do protest that I never did love God at all, nor could I embrace him in my affections, till I understood how he could be just and yet the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus: how, in a word, he could be the “righteous Father.” That satisfied my conscience and my heart at the same time, for my conscience said, It is well. God hath not put away sin without a sacrifice, and hath not winked at sin nor waived his justice in order to indulge his mercy, but he remains just as he ever was the same thrice holy God who will by no means spare the guilty.
He hath laid the punishment of our sins upon Christ; he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. And all this he has done that he might act to us as a Father, and save his own children from the result of their transgressions. He has given his only begotten Son to die in our stead that many sons might be brought to glory through him. It is at the cross we understand this riddle.
Here we see the righteous Father. But the world will not learn it, and a large part of the professing church, which is nothing better than the world wrongfully named with Christ’s name, will not learn it. They do anything they can to get away from atonement: love without righteousness is their idol. Substitution is a word that is hard for the world to spell: they cannot abide it. That Christ should suffer in the stead of the guilty, and bear that we might never bear the Father’s righteous wrath, this they cannot away with.
Many pretend to keep the atonement, and yet they tear the bowels out of it. They profess to believe in the gospel, but it is a gospel without the blood of the atonement; and a bloodless gospel is a lifeless gospel, a dead gospel, and a damning gospel. Let those take heed who cannot see God as a righteous Father, for they are numbered amongst the world who know him not. “These have known thee,” saith our Lord. These who have been taught by Christ, and these alone, come to find as much joy in the word “righteous” as in the word “Father”; and blending the two together they feel an intense love to the “righteous Father,” and their hearts rejoice in a holy gospel, a message of mercy consistent with justice, a covenant salvation ordered in all things and sure, because it does no violence to law and does not bind the hands of justice.
Beloved, if this revelation of the atoning blood does not make your heart love Jesus, and love the Father, it is because you are not in him; but if you know this secret as to how righteousness and peace have kissed each other, you know the name that wins the affection of believers to God. My own heart is glad and rejoices every hour because I find rest in substitution, safety in the vindication of the law, and bliss in the glory of the divine character.
“Lo! In the grace that rescued man
His brightest form of glory shines!
Here, on the cross, ’tis fairest drawn
In precious blood and crimson lines.
“Here I behold his inmost heart,
Where grace and vengeance strangely join,
Piercing his Son with sharpest smart,
To make the purchased pleasure mine.
“Oh, the sweet wonders of that cross,
Where God the Saviour loved and died!
Her noblest life my spirit draws
From his dear wounds and bleeding sides.”
Still, I would take the word “name” in a wider sense. “I have declared unto them thy name,” which signifies”thy character.” The word “name” is used as a sort of summary of all the attributes of God. All these attributes are well adapted to win the love of all regenerate spirits. Just think for a minute. God is holy. To a holy mind there is nothing in the world, there is nothing in heaven more beautiful than holiness. We read of the beauties of holiness; for to a soul that is purified, holiness is superlatively lovely. Now, beauty wins love, and consequently when Jesus Christ makes known his holy Father, and shows us in his life and in his death the holiness of the Ever-blessed, then our heart is won to the Father.
“Oh,” say you, “but holiness does not always win love.” No, not the love of the defiled hearts that cannot appreciate it; but those who are pure in heart, and can see God, no sooner behold his holiness than they are enamoured of it, and their souls at once delight in their Lord.
Moreover, we learn from our Lord Jesus that God is good. “There is none good but one: that is God.” How inexpressibly good he is! There is no goodness but what comes from God. His name, “God” is but short for “good,” and all the good things that we receive in this life, and for the life to come, are but enlargements of his blessed name. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.”
Blessings enjoyed by us are streams that flow from the fountain head of God’s infinite goodness to the sons of men. A man cannot help loving God when once he knows him to be good, for all men love that which they apprehend to be good to them. A man says, “Gold is good; rest is good; fame is good;” and therefore he seeks after these things, and when he comes to know that God is good, oh, then his spirit follows hard after him. He cannot help but love that which he is persuaded is in the highest sense good. The soul that knows the name of the Lord rejoices at the very mention of him.
To sinners like ourselves perhaps the next word may have more sweetness. God is merciful; he is ever ready to forgive. Note how the prophet saith,”Who is a God like unto thee, passing by transgression?” He does not say, “Who is a man like unto thee?” for none among our race can for a moment be compared with him; but even if the gods of the heathen were gods, none of them could be likened unto the Lord for mercy. Now, when a man knows that he has offended, and yet the person offended readily and freely forgives, why, it wins his love. If he is a right-hearted man he cries, “I cannot again offend one who so generously casts all my offences behind his back.”
The mercy of God is such a love-winning attribute that, as I told you the other Sunday, twenty-six times in a single psalm the ancient church sang, “His mercy endureth for ever.” Free grace and pardoning love sensibly known in the soul will win your hearts unto God for ever, so that you shall be his willing servants as long as you have any being.
But then there is a higher word still. God is love, and there is a something about love which always wins love. When love puts on her own golden armour, and bares her sword bright with her own unselfishness, she goeth on conquering and to conquer. Let a man once apprehend that God is love, that this is God’s very essence, and he must at once love God. I do not mean merely “apprehend” that God is love in the cold intellect; but when this heart begins to glow and burn with that divine revelation, then straightway the spirit is joined unto the Lord, and rests with delight in the great Father of spirits. Love knits and binds. Oh to feel more of its uniting power.
Thus have I shown you the manna which love feeds upon, the nectar which it drinks. Everything in God is lovely, and there is no trait in his character that is otherwise than lovely. All the lovelinesses that can be conceived are heaped up in God without the slightest admixture or adulteration. He is love altogether, wholly, and emphatically. Oh, surely our Lord and Master was wise when he fed his people’s love upon such meat as this.
II. Brethren, we have as yet only been standing at the furnace mouth: let us now enter into the devouring flame while we speak, in the second place, upon THE LOVE ITSELF. Observe, first, what this love is not. “I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it, that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them.” Do notice that the prayer is not that the Father’s love may be set upon them, or moved towards them.
God does not love us because we know him, for he loved us before we knew him, even as Paul speaks of “His great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins.” Jesus has not come to set his Father’s love upon the chosen. Oh, no; he did not even die with that object, for the Father’s love was upon the chosen from everlasting. “The Father himself loveth you” was always true.
Christ did not die to make his Father loving, but because his Father is loving: the atoning blood is the outflow of the very heart of God toward us. So do not make any mistake. Our Lord speaks not of the divine love in itself, but in us. This is not the eternal love of God towards us of which we are now reading, but that love in us. We are inwardly to feel the love which proceeds from the Father, and so to have it in us. We are to have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. It is to be recognized by us, felt in us, made the subject of inward joy; this it is that our Lord wishes to produce, that the love of God may be in us, dwelling in our hearts, a welcome guest, the sovereign of our souls.
And this love is of a very peculiar sort. Do let me read the verse again: “That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them.” It is God’s own love in us. The love of the Father towards Jesus